Archive for the ‘Barclay House Choir’ Tag

6th-14th December 2014 – Three musical events, an unconvincing ghost, a quiz and some ringing.   Leave a comment



In 1898 HG Wells wrote one of the first science fiction novels, War of the Worlds which depicted the invasion of Earth by Martians, I remember reading the book as a teenager. Of course like all science fiction it is deeply rooted in the values and concepts of the time that it was written (we wouldn’t think today that aliens would only be interested in invading England and that anyone who wanted to escape would merely have to get on a boat to some foreign location) but it remains one of the most enduring examples of the genre. In 1978 Jeff Wayne produced a very successful musical version of the story which he has recently revived as a stage show. We were able to see this excellent show at the BIC in Bournemouth on the 11th.


The show was full of technical wizardry, a band and an orchestra played in front of the huge screen which depicted the narrative, but also players sang and acted out the story on the stage.

IMG_3973 Brian McFadden

The story is narrated by a journalist who is caught up in the Martian invasion, his role is part sung by Brian McFadden ….

IMG_4014 Liam Neeson in WOTW

… and part spoken by a ‘virtual’ Liam Neeson, who appears in this panel over the stage or as a life size hologram on stage which was able to virtually interact with other characters.

IMG_3974 Martians emerge

As the story develops the Martians invade.

IMG_3985 Martian Fighting Machine

A 35ft high Martian fighting machine appears on the stage …

IMG_3988 Martian Fighting Machine

… and proceeds to belch real flames over the audience.

IMG_4009 Beth and Nathaniel in WOTW

One of my favourite parts was the duet between Parson Nathaniel (Jason Donovan) and his wife Beth (Carrie Hope Fletcher) as to whether the invaders are Martians or demons.

IMG_4003 Red Weed

The red weed that HG Wells claims gave Mars its red colour takes over the countryside.

IMG_4012 the Artiliaryman

The infantryman (Shane Ward) claims that the survivors can build cities underground away from the invaders but soon after the Earth’s bacteria kill off the Martians and bring the story to its conclusion (well almost).

IMG_4020 WOTW the cast

Brian McFadden, Joseph Whelan, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Shane Ward and Jason Donovan take a bow. It was a fantastic concert, flawlessly executed with no technical hitches (in spite of the potential difficulty in coordinating so many aspects of the performance) with great performances from musicians and actors alike.

IMG_1312 Gaunt's House concert

In complete contrast on the 13th we went to a dinner and musical performance at Gaunt’s House, a old stately home now run as a spiritual retreat, situated to the north of Wimborne. A very talented pianist played pieces by Schubert and a tenor accompanied him singing pieces by Schumann, Ravel and others. Although beautifully performed these ‘lieders’, short songs sung in German, mean little to me but I did enjoy the Schubert. After the interval we all took part in a carol concert.

IMG_1315 Daphne at Gaunt's House

Our connection with Gaunt’s House is that Daphne, (centre), a fellow member of the Phoenix (formerly Nexus) organisation works there. We joined several Phoenix members and others for a ‘ghost walk’ around the upper corridors and rooms of this extensive house.

IMG_1314 ghost

Although potentially scary in the darkened room, the flash on my camera revealed the ‘ghost’ ……

IMG_1316 ghost

… to be no more than a member of staff in a sheet who managed to run ahead of the tour and hide in each unlit room before the group arrived.

IMG_4027 St Peter's Church

The following day Margaret’s choir performed their Christmas concert at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone.

IMG_4031 orchestra

The Barclay House Choir have a new conductor/musical director Helen Brind and I was pleased to see that she maintained the high standard of her predecessor. Margaret is on the left of the next to top row, my old work colleague Ann Hitchcoe is to her right and our friend Christine third from the left on the front row. The orchestra is led by Andrew Foot.

IMG_4036 Abbi Temple

Soloist soprano Abbi Temple had a wonderful voice.

IMG_1297 quiz night

Spot the birder! L-R Mark Constantine, Trevor Warwick, Tom Carly, Jackie Hull (Nick joined us later), Shaun Robson, Mo Constantine, Mike Gould, Marcus Lawson, Richard Webb, Nick Hopper, Bob Gifford, Ewan Brodie, Terry Elborne, Roger Howell, Steve W Smith and me. Years ago I used to set pretty difficult bird quizzes for the Dorset Bird Club, fortunately the baton has been taken up by Paul Morton who set a really challenging quiz on the 8th December. We all lined up to be randomly selected into teams. I must admit our team didn’t do well (my excuse was that I was still suffering jet lag) but what really let us down was a round of bird name anagrams, I have to admit that my mind just doesn’t ‘do’ anagrams and that seemed to apply to all my team.

IMG_1294 Margaret at quiz night

Thanks were due not only to Paul but also for Mark and Mo Constantine who made LUSH digital centre available for the quiz. Margaret opted not to be in a quiz and relaxed in the corner.

IMG_1317 Woodpigeon

With some new traps I have been doing a bit of ringing in the garden, this Woodpigeon was an unexpected catch – and quite a handful too.

IMG_1308 Rock Pipit

But the best ringing took place on 13th at Lytchett Bay where we caught an interesting variety of birds including this Rock Pipit. Following the Shaun’s capture a Belgian ringed Rock Pipit recently (we are awaiting details of where and when it as ringed) we have decided to renew our efforts to trap Rock Pipits, particularly as we think that those wintering on the saltmarsh may be of the Scandinavian race littoralis. We also ringed a Stonechat, several Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Cettis’ Warblers and Chiffchaffs ….

IMG_1302 beardies

… and also these gorgeous Bearded Tits.

IMG_1303 beardie

Of all the birds we ring, the male Bearded Tit has to be one of the most beautiful. Being a scarce bird that it is somewhat irruptive and nomadic ringing ‘beardies’ is very worthwhile as previous long distance movements have shown. I mentioned earlier that I had two new trainees, Rik and Ginny, they have been joined by a third, Emma. With three people to train I shall attempt to put even more effort into my ringing activities in 2015.

Saturday 17th May – the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect   Leave a comment


The expression ‘Patagonia Picnic Table Effect’ was coined by American birders after Rose-throated Becards were discovered breeding near a picnic are at the town of Patagonia in Arizona. Birders coming to see those birds found other good birds in the area and so yet more birders came and even more goodies were found. Something similar occurred at Lytchett Bay on May 17th.

Saturday 17th was put aside for packing for our upcoming trip to the States and for Margaret’s choir concert so local birding was the last thing on my mind.

I was busy sorting out gen for birding in New Hampshire when a text from Ian Ballam said there was a Wood Sandpiper at Lytchett Bay. I used to describe Lytchett Bay as my ‘local patch’ but in all honesty I don’t go there often enough for it to maintain that description. That is clearly my loss, as stalwarts like Shaun Robson, Ian Ballam, Paul Morton and Nick and Jackie Hull continue to turn up interesting migrants.

Wood Sandpiper is a regular but scarce migrant in Dorset; there quite a good chance of encountering one if you bird Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch or Lodmoor, Weymouth on a regular basis in early autumn, but I have only ever seen six at Lytchett Bay over the past 36 years. So although all my optics were packed for travel I hurried down there and found Ian Ballam still watching it.

Margaret spent the entire afternoon at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone for the dress rehearsal with the orchestra for the evening’s performance. Having dropped her off I returned to complete my travel arrangements. I was supposed to pick Amber up and take her to the concert but then just 50 minutes before I had to leave I had news that Paul Morton whilst looking for the Wood Sandpiper had found a Temminck’s Stint at Lytchett Bay. This was the first record for the Bay and was not to be missed. This tiny wader breeds in Arctic Norway and Arctic Russia and is a very scarce migrant, usually seen in mid May. Once again the optics were hastily unpacked, wellies donned etc and a quick yomp over the wet and muddy fields followed. On arrival I found three birders including Ian Ballam (who had taken time off from the FA Cup Final to search for this bird) but none had seen the bird. After a few minutes I had to leave or I would not pick Amber up in time, but then a faint but shrill trilling was heard and the Temminck’s shot out of the marsh and towered up flying strongly to the north never to be seen again.

We got to the concert on time and I have to say that the Barclay House Choir and St Peter’s Orchestra’s rendition of Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Armed Man’, John Rutter’s ‘Gloria’ and Bob Chilcott’s ‘The Little Jazz Mass’ was just wonderful. Their new musical director has introduced some great modern pieces and hugely widened their repertoire.

Unfortunately my camera was packed so I have no photos to illustrate this remarkable day, which is a shame as we had seats at the front within feet of the orchestra. A single photo of the Wood Sandpiper from Ian Ballam and a thumbnail from Paul Morton is all I have to post.


WoodSand LB IB

Wood Sandpiper, Lytchett Bay – photo by Ian Ballam.

This tiny thumbnail was all that was left after Paul massively enlarged his image of the Temminck’s Stint. Only the size of a sparrow and a some considerable distance away, it is remarkable that anything was photographed at all.

Temmink's Stint LB PM

9th – 20th April 2014: Spring migrants return, plus a ‘flash-mob’ in the shopping arcade.   Leave a comment



As spring gathers pace we have resumed our ringing program at Durlston Country Park was well as continuing to ring at Fleets Lane in Poole. Migration has been slow so far this year, although as usual in spring Portland Bill has seen seen some large falls of migrants. Peak numbers out of three or four visits to Durlston have been between 30 and 40 birds ringed per session and numbers have been much lower at Fleets Lane.


Another spectacular Durlston dawn.



This male Green Woodpecker was an unusual catch at Durlston.



One of the delights of spring is seeing the return of the sub-Saharan migrants like Sedge Warbler ……..


….. Lesser Whitethroat and ….



….. this beautiful male Common Redstart

On the 15th I gave a talk to the Bournemouth Natural Sciences Society on the subject of ‘What Came First The Archaeopteryx Or The Egg’ The talk started with a section on the evolution of birds from feathered dinosaurs before I went rapidly through the various groups of birds extant today, describing their origins and explaining how they got to be where they are today. This, the cover of the forthcoming ‘Illustrated Checklist Of The Birds Of The World’ nicely demonstrates, the current best fit for entire bird family tree (with the exception of the Passerines which will be in a the second volume) and represented the baseline for my talk. Unfortunately the slide show didn’t go without a hitch, many of my slides had white lettered captions on  a black background. For some reason when I showed the slides in Bournemouth, the white text projected black and the captions disappeared!




Like all teenagers, Kara is growing up fast. On the 10th she joined a school friend and her family on a holiday to the Canaries. She called in the night before to show off her new party dress.


PM BW stilts

The 12th was a very busy day. I was up at 0500 to go ringing at Fleets Lane, Margaret had some former work colleagues from her days in Southampton round for lunch and in the evening we visited my old friend and former ringing trainer, Trevor Squire at his house in north Dorset. We were just about to leave for Trevor’s when we heard that Paul Morton had found a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Swineham. A mad dash ensued and although I only saw them from a distance, the views were acceptable; and we got to Trevor and Sheila’s in time for dinner as well! Photo by Paul Morton.




After an early start on the 12th and a very enjoyable, but late evening at Trevor and Sheila’s, we were slow to get going on the 13th. We opted for a short walk from Langton Matravers to the coast at Dancing Ledge. On arrival we found that due to erosion during the winter storm, the footpath was closed.



However it didn’t take much of a detour to get us to the scenic spot.



Good number of Early Spider Orchids were in bloom.



For the first time in decades Puffins failed to arrive at Portland Bill in March. There had been a mass mortality along the coasts of Biscay and to a lesser extent along the English south coast as a result of the winter storms and we feared the local breeding population had been wiped out. We  also failed to see any at Dorset’s only other site, Dancing Ledge, but fortunately a couple were seen on my next visit to Portland on the 15th.  This photo was taken in Shetland in 2012 and previously posted on the blog in this small format.



The only bird that came close enough to be photographed was this obliging Rock Pipit.



Rock Pipit, Dancing Ledge.



On the 15th I visited Portland. There were very few grounded migrants but seawatching was pretty good with Hobby, Merlin, Common Scoter, two species of Diver and as mentioned above, Puffins seen. Seawatching at Portland Bill. Out of the wind and out of the sun.





A Whimbrel was the only migrant to come close enough to be photographed. unfortunately is was just disappearing around the Obelisk when I pressed the shutter.




After an early visit to Durlston on the 17th I joined former colleagues for a post-work curry and drinks at Wetherspoons in Poole. Some like Dave,  (on the left) are still stuck in the lab but Tash on the right has made a bid for freedom and now works as a primary school teacher.



On the 19th we put on a ringing demonstration at Arne RSPB reserve as part of their ‘meet the wildlife day’. On the same day in 2013 they invited two RSPB employees with ringing permits from elsewhere and the ringed over 100 birds during the day. This year we put on the demo and caught just nine! The reason was the dreadfully cold April in 2013 delayed the onset of the breeding season but this year birds have left the vicinity of the feeding station early for their various breeding sites.



I had to leave the demo at Arne in the capable hands of Shaun, Carol and others and hurry back to Poole in Bank Holiday traffic conditions to see Margaret’s choir perform a ‘flash-mob’ in the Dolphin shopping arcade. The choir suddenly appeared out of nowhere and gave a good rendition of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from the Messiah. They drew a large appreciative crowd but unfortunately it was over far too quickly and most drifted away wishing there had been more.



Margaret and Christine (bottom right) singing as part of the Barclay House Choir  ‘flash-mob’. Christine came round for dinner about a week ago. She is currently studying for a teacher’s qualification in Bognor and regaled us with tales of the activities of her fellow students, activities that she clearly disapproves of !



This morning (Easter Sunday) I set off early for Portland Bill. There was a strong wind, it was quite cold and in spite of clouding over during the night there were few migrants about. However I was delighted when a Serin was found feeding close to the Bird Observatory patio with some Goldfinches.



View initially were quite brief but later it returned to the same area and gave better views. Although common on the near continent, Serins are scarce in the UK with most records coming from southern watch points like Portland. My last decent view of one in the UK was in spring 2000, again at Portland.

13th – 15th December – two very different concerts   Leave a comment

I returned from a great trip to Africa (more about that later) on the 13th but had little time to unwind after the overnight flight, as we were off see Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the BIC in Bournemouth that evening..


The concert started with a lovely session from American singer songwriter, Galia Arad ….


… but after the break Jools (far left) was on with the 17 members of the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, which includes a 11 strong brass section.

and what followed was an evening of virtuoso boogie-woogie and ska music 

…. and the concert was enlivened by guest vocalists, Louise Marshall …


… ex Spice Girl, Mel C …..


… and soul diva, Ruby Turner.


All in all, an excellent and varied concert.

On the 15th it was Margaret’s choir’s Christmas carol concert at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone. Under the direction of conductor James Eaton, they put on a wonderful performance, including a novel version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, where each verse was performed in a different musical style.


The Barclay House Choir and St Peter’s Orchestra led by conductor James Eaton. Margaret is just visible on the far left of the second row of the choir.


Nearly all were impressed by the music, but the girls, morally obliged to go and hear grandma sing, took the opportunity to catch up with some of their homework; art for Amber and Spanish for Kara.



James Eaton and leader of the orchestra, Andrew Foot shake hands at the end of the concert.