Monday 9 July 2012

Culverhole, Drama in The Harbour and White-winged Black Tern

I've gone and left it way too long before getting around to posting on here again, so it's gonna be a big one! I haven't really been doing much though due to the awful weather ( I knew I shouldn't have posted that poem back in April... tempting fate that was!) Last Thursday was the first dry day in what seemed an age and I decided to make the most of it and take a walk along the beach east of the harbour to Culverhole. I wasn't expecting to see many (if any) butterflies as the previous few days (weeks even) had been cool and wet. I was hoping to see some orchids though and I wasn't disappointed on that front at least.

 A few Bee Orchids were still hanging on.
The nine spikes I counted is the most I've seen here.

 I could only find this single specimen of Marsh Fragrant Orchid

There was a superb display of Marsh Helleborines though with around 200 spikes!

 There were some lovely specimens of Yellow-wort too.

Culverhole is usually a butterfly honeypot, the weather had taken it's toll though just as I'd expected and I saw just one Meadow Brown and a Silver Y Moth. It's a bit of a hard slog walking along the shingle beach for a mile or so to reach Culverhole point, so I was very happy that my walk back was going to be made a whole lot easier by it being one of the lowest tides of the year, enabling me to walk back along the lower shore, a mixture of rock pools and sand.


View back towards Seaton and Beer, further than it looks.

I had fun looking around the rock pools but not a lot would stay still for a photo, I did get a shot of this nice Sea Slater though...

These always stay still, my favourite gastropod the Blue-rayed Limpet

I noticed some movement in this stranded lobster pot. It was a large fish which took up the whole of one compartment. It was really on its last legs (or is that fins) gasping pathetically as a small trickle of water flowed over its gills, barely keeping it alive. I wasn't sure it would last until the tide turned, so being the big softy that I am decided to try and extricate it. Easier said than done! Too slippery to grab by the tail I had to grab hold of the end with the teeth in, but after much splashing and squirming it saw sense and let me drag it out whereupon I immediately released it into a deep pool nearby. I didn't know what species of fish it was and couldn't take a photo because I was so wet and covered in sand that I didn't dare touch my camera! It was a very pretty fish, green with dark stripes and red eyes and when I got home and looked in a book or two I found out that it was a Ballan Wrasse.  A piscine lifer non the less!

As the rocky shore began to run out and pebbles were once again underfoot, I decided to walk up to the base of the cliffs and look for any interesting insects. As I emerged over the shingle ridge I was greeted by the shocking sight of a couple of middle aged, rather overweight naturists getting rather...erm.... amorous. I wont go into detail but let's just say I'm still having the odd flashback!

The only insect I spotted on the cliffs was this squashbug, Enoplops scapha. It lives in coastal areas and feed on scentless mayweed and other composites and it looks a good deal more attractive than the average local naturist!

I'm very pleased I took this walk on Thursday because after the events on Saturday I don't know when I'll be able to again. As you may have seen on other local blogs we had some very heavy and prolonged rainfall over Friday night and for most of Saturday, causing widespread flooding. In the harbour area the river rose to its highest level for several decades and as the tide receded the flow became so fierce that several boats sank and no less than eight were washed away and out to sea! Rob and I spent most of the day there as one of the pontoons at the yacht club was in danger of breaking up and our boat was on it. Fortunately it held out after fixing a few extra lines to it.

The reason I won't be going back to Culverhole for a while is this...

The rain caused a large landslip along the eastern side of the harbour wall completely blocking the path and hence all access to the beach to the east of the river mouth. Amazingly that tree standing in the river was still there today!

At the morning high tide the water was very close to coming over the top of the harbour wall.

The gangways to the pontoons were submerged.

Anxious fishermen look on helplessly, some stayed all night.

This large boat on the end of the pontoon was getting caught in the current and the finger of the pontoon was starting to come away... .like so....

Extra lines were attached  to the boat and the pontoon and secured onshore to the club's excavator. Fortunately this took a bit of the pressure off and the next morning the finger was still in place if a little bent! It was quite scary standing out near the end of the pontoon with such a raging torrent passing. The still photo doesn't really convey the ferocity of the flow.

Doomed. Five boats in this photo were soon to be washed away. Two have already sunk. The three to the left all left together Saturday afternoon  and the large white one on the right apparently floated out to sea at one o'clock Sunday morning.

Tension rose as the evening high tide approached at 10pm, with a big turnout of  locals and a large contingent of the coast guard. Fortunately the tide, although forecast to be higher than in the morning was lower as the rain had finally eased somewhat.

This fishing boat called Aquaholic had to be cut free from a pontoon at the yacht club after it turned turtle and got jammed underneath causing the pontoon to start coming adrift. Unfortunately the new line that had been attached gave way and this was the sad result. Only two of the eight boats that were lost were washed up on the beach at Seaton Hole, one of them was Aquaholic.

This is how it looked this morning. It used to have a cabin on top. Rob helped recover this boat yesterday afternoon and whilst walking down the beach towards it with one of the owners they saw a  man walking towards them with an armful of fishing rods. "They're my rods!" Exclaimed the co-owner. Apparently the man just smirked and carried on by. What a **** !

I mentioned earlier that photos don't really convey the ferocity of the water so I took a few bits and bobs of video which give a better idea.

Yesterday afternoon me and Bun drove over the border to Lodmoor in Weymouth to see the adult White-winged Black Tern, which would be a much needed British tick for Bun and a lifer for me. What a stunning bird it was too. It was always quite distant but it stood out beautifully and the scope views were excellent. It was too distant to get any decent images but I got a few naff ones. (See some better ones on Brett's blog and a nice video of it feeding on Steve's blog)


JRandSue said...

Stunning Dog,stunning Header.

Omi said...

What utterly crazy and frightening weather! Great photos again, Karen. Congrats on your lifer, beautiful tern. Glad to see your dog back on the header - is it a long-haired Jack Russell? Gorgeous!

Andrew Cunningham said...

I made my way down to Seaton on Monday and was gutted to find it was a wasted trip with the beach access path closed off with a police cordon.

Came away with Sea Pearlwort before exploring Branscombe later.

Will not be able to return until the week after if they clear the path. Reckon the Helleborines will be present in small numbers or gone over?

Karen Woolley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Woolley said...


I'm sorry to here that. I should have got the news out to you sooner and saved you the journey. Some of the Helleborines were still in full bud (see the one behind the Fragrant Orchid in the second photo) so should still be okay in a couple of weeks. I wouldn't think they will be very quick in clearing the path if their response to a landslip at Seaton Hole several years back is anything to go by. But if they do clear it I will try and let you know asap. The last few years there has been a good show of Marsh Helleborines on Goat Island too. So you could try there. I'll go and have a look soon and let you know.


Thanks for the comments. I'm pleased you like my new header. It was quite difficult getting Rex to pose as he's more 'stunned' than stunning these days. He's deaf and only has a little sight in one eye and a sleeps 23 hours a day!


Thanks. Yes he's a Long (wire) haired Parson Jack Russell (that's the ones with long legs). He'd just had a hair cut for the photo shoot because his coat had got so long he looked like a walking shredded wheat!