Friday 13 February 2015

Fossiling on The Fleet

On Sunday we had a family outing to The Fleet in Dorset to do a bit of fossiling. I studied Palaeontology at University many moons ago and still like to have a dabble now and again. We usually go to Seatown, Charmouth or Lyme Regis but thought we'd try somewhere new. We headed for a spot on the East Fleet where the Oxford Clay is exposed on the shoreline. The weather was glorious and it felt very springlike but best of all it was totally deserted and the only company we had was a lone Peacock butterfly and a small party of Brent Geese out on the water.

The fossils get washed out of the clay 'cliffs' and can be found on the beach. They are however generally very small and cannot easily be seen by just walking along.

Why is there always a flip-flop on every beach everywhere!?

This is the optimal strategy for finding the tiny fossils. I even had to put my glasses on.
Some of the fossils are very tiny indeed and I found one ammonite that was just 3mm across.

This is part of what we found in a couple of hours. 

This is the largest pyritized ammonite that I've ever found. I was lucky enough to spot it just poking out of the mud at the base of the 'cliff'.

I think it is Quenstedtoceras lamberti


The intricate suture lines marking the edge of the shell's chambers show up really well.

The majority of ammonites found are around this size.

Some are extremely small.

Belemnites are extemely common and these can be seen whilst walking along, I think these ones are
Hibolithes hastata


My favourite find of the day was this Pentacrinites or 'star stone' in the vernacular. I've found sections of crinoid (sea lily) stem before but this is the first individual ossicle. I love the amazing intricate pattern and the star shape. You need to look closely to see it though because the ossicle is only 5mm across.

I'd like to have found this ammonite complete, this section is 4cm deep which means the whole ammonite would have been in the region of 12cm in diameter.

The hazy afternoon sun over a flat calm fleet. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Firecrest and Black Redstarts at Seaton Hole

I've been back on the old patch this morning, visiting Seaton Hole. Bun saw a Firecrest there yesterday afternoon and I decided to go and see if I could catch up with it. There were two there back in October but I never got the time to see them due to the house move, and I haven't seen a Firecrest for over a year now. I managed to see it several times but it never came down from high up in the pine trees, so photos weren't easy. I did manage to get one though.


Between two visits to the area where the Firecrest was I walked down onto Seaton Hole Beach where sheltered from the light northerly breeze it was lovely and warm.

Idyllic Seaton Hole Beach

There were plenty of birds enjoying the beach too...

Fulmers were back patrolling the cliffs.

There were two female type Black Redstarts

A Grey Wagtail.
This bird is wearing a ring, I wonder if it was ringed on the Axe Estuary or further afield.

A Rock Pipit.

And a Wren.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Starlingless Sunset and Backlit Buntings

Yesterday afternoon I picked up Bun from Seaton and we went to the Somerset Levels in the hope of seeing the magnificent Starling roost. First we went to Westhay Heath to dip the Firecrests, which we did very successfully. Then after phoning the RSPB Starling Hotline, we moved on to Shapwick Heath. This was where the Starlings had roosted the night before but on this night they didn't. A few large flocks flew over and that was that. They roosted somewhere to the north, probably Westhay, where we had come from earlier! I'd really love to see this spectacle but its quite a long way to drive to have a one in three chance of getting the right location. This was the second time we've failed to see them. We decided we will probably give it one more go this year. While we waited for the Starlings we amused ourselves taking a few photos of the fabulous sunset.

And a couple of photos from this morning's walk. I quite like the softness of these back-lit shots.

Female Reed Bunting

Female Cirl Bunting

Monday 2 February 2015

Bearded Tits at Radipole Lake

It's been a long time since I last saw the Bearded Tits at Radipole Lake. Looking back on this blog I can see it was December 2009. I can't believe it was five years ago! It's always a bit hit and miss whether you see them or not but on my visit yesterday I was lucky enough to spot some almost immediately, a group of three, two males and a female. They were distant at first, showing well at the edge of a reed bed but across a large expanse of water. I decided the best strategy was to wait and hope they flew over the water towards me. I didn't have to wait too long (which is a good job because it was very cold and windy) until they did just that. They flew into the reeds right beside me but even though they were just feet away, they were totally invisible deep within the reed bed, I kept hearing them calling though so it was just a case of waiting until they came into view. When they did they were right in front of me, too near for my camera at first and I had to move back a bit. Photos were still a bit of a challenge as the birds were swaying violently in the strong wind, so getting one reasonably still and unobscured was just pot luck!
Amazing birds to watch, they're just so agile. You can see how windy it was from the photos, feathers everywhere!



Look who else I bumped into ....

Hooded Merganser
Still going strong both at Radipole Lake and on my list! ;-)

I popped over to Portland hoping to see the Hooded Crow which has been hanging around at the Grove Pig Farm. Unfortunately I didn't see it, the main reason for this being that I couldn't even find the pig farm! Doh!!

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I had some lovely views of Comet Lovejoy. From a dark site on the edge of Sidmouth it was a really nice naked eye object and superb with binoculars. I really miss my big scope which unfortunately I had to sell to raise some funds last year. It would have looked amazing through that. I had an attempt to get a photo of it but I just don't have the right gear. I don't have standard length lens for my DSLR so I had a go with the SX50. It will take a 30 second exposure but the ISO is restricted to 80, and it needs to be at around 800 to achieve a good result. So here's the not so good result that I got.

Taurus and The Pleiades are easily recognisable, that's something.
The comet is visible just...

It's there right on the tip of the arrow. You may need to enlarge it!
Definitely not worth freezing my fingers off for though.