5 Jan 2019

1 Jan 19 - Happy New Year 2019

I generally aim to get out on New Years Day unless the weather is really grim. 2019 started with mild, sunny conditions with little wind. There was no excuse to not get out. Although, I didn't get going early as I had a few things to sort out, whilst seeing the first species for the garden year list. Unusually, Green Woodpecker put in a very early entry onto the garden year list when I heard one calling. The other more expected highlight, was a Nuthatch popping in to check out that the peanut & black sunflower bribes were still there. Nuthatches aren't regular visitors to the garden, but if one finds the bird food, it generally starts to become more regular. However, they disappear back into the local woods for the breeding season & I might go a year or two before another individual finds the feeders. This winter I've had an individual visiting for a couple of months.
Nuthatch: This was was photographed at Blashford Lakes a few years ago (3 Oct 14)
I had been waiting for the weather to change from the grey overcast skies of the previous week to pop down to the Radipole RSPB reserve. There had been a 1st Winter Ring-necked Duck at the nearby Lodmoor reserve since mid October, before it moved to Radipole. I hadn't made any effort to see it when it first turned up as it hadn't looked very inspiring from the initial photos. But photos published over the Christmas period on twitter had shown it was looking a lot better. Finally, the light & weather conditions were excellent. I was getting close to leaving, when my mate Peter Moore got in touch to see if I had left yet. He was keen to get out & see if some photography would cure his hangover. We arrived to find a couple of lads looking without success, but Peter had seen it a few days earlier & had a better idea of where to look. A couple of minutes later, we saw it in the channel alongside the road where Peter had previously seen it. It was well worth waiting for its plumage to improve. It was wary & quickly disappeared back up the channel. While we could still see it, it was further away & kept a line of reeds between itself & the cameras.
Ring-necked Duck: 1st Winter Male
Ring-necked Duck: 1st Winter Male
We carried on to Portland Harbour where there was a Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver & seventeen Black-necked Grebes. All were too far out to attempt some photos. But I wasn't expecting to see was the RMS St Helena: the old supply ship for St Helena & Ascension Island.
RMS St Helena: On the far side of Portland Harbour
The RMS St Helena had been the service & passenger ship for St Helena & Ascension Island from 1990 up until Feb 18, when she visited St Helena for the last time. The British government didn't have a need for her any more. In her latter days, she was only carrying freight as she wasn't being allowed to carry passengers on the grounds that St Helena now had an operational runway. This seemed a short-sighted decision given the problems with landings on St Helena. The Tory government can throw billions at poor decisions with the Brexit problem, but a relatively small amount of money to provide better support to the Overseas Territories needs to be cut from budgets.
RMS St Helena: The islanders were clearly sad to see the RMS St Helena leave. This photo was taken on my visit on the Plancius a couple of months later (18 Apr 18)
The British government sold her off in Apr 18 & she was renamed the MNG Tahiti. Apparently, she was to act as a vessel-based armoury in the Gulf of Oman. However, it seems that she was resold & renamed back to the RMS St Helena by Oct 18. She was back in her old UK home port of Portland at the start of the year. I can't see anything on line to suggest what her next role might be.

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