About 4 years ago I started seeing one or two Eider ducks in the Solent before then you would have to go North of Yorkshire to be sure to see any of these big ducks. They are a common nesting bird around the coasts of Scotland and northern England, but they do winter all around the coast. The numbers in The Solent have been growing in the last couple of weeks with a good 30+ landing off the beach today. A true sea duck they are the UK’s heaviest and fastest flying species of duck.
Eider duck nests were traditionally harvested for their ‘Eider Down’ after the eggs had hatched and the chicks left the nest. This soft, fluffy down was used to stuff pillows and quilts.
The calm waters brought out the kayaks’ but kept the kite surfers at home!
In Titchfield Haven harbour today among the mallard was a male mandarin duck with his ornate plumage and very distinctive long orange feathers on the side of the face, orange ‘sails’ on the back, and pale orange flanks. (The female is dull by comparison).
These ducks were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity.
This was a 1st for me at the haven although I see them most winters in the New Forest on one of the ponds I visit. The mandarin duck nests in holes in trees, sometimes high up and a long way from the water.
Tugs going out to meet a tanker approaching the start of Southampton water. The tug boat Phenix is one of a pair regularly seen meeting shipping coming into port. The other tug is the The Apex. These tugs have a high bridgewith 360 degree views -(although the Phenix’s bow is head up Southampton Water she is going backwards out of port in my pictures).
The shingle spit at Calsholt is home in the winter for many Dunlin and Ringed Plovers and the sheltered water behind the spit is favoured by wintering Brent Geese. Like across Southampton Water on Meon shore you are never far from a few Turnstone’s.
Fly-past Plovers and Dunlin.
We got a nice view of a single Brent Goose which was having some alone time away from the flock.
The Turnstone were braving the incoming waves to catch Sand-hopper’s being pushed on to the beach.
We had a few days away in the campervan this week. About 130 miles away from home near Burnham on Sea on the Somerset coast.
The tide goes out a long way on the North Somerset coast into the Bristol Channel – but mud is a big sticky danger with over a couple of miles on mud to the waters edge at low time some places having a 35 foot drop in water at low tide. Several of the coastal towns have RNLI Hovercraft rescue craft as well as lifeboats.
These pictures show the tide going out at Weston-super-Mare The Island in the background is Steep holm. A place of nature and old coastal gun batteries.
Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier. Opened in 1904. The pier was gutted by fire in July 2008. but was rebuilt and open again on 23 October 2010. £3 for Donkey rides but closed for the winter.
If anyone remembers the 1967 British TV series The Prisoner you will recall the beach ball stopping people from leaving the village I had “I am a person not a number moment “while on the beach when I was passed by a giant beach ball bouncing along the beach!
There is a gem of a pier at Weston-super-Mare Birnbeck Pier which is sadly in a poor state It is the only pier in the country which links the mainland to an island, linking to Birnbeck Island.In the past the pier was popular with locals and tourists as a boarding point for steamers in the Bristol Channel. During WW2 the pier was commissioned as HMS Birnbeckby the Admiralty as part of miscellaneous weapons development site. After the war the steamer trade declined and by the 1970’s the pier started to fall into its current unsafe state. Today it is in a largely derelict state. Part of the pier collapsed during storms on 30 December 2015.
Heading up the coast to Clevedon is a pier that has been restored and well worth a visit and this shows you what a great attraction Birnbeck could be.
A modern lighthouse at Battery Point,
There is a good view across to Wales from the point.
A warning sign at Battery point and a memorial.
Black Nore Lighthouse which is also known as Blacknore Point Lighthouse) at Portishead. it was judged to be no longer needed for navigational purposes, and the light was decommissioned in September 2010. It is a listed building and now owned by a trust.
In 1539, King Henry VIII ordered the construction of a castle at the end of Calshot Spit to defend the port of Southampton.Its strategic importance continued through both world wars. In 1913 the RFC established a flying boat station on the spit known as RNAS Calshot and later RAF Calshot.
Jacques Schneider was a french industrial manager, and licensed pilot, After giving up flying due to a serious accident, he supported various competitions and aero clubs financially.
On December 5th, 1912, at the Aéro-Club de France, he offered a trophy for a seaplane race and proposed a course of at least 150 nautical miles.This competition became known as the Schneider Trophy. Each club would be permitted to enter up to three competitors with an equal number of alternates. In 1921 the course was increased to 212 nautical miles,
Any team winning 3 races in 5 years would retain the cup and the winning pilot would receive 75,000 francs. Each edition of the race was to be hosted by the previous winning country.
In 1923 The Supermarine S.5 won the Schneider Trophy Race so the British became the host for the 1929 race. Calshot was the base for the race.
The Supermarine S.6 won the 1929 race so again.
Further refinements led to an improved Supermarine S6b and the 1931 race became the 3rd race win for Britain and that kept the Schneider Trophy in England for good.
Sopwith Hanger although the hanger has been reclad in modern materials the 1913 wooden structure of the hanger roof is clearly visible inside.
Watching a young rat around Titchfield harbour he decided to drop down the harbour wall to get into a hole. He misjudged it and ended up in the harbour. No problem. Rats can swim or wade in the water for up to three days without drowning!