UK HOLIDAY - part 5 : JOURNEY HOME
Dropping off the family on Saturday lunchtime at Stansted, I hoped to see a few things on the way back home. Any proper plans were scuppered though by a an hour or two’s delay on the M11 then M25 motorway. As I was passing, I decided that calling at Thursley again would be an easy thing to do. By the time I arrived it was almost evening and, although it was mostly cloudy, the conditions were much better than our previous visit!
The first thing I did was to look at the Moat pond and immediately saw a huge lizard on a log on the waters edge. I initially got excited as I thought it might be a Sand Lizard but I guessed it probably was just a large Common Lizard given the habitat and lack of obvious green colour. It was a big fella though, much bigger than any Common Lizard I’d seen before in the UK. Saw more Red-eyed Damselflies and Small Red Damselflies around the lake - much easier to see this time.
I then headed out onto the boardwalk across the marshy areas hoping to see Black Darter better than last time. And I quickly did, with a fabulous male just sat on the boardwalk in front of me. I think that the wood on the boardwalk was emitting lots of heat in these dull conditions since I saw plenty of dragonflies resting on it and lots and lots of smaller, immature Common Lizards, maybe about 50 in all.
I explored a bit further and headed onto the drier, sandier areas of heathland. It looked good for Sand Lizard but again I dipped out. The sandy path over the hill was good for wasps and I saw quite a few, including some Bee-wolfs and a massive Sand Wasp sp. A male Redstart was a nice find along the path-side. But this was a very quick speed round the site and I didn’t get any definite new species.
I stayed overnight in Poole and caught the ferry back first thing in the morning. Apart from the usual Avocets and terns as we passed Brownsea, I saw very little from the ferry bird-wise, just the odd Gannet and 2 Balearic Shearwaters near Alderney. However, I did see something very interesting. Right in the middle of the Channel, in the shipping lanes, I picked up a shiny, black object which I identified as a cetacean’s head poking out of the water. I then doubted myself as it looked a strange and unexpected shape, and I asked myself whether I was actually looking at a black plastic, upturned dustbin floating in the sea! The sticking-out part was taller than it was wide and very blunt at the top. It did seem to move a bit and I was sure it was indeed a cetacean, and a pretty big one at that estimating the distance and size. But the only whale I could think of with a blunt head was a Sperm Whale, which didn’t look at all right. However, since the Liberation races by at a rate of knots, I wasn’t able to watch it for long at all. I fixed the image in my head and would research it when I returned home. Looking at books and pics online, the answer was that it must have been a Long-finned Pilot Whale ‘spyhopping’ as it looked exactly like what I saw from the deck. Apparently they nearly always go round in groups so if we weren’t hurtling past so quickly I may have seen more of them.
(The photo below shows the nearest I could find on the interwebs which looked like what I saw - note the dustbin-like shape! no?)