Monday, 6 October 2008

Crest fallen?

After picking up a friend who arrived on a ferry at 3.45 a.m. I wasn't up and about at the crack of dawn. My walk along the cliffs was too late to catch much of the migration that takes place early in the morning.

I could hear a crest calling from one of the small bushes at the edge of the cliff and at first thought I'd heard a Firecrest. It's difficult to remain disappointed for long when such a charming little mite as this pops out, even if it is the commoner Goldcrest.

With the large parties of Linnets already feeding in the fields it is difficult to know if the groups sitting around admiring the sea are newly arrived or have just flown up there from feeding. I suspect the latter. There were some finches still moving, with a few Chaffinches and Siskins passing over head, as well as a compact group of around thirty Swallows. Larger groups of Goldfinches move up and down the area, but again I was unable to workout if they represented migration, or were the same birds moving from place to place feeding. While it was watching these I noticed this customs ship passing at a good rate of knots. Whether this was a regular patrol or I specific exercise I don't know.

The following information is according to the Official WEB site I found. HMCC Valiant is part of our modern, intelligence-led Customs service and is the latest cutter to join the fleet. She was named at a ceremony on 10th June 2004 at St Katherine's Dock, East London and was built for HM Customs and Excise by Dutch shipbuilders Damen Shipyards and replaces a vessel of the same name. (What ever happened to our ship building industry?).Valiant is a high-tech, 42 metre vessel, with a crew of 12 and is powered by two Caterpillar engines that give a top speed of 26.35 knots. She and her crew will patrol and protect the UK coastline 24 hours a day, all year round, using up-to-date technology, intelligence and highly-skilled staff to combat smuggling and enforce Customs controls.

As a measure of inflation it is interesting to note that the first Customs cutter was purchased in 1149 for £22. Valiant, the latest cutter, cost £4.3 million and is one of a fleet of five ships that constantly patrol and protect the UK coastline.

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