Archive for January, 2014

In another part of the Castle Museum in York, there are reconstructions of rooms illustrating how they would have looked in different periods in York’s history.

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This room reconstructs a Victorian parlour from around 1870. This was the best room in the house of a middle-class family living in the suburbs of York. Its decor and artefacts reflect comfort and prosperity in the era of industrial wealth and trade for the city.

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The council have decided that it is now safe for people to visit the Tarn again after the recent bad weather and flooding. It is still very slippery and they have posted notices warning about the dangers of being too close to the edge of the Lake.

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It was fairly quiet on my first visit of 2014 with only a few birds present. It will take a few visits to judge if the weather has affected the populations here. It was good to be able to get back and take stock of this important area in my patch.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Coot

Coot

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

However some species had already turned their minds to the coming spring. This Ring-necked Parakeet inspecting a prospective nest hole

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The female Blackcap continues to put in appearances at the feeder but it is now 6 weeks since I last saw the Male, so he may not have survived the bad weather. It is only in recent years that this warbler has begun to winter in the UK in increasing numbers and so may be more vulnerable to extremes in weather.

Blackcap (Female)

Blackcap (Female)

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)<
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Having just posted about our experiences with going to pacific Grove to see the Monarchs it was disappointing to see this news

Towheeblog

The North American monarch butterfly has reached an all-time low in population according to this year’s census in Mexico where much of the population winters.
You can guess the main causes: the usual double-whammy of human action, habitat destruction and use of toxic chemicals. It’s like a globalization of West Virginia’s approach to the environment.
There are groves in California that are used by wintering monarchs. Here’s summary of what’s happened there this year: Fremont’s population left during cold snap. The count at Pacific Grove was over 11,000.
Bring back the milkweed!

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Moon

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Astronomy
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Some recent photos of the moon taken using the Bradford Robotic telescope

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moon 2

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Barn Owl Trust e-petition

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Birds, Natural History
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Please sign this petition. Barn Owls have enough other dangers to survival without us adding to them

Radnor Bird Blog

Can I please draw your attention for signing this petition,  calling for stronger controls against the use of powerful rodent poisons which are killing our Barn Owls.  It will only take a minute, for more info please go to :

http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/infopage.html?Id=150#poison

Thank you all.

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Despite the poor forecast Sue and I set off to visit Bough Beech Reservoir near Sevenoaks in Kent. The reserve consists of a large water reservoir used for water storage and some surrounding land. A causeway runs across the northern end (the nature reserve part) and it is possible to get excellent views from the roadside and, ideal for a day on which the rain and wind relented for only brief periods, enables a rapid retreat into the car when the weather gets too rough.

The main reservoir

The main reservoir

The first thing was that the water was very high following the recent heavy rains and although the road was still above the water level, much of the surrounding land was flooded. trees emerged from below the water. this meant that there were no marginal or muddy areas and so the number of species were limited. No cormorants, geese or wading birds were to be seen although there were number of Duck species present. Unfortunately the 4 Goosander present the day before were not to be seen.

One of the flooded small lakes near the visitor centre

One of the flooded small lakes near the visitor centre

After a couple of sessions watching the reservoir interrupted by lunch we drove to the visitor centre where there are a number of smaller lakes, an orchard and a feeder station. This was to provide the best birdwatching of the day. A Fieldfare was seen at the far end of the orchard. Sightings of this wintering Thrush have been very few this winter, probably due to the mild nature of the weather (at least in temperature terms). A Marsh Tit was seen on the feeders along with a number of other species.

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

Marsh Tit at Feeder Station

Marsh Tit at Feeder Station

Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch on feeder

Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch on feeder

The rain had by now really set in so we decided to call it a day and head for home to do the RSPB Garden bird-watch. I recorded 14 species in the hour, the highlight of which was a visit to the feeders by the female Blackcap, not a bird commonly recorded on the garden bird-watch.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

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One of the great things about photography and particularly digital photography is the ability to store and readily access images which are capable of reminding you of places and events that you have visited. So as I sit here on a cold and wet winters morning in London sorting through some pictures for a lecture I have to give next week, I came across a file of photos taken when Sue and I visited California in 2008. One of the great delights on that trip was the visit to Pacific Grove. Pacific Grove is a seaside community on the Monterey Peninsula, which is famous for over wintering Monarch butterflies. Every October, thousands of them arrive from the north and make their home in a special area of eucalyptus trees and Monterey pines, which shelters behind some houses. The entrance to the park is not obvious, but the helpful bus driver pointed us in the right direction. and there beyond and behind the houses was a truly marvellous sight.

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Each October since 1939, Pacific Grove has celebrated their arrival with a welcoming Butterfly Parade, featuring school children dressed in wings. A 1939 city ordinance authorizes a $1,000 fine (a lot of money in 1939) for “molesting a butterfly in any way.” The people of Pacific Grove have had a long love affair with their butterfly guests and take their protection very seriously.

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WD849

Posted: January 25, 2014 in Trains
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849 was built for the War Department by Hunslet of Leeds in 1940. It has some interesting features – a maximum speed of 12 mph coupled with a pulling capacity of 584 tons made it a very powerful locomotive over short distances. It’s not that well known that in the 1940s and 1950s the Army’s fleet of locomotives ranked as the third largest in the country behind British Railways and the National coal board.

849 Worked at a number of ordinance depots across the country until it was withdrawn from service in 1966 and sold to ESSO petroleum for you use in their depot at Purfleet in Essex. It finish working in 1983 and was donated by ESSO to the Buckinghamshire Railway centre where it is currently on display.

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Naturelog: Friday 24th January

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Birds, Natural History
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It’s been relatively busy week work wise, so there hasn’t been much time to get out and see what’s been about. Access to the Tarn is still closed and there doesn’t seem to be any news yet as to when it will reopen to the public. So a lot of this week as bid about watching what’s happening in the garden. The number of Redwing visiting the garden has begun to drop and this week for the first time this year there have been days when they have not been seen. It may be they are exhausting the local food supply and moving on. The other regular visitors have all been present and it was a pleasant surprise on Monday to have a brief visit from a Jay. This was the first sighting in the garden since the end of November last year of a bird which in previous years has been fairly numerous in the area. Yesterday, the female Blackcap put in another appearance at the feeders.

I was working in my office this afternoon, when from the corner of my eye I saw a large bird land in the garden and disappear behind the Bush. My first inclination was that it was the sparrowhawk and it had caught another ‘unfortunate’ pigeon on the ground. Imagine my surprise when a male Pheasant emerged from behind the bush. This is a First for the garden and a most unexpected species to add to the garden and patch lists. It disappeared briefly into cover, before running across the grass and into the trees at the bottom of the garden and was not seen again. This brings my patch all-time list to 66 species.

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Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)

Gadwall

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Birds, Natural History
Tags:
male Gadwall

male Gadwall

Male and female Gadwall

Male and female Gadwall

At first sight, the Gadwall might appear as one of the drabber of the U.K.’s waterfowl. It’s plain grey plumage, though, on close inspection is in fact made up of subtle speckling and barring. I have to say that of all its lack of colour, I find the Gadwall one of my favourite birds. It just seems very smart. Apart from its uniform colouration, the species defining feature is the white wing patch which can often clearly be seen while swimming and it’s very obvious in-flight.

The gadwall breeds in south and east England, with smaller colonies in east central Scotland and on the eastern coasts of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. It is estimated that in the UK there are between 1000 and 1500 breeding pairs with a wintering population of around 25,000 when the UK population is joined by migrant birds from Northern Europe.

male Gadwall

male Gadwall