Archive for September, 2014

The seasons are changing and although the trees in the garden are still in leaf, the wildlife behaviour and the visitors are changing. We had our first large flock of Ring-necked Parakeets in the garden today. Instead of the summer norm of one or two, 14 descended on a single tree. Strangely its not a berry tree so it was not a source of food as far as I could tell, but the raucous noise of 14 parakeets soon attracts the attention.

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Also around in far higher numbers it seems are Grey Squirrels as I counted 7 in the garden at one point today.

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Western Jackdaw too are increasing in numbers from the occasional single in the summer to a party of 4 or 5 which visited the garden today.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker #16

Posted: September 29, 2014 in Birds, Natural History

One wonders the thought process of the person who called this Red-bellied woodpecker as the female has a faint pinkish patch on the lower belly and the male does not even have that. Great bird to see, reminds me of birding trips to USA

talainsphotographyblog

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A Male Red-bellied Woodpecker from last year pictures. I have not seen them this year too much, wish that I did.

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St Clement Danes Church

Posted: September 28, 2014 in History, London
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St Clement Danes, Strand, London WC2R 1DH
Photo by Mikey (https://www.flickr.com/photos/raver_mikey/)

St. Clement Danes Church sits on an island in one of central London’s busiest roads opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. The name is said to derive the fact that the current church is on the site of a ninth century church built by Danes who were living in London. St Clement had been a bishop of Rome, who was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Trajan by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. He thus became the patron saint of Mariners and this was his connection to the Danes, who themselves were great seafarers. Records certainly record that there were two other churches on this site prior to the current building, dating from the 11th century (reputed to have been built by William the Conqueror) and the Middle Ages.

St Clement Danes
Photo by Lawrence Lew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/)

The current church was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682, although the steeple was added later in 1719. On 10 May 1941 the church was badly damaged by bombing with only the walls and the steeple left standing. At the end of the Second World War the Royal Air Force launched an appeal to restore the church and the work was completed in 1958 and the church was be consecrated as the central church of the Royal Air Force.

Its history. Of course, means that there is little historical value prior to 1940 within the church, this having been destroyed by the bombing. However, there are a number of interesting features to it. One of these are the over 800 badges of RAF squadrons and units sculpted in Welsh slate, which form part of the floor.

Clement Danes Floor (Take 3)
Photo by Mike Freeman (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikelegend/)

The church is also a resting place for a number of books of remembrance, which record the RAF personnel killed during both world wars. One book on the south side records those who have died in RAF service since the end of World War II. This book is updated every six months. Other memorials in the church include one to the airmen of the United States air force were killed during World War II, while stationed in this country and one to the Polish squadrons, who flew as part of the RAF during the same war.

St Clement Danes Church
Photo by Maureen Barlin (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maureen_barlin/)

The church also contains a number of gifts from foreign governments and air forces, including a granite baptismal font, which was the gift of the Royal Norwegian air force and the altar which was a gift of the Royal Netherlands air force.

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Apart from its historical significance, both in its history and in its remembrance of those airmen who have given their lives in the service of their country since the formation of the Royal flying Corps in 1911, I think I also marvel at the wonder of the restoration. It certainly doesn’t look or feel the sale you in the church, built in the 1950s.

I was fascinated to read the story of this ultimately doomed Steam loco design at the end of the steam era.

Chasewaterstuff's Railway & Canal Blog

Steam Locomotives of a Leisurely Era
1949 – Bulleid ‘Leader’
Southern Railway

No.36001 in 1950 No.36001 in 1950

Although designed by O.V.Bulleid under the SR regime this remarkable locomotive did not actually appear until after Nationalisation. Nothing so revolutionary in steam locomotive design had been seen since the Midland Paget engine of 1908. It incorporated many novel features, amongst which may be mentioned the sleeve type valves, and the coupling of the six wheels comprising each bogie by means of a chain transmission instead of coupling rods.
The engine may be briefly described as an 0-6-6-0 single boiler articulated unit completely enclosed by an overall casing. There was a cab at either end with duplicated controls, and the fireman had to work amidships alongside the boiler, the longitudinal axis of which is offset to one side of the centre line of the engine. Herein lay one of the principal defects of the design…

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A brace of cups

Posted: September 25, 2014 in History
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As regular readers of the blog may recall, I spent some time as a researcher on a project at the Royal Bethlem Hospital Museum in Kent earlier in the year. The Royal Bethlem Hospital is famous as the first institution specialising in diseases of the mind and it is from a corruption of its name that we get the word ‘Bedlam’ The following is a report on one aspect of my work there investigating historical artifacts for the new Museum display.(Originally published on The Bethlem Blog):

I think that one of the most fascinating things about this project from me has been how the objects that I have researched led onto questions beyond those simply of the nature and function of the object itself. An example of this is the group of sports cups which have been selected for display in the new museum. When I began to look at these, four in particular stood out to me.

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All four of these cups were donated to the hospital tennis club in 1936, were competed for in 1937 and 38 and then again for eight years from 1950. This led me to an initial question as to why exactly these particular years were the only ones in which the cups were competed for. Examination of the sports club records show that the sports club was formed when the hospital moved from Southwark in central London to the rural Monks Orchard site in Kent during the early 1930s. The advantage of this site over the previous one was that the expansive grounds enabled the hospital governors to provide sports facilities for the staff. This had really begun to take off by the mid 1930s and it was probably for this reason that the cups were first donated in 1936. We can all take a likely guess as to why they stopped in 1938, but there was still the question as to why it took until 1950 for the competitions to recommence following the war. Turning again to the sports club records I could find two possible explanations. The first is a number of references to the condition of the tennis courts in the years between 1945 and 1950. It is unclear whether this damage was as a result of wartime activity or just a general lack of maintenance over the wartime years. The second possible reason was a re-founding of the sports club around 1950, following the merger of the Bethlem hospital and the Maudsley Hospital (another famous hospital for mental illness in south London), as a single sports club. Why then did they stop in 1958? Again a number of reasons can be postulated. There seems in the late 1950s to have been move away from outdoor sports, particularly following the building of a new gymnasium. In addition, the records show that during the 1950s there had been a number of attempts, as witnessed by motions posted at the sports club AGM, to enable winners to take the cups and keep them at home, but these had been rejected each time. In the late 1950s a decision was finally made to award smaller personal trophies to the competition winners which they then got to keep and these may have replaced the awarding of the cups.

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My next set of questions were regarding those donors who had given the cups to the sports club. One of the cups is called the Governors cup, but the other three were all personal donations. The people involved were Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips; Lord Charles Wakefield and Mr Gerald Coke, all people who had an important part to play in the history of the Royal Bethlem hospital. Lionel Faudel Phillips and Charles Wakefield were respectively treasurer and president of the Board of Governors from 1921 until 1941. It was their vision in the 1920s to move the Bethlem hospital from the site at St Georges Field in Southwark to a more open rural site, which they felt would be better for the patients and enable expansion of its facilities. The site they eventually settled on was Monks Orchard near Beckenham in Kent, and it was these two gentlemen who enabled and managed the move when it happened in the 1930s. Gerald Coke, a cousin of Faudel Phillips, had been a governor of the Royal Bethlem since its move to the Monks Orchard site in the 1930s and held the distinction of being the last treasurer appointed by the independent board of governors (prior to its incorporation into the National Health Service). It was he, who according to Andrew’s history of Bethlem first saw the need for the merger with the Maudsley and was the driving force behind ensuring that the merger took place, thus securing the future of the hospital at Monks Orchard. I think it can probably be argued that these three people were the most influential in the hospital’s non-medical history in the period of the first 50 years of the 20th century.

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The cups as objects have a value, both financial and artistic, but that value is unrelated to any narrative connected to them. For me the fascinating thing about them is that they provide a doorway into a story that tells us both of the social life of the hospital and the story of the people who moulded its history.

A promising morning and off for a local RSPB walk around Crayford Marsh. Our route would take us out alongside the River Darent to its meeting with the River Thames.

The route took us past the site of Howbury Manor, of which now only the moated enclosure remains.

The remains of Howbury Manor

The remains of Howbury Manor

On the marsh there were lots of small bird activity and large numbers of Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Ring-necked Parakeets. A single whitethroat was found together with a Chiffchaff and a brief sighting of a Little Owl (although I didnt see either of these).

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The water level in the River was quite low and there were small groups of Teal and a number of Little Egrets.

LIttle Egret

LIttle Egret

Just before we reached the mouth of the river, a seal was spotted swimming in the river and another was seen lounging on the mud at the side of the Thames

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At The mouth of the river was a collection of gulls including Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed. On the opposite side of the river-mouth a group of waders included Ringed Plover, Redshank and a single Dunlin. One wader on the mud was the subject of much discussion but was eventually identified as a Knot. Also present on the Thames were Wigeon and Mallard. A family of Stonechats passed by through the riverside vegetation.

Cartaxo - Saxicola torquata - Common Stonechat
Stonechat
Photo by Jose Sousa (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsousa/)

It was now time to retrace our steps. At the river mouth the gulls had been joined by a single Yellow-legged Gull and a Cormorant. Some people on the walk spotted a Sparrowhawk (I was looking the wrong way again). A brief stop was made to look to see if the Little Owl had returned to its previous perch, but without luck. A final stop at Howbury moat added Mute Swan, Coot and Morrhen to bring my morning total to 45 species.

Grey Heron and Moorhen

Grey Heron and Moorhen

Also seen were Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Common Darter

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

An excellent mornings walk

Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Red Knot [sp] (Calidris canutus)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Yellow-legged Gull [sp] (Larus michahellis)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
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)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Lets us hope that the politicians seize this chance to act.

Green Living London

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Campaigners marched through central London on Sunday to demand global action on climate change, in one of thousands of events worldwide ahead of a UN climate summit.

Some 2,000 events took place in 150 countries, with more than 100,000 people taking to the streets of New York – where the summit is being held – to demand leaders take action to tackle rising temperatures. The summit has been convened by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in a bid to drive action and momentum towards talks in Paris in 2015, where it is hoped a new global climate treaty can be agreed.

In London, campaigners were joined by celebrities, including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel, and church bells rang to mark the march through Westminster to Parliament, where speeches and a rally were held.

Thompson said: “There is little time left to prevent the worst excesses of climate…

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Another trip into East Anglia with the RSPB group. The weather was not promising as we left London as it was raining heavily. However by the time we arrived at Titchwell on the north Norflok coast the rain had stopped although it would remain cloudy and murky all day.

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The Freshwater marsh provided sightings of a range of waders including Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit with the latter two species giving excellent close views.

Waders and wildfowl on the Freshwater Marsh

Waders and wildfowl on the Freshwater Marsh

Ruff

Ruff

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

A distant Water Rail was seen on the far side of the marsh as unusually it fed in the open for a long period of time and a Northern Wheatear was present on one of the islands. Over the saltmarsh a Marsh Harrier floated by and close attention was paid to the ‘Little Egrets’ in the vegetation as up to 18 Spoonbills have been seen here recently. Unfortunately today all those I saw were Little Egrets.

The brackish marsh was quite although there was a single avocet on the mud flats.

Realising that time was pressing on it became a choice between the beach or the east trail. Hearing from a fellow birder that there was not much on the beach I decided to look for migrant birds on the East trial.

On the way back a brief stop at the feeders was rewarded with a brief view of a Brambling skulking in the trees. The East trial leads through woodland to a pool in the reed-bed. Suprisingly given the notable small bird migration the woodland area was quite and I only added a few common species. Patsy’s pool however added a number of new species including Red-Crested Pochard, Greenshank, Snipe, Little Grebe and Northern Shoveller.

Red-Crested Pochard (f)

Red-Crested Pochard (f)

With the light drawing in and time running out a return to the area just north of the visitor centre was rewarded with the sighting of 2 Whinchat on a wire fence

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) adult
Whinchat
Photo by Allan Hopkins (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hoppy1951/)

Despite the weather, a good days birdwatching. The species seen on the reserve and a few seen on the journey brought my total to 59 for the day.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Gloucester Cathedral

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Gloucestershire, UK
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On a recent trip to Gloucester I managed to wangle some time to visit Gloucester Cathedral. It was unexpected and I didnt even have a camera with me (Lesson to self: take camera even when you don’t expect to need it).

 

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“Gloucester Cathedral from Cloister, Gloucestershire, UK – Diliff” by Diliff – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gloucester_Cathedral_from_Cloister,_Gloucestershire,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Gloucester_Cathedral_from_Cloister,_Gloucestershire,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg

Built between 1089 and 1130, this Norman Cathedral stands in the centre of the city. Its interior stone work has a pinkish hue due to the burning timbers of a roof fire about 900 years ago.This timber roof was replaced by a stone vaulted roof which was completed in 1242. It was originally the church of a Benedictine Abbey and King Edward the second was buried here in 1327.

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“Doorway Gloucester Cathedral – geograph.org.uk – 1736608” by Mark Holland – From geograph.org.uk. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Doorway_Gloucester_Cathedral_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1736608.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Doorway_Gloucester_Cathedral_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1736608.jpg

The abbey ceased to exist in 1540 with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. However the King wanted to honour the church because his ancestor Edward was buried there and so it was made a cathedral. It only narrowly survived the after-effects of the English Civil war as although only suffering minor damage Parliament laid plans to demolish it. However it survived due to the efforts of the mayor and people of Gloucester and it was re-confirmed as a Cathedral by Charles the second on the restoration of the monarchy. It was refurbished by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1867 to 1873 but reamins much as it was when the last major building project (The Lady Chapel) was finished in 1470.

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“Gloucester Cathedral 5 Stevage” by Steve Bennett (stevage) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gloucester_Cathedral_5_Stevage.jpeg#mediaviewer/File:Gloucester_Cathedral_5_Stevage.jpeg

I was struck by what an oasis of peace it was in the middle of a bustling city. Its stone walls had the ability to block out everything from outside and allow you to sit and think in peace and calm, sheltered from the world outside

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“Gloucester cathedral cloisters” by Saffron Blaze – Own work. Via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gloucester_cathedral_cloisters.jpeg#mediaviewer/File:Gloucester_cathedral_cloisters.jpeg

And then refreshed it was time to return to the city outside

Following on from the post I re-blogged yesterday about Monterey I had to go back into the photo archive and bring out some of my favourite pictures from that trip

 

Sea-Otter

Sea-Otter

 

Sea-Lions

Sea-Lions

Porpoise and Jelly fish

Porpoise and Jelly fish

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

 

Pacific Grove Butterfly Zone

Pacific Grove Butterfly Zone

 

Monarch butterfly in flight

Monarch butterfly in flight

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

 

Great place; Great people; Great holiday; Great memories