Archive for November, 2014

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As we were in the Sevenoaks area we decided that we would visit another local reserve, the Sevenoaks Wildlife reserve.

This reserve was founded as a collaboration between a local naturalist and a gravel/ sand extraction company who operated on the site. Extraction finished some 30 years ago and now there are a series of lakes surrounded by woodland.

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At the first hide we got some great views of a party of Blue Tits in the trees.

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

On the main lake there were a large number of Greylag Geese and Lapwing along with Teal and a Little Egret.

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese

Lapwing

Lapwing

Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

The real star species though was a large number of Common Snipe. Every island seemed to have its little party of 10-20. There may have been between 50 and 80 in total. It is unusual to see them like this as they spend most of their time in the margins and undergrowth where their excellent camouflage makes them difficult to see.

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
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)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

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A free morning and the chance to get out and do some birdwatching with Sue. We chose to visit one of our favourite places Bough Beech Reservoir near Sevenoaks. On arrival it was noticeable that the water level was much lower than on our previous visit, but despite the exposed mud there was little to be seen on the northern basin. The main reservoir lies to the south of the causeway and immediately the long-staying Great White Egret was located.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

A pair of Goosander were soon seen swimming across the reservoir and later the male came closer to the causeway.

Goosander

Goosander

A flash of blue was the only sighting of a Kingfisher as it sped from one side to the other. There were small parties of Teal, Wigeon and Shovellor along with a half a dozen Great Crested Grebes.

Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe

On the banks were a large group of Greylag geese, Cormorants and Lapwing together with a party of about 20 Mandarin Duck (the largest number I have ever seen here).

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin Duck

Checking the Northern basin before we left I found this Little Egret posing for pictures.

Little Egret

Little Egret

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Merganser [sp] (Mergus merganser)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Thames journey (7):

Posted: November 28, 2014 in London, UK
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The Angel, one of a number of riverside pubs. Local legend has it the notorious’Hanging Judge’ George Jefferys came to the Angel to watch men hung on the scaffold at Execution dock directly opposite on the north bank of the river. More about its history can be found at: http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/the-angel-public-house.html

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The river police station at Wapping.
The river police were once a seperate organisation set up by merchants to prevent crime on the river and in the docks and warehouses. It became part of the Metropolitan Police force in 1839. Wapping was their original station being in the middle of the London docks area and today the station also houses a museum dedicated to the history of maritime policing in London.

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The Hilton ferry is the only passenger ferry operating on the Thames that connects two points, one on the south bank near the Hilton Docklands Hotel and Canary wharf on the north bank (All other services are river boats and connect multiple along a route).

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As we approach Canary Wharf and the centre of London Docklands there is more housing which has used the original riverside buildings.

Thames journey (6): A changing face

Posted: November 27, 2014 in London, UK
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The area downstream of Tower bridge was until relatively recently part of the commercial port of London. Since the docks closed in the 1960s and 1970s this area has seen tremendous redevelopment to include housing, non-river related commercial activities and marinas.

Luxury yacht moored near Tower Bridge

Luxury yacht moored near Tower Bridge

But as you look back towards the centre of the city the Shard continues to dominate the view.

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Some of the housing development is new.

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But some have used original riverside buildings which have been converted

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Rome 320 AD – Interactive App

Posted: November 26, 2014 in History, Roman History
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This is absolutely fascinating I can’t wait to try it out

Indiana Jen

My good friend and former Professor, Bernie Frischer, Ph.D., just announced a game that resulted from his collaboration: Rome 320AD. You can see Bernie giving a brief overview of 4th century Rome in this Kahn Academy Video.

The app follows the lives of four Romans as they travel through the city on a summer day in 320 CE. You can explore 3D, interactive models of the city in high resolution and detail.

The app is currently available in the Mac App Store ($5.99) and the Chrome Web Store ($6.99). iPad and Android Apps are in the making!

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Tower Bridge from the pool of London

Tower Bridge from the pool of London

In the late 19th century with development of the east end of London it was decided that a new river crossing was required downstream of London Bridge. This new crossing had to take into account the tall masted ships which required access to the pool of London to unload at the warehouses there. In 1884 a design by Sir Horace Jones was selected and construction began in 1886 and lasted 8 years. The bridge was opened in June 1894.

Tower top

Tower top

Going under Tower bridge

Going under Tower bridge

It has a span of 800 ft with a central span of 200 feet. On the lower level this central span is made of two sections which are capable of opening to and angle of 86 degrees to enable tall ships to pass underneath. Each of the towers measures 213 ft.

HMS Edinburgh at Tower Bridge London 07-05-2013
HMS Edinburgh passes under open Tower Bridge in 2013
Photo by Martin Stichenor (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dxhawk/)

Tower Bridge is often confused with London Bridge, especially by tourists and visitors. There is one urban myth that when the old London bridge was purchased for relocation to the USA, the buyer thought that it was Tower Bridge he was buying. This has been denied by both the buyer and the seller in that deal.

Tower bridge and the city beyond from downstream

Tower bridge and the city beyond from downstream

We continued our journey downstream from Tower Bridge to Greenwich by Thames Clipper, a fast catamaran which runs a regular service along the river.

On the south-bank of the pool of London, between London and Tower bridge is an area of regenerated warehouses. The two notable sights being HMS Belfast and London City Hall.

HMS Belfast with HMS Severn a navy patrol boat alongside

HMS Belfast with HMS Severn alongside

HMS Belfast is a cruiser launched just prior to the second world war in 1938. Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities she struck a German mine and was in dock undergoing repairs for 2 years. In 1942 she was appointed to the fleet guarding the convoys in the Arctic and in 1944 she supported the landings on the Normandy beaches. In 1945 she was transferred to the far eastern fleet. She was retired from active service in 1963.

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There followed a period of indecision as to her future but eventually it was decided to form an independent trust to operate the ship as a museum in the pool of London. It opened to the public in 1971 and ownership was transferred to the Imperial War Museum in 1978. It also serves as a mooring place for naval ships visiting the pool of London. On the day of our journey, HMS Severn a Royal Navy patrol vessel was moored alongside.

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London City Hall is the home of the Greater London Authority. It was built on the south-bankat the turn of the century and opened in 2002 replacing the old county hall in Westminster.

City Hall

City Hall

Great story. Is it really that long since the HST was introduced? How time flies!

National Railway Museum blog

This is a guest post written by Associate Curator of Rail Vehicles Bob Gwynne.

Sir Kenneth Grange is an industrial designer whose work includes: the Kenwood Mixer, the Parker Pen, the Kodak Camera and the London taxi. All of his designs are examples of how he has worked to ensure that objects are good to look at as well as a pleasure to use. Out of all the items he has designed, his favourite project is the work he did on the High Speed Train, which he styled into a symbol of modernity that gave Britain’s railways a boost in the doldrums of the 1970s. He recalled to the BBC in 2006, that when it first came out in 1976:

“There wasn’t a sign of modernism in Paddington station. So I think the workforce – let alone the passengers – was mightily affected. This was a real symbol of hope for…

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HOW TO BE A WOODPECKER

Posted: November 22, 2014 in Birds, Natural History
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Great pictures of woodpecker in action

Towheeblog

There are woodpeckers, and there are wood-peckers.  The Hairy Woodpecker is a paragon of woodpecking.  Not for him the tiny twigs and leaf-gleaning of his bantam cousin, the Downy Woodpecker.  He’s definitely not to be found on the ground with a Flicker who will consort with the likes of thrushes and sparrows down there in the dirt.  Eating ants!  A sturdy trunk or big branch is the where you’ll find the Hairy Woodpecker….or on my suet feeder.  Not drilling those neat circular wells that appeal to the SAPsucker clan.  That’s just plain weird to a Hairy Woodpecker.  Never on those horizontal dead trunks that often appeal to Pileated Woodpeckers.  The Hairy is a great woodworker, a true driller with a hearty beak.  For nest holes: perfectly round.  Habitat: mature forest, not those little willow copses where you can find Downy.HAWO LEAN3 (1280x960)HAWO LEANS2 (1280x960)HAWO LOOKUP (1280x960)HAWO PROBE (1280x960)HAWO PROBE2 (1280x960)HAWO SIDE (1280x960)hawo-bk (1280x960)HAWO-DRILL2 (1280x960)HWO ACTION (1280x960)

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Autumn comes in colour

Posted: November 21, 2014 in Landscape, Natural History
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One of the things I really love about autumn is the contrasting colours of the trees and bushes around my home. Here are some pictures I took yesterday around my patch.

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