Archive for September, 2016

Robin

Posted: September 30, 2016 in Birds, Natural History
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Recently voted again as the Uk’s most popular bird, the Robin is an inquisitive garden bird, sometimes referred to as the ‘gardeners friend’ due to them appearing when people are gardening and taking up watch from nearby bushes or trees (presumably on the lookout for any food disturbed by the gardener).

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There are estimated to be close to 9 million breeding terretories in the UK.

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The original church on this site was part of the Franciscan Monastery which occupied this area. It was the 2nd largest Medieval church in London.  It had a strong royal connection and those buried within its building or grounds included:

Marguerite of France, Queen of Edward I

Isabella of France, Queen of Edward II

Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scotland

Princess Isabella, daughter of Edward III

Princess Beatrice, daughter of Henry III

The heart of Eleanor of Provence, Queen of Henry III

The medieval church became a parish church following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666  and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.

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One of the wall capitals

One of the wall capitals

The rebuilt church was destroyed on the night of 29th December 1940 during one of the heaviest nights bombing of World War II. There were no plans to rebuild the church and the site was acquired by the corporation of London and laid out as a garden.

 

Crimson Finch

Posted: September 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

Now this is an impressive little bird.

Through My Lens

This impressive little bird is the Crimson Finch, native to Australia, West Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They come in two races, the black-bellied and the white-bellied.

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Statues and Monuments: Mary Seacole

Posted: September 27, 2016 in History, London, UK
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Mary Seacole. Photo by Matt Brown (https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/)

Mary Seacole. Photo by Matt Brown (https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/)

Anyone visiting St Thomas’ hospital in central London recently will have noticed a statue as you enter from Westminster Bridge. It is of Mary Seacole, a Jamaican woman, who nursed sick and wounded soldiers in the Crimean War, where she became known as ‘Mother Seacole’.

Mary was born Mary Grant in Kingston Jamaica in 1805. Her mother was a Jamaican nurse and her father a Scottish soldier serving in the Island’s garrison. She had a brother and a sister. As a young woman, she visited Britain on two occasions, staying a year in 1820 and for two years in 1823. In 1836 she married Edwin Seacole and they opened a store and hotel in Kingston. Unfortunately, Edwin died in 1844, but Mary continued to run the hotel and nursed people suffering from cholera. In 1853 she left Kingston and moved to Panama to join her brother Edward, who owned a hotel and store there.

Mary Seacole. Phot by David Holt (https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/)

Mary Seacole. Photo by David Holt (https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/)

A year later news reached them about the war in the Crimea and Mary decided that she wanted to go and nurse the wounded soldiers. She travelled to London and applied to join the official nursing parties being sent out, but was refused. Not to be daunted, she joined up with a friend, Thomas Day and decided to travel independently. Arriving in Turkey she met with Florence Nightingale before travelling onto the Crimea and setting up a ‘hotel’ near Balaclava, where she served hot food and drink, provided blankets and clothes and nursed wounded and sick soldiers. She would often visit troops on the battlefield and was the first woman to enter Sebastopol after it was captured.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole

When the war ended in 1856, she returend to London and was greeted by newspaper reports detailing her activities. She wrote and published a book about her travels. She received awards for her work in the Crimea from both Turkey and Jamaica. After the initial interest in her adventures died down she settled for a quiet life in London, where she died in 1881.

Oare Marshes

Oare Marshes

 

LIttle Egret

Little Egret

A fine day saw me on the North Kent marshes with Keith and Brian. Our day started at Oare Gunpowder works, where we recorded some woodland species, although the star bird was a Grey Wagtail which we found in one of the old works buildings.

Oare Gunpowder Works

Oare Gunpowder Works

 

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Then we moved onto the Marshes, which are one of the best places for migrating waders in the county.

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Whilst waiting for the incoming tide to push the wading birds onto the marsh we went for a walk along the sea wall. We had been told that a Western Osprey had been fishing in the channel between Oare and Harty, but it seemed to have moved on. Then whilst searching the Harty bank, Brian found the bird perched on a post by the waters edge. As we watched it was clearly enjoying a meal of a fish it had caught.

On the rising tide, we saw increasing numbers of waders arriving on the marsh. Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Black-Tailed Godwit were the most numerous species. Smaller numbers of Greenshank and Whimbrel were also present.

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

 

Black-Tailed Godwits

Black-Tailed Godwits

In amongst these, we found at least 5 Little Stint and at least 4 Curlew Sandpiper.

Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin and Ringed Plover

Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin and Ringed Plover

 

Little Stint

Little Stint

There was a migrating passage of Swallows and smaller numbers of House and Sand Martins. We also heard and then briefly saw a Water Rail and had a brief flight view of two Bearded Reedlings.

Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters were present in good numbers and we also recorded 5 species of Butterfly including at least 6 Clouded Yellows. I also found a lizard which I believe is a Common Lizard basking in the grass.

 

Clouded Yellow. Photo by Nick Ford (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickpix2008/)

Clouded Yellow. Photo by Nick Ford (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickpix2008/)

 

Basking Lizard

Basking Lizard

An excellent day in a wonderful place. Thanks to Brian for driving us around and to him and Keith for their company.

Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Osprey [sp] (Pandion haliaetus)
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)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Whimbrel [sp] (Numenius phaeopus)
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)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
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)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

 

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

 

River Walk (3)

Posted: September 22, 2016 in London, UK
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During my recent river walk, there were lots of street furniture which are typical of the things that are often missed as you walk around London.

Streetlamp

Streetlamp

Ornate seat end

Unusual seat end

Police phone box

Police phone box

Traditional Red phone box -although this one looks like it could do with some care

Traditional Red phone box -although this one looks like it could do with some care

Base of a Streetlamp

Base of a Streetlamp

My trip to Rutland Water on Sunday gave me lots of opportunities to photograph Egrets. When I first started birdwatching nearly 40 years ago we would have travelled a long distance to see any species of Egret. Now Little Egret is an established bird, which in some places outnumbers Grey Heron and Great White Egret is a common visitor.

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

 

Great white Egret (adult)

Great white Egret (adult)

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

Great White Egret (Juvenile)

Great White Egret (Juvenile)

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

Some more pictures from my trip to Rutland Water on Sunday. This time of the landscape and some of the other animals I encountered.

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Sheep graze the areas around the Lagoons

Sheep graze the areas around the Lagoons

 

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Cows Graze around Lagoon 1

Cows Graze around Lagoon 1

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Rutland Water Nature Reserve

Rutland Water Nature Reserve

A fine clear morning saw me heading north from London in the company of the local RSPB group bound for Rutland Water in Leicestershire. This would be my second visit this year as Sue and I had stopped off here on our way to Northumberland during the summer, but this time I would have more time to explore this wonderful place.

Rutland Water is a large reservoir opened in 1976 to store water for the East of England. It has since become a major watersports centre and also a wonderful place for wildlife. It is impossible to visit all the potentially good areas in a day as the reservoir and surrounding land covers such a vast area, so our trip today would concentrate on the area around Eggleton, where there a number of small lagoons which have been managed to provide different habitats.

Rutland Water Nature Reserve

Rutland Water Nature Reserve

A visit to the hide overlooking the feeder station (in the hope of seeing Tree Sparrow), but only Great and Blue Tits, Chaffinch and Goldfinch are present.

Chaffinch (f)

Chaffinch (f)

I make my way south towards Heron Bay visiting a couple of lagoons on the way. It seems very quiet and only a few Herons and Egrets along with Lapwing and Gadwall are present. Reaching Lagoon No 5 there are at least 8 Little Grebe present and a party of 10 Barn Swallows pass over on their migration.

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

 

Little Grebe

Little Grebe

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

Heron bay is busier with large numbers of Great Cormorant, Mute Swans, Gadwall and Canada Geese present. One interesting sight is a platform with the remains of an Osprey nest. Rutland Water is one of the few sites in England where the Osprey nests and the water authority have provided a number of platforms around the reservoir for them to build their nests upon. The last of the Rutland Ospreys had left on its migration south just about a week ago, so the platforms were the only reminder of the importance of this reserve to a rare breeding bird.

Osprey Nest

Osprey Nest

Returning north back towards the reserve centre I paused to look over Lagoon 1 and could see a Large White Heron-like bird but at that distance, it was difficult to be sure of its identity. I made my way to another hide overlooking the same lagoon but further west and was rewarded with good views of a Great White Egret, first perched on an island and then later feeding in the Lagoon. A Eurasian Hobby was busy hunting over the Lagoon and a Kingfisher was also seen here as it alighted briefly on a fence.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

In the afternoon I went northwards from the centre and was rewarded on Lagoon 3 with an even closer view of a Great White Egret which posed just outside the hide. This bird appears to be a juvenile (dark legs and a yellow bill) as opposed to the adult seen on Lagoon 1 (pale legs and black mark on bill end) -so 2 different birds present.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

There were also 2 Black-tailed Godwits here which together with small parties of snipe and large numbers of Northern Lapwing were the only wading birds that I could find.

One final trip back to Tree Sparrow hide failed to turn up the elusive bird and I wonder at their status as this used to be an almost 100% certainty at this site when I have visited in previous years.

Apart from the birds I also recorded 5 species of dragonfly and 7 species of Butterfly.

Common Darter

Common Darter

Then it was time to rejoin the coach for the trip back to London. Great weather, great location and some great wildlife.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
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)
Great White Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
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)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)
Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)