Archive for January, 2017

Naturelog: 30th January

Posted: January 31, 2017 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK
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It’s the weekend of the RSPB winter garden bird count and as long-serving readers of my blog will know this is the weekend when all the birds desert my garden and go somewhere else. All those everyday visitors, regular throughout the week leading up to the count simply vanish!

Still there is always the hope that this year would be different and to be fair it was a more representative count than in some past years with pairs of Dunnocks, Blue Tits and Great Tits visiting the feeder station along with Blackbirds and our usual legion of Crows supplemented by a couple of Magpies and a Jay. Two Chaffinches were an uncommon visitor to the garden and made it onto this year’s return.

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Around lunchtime, I had to go up to the Town centre and took the long route around the Tarn in the hope of seeing the Water Rail that had been seen when I was away. The lake was no longer frozen, reflecting the slight increase in temperature over the last week. The pair of Gadwall were still present but I could not find either the Little Grebe or the Teal which had been present during the thaw – maybe they have moved on although it could just be they were hidden from sight in the bankside vegetation on this occasion. No luck with the Water Rail either but I did locate a Redwing. These too have disappeared from the garden now the temperature has risen presumably to feed on the nearby open land now that the frost has gone. It is interesting how only small variations in temperature can affect the local distribution of birds.

Gadwall

Gadwall

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
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)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Parkland surrounding Launde Abbey

Parkland surrounding Launde Abbey

Whilst we were staying at Launde Abbey, we managed, on the days when the weather allowed, to go for some walks in the deer park. As might be expected, in this type of habitat, the wildlife is not numerous especially during winter but a pair of Ravens was a pleasing find as was a Nuthatch sitting in a tree first seen by Sue. Robins and Blackbirds were most numerous species in the gardens.

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

Blackbird

Blackbird

Robin

Robin

Raven. Photo by Daniel Plumer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dlplumer/)

Raven. Photo by Daniel Plumer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dlplumer/)

Each evening a Tawny Owl could be heard calling from the small wood in the gardens.

One final good record was as we were leaving to return home we flushed two Fieldfares from the roadside where they had been feeding.

Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Tawny Owl [sp] (Strix aluco)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Northern Raven [sp] (Corvus corax)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Some pictures of the 12th / 13th-century chapel at Launde Abbey. A wonderfully peaceful and calm place to sit and reflect in a moment of quiet,

The Chapel

The Chapel

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The Font

The Font

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

carving of Last Supper behind Altar

carving of Last Supper behind Altar

Memorial to Gregory Cromwell

Memorial to Gregory Cromwell

Stained Glass Window

Stained Glass Window

 

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Later in the day, I went to our local nature reserve at Sutcliffe Park. It was a bright sunny frosty day. There was little to see in the marsh area, other than a couple of Moorhens, but the partially frozen lake was busy with a group of Canada Geese along with 2 Mute Swans, a flock of Mallard and some Coot. Both Black-headed and Common Gulls were also present.

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Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mallard (m)

Mallard (m)

Black-headed and Common Gulls

Black-headed and Common Gulls

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alongside the lake, a group of House Sparrow moved through the vegetation. Once numerous and the commonest garden bird in London they are now just recovering from a calamitous decline which saw them become a rarity. This is still the only place in my patch where they are regularly found.

 

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

 

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Why does it always seem to happen? I go away for a week and another local birdwatcher finds 2 first sightings of species on the Tarn. So on a bright winters morning, I set off to see if the birds were still there. The first thing I found was a Little Grebe ( a regular winter visitor) hiding under the bank.

Little Grebe

Little Grebe

The pair of gadwall (also a first record) first seen two weeks ago were still present along with a good number of Moorhens and some Coot plus a single Tufted Duck.

Gadwall (m)

Gadwall (m)

Coot

Coot

At the eastern end of the lake, I soon find the first of those new firsts as a female Teal is swimming amongst the bankside vegetation but eventually she emerged to be photographed.

Teal (f)

Teal (f)

As for the second species, I was hunting, a Water Rail, I knew where it was likely to be, but equally knew I would be lucky to see it. Maybe it would call from the vegetation. Whilst I was scouring the area, I noticed a small bird fly into nearby vegetation. It caught my attention and as I looked into the twigs and leaves I could make out a small dull bird with a black cap – ah a male Blackcap – used to be a summer visitor but we have had them over-winter here before. But as I looked I could see a pale cheek and that black cap is not right for a blackcap – now totally confused – was it an aberrant Great Tit with no colour? Then it popped out on a branch and it was a Marsh Tit (another site first!). It flew off before I could get a photo unfortunately.

Marsh Tit. Photo by Shawn Nystrand (https://www.flickr.com/photos/the_webhamster/)

Marsh Tit. Photo by Shawn Nystrand (https://www.flickr.com/photos/the_webhamster/)

I continued to search for the Water Rail but without any success – still there is always tomorrow!

Ring-necked Parrakeet

Ring-necked Parrakeet

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
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)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
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)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)

 

Launde Abbey

Launde Abbey

Launde Abbey, south of Oakham in Leicestershire, was founded in 1119 as a priory for a group of Augustinian Black Canons. Over the century that followed it grew as buildings were added. It originally sat in a royal forest but in the 13th century, much of the surrounding land was cleared to create a deer park.

The front terrace and the deer park beyond

The front terrace and the deer park beyond

The priory was dissolved in the mid 16th century along with many other religious houses in England by act of Henry VIII. It was given to Gregory Cromwell, son of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to King Henry. The Cromwell family lived here for about 60 years and restored and rebuilt many of the monastic buildings turning it into a domestic dwelling.

The oldest remaining section of the house. The 12/13th century chapel on the left and the section at the front of the house icorporates elements from the house of 1550.

The oldest remaining section of the house. The 12/13th century chapel on the left and the section at the front of the house incorporates elements from the house of 1550.

 

The house as seen from the gardens

The house as seen from the gardens

It then passed through a number of different families, most notably the Smiths in the 17th century, who pulled down many of the monastic buildings and built the manor house seen today.

The stable block, now converted into additional accommodation and meeting rooms.

The stable block – now converted into additional accommodation and meeting rooms.

Some elements of the history remain from before the 17th century. One part of the house dates back to the 1550s and the chapel is 12/13th century and was a side chapel of the original priory church.

The Chapel

The Chapel

In 1957 the house was presented to the Anglican Diocese of Leicestershire and is now used as a retreat and conference centre.

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During a recent trip to Leicestershire Sue and I got the opportunity to visit the fantastic reserve at Rutland Water on two occasions.

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The first on Sunday afternoon was in heavy rain and so we did not venture further than the visitors centre at Eggleton. Nevertheless, it was good birdwatching with excellent numbers of Pintail, a Goldeneye and two Goosanders with a brief flight view of Great White Egret. Also had excellent views of Reed Bunting and Stonechat.

Pintail (m)

Pintail (m)

Reed Bunting (m)

Reed Bunting (m)

Chaffinch (m)

Chaffinch (m)

Pheasant

Pheasant

 

 

 

 

 

The following day the weather was much better and we made our way along the trails to the north of the centre. Highlights included better views of Great White Egret, a Smew, a party of Red Crested Pochard and a small group of Pink-footed Geese.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Red Creasted Pochard (m)

Red Crested Pochard (m)

Smew (f). Photo by henry McLin (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmclin/)

Smew (f). Photo by henry McLin (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmclin/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this must be one of my favourite reserves in the country, always something to see and good variety as witnessed by the 50+ spp seen in two short visits in not very good weather.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye [sp] (Bucephala clangula)
Smew (Mergellus albellus)
Common Merganser [sp] (Mergus merganser)
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)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
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)
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)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

The worship of the God Mithras, although originating in Persia, had come to the Roman Empire through the Greeks. It was popular amongst the Military and a number of Mithraic temples (Mithraeum) have been discovered on Miltary sites connected with Hadrian’s Wall.

 

Relief of Mithras killing the Bull from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Relief of Mithras killing the Bull from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Statue of Birth of Mithras from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Statue of Birth of Mithras from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Altar dedicated Mithras the Invincible by the Prefect of 1st cohort of Batavians (from near the mouth of the river Rhine) from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

Altar dedicated to Mithras the Invincible by the Prefect of 1st cohort of Batavians (from near the mouth of the river Rhine) from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altar dedicated to Mithras from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh. It was probably painted as some green paint was still present on it when found

Altar dedicated to Mithras from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh. It was probably painted as some green paint was still present on it when found

Altar dedicated Mithras by Aulus Cluentius Habitus, an Italian from Lanneum in the Apenines - from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

Altar dedicated to Mithras by Aulus Cluentius Habitus, an Italian from Lanneum in the Apennines – from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

Views of Rochester (3)

Posted: January 19, 2017 in London, UK
Tags: ,
Rochester High St

Rochester High St

A quiet terrace near the river

A quiet terrace near the river

This is the house which Charles Dickens used as the home of Mr Tope, the head verger at Rochester Cathedral in 'The mystery of Edwin Drood'

This is the house which Charles Dickens used as the home of Mr Tope, the head verger at Rochester Cathedral in ‘The mystery of Edwin Drood’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rochester High Street

Rochester High Street

The River Medway in the area once occupied by Rochester Docks

The River Medway in the area once occupied by Rochester Docks

A reminder of the docks which once stood on this site

A reminder of the docks which once stood on this site

 

Statue of Sir Henry Bartle Frere in Embankment Gardens

Statue of Sir Henry Bartle Frere in Embankment Gardens

Henry Bartle Frere was born in March 1815  in Monmouthshire.  He was educated at the East India company college and on graduation in 1834 was sent to India as a civil servant in Poona. By 1842 he had risen to be the secretary to the Governor of Bombay and two years later married the governor’s daughter. He was then posted as the Resident at the court of the Raja Sharji of Satara and in 1850 he became Chief Commissioner in Sindh province, where he set up the Postal Service which would form the model for the later Indian postal system. He was knighted in 1857 and joined the Viceroy’s staff in 1859, before becoming Governor of Bombay in 1862. Whilst in this post he implemented a policy of municipal improvements in the city. In 1867 he returned to England.

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He served as a member of the commission on India until 1877 when he was posted as Commissioner for Southern Africa. His attempted civil reorganisation and Confederation of the states, against the advice of local leaders, was strongly resisted. It led to a number of local wars and eventually to the Anglo-Zulu War and the first Boer war.

By Anon. - Cape Archives Depot, Public Domain, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27245547)

Sir Henry Bartle Frere By Anon. – Cape Archives Depot, Public Domain, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27245547)

In 1880 he was recalled to London and charged with misconduct. He died whilst preparing his defence and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.