Archive for July, 2013

The final scenes in the wall reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh show the conquering Assyrian army returning with the spoils of victory and presenting them to the King.





The reliefs of the Capture of Lachish are on display in a newly refurbished gallery at the British Museum

Some shots of King Edward II during a break in her running at Didcot in order to take on water and coal.

King Edward II back at shed to take on water

King Edward II back at shed to take on water


Posted: July 30, 2013 in Astronomy




Wood Duck

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Birds, Natural History
Tags: , ,



The North American Wood Duck is a bird of wooded swamps and shallow lakes, which is sometimes seen in the UK. It is reckoned unlikely that any of these sightings relate to birds which have crossed the Atlantic since the Wood Duck, because of its attractive plumage, has been kept in bird collections since the middle of the 19th century. It is more likely that any birds seen in the wild have escaped from such collections. It is related to the Asian Mandarin Duck, also established in the UK following escapes from bird collections. However unlike the Mandarin duck it is unlikely that the feral population of Wood Ducks is self-sustaining and new occurrences are more likely related to new escapes. It is recorded in the London area and in the last year there have been at least 2 males in my area, one of which spent some months on the Tarn at the end of last year.

Male Wood Duck with female Mallard

Male Wood Duck with female Mallard

Female Wood Duck
female Wood Duck
Photo by Alex Starr (

Before the invention of refrigerators and freezers, many country houses would have a ice well. These would be brick built with a domed roof and would be built into the ground. The ice, which would be cut from a nearby lake, would be packed inside. The well worked by keeping the cold in and excluding the warmth,and thus ice was available to house all year round. Experiments have shown that ice in these wells could remain frozen for up to 2 years.

The example which we have now in Tarn Park was the ice well from nearby Eltham Lodge ( now the clubhouse of the Royal Blackheath golf course) and dates from around about 1760.





Was great to be back at Didcot Railway Centre to see 6023 King Edward II in steam.


6023 was a king-class heavy express steam locomotive specifically designed for taking express trains over the steep gradients found on Great Western routes in south-west England. 6023 came into service in June 1930 and spent most which working life based at depots in the South West before transferring to Old Oak Common in London in August of 1956, where it worked on the London – Wolverhampton route. In September of 1960 it transferred to Canton depot in Cardiff and until its withdrawal in June 1962 working trains between London and Cardiff.

Most of the King class locos disappeared quickly after they were withdrawn from service. However, 6023 together with 6024 were kept to perform deadweight testing on bridges and subsequently sent to Woodhams in Barry, where, like many locomotives they were left to decay. In fact, 6023 stayed at Barry until 1982 when it was purchased and moved first to Brighton and then to Bristol for restoration. Unfortunately before this work could be completed the funds ran out in 1988. The locomotive was then purchased by the Great Western Society, and arrived at Didcot in March 1990, where restoration recommenced. The locomotive was finally first steamed in public at Didcot in April 2011.

Brilliant to see her in full steam, although I have to say I’m not a great fan of the blue livery, although I’m told this is authentic BR livery from the 1950s. Call me traditional but I’d much rather see her in GWR green or BR green or black. perhaps blue engines remind me too much of Thomas the Tank Engine (Not that I have anything against Thomas, you understand)

After a morning meeting in Blackheath I noticed a Small tortoisehell in a garden near the meeting venue as I walked through the village to the heath. I then walked across the heath to the north side to do a butterfly count. The heath resembled a cut cornfield in colour and appearance – the price for this extended hot spell we are experiencing in the UK at the moment.



There were a good number of butterflies in the area near to Greenwich Park including Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Small and Large White and Essex Skipper(a London first for me).

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Gatekeeper Butterfly

Gatekeeper Butterfly

I also photographed a butterfly which I was unable to identify from the photo and have sent to local Butterfly society recorder for help with ID


Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
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)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)
Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)



Photos taken using the Bradford Robotic telescope

The Swan nebula (M17/NGC6618) is also known by a number of other names such as the Omega nebula, the Horsehoe nebula or the Lobster nebula. It is 5000 to 6000 light years from Earth and has a diameter of 15 to 20 light years. it is one of the brightest and most massive star-forming regions seen from Earth and is visible with binoculars in the constellation Sagittarius.

Previous posts

Went to Didcot Railway centre to see locomotive King Edward II in steam (post to follow) but as the Red Kites circled above took time out to do a lunchtime Butterfly count along the track verges.

The bird list was not extensive (4 species) but the views of Red Kite were brilliant

Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)




The butterfly count recorded 6 species.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Following on from yesterday’s excellent results I was wondering if today could match it. The morning working at home was interrupted first by the appearance of a Ringlet butterfly in the garden and then later by a hawker dragonfly. This was very active and so it was difficult to get a good view. Initially its predominantly brown body suggested Brown Hawker (A.Grandis) but this was ruled out when I could get a view through the binoculars as the wings were transparent and not brown as would be the case for a Grandis. This left two possible species (or at least the females of those species) – Southern Hawker (A.Cynaea) or Common Hawker (A.Juncea). Although distance and its activity made seeing any distinguishing features hard, location (A.Juncea is rarely recorded in this area) and habitat suggested that Southern was a more likely sighting.



As I am recording this week for the Butterfly Conservation Count I wanted to see what was around the Tarn, so went for a walk in the afternoon. Birds were again sparse although there was a party of 12 Canada Geese which suggests that the adults have successfully raised all their young this year. I managed to find 2 juvenile Robins in the undergrowth but otherwise birds were scarce. The male Emperor Dragonfly was still patrolling his beat near the bridge and at least 6 male Azure Damselflies and a single blue-tailed damselfly were around the edges on the vegetation.


As yesterday there were 6+ large white butterflies, but in one patch I also found 3 Small Whites and 3 Gatekeepers.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
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)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)