Archive for February, 2015

Views of Parliament Square (2)

Posted: February 28, 2015 in London, UK
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Westminster Central Hall

Westminster Central Hall

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre

Supreme Court building

Supreme Court building

Supreme Court building

Supreme Court building

The Bell Tower which contains Big Ben

The Bell Tower which contains Big Ben

Paddington Bear

Posted: February 27, 2015 in London, UK
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I recently went to see an exhibition on Paddington bear, which is on at the Museum of London to coincide with the release of the new Paddington movie.

On Christmas eve in 1956, a BBC cameraman Michael Bond went into a department store and bought the last toy bear as a gift for his wife. Over the holiday he began to imagine the adventures that the bear could have in and around London and eventually began to write them down. The first book was published in October 1958.

Michael Bond's typewriter used to write Paddington books

Michael Bond’s typewriter used to write Paddington books

First edition of original book

First edition of original book

The stories are of Paddington, a bear from Peru, who has come to London and was found at Paddington Station by the Brown family with whom he goes to live. There have been 70 books written which have been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. There have been 2 TV series based on the stories, one in the 1970s and the other in the 1980s.

There has also been a Paddington bear trail around London created and a statue at Paddington station commemorating his arrival

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The Paddington statue at Paddington station.
By en:User:Lonpicman (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Goldeneye

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Birds, Natural History
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This attractive medium sized duck can be found on lakes and coastal waters around Britain during the winter.

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Although originally a winter visitor, an increasing number have been breeding in Scotland since the first record in 1970. It is now extimated that 200 pairs are breeding each year helped by the provision of nest boxes.

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The UK wintering population is estimated at 27,000 birds

Goldeneye
Female Goldeneye
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

45379: Black 5

Posted: February 25, 2015 in Trains
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45379 waiting to enter Alton station

45379 waiting to enter Alton station

The Stanier Black 5’s were designed as an all purpose engine for the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

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45379 was built at Newcastle in 1937 and saw service at Crewe, Rugby and Bletchley depots before being withdrawn from service in the summer of 1965. After stints at Avon Valley and Great Central railways it came to the Mid-Hants line in 2002.

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Tower Bridge from the pool of London

Tower Bridge from the pool of London

This year marks the 120th Anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge.

In the late 19th century, the city authorities decided that an additional crossing of the river was needed downstream of the Pool of London. This meant that any crossing would have to include some way that masted ships could enter the Pool. They devised a design competition and over 50 entries were recieved. Most were for high bridges or bridges that opened but some were more imaginative.

Frederick Bennet's design for river crossing

Frederick Bennet’s design for river crossing

The winning design was by John Wolfe Barry who with Horace Jones, the city architect oversaw the construction which took a labour force of nearly 500 men 8 years to complete.

Horace Jones

Horace Jones

John Wolfe Barry

John Wolfe Barry by Lambert Weston (1806-95) or his son Sidney Weston (1842-93),


From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJohnWolfeBarry2.jpg

The Bridge was finally opened on 30th June 1894.

The opening of Tower Bridge by W L Wylie (1894)

The opening of Tower Bridge by W L Wylie (1894)

These pictures were taken from an excellent exhibition running at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the opening.

Forever Imagical Tower bridge by Mentor Chico (2014)

Forever Imagical Tower bridge by Mentor Chico (2014)

Amazing video; even the photographer is taken by surprise

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This monument which stands in Whitehall to the North of the Cenotaph was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. It is by John W Mills and is dedicated to the many women who took part in the World War.

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17 sets of clothing represent the many jobs undertaken by women and include a Land Army uniform, a Police Uniform and a welding mask.

UK - London - Whitehall: Memorial to the Women of World War Two
Photo by Wally Gobetz (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/)

At the unveiling Baroness Boothroyd said “This monument is dedicated to all the women who served our country and to the cause of freedom, in uniform and on the home front. I hope that future generations who pass this way will ask themselves: ‘what sort of women were they?’ and look at our history for the answer.”. The unveiling was accompanied by a Royal air Force flypast of 5 helicopters and 2 jet fighter all piloted by women.

Parliament Square sits in the heart of Westminster and may in many ways be regarded as the centre of the nation with the Houses of Parliament which occuoy one side. Here are some of the other buildings around the square.

Westminster Abbey dates back to c960 when a community of Benedictine monks arrived on the site. The current Abbey dates from 1245 with major additions around 1500. The west Towers were added in 1745.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

West Front, Westminster Abbey

West Front, Westminster Abbey

West Door, Westminster Abbey

West Door, Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Deans Yard, Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Deans Yard, Westminster Abbey

The roads around the Abbey buildings reflect the time when the precincts were a place of Sanctuary

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Initially the Cenotaph was erected as a temporary structure of wood and plaster as part of the celebrations for the end of World War 1 in 1919. Shortly afterwards the government approached Edwin Lutyens to design a permanent memorial to the service-people of the war and the current monument made from Portland stone is the result.

It was unveiled on 11th November 1920 the second anniversary of the armistice.

Unveiling of the Cenotaph in Whitehall
The unveiling of the Cenotaph 1920
Photo by Marion Doss (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ooocha/)

Following World War 2 the monument was modified and was unveiled for a second time on 10th November 1946.The flags on its sides represent the Army, Air Force, Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy along with the Union Jack.

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The Cenotaph is the location for the annual remembrance day parade on the Sunday closest to 11th November.

Her Majesty the Queen Lays a Wreath at the Cenotaph London During Remembrance Sunday Service
The annual remembrance day parade
Photo by UK Ministry of Defence (https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/)

The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London Following the Remembrance Day Parade in 2010
The annual remembrance day parade
Photo by UK Ministry of Defence (https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/)

This morning saw Keith and I on our way to Staines Reservoir on the western edge of London. The reservoir, a large body of water divided by a central causeway, lies adjacent to Heathrow Airport. Our targets were wintering Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebes for which this is the only regular site in the London area.

Staines Reservoir (North)

Staines Reservoir (North)

Arriving at the eastern end of the causeway we begin to scan the large expanse of water and soon begin to get the common species. We have good views of Goldeneye and Wigeon which seem to be present in good numbers.

Goldeneye

Goldeneye

Wigeon and Coot on side of Reservoir

Wigeon and Coot on side of Reservoir


From about half-way along the causeway Keith locates the diver on the western shore-line moving towards the causeway. Hopefully by the time we get to the western end it will have come closer to us. Our attempts at finding the Black-necked Grebe are fruitless and after a while we can no longer locate the diver either. Some other birders say they may have seen it fly off, perhaps disturbed by the workmen on the reservoir edge.

We make it to the western end of the causeway and scan the Little Grebes which tend to congregate here in case a Black-necked is amongst them but with no luck. We decide that rather than returning back across the causeway we will take a walk around the adjacent King George VI reservoir to an area known as Staines Moor. Although you can not enter the reservoir area a footpath runs around the base of the bank giving access to the land which lies between the reservoir and the M25 London orbital motorway.

Staines Moor

Staines Moor

As we approach the northern end of the Reservoirs, I see a bird of prey circling above the road. Imagining it to be a Common Buzzard, I am surprised when I get my binoculars on it and find it is in fact a Red Kite (A London first sighting for me). Keith is quicker off the mark with the camera and manages to get a shot of it before it drifts off out of sight over the reservoir edge.

Red Kite

Red Kite

Our walk around the north and down the west-side of the reservoir adds a number of woodland and grassland species including Redwing, Song Thrush, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit.

Staines Moor

Staines Moor

We turn to retrace our steps back to Staines Reservoir and one last look as we re-cross the causeway to make our way home. Keith quickly re-locates the diver, now in the middle of the reservoir and giving much closer views (although still too far for photographs). We continue to observe it from a number of points as we cross.

Great Northern Diver (taken at Staines 2012)

Great Northern Diver (taken at Staines 2012)

Just before we reach the eastern end, Keith finds 2 Black-necked Grebes mid-way between the causeway and the southern edge of the reservoir and we watch them for a while.

Zampullin cuellinegro - Podiceps nigricollis - Black-necked Grebe - Cabussó coll-negre
Black-necked Grebe in winter plumage
Photo by Ferran Pestana (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ferranp/)

Then it is time to head back to Stanwall to begin our journey home.

Once again an excellent days birdwatching!

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)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye [sp] (Bucephala clangula)
Great Northern Loon (Gavia immer)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)