Archive for June, 2016

Ring-necked Parakeet

Ring-necked Parakeet

The only naturalised parrot species in the UK, it has proved to be a highly successful colonist since it was first seen in the 1960s. There are some interesting urban legends about their origin including escapees from the set of the film ‘African Queen’ or from Jimmy Hendrix London house.


They are mainly found in SE England, although there are sightings from farther afield indicating that the population may be spreading to other parts of the country,

Ring-necked Parakeet

Ring-necked Parakeet

The last estimate was that there were 8600 breeding pairs although this seems likely to be an under-estimate as the last counts at the two local roosts in SE London were around 6,000 and 2,000 birds respectively.



Posted: June 29, 2016 in History, London, Medieval History, UK

The name of this area of London between the city and Ludgate Hill derives from the arrival in 1517 of a group of Black Freres (‘Black Brothers’) or Dominican friars, who built a new friary in the area after moving from their previous base in Holborn,

"Blackfriars Monastery, London - ground plan" by Joseph Quincy Adams - The Project Gutenberg eBook, Shakespearean Playhouses, by Joseph Quincy Adams - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_London_-_ground_plan.png#/media/File:Blackfriars_Monastery,_London_-_ground_plan.png

“Blackfriars Monastery, London – ground plan” by Joseph Quincy Adams – The Project Gutenberg eBook, Shakespearean Playhouses, by Joseph Quincy Adams – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

This Friary was the venue for a number of parliaments and meetings of the privy council as well as for the divorce hearing between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragorn. It was closed in 1538 following the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry and was used as a theatre  and a headquarters of the society of Apothecaries. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The site of the monastery now lies under Blackfriars railway station and surrounding roads and the Blackfriar public house which stands opposite the station.

Blackfriar Public House

Blackfriar Public House


Statue of a Blackfriar on the Blackfriar Public House

Statue of a Blackfriar on the Blackfriar Public House


The tradition of the royal maundy seems to date beck to the early 13th century when in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s actions at the last supper the monarch washed the feet of the poor. He also gave them a gift of money. Henry IV in the following century seems to have begun the tradition which relates the number of recipients to the monarch’s age.

In the 18th century monarchs stopped washing the feet and in the 19th century, the gift of money was replaced by gifts of food and clothes,


The giving of a ceremonial set of silver coins to each recipient dates back to Charles II in 1662 and continues to this day. Each year a special set of silver 1,2,3 and 4 penny coins are minted for the Queen to distribute to a group of men and women, the number of each are equivalent to her age,

Canada Goose

Posted: June 27, 2016 in Birds, Natural History


A species introduced into the UK from North America, the Canada Goose has readily colonised park lake and other bodies of water. It’s expansion has been so successful that in many places it is now regarded as a nuisance and in some places control measures have had to be introduced to limit population growth.



it is estimated that there are 62,000 breeding pairs with a wintering population of around 200,000 birds.


Canada Goose

Canada Goose


There is evidence of the storage of royal treasures at the Tower since the 11th century. It is likely that these were the items which were not for everyday use, these being kept in the Palace of Westminster (a Jewel Tower was constructed within the Palace in 1369) or wherever the royal court was situated.

Wakefield Tower

Wakefield Tower

Initially the Treasury was housed in the White Tower but in 16th century it was transferred to a purpose built Jewel House. On the execution of Charles I, the keeper of the Jewels, Carew Mildmay, was imprisoned because he refused to turn over the keys of the Jewel House to the republican government. It only delayed the inevitable and they broke down the doors and either sold off or melted down all they found within. Following the restoration of Charles II the new crown jewels were housed in the Martin tower and then the Wakefield Tower (from 1869) before being housed in the new jewel house located within the Waterloo Block in 1967.

Waterloo Block

Waterloo Block


Door to Jewel House

Door to Jewel House in Waterloo block

As with Treasury the White Tower was also used to store the records of the chancery. These related mainly to details of property ownership and taxation. The records office moved to the Wakefield Tower in the late 14th century where it remained until 1858 when with the formation of the Public Records Office they were  moved to a purpose built building in Chancery Lane near Holborn.


I have seen many different techniques employed by our local squirrels to get at the bird feeders, but this is pretty unique.


It has always puzzled me that it is illegal to dump a car on the road but no such law exists about dumping boats and so on many of our estuaries we find graveyards where old, damaged and unwanted posts are driven onto the mudflats and left to rot.


On our Hoo walk last week we came across just such a graveyard with boats in all states of decay.



I guess there is one point where the boats, at least if they are wood, differ from a car, they do rot and over time become part of the environment.



The sovereign, half-sovereign and the crown were all withdrawn from circulation in 1914 along with the phasing out of the £2 and £5 coins as the bank moved to notes for denominations greater than a pound.

As the UK moved towards decimalisation the farthing was withdrawn in 1960, the half-penny in 1969 and the half-crown in 1970.


On 15 February 1971, the Uk changed to a decimal based currency based on 1 pound equalling 100 pennies ( as opposed to a pound equalling 240 pennies or 20 shillings previously).


In fact, this was not the first attempt to introduce a decimalised currency. The introduction of the florin in 1849, of which there were 10 to the pound, marked the first steps in a process which the then government abandoned. The florin survived as a 2 shilling coin.

A combination of work and medical issues have restricted my trips out recently so it was great to get an opportunity, even though it wasn’t the most promising of days. to visit Keith and his local patch at Hoo in North Kent.

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese

It rained heavily before I got to our meeting place, but as we arrived at Abbot’s court it had stopped and we were hopeful for a good day’s birdwatching. We began to walk towards the sea-wall but within a half-mile, the rain returned and we found shelter under some trees.

The view from our shelter

The view from our shelter

Male and female Cuckoo could be heard calling towards the old power station through the rain and Swallows and House Martin fed low over our heads driven low by the clouds and rain. On a pool a single Avocet was found and we had distant views of a Little Egret. There was, however, no let up in the rain and after 30 minutes we received a phone call from Elaine, Keith’s wife, who offered to come and pick us up in the car. We opted to be dropped at the diner at Hoo marina, where we could get some lunch and see if the weather would improve. An hour later the rain had stopped and we decided to retrace our intended route in the opposite direction back to Abbot’s Court – at first all seemed well and we saw Oystercatcher, Sparrowhawk and Linnet amongst other species.


Mute Swan

Mute Swan

About half-way the rain returned and this time there was no shelter and no alternative so we had to carry on. By the time we arrived at Abbot’s Court and Elaine once again picked us up in the car we were both soaked. Retiring for a cup of tea and a change of clothes before I began my journey back to London was a welcome break. Typically as we left Hoo to go back to the railway station at Strood the weather cleared up and the rain stopped!



On review, not a bad days list considering the conditions and the time of year. Thanks to Keith for his company and to Elaine for ferrying us around.


Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Wardrobe Tower stands adjacent to the White Tower. It was begun around 1190 and its name comes from the fact that it was used to store the Kings Wardrobe – his clothes jewels and personal articles. It is built on the remians of a Roman bastion in the old city wall.


Only a fragment of the building remains today.