Archive for June, 2017

Recently Keith and I went for a boat trip along the River Medway.

Our boat – The Jacob Marley

Leaving the pier at Rochester with the Castle in the background.

The Old Russian Submarine moored at Strood

Frindsbury Church

Rochester Cathedral and Castle from the river

A reminder of Rochester’s maritime heritage

An old accommodation barge

Chatham Riverfront



Some pictures from a recent visit to Rochester in Kent


La Providence – The French hospital. Founded in London in 1708 by a rich Huguenot to care for poor Huguenot refugees fleeing from persecution in France it moved to Rochester in 1959. Today is still alms-house for people of Huguenot descent.

Restoration House, so called because Charles II stayed here on the night before his restoration to the Throne of England and Scotland

The Vines – originally the site of the vineyard of the priory of Rochester Cathedral

The Coopers Arms – dates from 1199

Medieval buildings in the High St

Bridge House – originally offices of trust that built and controlled the Medway Bridge

A reminder of Rochester’s maritime heritage

Rochester Castle


A view of Shrewsbury

Posted: June 28, 2017 in History, Medieval History, UK

Shrewsbury is located within a loop of the River Severn, which encloses it on 3 sides, close to the border between England and Wales. Two bridges lead from the town, appropriately named English Bridge and Welsh Bridge. It has a strong and long history and today there are over 650 listed buildings within the town.

It was originally the capital of the ancient Welsh Kingdom of Powys but was captured by Offa of Mercia in 778AD. In 1069, it was besieged by a Welsh army but was relieved by a Norman force led by William the Conqueror. William gave the town and the lands to Roger de Montgomery, whom he created Earl of Shrewsbury. Roger was responsible for the foundation of two of the town’s most prominent buildings, the castle in 1074 and the Benedictine Abbey in 1083. It was besieged again in 1138 when it was held for Empress Matilda against King Stephen during the anarchy.




In the Middle Ages Shrewsbury became commercially a very rich town, mainly due to the wool trade. The only interruption being during the Civil War when in 1645  as Royalist stronghold it was besieged and captured by the Parliamentary forces.


Much remains of Medieval Shrewsbury, as is born out by the high number of listed buildings.

Having been away from home for a while it was good to be able to do the Butterfly and Dragonfly survey on my patch today. It was a lovely sunny day although thankfully the temperature had dropped some degrees from the previous week, which made it more pleasant to be outside.

There were a number of Butterfly species to be seen with a good number of Commas and Meadow Browns, my first records of these on the patch this year, along with large White and Speckled Wood. the star undoubtedly was a Large Skipper. This is only the second record for the patch since I started recording here.

Large Skipper


Speckled Wood

On the Dragonfly front, there were good numbers of Azure Damselflies and a single Large Red Damselfly. Most of these were well away from the pond where they breed. I did check as many as possible to see if there were any Common Blue Damselfly, of which we occasionally get a few, but I couldn’t see any. On the main lake an Emperor Dragonfly was patrolling the margins.

Azure damselfly

Red Kite

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Birds, Natural History

It is amazing to remember that when I started watching wildlife back in the 1980’s the Red Kite population had reduced to less than 20 birds in one area of West Wales. This was largely down to persecution and ignorance. Tales abounded about Kites taking all sorts of prey including sheep and small animals. In fact there live on carrion (that is meat that is already dead) and worms. Occasionally they may take small mammals such as mice and rats but scientific studies have shown that they cannot handle anything larger unless it is already dead.



From these dark days of the 1980’s when many presumed the species would die out in the UK due to in-breeding the picture has changed dramatically. A program of re-introductions into different parts of the country has been very successful and there are now reckoned to be around 2000 breeding pairs in the UK. These attractive birds can now be seen and enjoyed in many parts of the country.

These pictures were taken in Wales recently at the Nant yr Arian feeding station.

Sounds like a great day and brings back memories of visiting 2 years ago. We are in Norfolk for our main holiday again this year so hope to re-visit

Loco Yard

On the 22nd April, I visited the North Norfolk Railway for the Spring Steam Gala. An intensive service was in operation, and saw six steam locomotives operating. Visiting locomotives were LMS Stanier 8F, No. 48624, 2-8-0 from the Great Central Railway, and 56xx GWR 0-6-2T, 5643, visiting from the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway, and owned by the Furness Railway Trust.

DSC01947Also in attendance was the home fleet, consisting of LNER B12 Class, 8572, 4-6-0, GER Y14 Class, 564, 0-6-0, BR Standard 4MT, 76084, 2-6-0 ‘Standard 4’ and Ring Haw, 1982, 0-6-0ST.DSC01946It was also the first event since the completion of the Suburban four, a project to restore four suburban coaches to as built condition, to compliment the Quad-Arts coaches owned by the M&GN Society. Unfortunately, the Quad Arts Set was not in operation, but the restored Surburban coaches were a star of the event. The 6 year project finally came…

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On a recent visit to Rochester, Keith and I visited the Museum which is housed in the Old Guildhall (1687) and the previous offices of the Medway Conservancy (1909) next door.

The Medway Conservancy building with the Guildhall beyond

Detail on the Medway Conservancy building

Guildhall building

It contains a number of exhibits on the history of Rochester from its Norman foundations around the Castle and the Cathedral situated at the crossing of the River Medway to its civil war exploits and the Battle of the Medway in 1667 when the Dutch entered the River and captured or destroyed a large part of the British Fleet in 1667.

Attack on Rochester Castle

A civil war tableau

Battle of Medway 1667

An unusual Green Post Box

The upper floor of the Guildhall is the Guildhall chamber which has been used both as a court and as a council chamber during its history.

Guildhall Chamber

Croydon Sunset

Posted: June 21, 2017 in Landscape, London, Natural History, UK

Returning from a meeting in Croydon a few days ago there was a spectacular sunset.

photo by Sue



Photo by Sue



A bright sunny morning saw myself and Keith on our way to the Minsmere nature reserve with Gravesend RSPB group.

On arrival, we decided that rather than try and get around the reserve and all its different habitats we would focus our attention on seeing and photographing certain key species.

The first of these was a Marsh Warbler. Although common on the European continent, they are rarely seen in this country and so this one which had appeared at Minsmere that morning was the top target. It was a very obliging bird and although it spent some time playing hide and seek behind bushes, whilst singing loudly to let us know it was there, we eventually got great views.

Marsh Warbler

Our next target was Eurasian Bittern, which breeds at Minsmere. We have been unlucky in our attempts to catch up with this species this year and so it was fantastic to get great views of one crossing a pool right in front of the hide.

Eurasian Bittern

Eurasian Bittern. Photo by Keith






Our next stop was Island Mere hide and the target bird was a Savi’s Warbler, another rare continental visitor and which had been heard singing in the area for the previous few days. Whilst here we had good views of Bearded Reedling, Marsh Harrier and of 2 more Bitterns. Eventually, after about an hour, some people, including Keith, heard it singing very briefly – unfortunately, I was not one of them. We waited another 30 minutes but it remained silent and we decided to move on.

Eurasian Bittern coming into land. Photo by Keith

We made our way down to the wader scrape and added a number of species including ducks, geese and wading birds, oh and another 2 Bitterns!

Along the paths and amongst the pools we found many Butterflies and Dragonflies.

4 spotted Chaser

Red-eyed damselfly

Cinnabar Moth










It was soon time to return to our coach. An excellent day with a wonderful variety of wildlife and so many sightings of Bittern, but the Marsh Warbler was undoubtedly the bird of the day.

Red-legged Partridge [sp] (Alectoris rufa)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
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)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)


Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small Copper [sp] (Lycaena phlaeas)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)


Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)
Norfolk Hawker (Anaciaeschan isosceles)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

The Quarry Pond, Shrewsbury

After leaving Aberystwyth I travelled to Shrewsbury en route to a meeting in the Brecon Beacons. Whilst in Shrewsbury, I popped down to one of the parks where a Black-Crowned Night Heron has been in residence for a couple of months.



There is much debate as to whether this is a bird that has escaped from a collection – it certainly seems tolerant of people, but regardless a lovely bird and great for photography.