Archive for November, 2017

A crisp chilly morning and I was on my way to Norfolk / Suffolk borders with the local RSPB group. Our first stop (apart from a comfort stop) was at Lynford Arboretum in Norfolk. This is a known wintering site for the elusive Hawfinch, the largest of the UK finches. This autumn has seen an eruption from the continent with many more sightings than normal, so hopes were high. As we walked down the track, our attention is drawn to a Common Kestrel in a tree in the adjoining paddocks.

DSCN8129-3

And then it became clear that there were small birds in the top of an adjacent tree – these turned out to be a flock of Hawfinches. Unfortunately, they are too far for decent photos, but they can easily be identified through telescopes.

DSCN8123-2

 

490173180_69be4c7b38_z

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

 

Six birds flew off, going away from us, and another 2 were still in the tree which brought the total seen to 8. I understand that a flock of up to 11 has been counted here in the past month.

Walking on down the path we came to the rear access to Lynford Hall Hotel and someone had put out some seed on one of the posts of the bridge over the stream. This attracted in a lot of woodland birds including Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Great Tit.

A Kingfisher was seen travelling back and forth along the stream and as we retraced our stops 2 Hawfinches were seen again in the top of a tree.

Making our way back into Suffolk we stopped at Lackford Lakes, a large complex of lakes adjacent to the River Lark. It is a good site for wintering waterfowl, but like many places in the UK, they don’t seem to have arrived yet in any great numbers, presumably due to the recent mild weather. Still a few have made it like this Drake Goldeneye which fed most of the day in front of Winter hide.

Another nice sighting was a small flock of Bullfinches seen near Paul’s hide

There were also a number of Marsh Tits at different places around the reserve but I couldn’t get any decent photos of them. Other birds seen included Tufted duck, Common Pochard, Eurasian Teal, Robin and Gadwall.

This was my first visit to both these sites and I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
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 Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Hawfinch [sp] (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)

 

A week on from my photography course and I find myself back at the London Wetland Centre, this time accompanied by Keith in search of wintering Eurasian Bittern. A group of these birds arrive in London each year as the colder weather hits their breeding grounds, presumed to be either The Netherlands or surrounding areas. The number at the centre can reach as high as 5 or 6 birds, but this year so far only a single bird has arrived and given their skulking nature this means your chances of seeing one is much decreased.

Today, however, was to be our lucky day. As we arrived at the centre we had stopped to look at a group of small birds around the entrance lake which contained Blue and Great Tits and a Goldcrest, when another birder stopped to tell us that the Bittern was in view from the observatory. On arrival, we were quickly directed to the bird’s location, which was on the far side of the main lake and at a distance which was on the limit for our optics and too far away for my camera to give any decent pictures. We watched it for about 10 minutes before it finally retreated deep into the reeds.

Eurasian Bittern. It is in the bottom of the reeds about midway across the photo.

Photo by Keith (converted to monochrome for better clarity)

 

We took our usual route out through the sheltered trees to the Peacock Tower hide and near the wader scrape heard the call of a Lesser Redpoll but were unable to locate it. On the whole, it was very quiet (well if you ignore the calls of the parakeets!) and there were no winter thrushes in evidence. A Grey Wagtail flew past us as we approached the Tower. Arriving there we were told that the Bittern had been relocated on the other side of the reed-bed in which we had originally see it. Soon it was back in sight but a bit nearer and we could follow it making its way through the reeds. On the way back to the visitor centre we encountered another small bird flock. This included Blue and Great Tits, a number of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest and a single Chiffchaff.

Eurasian Wigeon

Rose-ringed Parakeets

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Green Woodpecker

The other side of the reserve including the reservoir did not produce much in the way of birds. A pair of Common Reed Buntings were seen from Hedley Hide and although we searched the perching spots for the Peregrines from Wildside hide, the birds were not to be seen. Still it was a nice walk and we were greeted to a lovely sunset as we made our way back to the visitor centre and then home.

Mute Swan

 

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus) 4
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

 

 

At each side of the choir are the two most famous tombs in the Cathedral. The first is of Queen Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, who died in nearby Kimbolton Castle in January 1536. The flag of Aragon flies over her tomb and many Spanish pilgrims make their way to Peterborough to see where the Spanish Queen of England is buried.

The second tomb is no longer occupied. It was the tomb of Queen Mary of Scotland, who was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1581, having been found guilty of treason against the English monarch, Elizabeth I by being involved in plots to overthrow the English Monarchy. She was buried in Peterborough, but when in 1612, Mary’s son, James succeeded Elizabeth to the English throne, he had his Mother’s remains brought to London and reburied in Westminster Abbey.

DSCN7718-6

Another interesting monument is that to the Orme family. When Parliamentary soldiers used the Cathedral as a stables during the civil war, they also passed their time by defacing the monuments. Following the restoration of the monarchy, the cathedral authorities sought to restore the damaged monuments. However, the Orme family asked that this monument be left as a reminder of what had happened.

DSCN7720-7

 

 

 

 

DSCN7476-5

HMS Cavalier 

Built at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, HMS Cavalier was launched in March 1943. She served in the Home Fleet during World war II, mostly on Russian and Scandinavian bound conveys and post-war in India and the Far East until she was decommissioned in 1972.

She is the last surviving example of a British WWII destroyer and as such was an important heritage vessel. She was purchased by the Cavalier Trust. As a privately owned vessel, she holds a naval warrant to retain the ‘HMS’ title and to fly the white ensign of the Royal Navy. She was originally docked at Southampton, then in 1983 moved to Brighton and four years later to the River Tyne. Following a period of restoration, she was purchased by Chatham Historic Dockyard and arrived on site in May 1998. She was housed in No 2 dry-dock, the same dock where Nelson’s HMS Victory was built.

DSCN7605-2

In 2007 HMS Cavalier was officially designated as a war memorial to the destroyers sunk during WWII (142) and the men who lost their lives serving on them (around 11000).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some more photos taken on the wildlife photography course, but this time on more general subjects.

Our tour brings us to the Museum which contains items associated with the history of Charterhouse

19th-century property mark taken from a building owned by Charterhouse.

Matthew Bible (1549). One of the first English translations

A 17th-century chest used for storing valuables – Found at Charterhouse

15th-century-floor tiles from the monastery

Having finished our tour we emerge into the memorial garden.

The Memorial garden

The tomb of Sir William Manny, who built the first chapel on the site in 1349. In 1371 this chapel would become part of the Charterhouse monastery.

Memorial to the Carthusian monks from Charterhouse who were executed or died during the dissolution of the monastery

On a wildlife photography course at the London Wetland Centre. Good opportunity to get out on the reserve during the practical sessions.

Greylag Geese landing

Blackbird

Grey Squirrel

Mute Swan

Grey Heron

Black-headed Gull

Tufted Duck

Carrion Crow

Green Woodpecker

Ring-nexcked Parrakeet

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
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)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
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)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
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)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

The Nave from the west end

The Font

13th-century wooden ceiling

The Pulpit

The Nave looking towards the west door

Side aisle

Chapel of Remembrance

 

 

The RNLI houses its collection of Lifeboats within one of the sheds at Chatham Dockyard. The collection contains an example of many of the different classes and types of lifeboat used since the RNLI’s foundation in the late 19th century. As such you can visually trace the development from the rowing boats to those more recognisable as Lifeboats today.

‘St Paul’. The oldest lifeboat in the collection entered service in 1897 spending the next 34 years at Kessingland in Suffolk. Credited with saving 18 lives.

‘Lizzie Porter’ entered service in 1909 and spent the following 27 years at stations in Northumbria. Credited with saving 113 lives

‘Helen Blake’ saw service for 20 years from 1939

‘Susan Ashley’ spent most of its service (1948-79) at Sennen Cove in Cornwall. Credited with saving 67 lives.

‘ North Foreland’ spent 27 years at Margate in Kent

‘Grace Darling’ (1954-84)

‘JG Greaves of Sheffield’ (1958-93)

Waveney Class Lifeboat (1967-99). 44-001 was the class prototype and spent its service after trials in the RNLI reserve fleet. Credited with saving 100 lives

Early inshore rescue boat. This example of the McClachin class served at Weston-Super Mare in the west country from 1970-83 and is credited with saving 60 lives

Atlantic 21 class inshore boat. (1970-1999). Some are still in service with marine rescue around the world in Australia, Finland and Poland.

 

 

 

If we now return to the year two thousand and look at what was happening in the eastern arm of the fertile crescent between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. By 1950 BCE two city-states had carved out Empires in the south, Isin and Larsa. In North, the land was controlled by the cities of Kish, Babylon, Kazallu and Sippar. Within the hundred years that followed Babylon had conquered Kish; Kazzullu had conquered Sippar and both states began to encroach on the territory held by Isin. In the south, both Larsa and a newly emerged kingdom based on the city of Uruk had also taken land from Isin. Finally, by 1790 BCE, two kingdoms had emerged – Babylon in the North and Larsa in the south. The stage was set for the emergence of one of the great kingdoms of the ancient Near East.

The origins of the first Babylonian Dynasty are vague. It is known that they were not native Akkadians, but were of Amorite descent. It may be that they too were either mercenaries or an exiled family which found itself in control of the then relatively unimportant city of Babylon. Beyond the dates they reigned we know very little of the early kings of this dynasty. Indeed even the dates, are somewhat speculative as there are in fact four competing chronologies for this period spanning a time difference of hundred and 50 years. Using the most commonly accepted chronology we know that the first ruler Samu-Abum (Sometimes referred to as Su-Abu) seems to have come to power in Babylon around 1830 BCE. The first king who we have any detail on is Sin-Mubillat, the fifth ruler of the dynasty, who succeeded his father in 1748 BCE. Up until this point, it seems that the rulers were content to hold onto the land they held immediately around Babylon, but Sin-Mubillat began an expansion of Babylonians territory which was to be continued by his son Hammurabi.

Hammurabi (standing), depicted as receiving his royal insignia from Shamash (or possibly Marduk). Hammurabi holds his hands over his mouth as a sign of prayer (relief on the upper part of the stele of Hammurabi’s code of laws).

Head of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris)

Hammurabi, his name means “the kinsman is healer “, came to the throne of the city of Babylon in 1792 BCE, probably on the death of his father, although some sources say that his father abdicated due to bad health. He spent the next 40 years consolidating and expanding the territory held by the Babylonians.  During this time Babylon emerges as the predominant city in the southern -eastern area of Mesopotamia. When Hammurabi came to the throne in Babylon, the areas we have come to know, as Babylonia and Assyria was predominantly controlled by two rival Kings, Rim-Sin, King of Larsa in the South and Shamshi-Adad in the north. There have been some suggestions that initially Hammurabi may have came to power as a client king of the latter. In these extremely volatile times, no ruler could avoid being quickly drawn into regional conflicts. Records of Hammurabi’s early years mentioned a number of campaigns against his powerful neighbours, although the records are rather ambiguous about the outcomes. Nevertheless, these years honed his military, political and diplomatic skills. It seems that he also spent these early years consolidating his rule in Babylon and paying great attention to internal developments such as the digging of canals and the fortification of his cities, he undertook a series of public works strengthening the defences with a new city wall. He also built a number of new municipal buildings including temples. It was during this period that the city began to expand.  Then in a period of just five years from 1776 to 1771 BCE, he established control over southern Mesopotamia, Elam and Larsa forming them into the first or Proto-Babylonian Empire. In addition, he forged alliances with lands further afield such as with Zimri-Lim in Mari, Yamkhad and the Levant and there is evidence that troops from these states aided the Babylonian army’s campaigns in the south. However, having gained control of southern Mesopotamia, Hammurabi’s gaze turned to the north. He took control of Mari, although the sources differ on whether this was a conquest, a surrender or whether the people of Mali believed that being part of this new empire was in their best interests and therefore submitted as willing partners. The lands of Yamkhad in the West do not seem to have been attacked. It has been suggested that this because Hammurabi realised that the larger his empire got the more difficult it was to control and thus he called an end to his westward expansion with the submission of Mari. He also appears to have defeated an army from the Assyrian lands to the north, which is recorded as paying him tribute, although he never incorporated their territory into the empire and they were allowed to continue as a self-governing kingdom, perhaps for the same reason mentioned previously. Following these campaigns, he added a new title ‘the King who made the four quarters of the Earth obedient’.

Hammurabi enacted significant military reforms based on a standing army, backed up by a reserve. He is of course probably most famous for his law code. The code comprised of 282 laws, based on a pre-existing Sumerian law code, thought to have originated around 2000 BCE and the law code of Lipith-Ishtar, King of Isen from around 1900 BCE. I propose to return to the law-codes in another post. 

Stele containing law code of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris)

Stele containing law code of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris)

Stele containing law code of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris)

Stele containing law code of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris)

Clay tablet containing part of law code of Hammurabi (Louvre Paris & Istanbul)

 

This political structure of the empire was disrupted around the year 1750 BCE with the arrival of the Mittani, an Indo-Ayrian people into the region. The settled in the North Central area of the Crescent, which at that time was occupied by a people known as the Hurrians. Like the Hurrians their place of origin is unknown. Unlike the Hurrians, the Mittani were a warrior elite and have been credited with the introduction of the newly evolved, 3-man light chariot into the area. These chariots had a complement of three warriors each; an archer, a spearman and the charioteer. Study of their religion reveals a divine pantheon not dissimilar to that of early Hinduism, which may suggest that they have a similar origin as the civilisations which settled in the Indus Valley. The Mittani incorporated themselves into the Hurrian kingdom. Best guess estimates are that they made up only about 5% of the population, but because of their military prowess, they took over as the ruling elite of the kingdom. They abandoned the accommodating, non-militaristic, stance that had been followed by the Hurrians and began expanding into the Mediterranean coastlands, Northern Syria and to the Southeast into Assyria.

The death of Hammurabi in 1686 BCE, saw an immediate downturn in the fortunes of the Babylonian Empire. The Assyrians asserted their independence and a new native Akkadian kingdom arose in the area of Sumer. Hammurabi’s son, Samsu-iluna seems to have been unable to prevent these successions. The first Babylonian Empire was to struggle on for another hundred and 50 years, but this time saw the gradual reduction in the land that it held until under the last ruler of the dynasty, Samsu-Ditana it is suggested that the empire was no bigger than it had been when Samu-abum had first taken the throne 300 years before.

The 1530’s BCE saw the height of the Hittite Empire. The wonderfully named Mursilas the first, led an ambitious raid South West through Hurrian-Mittani territory, Assyria and onto Babylon, where he proceeded to sack the city. However, trouble at home forced him to withdraw from the areas he had subdued and returned to the Hittite homeland. Here he was promptly murdered, apparently by nobles angry at the effects at home of the absence of their king and of his foreign campaigns. Whilst Mursilas’ campaign did him little good, it was also very bad news for the remnant of the line of Hammurabi, who were still ruling in Babylon. They never recovered control of their kingdom and as the Hittites withdrew, the Kassites invaded from the East and much as had happened in the Hurrian kingdom, a Kassite warrior elite replaced the dynasty of Hammurabi as the rulers of the Babylonian kingdom. There is some evidence that the Kassites may have been allied with the Hittites in the taking of Babylon and that control was their reward once the Hittites retreated. It is interesting to note that the Kassites had also by this time acquired the knowledge of the use of the 3 man light chariot, possibly as a result of their alliance with the Hittites, whilst there is no evidence from the records that this had yet become part of the Babylonian military armoury. Whilst the Kassites took control of core Babylonian territory, they seemed to have had little or no interest in the lands to the north and north-east and consequently, we see at this time the rise of an Assyrian kingdom, and beyond them, the re-expansion of MIttani territory.

In the west, the Amorites continued to control Yamhad. They were under pressure from the Hittites and later the resurgent Assyrian Empire. Around 1200 BCE they finally are replaced by, or absorbed into, a new wave of Semitic speaking immigrants, part of the Ahlamu peoples whom we know as the Arameans and from whom the ancient name for Syria, Aram and the dialect of the Semitic language, Aramaic are taken. Like the Amar, they seem to be a people from the mountains of Northern Syria and seem to have lived a lifestyle very similar to the Amorites.

 The Fertile Crescent looked very different from what it had during the four or five previous centuries. A system of flourishing states whose centres of power were in close contact with one another, spreading from the Mediterranean coast to the  Persian Gulf had disappeared. Some centres still existed, but on the whole, they were a poor reflection of the past illustrious and famous predecessors. Urbanism was at an all-time low. Many cities such as Mari had been destroyed and others had been abandoned. There was a distinct lack of centralised power, discontinuation of administrative and scribal practices and the levels of economic and cultural activities decreased. It is a time about which we know very little as texts were sparingly written. New groups began to assert themselves, the Kassites in Babylon and the Hurrian/Mittani in the north but these groups had returned to a much more tribal organisation.

But before we finish – one final note about Hammurabi. In 1949 CE when the chamber of the US Congress was remodelled, 23 marble portraits were installed over the gallery doors depicting figures from history noted for their work in establishing the principles of American law. Among these are Suleiman, Sultan of the Ottoman empire, Simon de Montfort and Napoleon. The most ancient figure of all is that of Hammurabi cited as ‘author of one of the earliest legal codes’ 

Commemoration of Hammurabi in US Congress building