Archive for May, 2018

It is always great to find out about new places where you haven’t been before. We have spent a number of holidays in SW Wales though not for some years now, but I have never been to Caldy Island. Finding such places is a lovely surprise as we had on the way back from Weymouth earlier this year when quite by chance we found Blashford Lakes in Hampshire which turned out to be an absolutely fantastic wildlife spot.

If you like wildlife in and around Europe then I recommend that you follow  https://naturewatchingineurope.wordpress.com/

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Caldey Island isn’t the first place you’d think about when looking for nature-watching sites in Pembrokeshire, but it does have some advantages over the other islands. First, it is easy to get to, with boats every half hour or so from Tenby Harbour, starting around 10am, every day except Sunday. Second, if you are not […]

via Caldey Island — Nature-Watching in Europe

When Keith and I were in Norfolk recently we didn’t ride on the North Norfolk Railway but we did pop into Sheringham Station on a couple of occasions to use the excellent tea room.

BR Standard 76084 was present on both our visits.

76084 left the Horwich Works in March 1957. It was one of the last batch of locomotives to be built at Horwich. Records show that 76084 initially went to Lower Darwen shed near Blackburn along with 76080/1/2 and 3.

All 5 locomotives were transferred to Sutton Oak, St.Helens in preparation for the closure of the Lower Darwen shed in March 1965 and scrapping of the class began the following year. 76084 was the last of her class to be withdrawn from BR stock in December 1967. 76084 arrived at Barry in a convoy with 76077, 76079 and 76080. She was to stand in the sidings at Barry until 1982 when she was purchased and the new owner had the engine and tender transferred to his back garden where he began work on it. After his death in 1990, the engine was sold again and taken to Morpeth. The new owners continued with the restoration work and 76084 was finally returned to steam in May 2013. By now the Engine had been transferred to the North Norfolk Railway.

 

This reminds me of a very good holiday we had in Menorca some years ago. I am sure it is more developed now but it is good to know that the wildlife is still worth visiting.

Martin Tayler's bird blog & nature photos

Menorca has the only resident population of Egyptian vultures in Europe (around 100 pairs) and so it would have been disappointing not to see them. We walked along the gorge from Santa Galdana on the south coast with wild flowers adorning the route to a backdrop of dramatic limestone cliffs and birdsong all around. We had sightings of booted eagle and black kites on our way and were well rewarded with good views of Egyptian vultures at the end of the gorge.

DSC05305DSC05287DSC05293DSC05321DSC05359Egyptian vultures

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On the return journey we also saw a kestrel, more views of booted eagles and kites and even a pair of little egrets. The most stunning aspect of this walk was the birdsong; we had no difficulty in recognising Cetti’s warbler but were grateful to some birders who pointed out nightingales and Siberian chiffchaff. The nightingales were everywhere and filled the valley…

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The First McDonalds

Posted: May 15, 2018 in California, History, USA
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Today marks the 78th anniversary of the opening of the first McDonalds store in San Bernadino, California. It was the first of 36,615 outlets (and still rising) around the world. Richard and Maurice McDonald has previously run a hot dog stand and decided to open a store specialising in BBQ, McDonald’s Bar-B-Q. Within 10 years they had revamped the menu and the BBQ was gone and the focus was on hamburgers. They dropped the reference to bar-b-q in the name and it became known as McDonald’s.

The first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernadino

 

Norwich Castle

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Norfolk, UK
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The first castle in Norwich was built shortly after the Norman conquest of 1066. Although the date cannot exactly be defined, is most likely that it was built in conjunction with William the Conqueror’s East Anglia campaign of 1067. The first record we have of the castle comes from 1075 when the Earl of Norfolk rebelled against the king. The castle was besieged and the rebel garrison surrendered.

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The stone keep of the castle, as we see it today, replaced the earlier keep sometime around 1100. It was again held by rebels from 1173 to 74 but was again returned to Royal control following the end of that rebellion.

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Norwich castle 1851. British Library – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32803754

Strategically, the castle then seems to have passed out of history. Records show that from 1220 it was used as a prison and over the following centuries buildings were added around the keep to expand its accommodation and a number of alterations on the buildings were carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Following the opening of a new prison in 1887, on the site of the disused Britannia barracks, the castle ceased to be used for housing criminals. The buildings were bought by the city of Norwich and following a rebuilding programme were opened as a museum in 1895.

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The museum today contains a varied collection of art, nature and history with a focus on local interests.

The castle also contains the regimental museum of the Royal Norfolk Regiment

Eltham Palace (10): Bedrooms

Posted: May 11, 2018 in History, London, UK
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Each of the Bedrooms at Eltham Palace is individually designed and decorated.

The Pear Bedroom, so called because all the furnishings are made from Pearwood.

The Venetian Suite

Virginia Courtauld’s suite themed on a classical temple

My personal favourite bedroom in the house. I love the wall prints and the wooden furnishings plus that hidden door.

A hot and sunny bank holiday Monday, the hottest day of the year so far, saw Sue and I heading south from London to the RSPB reserve at Pulborough Brooks on the River Arun. This is one of the country’s premier places to hear the Nightingale. This small bird with its attractive rich song is becoming increasingly rare.

However, our first excitement was to happen before we got to the reserve when a Western Osprey flew across the road at speed, being pursued by Carrion Crows which wanted it out of their territory.

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Osprey in flight (Keith Cutting, Rutland 2017)

On arrival at the reserve, we made our way to the courtyard area, which is one of the best areas on the reserve and we were not disappointed as soon we were listening to a male belting out his song from an area of bushes. Some people, though not us, were fortunate enough to see him through the undergrowth but they usually remain well hidden from sight.

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Nightingale. Photo by Kev Chapman (https://www.flickr.com/photos/25553993@N02/)

Moving on we arrived at a hide overlooking the river valley but it was fairly quiet with only a few waterbirds and waders plus some Highland cattle trying to keep cool.

 

Whilst walking along the track we came across a group of people watching the trackside bank, where a Weasel was hunting, totally ignoring the people watching it. It explored every hole in the bank it could find and eventually found a mouse nest. We saw the adult mouse explode from the hole and run away and then we continued to watch as the Weasel carried the young mice from the nest back to its own hole and presumably its own young.

Our final highlight of the day was to watch two young Tawny Owls roosting in a tree. They can’t fly yet so can only move by jumping and climbing but this has not, apparently, stopped them moving from tree to tree.

Then, with the heat beginning to tell, we headed back to the centre and a nice cold drink before making our way home with some great memories.

 

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Osprey [sp] (Pandion haliaetus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Tawny Owl [sp] (Strix aluco)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
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)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Nightingale [sp] (Luscinia megarhynchos)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The weather today could not be more different from that which we experienced yesterday. The wind had dropped, it was dry and the sun was shining! The bad weather of the day before had grounded a lot of migrants and even before we set out there were reports of a number of Pied Flycatchers being seen along the Norfolk coast. So first stop this morning was at Weybourne church to see if we could locate one. There was plenty evidence of the commoner warblers and songbirds, but no sign of Pied Flycatcher.

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Weybourne Church

Our next stop was at Salthouse Marsh. Most of the coastal area of North Norfolk is now protected land, in the custody of one conservation organisation or another. Salthouse Marsh, like the adjoining Cley Marsh, is in the custody of the Norfolk wildlife trust. Here there was further evidence of spring migration parties of Barn Swallows, House Martins and 2 Northern Wheatears.

Salthouse Marsh and Goldfinch

Walking along the coast we crossed over into Cley Marsh. Forewarned by another birder, we kept a lookout for a Whinchat which had been seen around the entrance to the hide and sure enough we located it perched on a fence post.

Whinchat

Entering the hide, we soon located a Little-ringed Plover on the water’s edge. A Red Kite was a welcome fly over whilst we were here. The population in North Norfolk of this species is growing and they are now becoming a regular sighting.

Moving on eastward, we came to the main part of the reserve where parties of Red Knot and Sand Martin were further evidence of spring migration.

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Cley Marsh

With the afternoon pressing on, we decided to finish by exploring a new habitat that we so far hadn’t explored on this trip. Keith had noticed an area of woodland on the edge of Cromer and so we concluded the day with a walk through East Wood, which forms part of the grounds of Cromer House. It was productive as we added a number of species including Willow Warbler, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Jay and Green Woodpecker.

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East Wood, Cromer

We celebrated the conclusion of our Norfolk trip, which despite the weather had been very successful, with a dinner of fish and chips, what else, at an eatery overlooking the sea, where we watched the sun setting over the coast and our excursion to this lovely part of the country.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Little Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius dubius)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Red Knot [sp] (Calidris canutus)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Eurasian Treecreeper [sp] (Certhia familiaris)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

On our arrival in Norwich, we made our way to the Cathedral Close to look and see if we could see the nesting Peregrines. The nest is on a platform located on a window-ledge on the spire (marked with a red dot on photo).

We couldn’t see the bird on the nest as she was keeping well down but eventually located her mate perched on a ledge further up the spire (marked with a blue dot on photo).

The pair have two chicks, one hatched 3rd of May and the second on the 4th May. The live web-cam of the nest can be seen at  http://upp.hawkandowl.org/norwich-peregrines/norwich-cathedral-peregrine-live-web-cam-2018/

 

Cromer Church

Posted: May 7, 2018 in History, Norfolk, UK

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Day 3 of our trip to North Norfolk and we woke to heavy rain and 50 mph gales so we decided to head inland to Norwich. But before we leave Cromer we visited Cromer Church.

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The Church was built in the late 14th century to replace the church of St Paul which had existed on this site and the church of St Peter which had been on the seafront and which eventually fell into the sea due to erosion. The Church’s fortunes followed the fortunes of the town and after the Middle Ages, it was allowed to fall into disrepair. There was a plan to renovate it in the 18th century but no action was taken. Only when the town’s fortunes began to revive with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century was restoration finally carried out.

The south wall has an interesting set of stained glass windows depicting Cromer’s connection to the sea and in particular the rescue of the Sepoy, a sailing barge, in December 1936 by the Cromer Lifeboat. The lifeboat had already launched, in bad weather, to help a barge which had gone aground near Happisburgh. The coxswain decided that in these weather conditions, rather than return to Cromer they would put into Great Yarmouth. Then a second call came into Cromer from the Sepoy. Some men, who had not sailed on the lifeboat decided to put out in the Alexandria, an old rowing lifeboat to give aid, but were unable to get near to the Sepoy. At the same time word reached the Coxswain, Henry Bloggs, now docked in Great Yarmouth and despite the worsening weather conditions he and his crew set out for Cromer. Arriving at the scene he was unable to get a line aboard to rescue the crew so he twice took his boat in to contact with the ailing barge to take off the crew. Running low on fuel he made it back into the harbour at Cromer.