Archive for November, 2018


Posted: November 14, 2018 in Announcements

A real harbinger of Autumn. Many kinds and many of them very good to eat, but only if you know your edible mushrooms from the poisonous ones.

Photography Art Plus


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A History of Britain

Posted: November 13, 2018 in History

Last night Sue and I went to see Neil Oliver’s one-man show ‘A history of Britain in 100 places’. Neil, Archaeologist and Historian hs chosen 100 places across Britain from Neolithic Flint mines to the Millenium Dome which, for him, have characterised and shaped the history of Britain. A wonderful mix of history, anecdote and his own personal views on what it is to be British, this was a delightfully entertaining evening which I highly recommend.

Image result for niel oliver
Neil Oliver, Archaeologist and Historian 

Unfortunately, there is little time to catch up with it as he has only 5 more performances on tour – in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Stirling this week and Inverness and Glasgow next week. But if the show is anything to go on, his forthcoming book of the same title will be well worth the read.

Agecroft No1

Posted: November 12, 2018 in Trains, Transport, UK, York

Agecroft No 1 was one of three locomotives built in 1948 in Newcastle to shunt wagons at Agecroft Power Station. It remained in service until 1980 when it passed into private ownership. It was bought by the Science Museum at Manchester in 2009 and is now at the National railway Museum in York.

On the day I visited it was hauling a brake van, giving rides to visitors.

So often we concentrate on the big passenger express locomotives but there were hundreds, if not thousands, of engines, like Agecroft that drove our industry during the steam era and are part of that history.

Keith and I Spent the day at the London Wetland Centre. It’s always fun to think about what you like to see when you visit a particular place. I mentioned in the post yesterday that I would quite like to see Ring Ouzel, although I will declare immediately that I wasn’t successful but given the day we had I am not complaining.

On our arrival, we decided that the best vantage point was likely to be the Peacock Tower and so we made our way straight there. Having had a quick look round we focused on the Islands where the Jack Snipe normally winter. All was quiet then suddenly a flurry of activity as out of the vegetation came a number of Common Snipe and then a Jack Snipe. It fed a while in the pool before disappearing into the vegetation. It appeared again for about 5 minutes before finally being seen making its way deep into the undergrowth.

Common Snipe


Jack Snipe

We decided to make our way back to the centre and on the way check the hides which look across to the northern reed bed, where 2 Eurasian Bittern had been seen the previous day. No sign but as we approached the centre, a fellow birder told us one was showing in the inlet alongside Headley hide (not visible from south shore) so we passed on our lunch break and headed for Headley arriving to be told that it had retreated into the reeds 10 minutes earlier. Still, we decided to wait and see if it returned and 40 minutes later we were rewarded with excellent views about 20 metres from the hide windows (It was so close that we didn’t dare open any of the closed windows for fear of spooking it).

As we were watching the Bittern, someone shouted ‘Short-Eared Owl’ and the bird flew into the reed-bed and perched on a post, before dropping into the reeds. This is a rare species for central London, being more associated with moorland. This is the third record at Wetland Centre in the past couple of weeks, making us wonder if its the same bird and whether it plans to spend the winter here.

After the Bittern and the Short-Eared Owl had departed into the reeds, we made our way back to the Tower in the hope of catching up with one of the Water Pipits which has been around the reserve in the past few weeks, but although Keith heard a pipit, we never located it and so could not confirm if it was a Water Pipit or a Meadow Pipit.

Speckled Wood

Grey Heron


Eurasian Wigeon









The light was fading and it was time to make our way back to the centre. A great days birding!



Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
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)
Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)
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)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Short-eared Owl [sp] (Asio flammeus)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
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)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)

Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Ring Ouzels

Posted: November 8, 2018 in Birds, Natural History

Off to London Wetland Centre with Keith. Would be great if we saw Ring Ouzel. It must be 10 years or so since I last saw one (at LWC)

Ring Ouzels @ Caban Coch-late extra!
— Read on

Marcus Aurelius, Emporer and Philosopher, reigned from 161 to 180 AD. He was born in 121 in the province of Iberia (Modern day Spain) into a patrician family. In 136 Emporer Hadrian adopted Marcus’ father in law as his successor, but he died only 2 years later. The Emporer then appointed Aurelius Antoninus, Marcus’ uncle, as his new heir and Antoninus adopted Marcus and Lucius Verus as his heirs. Hadrian was very sick at this time and only 6 months after making the appointments he died and Antoninus took the Imperial throne in his place. In 139 and 140, Marcus served as Consul, having avoided the normal route of advancement by being the heir of the Emporer. Marcus the consul struggled with the life and duties of court yearning for time for his reading and studies. Antoninus died in 161 and Marcus he became co-Emporer with Lucius Verus, even though the Senate wished him to be sole ruler. Lucius Verus died in 169 and Marcus roled as sole Emporer. During his reign, he defeated the Parthian Empire and was successful in the Marcomanic Wars against the Germanic tribes. But he still found time to write about his philosophical beliefs. In addition to his military and scholastic renown, he was also a good administrator and lawyer. Marcus died in March 180 and was succeeded by his son, Commodus, with whom he had ruled jointly since 177. Marcus Aurelius is regarded as being the last of the 5 Good Emporers and many historians take his death and the ascension of his son as being the start of the decline of the Roman Empire.


Brunel was born in Portsmouth in April 1806, the son of the French Civil Engineer Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his English Wife, Sophia Kingdom. The family moved to London in 1808. His father taught the young Isambard, technical drawing, geometry, French and a basic understanding of engineering before he went to boarding school in Hove at the age of 10. At the age of 14, he spent time at the University of Caen and then studied in Paris until he was 16.

Brunel first post was as an assistant engineer working on a tunnel under the River Thames between Rotherhithe and Wapping. Following a flooding incident in 1828, in which Brunel was seriously injured, the project was put on hold. Some years later it was completed and from 1865 it was used as part of the Underground Railway Network. It is still possible today to travel through the tunnel which today forms part of the East London line.

Thames Tunnel. By Dogrando (

Recovering from his injuries, Brunel submitted plans for a bridge to cross the Avon Gorge at Clifton in Bristol and his design won. Work started in 1831, but the project was soon hampered by lack of investment and work was not recommenced until 1862 (3 years after Brunel’s death) and finally finished two years later.

Clifton Suspension Bridge. By Pablo Fernandez (

Brunel is perhaps best known for his involvement with The Great Western Railway (GWR), for whom he designed stations, tunnels and bridges. He was responsible for the building of the first railway between London and Bristol which opened in 1854. He used a Broad Guage (7ft 1/4″) for his railway because he believed it gave passengers a smoother ride. Unfortunately, none of the other railway companies agreed and used Standard gauge (4ft 81/2″). This meant that the Great Western was isolated and couldn’t run trains over track belonging to other companies. The Broad Guage was eventually replaced on the GWR after Brunel’s death.


Brunel suffered a stroke in September 1859 and died shortly afterwards. In his lifetime, he had designed bridges, railways, tunnels, ships and even a hospital for use during the Crimea war. In a poll conducted in 2002, Brunel was named as No2 in the top 100 Greatest Britons, being beaten only by Sir Winston Churchill. The statue is in the Temple in the City of London.


Class 47 – ‘Prince William’ – 2004. Science Museum Group Collection © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Class 47 No798 was built at Crewe and entered into service in 1965 and was employed on a wide variety of duties including heavy freight and express passenger services. It regularly pulled the Royal Train during its working life. It was originally without a name until August 1985 when it was named ‘Firefly’. It was renamed ‘Prince William’ in 1995. It was presented by its owners EWS Railways to the Science Museum collection when it was withdrawn from service.


47798 ‘Prince William’ at National Railway Museum, York

No trip to York is complete, at least for me, without a visit to the National Railway Museum.

My first stop this time was the South Yard where 60103 Flying Scotsman was parked up in between trips on the mainline. Unfortunately, it was parked around a corner of a building so it wasn’t accessible for good photographs.

Next stop was the Station Hall which as its name suggests is set out like a large station with trains in bay platforms, enabling you to walk alongside them.

At the moment it is hosting a display of Royal Train carriages from different periods of history.

In the Grand Hall, there is a display on Express trains featuring the Eurostar (which runs between London, Paris and Amsterdam) and the Japanese Bullet train, the Shinkansen.

It is now over 50 years since steam was phased out on UK railways and so aside from the steam locomotives more diesel and electric locomotives are being added to the national collection for preservation.

But finally, no visit would be complete without a stop at my favourite class of locomotive, the Gresley A4 Pacifics, here represented by 4468 Mallard. Last time I was here was to see all 5 of the worlds remaining A4s together to celebrate Mallard’s record-breaking run.

Awesome Arachnids

Posted: November 1, 2018 in Announcements

Did some work on improving my Arachnid identification skills back in the spring. Fascinated by the variety of different spiders we found in a very small area. My favourites were the Cricket Bat Spider and the Cucumber spider.


Here is a post about some amazing Arachnids:

Roads End Naturalist

She asks me to kill the spider.
Instead, I get the most
peaceful weapons I can find.

I take a cup and a napkin.
I catch the spider, put it outside
and allow it to walk away.

If I am ever caught in the wrong place
at the wrong time, just being alive
and not bothering anyone,

I hope I am greeted
with the same kind
of mercy.

~Rudy Francisco

I led a full moon walk this past week at Mason Farm Biological Reserve, a wild and wonderful tract managed by the NC Botanical Garden, only a mile or so from my office. I love being outside at night, hearing the night sounds, and trying to catch a glimpse of the creatures that make darkness their time of choice. The night before the hike, I walked alone along the trail at Mason Farm, looking for things to highlight and…

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