Archive for November, 2019

Autumn Skies

Posted: November 29, 2019 in Landscape, Natural History
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Mandarin Duck

Posted: November 28, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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The Mandarin Duck originates from South East Asia. They were introduced into the UK as part of wildfowl collections in stately homes, but a number escaped from captivity and began to breed in the wild, establishing small feral populations around the country. The majority of these are in Southern England, but populations also occur in other parts of the country.

These were photographed at the London Wetland centre.

Hall Place

Posted: November 27, 2019 in History, London, UK
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Hall Place lies outside the ancient village of Bexley on the south-east edge of London. It was built in 1537 for Sir John Champneys, a wealthy London merchant. It is believed that much of the building material used in its construction was ‘recycled’ from the nearby monastery at Lesnes Abbey, which had been closed following the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. In 1649, the house was sold to another city merchant, Sir Robert Austin who expanded the building to double its original size. He made little attempt to harmonise his new building with the original style and thus the whole building looks very different whether viewed from the front or from the back.

In the 18th century, the house passed into the possession of Sir Francis Dashwood, a politician who had held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, for much of the Dashwood family’s ownership, the house was leased out to tenants and at the end of the 18th century was used as a school for young gentlemen. The 19th and 20th centuries continue to see the house let to tenants, the last of whom was Lady Limerick from 1917 until 1943.

In January 1944 Hall Place was taken over by the US Army, where it served as one of the signal interception stations which fed messages into the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park.

After the war had ended, the Place was used as a school annexe until 1968, when it became the headquarters of Bexley’s libraries and museums service. Today the properties managed by Bexley Heritage Trust and much work has been done in recent years to improve the facilities and the accessibility of this house and its large garden.

Pareidolia

Posted: November 26, 2019 in Natural History
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Amazing photo. Old trees are just wonderful!

Stephen G Hipperson

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A new word for me…… pareidolia… seeing stuff in stuff.  I didn’t notice this ‘herbivore-like’ creature when I took the photo but I noticed it when I was processing it.

—Stephen—

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Demoiselle Crane

Posted: November 25, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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The Demoiselle Crane comes from Central Eurasia, ranging from the Black Sea to NE China. It figures prominently in the literature of Northern India, where it is seen as a symbol of beauty or of people who travel great distances.

It is said that the bird was named Demoiselle by Queen Marie Antoinette, who was struck by its beauty and grace.

This pair is in the wildfowl collection at the London wetland Centre.

What a cracking little Bird. found in Central America and the northern part of South America.so not likely to be seen in UK.

Stephen G Hipperson

cr_MG_8397Myioborus miniatus – shame I didn’t get the end of the tail.

—Stephen—

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Three hours on Alcatraz.

Posted: November 21, 2019 in California, History, USA
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Reminds me of my last visit to SanFrancisco about 12 years ago when Sue and I visited the Island. So close to the city yet there are no records of a successful escape, only 1 prisoner who escaped and was never recaptured, but he is presumed to have drowned in the bay. Despite its location very lonely and very atmospheric.

Crosbyman66

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No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to Alcatraz Island. Just over a mile offshore it is windswept and battered by swift tides.

Alcatraz was a federal prison that housed some of the countries most dangerous criminals including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Since its closure in 1963 it began to fall into disrepair but this and its location led to its becoming a major tourist attraction.

We caught the ferry from Pier 33 for the short crossing to the island and did the guided audio tour. We were able to look at the very basic cells.

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Outside there was a bare recreation area from where you could catch a tantalising glimpse of the mainland. So near yet so far away.

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It was a fascinating tour. Part history and part Hollywood with clips from the Clint Eastwood film.

But, three hours was quite enough time…

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George Augustus was born in northern Germany in 1683 and was the last British monarch to be born outside of the British Isles. His father, the Elector of Hanover became King George I in 1714 and George II succeeded him in 1727. During the War of Austrian Succession, George became the last British monarch to lead an army in battle.

It was a time of major change in Europe and foreign affairs dominated George’s reign with the wars of Austrian Succession, the Anglo-Spanish war, the war of Polish Succession and the Seven years war being fought to decide who ruled the major countries of Europe. At home, he also faced and defeated the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which sought to put the Stuart dynasty back on the British throne.

George donated the Royal Library to the nation and it was housed in the British Museum forming the core of the Libary now known as the British Library.

George died in October 1760. His son, Frederick had died 7 years previously and so he was succeeded by his grandson, George III. George was initially regarded as a weak king by writers and historians. However more modern research has challenged this idea and is much more appreciative of his contribution to history.

This statue of George sits in the central area of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and depicts him in Roman military dress. It dates from 1735.

Elsing Spital

Posted: November 19, 2019 in History, London, Medieval History, UK
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I came across Elsing Spital (Elsing’s Hospital) whilst walking in the City of London during a lunch break in a conference. All that remains of this medieval hospital is the tower of the church, which now sits amongst the concrete tower blocks of the city.

The hospital was founded in 1131 by William Elsing as a hospital for the blind homeless people of London. In 1340 the running of the hospital was undertaken by the Augustinian order, who appointed a prior and canons to live on the premises. Eventually, the number of inmates would rise to around 100.

The priory and the hospital were closed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the property was granted to Sir John Williams, the master of the King’s Jewels. However, he did not get to enjoy it as within a year fire had destroyed the whole building.

As the city of London grew around it, the land of the hospital was used for buildings and by 1960, the remain buildings of the tower were enclosed by the surrounding buildings to the extent that they were no longer accessible by the public. However, more recent development have created an open plaza which contains the remains.

The weather forecast had not been too promising so Keith and I headed for the London Wetland Centre. As it turned out all the rain had blown through the night before and we were treated to a dry day.

The morning started well with a Sparrowhawk circling above the River Thames as we crossed Hammersmith Bridge. Arriving at the centre we followed our usual route and were soon getting good views of the wintering wildfowl.

Passing the feeding station, a Coal Tit was a good sighting as were the large number of Eurasian Jays that were on the reserve. Arriving at the Tower Hide, we were soon watching Water Pipit and Stonechats on what remained of the scrape islands (The water level was very high due to the recent rain and most of the Islands had disappeared below the surface). We also had a distant view of a female Goldeneye.

Water Pipit. Photo by Keith

Moving to the other side of the centre, we decided to stake out a good spot for Eurasian Bittern and also to look for the Yellow-Legged Gull that had been seen earlier in the morning. We did not succeed in either, although on a photo of some gulls Keith took, there was a good candidate for the Yellow-Legged Gull, but it was just to distant to be sure.

A very pleasant day considering the forecast.