Keith and I in South Devon for a few days birdwatching and today we are out with local Naturalist and artist Mike Langman. Our first stop is Yarner Woods on the edge of Dartmoor in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

We see a number of different woodland species before we hear one drumming. Heading towards the sound we eventually locate the area and see the bird as it flies away. It is so small it looks like a pair of wings with no body!

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

Moving on we locate another drumming male and locate it high on a tree. We get some brief views before it too flies off. We hear another drumming but are unable to locate it.

From here we move onto the side of a valley to look for Goshawks. Mike gets a brief view but Keith and I cannot get onto it before it disappears. That proves to be our only sighting and we move onto crossing the River Exe to Aylesbeare Common in search of Dartford Warbler. We are very fortunate and before very long we locate an area where 3-4 Dartford Warblers are disputing territories and chasing each other around.

Dartford Warbler.
Photo by Tom Lee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/68942208@N02/)

We also have good views of Stonechat and 3 Ravens which flew over the common.

Stonechat (m)
Stonechat (f)

Our next stop is Powderham where a Yellow-Browed Warbler has been over-wintering but no sign. There were a number of YBW over-wintering in Devon, but a brief cold spell a couple of weeks ago seems to have moved them on (as it has for the two I saw in Dorset in January). A brief stop at Starcross follows and we quickly locate the wintering Slavonian (Horned) Grebe which has been wintering in the area. Our final stop of the day is the RSPB reserve at Bowling Green Marsh on the edge of the River Exe. There were a large number of Pintail (around 100) and Wigeon (c50) as well as other ducks. Leaving the Marsh we continued to the riverside and on the mud were Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Curlew. Also present were 3 Goldeneye.

Pintail

An excellent day’s birdwatching.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye [sp] (Bucephala clangula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Horned Grebe [sp] (Podiceps auritus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Tawny Owl [sp] (Strix aluco)
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dryobates minor)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Northern Raven [sp] (Corvus corax)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Redpoll [sp] (Acanthis flammea)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus)
Yellowhammer [sp] (Emberiza citrinella)

MGB 81

Posted: March 1, 2019 in History, Post medieval history
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Motor gunboat 81 was built for the Royal Navy in 1942. It is believed to be the only gunboat in World War II restored to her original condition. These gunboats were fast with speeds up to 45 knots and were designed for the protection of shipping in UK coastal waters, particularly to guard against the threat of German E-boats, groups of which would cross over the Channel and attack merchant shipping.

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In 1945 MGB 81 passed into private ownership. It was involved in a smuggling operation in 1958 and was subsequently sold for scrap, but ended up as a permanent mooring in the sailing school. In 1968 it was bought by a boat preservation trust and restored to its wartime condition.

MGB 81 is currently berthed at the Portsmouth historic dockyard.

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The launch of HMS Trafalgar

HMS Trafalgar was a 120 gun ship of the Line built at Woolwich in 1840-41. In an age of great change for the Royal Navy she was the last ship of her type to be built. She was launced by a neice of Admiral Lord Nelson in the presence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert using a bottle of wine taken from the stores of HMS Victory at the time of the battle of Trafalgar. 100 Trafalger veterns were on the ship for the launch. She took part in the bombardment of Sebastapol in the Crimean war in 1854. She was converted to screw propulsion in 1859 and retired from active service in 1873. She was renamed HMS Boscawan and sent to Portland Harbour to act as a training vessel. She was retired in 1906 when the training school moved to a land base in East Anglia.

Figurehead from HMS Trafalgar (Admiral Lord Nelson). Now in Historic Dockyard Portsmouth

Figurehead from HMS Trafalgar (Admiral Lord Nelson). Now in Historic Dockyard Portsmouth

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

In January 1510, Henry VIII signed a warrant for the construction of two new warships. The largest of the two was to be called the Mary Rose. The name was chosen as it had both personal and religious significance. The Mary refers to both Henry’s sister and to the Virgin Mary, patroness of England, whilst the rose symbolises both the Tudor Rose, the family emblem of the Royal family and the mystic rose a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

Model of Mary Rose

Model of Mary Rose

Mary Rose was launched on July 1511 and saw active service in three wars with France. It easy when we think about Tudor warships to imagine that they were like those of the later Napoleonic era, floating gun platforms designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage on an enemy ship at range. But Tudor warships were designed to be a platform for transporting soldiers, the main naval tactics of the day being to come alongside an enemy and bought them and overpower them on their own decks. This can be seen as only five of the guns aboard Mary Rose could be classified as ‘big guns’.

At the battle of the Solent in July 1545, the Mary Rose was effecting a term when suddenly she heeled over to one side and began to sink. There are many accounts of this sinking and of the reasons for it. However, it appears only one of these accounts was actually written by somebody who was on the Mary Rose and survived to tell the tale. According to this report, the lowest set of gum ports on the ship were not closed before the turning manoeuvre was undertaken. In itself, this might not have been a problem but as the ship turned the wind caught her sails and caused her to heel over much more than usual. The open gum ports were now below the water level and water flooded into the deck. This then probably caused a series of other events to occur and the ship was not able to right herself and began to sink. Less than 10% of a crew of 400 made it back to the shore.

Mary Rose lay in the silt of the Solent until 1965 when a group of divers began to search for the wreck. In 1970, they found a gun barrel in the silt. This long gun known as a ‘sling’ was a type of long-range gun which dated from before the end of the 16th century. This gave them a clue that they were in the right area and the following year the first timbers of the ship were found.

The Sling gun found in 1970

The Sling gun found in 1970

After many years of planning and excavation, the remains of the wreck were finally lifted from the seabed in October 1982 and, after works had been carried out put on display at a museum in Portsmouth. The original Mary Rose Museum opened in 1983, has now been replaced by a new museum which opened in May 2013 and enables a much better display the ship itself and the artefacts that were excavated from it.

The ship's structure as it looks today

The ship’s structure as it looks today

HMS Warrior

Posted: February 26, 2019 in History
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Timsvideochannel1 (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8mWulo_qPrlXZZw98nbR7g)

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4468 Mallard was built at Doncaster in 1938. The A4 class was designed for the North-Eastern Railway by Sir Nigel Gresley to pull high speed express trains. Mallard remained in service until 1963 working the route between London and Edinburgh. Mallard is the holder of the record for the fastest steam train in the world at 125.88 MPH. This record was achieved on 3rd July 1938 on the Stoke bank section of the east coast line near Grantham. It was a risky business as a curve occurred in the line just beyond the Stoke bank and the engine needed to break heavily to ensure it remained on the rails, During this the engine overheated (a problem that had been foreseen) and the engine had to be removed from service for repairs. Mallard also took part in the 1948 Locomotive exchange trials when locos from different regions of the newly formed BR were trialed on routes they did not usually run. Mallard hauled a train from London Waterloo to Salisbury but failed following the run and was removed from the trial. Mallard also pulled the last Steam hailed flagship ‘Elizabethan’ express from London to Edinburgh on 8th September 1961.

In the 1980s the engine was restored to working order and after being used for a number of years for pulling railtours become part of the static collection at the National Railway Museum, firstly at York (till 2008) then at Shildon (2008-2010) and subsequently back at York.

The plaque on Mallard commemorating the Stoke bank record

The plaque on Mallard commemorating the Stoke bank record

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Smithfield is an area in the city of London. In early Medieval times, it was one of the few areas on the edge of the ancient city that was not marshland and became known as Smoothfield. Originally used as a mustering ground for troops, it soon developed other uses – as a jousting ground and a place of execution. It was the site of the Bartholomew Fayre which took place for 3 days every year and to the east lay the infirmary of St Batholomew’s Monastery (later St Bartholomew’s Hospital, one of London’s great teaching hospitals). Later a daily live cattle market was held here. In Victorian times this was moved further out of London and replaced by Smithfield Market a meat market. In order to transport the meat to the market, the Victorians built a dedicated underground railway station (now an underground car park) and covered the excavations with a garden, now known as West Smithfield Garden.

In the garden stands a statue of Peace. It dates from 1879 and is the work of John Birnie Philip. Originally she was one of a set (temperance, hope, faith and charity being the others) but the other 4 have been removed. There is a story that a local worker found a ring in the garden and not knowing who it belonged to placed it on the finger of the statue. Sadly I am told that even if this story is true then it is no longer there.

The Huntress Fountain, which is found in the Rose Garden in Hyde Park, is a bronze figure of Diana, Goddess of hunting. It dates from 1906 and was sculpted by Feodara Gleichen, the first female member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

The Winter Sea

Posted: February 18, 2019 in Landscape, Natural History
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Pictures from the Dorset Coast

A Photographer looking for the best shot regardless of the conditions. I was pretty wet by the time I get back to the seafront (Photo by Sue)