Saturday, January 31, 2009

Last day of the month

I won't be sorry to wish January a firm farewell. Today was a good day to see it out. I woke up at 5.30am and couldn't get back to sleep so I made myself some tea and sat down at the computer to do some work. I was ridiculously tired but it did mean that I didn't miss a really very fine sunrise over Greenland Dock.

I was over at the park by 1130, and had the place to myself. Apart from the birdsong, it was quite eerily quiet until around 1230 when people started to arrive with the usual accessories - MP3 players, dogs and pushchairs.

Nothing much has changed in the last few days. More snowdrops are out, the daffodils are further along and the water continues to flow.

I saw two wrens, robins, great tits, magpies, blackbirds, pigeons and sparrows, and some vast black birds which made a deep raucous sound. On Globe Pond there were Canada Geese and on Downtown Ponds there were mallards and moorhens. The moorhnes at Globe Pond were turning over leaves in the woodland around the pond, which they have been doing on the last few of my visits. They are behaving more like giant blackbirds than waterfowl, turning leaves and searching in the soil.

I came back via the Downtown development site and the health centre, both of which looked desolate. I noticed a compass feature which I had never seen before outside the health centre. I don't know its history but I will find out. I hope that it will be moved if the Barratt Home development goes ahead.

More photos from the 27th

Buddleia globosa
The first new shoots of one of my favourite plants. Its
flowers form cheerful bright orange globes and the bees love them.

Resinous substance oozing from silver birch

Erithacus rubecula

Pica pica

Sturnus vulgaris

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gorse - taken on the 27th

Taken behind the windmill in Stave Hill Ecological Park

Ulex europaeus

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New life appearing - taken on the 27th

As usual, click on the photograph to se the full-sized image.

Close up the flower of the Red Dead-nettle (click image to see full size)
Lamium purpureum

Sea Buckthorn

Galanthus nivalis

Takes its name from the Greek gala (milk) and the Greek anthos (flower)

Cherry Laurel

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mahonia taken on the 27th Jan 09


This is certainly a Mahonia but I have no idea which one.
They all look so similar in photographs.

Mahonia are evergreen shrubs of the Berberidaceae family

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunshine in January

I love days like today when the sky is blue and the sun is shining and it doesn't really matter how cold it is outside because you can dress up warmly and keep moving.

I was out at 1230 after taking rather a long time to assemble the Egyptology News blog, which quite often happens during slow news weeks due to the time it takes to hunt out items of interest. I was wary of departing for the great outdoors due to a bad night's sleep due to tooth ache, which caused me to cancel a trip to northwest London for dinner.

I took the fixed range macro lens because I wanted to capture some of the new buds and shoots that are coming through, but I had the telephoto zoom with me on the offchance that there was any bird life screaming out for a photo opportunity. In fact, there was lots of bird life and the sound of their singing was simply lovely. Close your eyes and open your ears and it sounds more like Bach orchestration than a random harmony of different species. Robins and tits were the dominant voices, but blackbirds and even a starling added to the music and magpies provided a change the tone. There were dozens of pigeons today, flocking in their usual places.

In some low trees next to the Downtown Pond there were goldfinches, greenfinches and sparrows twittering and calling to each other, bouncing around in the branches. I got one or two abysmal pics of the finches with the macro lens. Unsurprisingly, a macro lens isn't the best of all possible tools for which to take a photograph of a tiny bird on the opposite side of a pond! By the time I had changed lenses they had departed. The one on the right, above, is the best of a very bad bunch.

As was the case yesterday there were very few signs of water fowl around - a couple of mallards, some coots and moorhens.

The vegetation, particularly trees and shrubs, were all showing signs of being about to spring into life, some with buds, others with early bright green leaves, with some of them even in flower.

There was the gorse by the windmill, an unidentified plant with holly-like leaves and yellow sprays of flowers on far edge of the path that winds next to the Russia Dock channel and at the edge of the green. But the absolute highlight of the trip over the road were some early snowdrops, their little white heads bowing and stirring gently in the slight breeze. I'll post more photos of the shrubs and plants over the next couple of days.

There weren't many other people around - a couple of joggers, a few dog walkers and a pair of women with pushchairs. It was very, very quiet.

The Albert Salter bridge, which has been shut off with two ugly metal mesh panels, is still blocked, but there is no indication as to why or, more importantly, when the problem is going to be resolved.

DRMM beats five to win Brunel Museum

bd online (by Clive Walker, 21st January 2009)
The winning proposal includes creating better public areas around the Rotherhithe museum and safe public access to a 15m diameter vent shaft and former stairwell — closed since 1865 — which leads to Brunel’s Thames Tunnel.

The tunnel, running between Rotherhithe and Wapping, is currently being upgraded as part of the East London Line extension.

Part of dRMM’s solution is a suspended mobile platform allowing public access to all parts of the museum — old and new.

Explaining the scheme’s rationale, practice director Alex de Rijke said: “DRMM’s proposal consists of several ambitious site-specific responses, inspired by the Brunel legacy of inventive lateral design.”

Brunel Museum competition judges included museum trustee and CZWG director Piers Gough, museum director Robert Hulse, Brunel Trust engineer Bryn Bird and treasurer Molly Lowell.

See the above page for more details.

Google Earth - past and present of Rotherhithe

Finds and Features

There's a fabulous image on the above post showing an aerial photograph of the modern landscape with blue overlays indicating where the old docks and ponds used to be located before the closure of the Surrey Commercial Docks. Do have a look. The author of the post put the image together when he became interested in the landscape of the Surrey Quays area following a brief period of working here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A bright Monday luncthime

I took advantage of a slow-news day for the Egyptology News blog and escaped early over the road. The weekend was wet and grey but yesterday was quite bright, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through the thin slivery clouds.

The main sense of the place was the intense dampness that is the legacy of days of rain. The state of my trainers has to be seen to be believed - wellington boots would have been a better option had I owned a pair!

Pools of water have gathered in places where ponds were originally planned by the LDDC before the fall in the water table. When I reached the second of the two Downtown ponds I found that it was overflowing into the Russia Dock channel, with a small trickle making its way a little distance down the channel. The permanent ponds themselves were all full and look much the better for it. One of the prettier effects of all the rain was a vision of droplets everywhere I looked, hanging like tiny perfect crystal droplets in the bright light.

The bird life was really quite vocal today. A blue tit was in full voice as I arrived, a male robin was giving it his all high in a tree next to the green, and over at the Downtown Pond the most staggering noise was emitting from waist-level. Closer inspection revealed a wren. I had no idea that they made that type of sound but a later perusal of Simon Barnes's "A Bad Birdwatcher's Companion" revealed that the sheer volume is the most conspicuous aspect of this tiny bird with the upturned tail. It was impossible to photograph the wren as it moved so quickly in and out of the shrubbery. I have a set of furry photographs of indistinct brown bits of shrubbery for my efforts, and in the end abandoned the attempt to capture the wren on camera and just enjoyed watching and listening. Another noisy member of the avian choir was a woodpecker who was contributing serious percussion and was audible from a long distance away. But even when I was obviously quite close, having followed the sound, it remained quite invisible. Blackbirds and pigeons were around but there were much fewer pigeons than usual.

Squirrels have started braving the woodland again in greater numbers, but there was no sign of insect life, and I saw no foxes.

It is nice to see flowers appearing and trees coming into bud. Some of the autumn rose hips and berries persever, but they are very lone survivors. Even patches of bulbs are beginning to show their perky upright leaves, with plants in one clump coming bravely into bud. Nearly everything is covered in moss and lichen - patches of grass, fallen logs and even a lamp-post.

The park and woodland are in a true state of flux, a transitional state from bedding down for one season to reviving for the next. The faint echoes of autumn accompanied by the slight, fugitive hints of spring, give more of a sense of the seasonal cycle than any of the seasons in all their full-blown glory.

It seemed like a good idea to finish the walk with a quick pint at the Moby where I chatted to Jill, who was working the bar, and sat and revised my hieroglyph flash cards.

Water flowing over the step from Downtown Pond into the Russia Dock channel

Red Dead-nettle
Lamium purpureum

Lamium from Greek laimos (the throat) referring to the shape of the flowers
A member of the mint family. Does not sting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kevin Boys sculpture at the Tower of London

Local blacksmith Kevin Boys, who operates out of the Surrey Docks Farm, created some sculptures last year for the Tower of London. I was absolutely delighted to see them in situ, because I had the priveledge to see them during the construction phase.

Some of the sights seen from Stave Hill - up close and personal

A brainwave from a friend of mine led us to play at tourists in London for the weekend. We made a list of things that a visitor to the city might wish to see and went to see them, taking lots of photographs as we went.

It is amazing how many of the places we went to see could be seen from the top of Stave Hill, including the London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Monument to the Great Fire of London and St Paul's Cathedral. The Gherkin was almost unavoidable. I hadn't realized the degree to which it now dominates the London skyline from so many standpoints within and outside the city.

The view above was taken from the Tower of London over to Baltic Quay. Some of the intervening woodland must be the Russia Dock Woodland.

As usual click on the photograph to see the bigger image.