There really is no reason for you to take binoculars with you for an appointment at the Brompton Hospital. After all Chelsea isn't exactly a birders paradise however this was a mistake.
Arriving too early for my appointment we went for a walk around the streets off the Kings Road. In the distance we saw birds high in a tree, a charm of Goldfinches, approaching we counted 13 birds with more over the roof top. But were they Goldfinches, they looked like Goldfinches with their slim shape and their flighty movement but something was wrong and we couldn't put our fingers on it. We went through a list of birds they could be but to no avail. They were forty feet up in a tree, too far away for our aged eyes to discern details. Oh for a pair of binoculars! In the end we left disappointed that we hadn't been able to identify the birds.
By now the bitter cold was biting through so we headed off to the warmth of the hospital, turning into Chelsea Manor Street we put up two Ringed Neck Parakeets eating apples from the pavement which had fallen from a tree overhanging a fence There were three more eating the very large Russet type apples hanging from the tree. They were soft and juicy, more like pears and the Parakeets were really enjoying them. It was a perfect picture, the green bird against the russet coloured fruit and they were so close, needless to say there was no camera.
I know that not everybody likes Parakeets but it's lovely to see these exotic birds on the streets of London. ...more
I saw the tail end of the Sparrowhawk as it went into the Ivy which clades our neighbour Derek's house. The Sparrows who live there screamed at this invasion of their home. Several minutes passed before the Hawk re-appeared, a single Sparrow floated to the ground below.
The Sparrowhawk flew into the Ash tree in the Sparrow garden then back to the first floor back extension roof of the house next door, around 15 feet away from where I was sitting on my first floor roof-terrace. There it sat, unconcerned by my presence. Just for once there was no camera handy. I'd just come out of hospital and wasn't allowed to lift anything. The Sparrowhawk turned and looked at me without fear. After 3 or 4 minutes it flew off into the grounds of the flats behind my garden.
There is no sign of the fallen Sparrow. ...more
If you like apples Gillespie Park was one of the places to be last Sunday, this seven acre ecology park in Highbury, next to Arsenal’s Football Stadium was hosting its second apple day. Over a thousand people enjoyed the event held in and around the Islington Ecology Centre which was organised by the Friends of Gillespie Park and the ecology centre staff.
There were twenty different varieties of organic apples all labelled and laid out in a semi-circle in cardboard boxes ready for tasting and juicing. These heritage apples come from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm near Faversham in Kent which is one of the largest fruit collections in the world.
There are varieties with wonderful names such as, Christmas Pearmain, Nonpareil and Lord Lamborne. Not to mention those which sound like other fruits: Barnark Orange and the better known Blenheim Orange, along with Pitmanston Pine Apple and Winter Banana!
Lots of varieties have Pearmain as part of their name, Mannington’s Pearmain or Worcester Pearmain for example which means pear shaped apple.
Visitors had a lovely afternoon visiting the stalls, listening to the music and eating the apple related food prepared in the Sunday Café and some people even brought along their own apples for juicing.
The children were happy helping with the juicing, getting wet apple bobbing, competing for the longest peel or playing William Tell with a rubber arrow.
The apples were the star of the day and happily there has been a renaissance in apple growing in this country after many orchards were grubbed out in the 1990’s due to EU subsidies. We should be buying more British apples particularly the older more vulnerable varieties such as Lord Lamborne pictured left so that future generations can enjoy them. ...more
Off to the East End via the 277 bus from Highbury Corner to photograph the wind turbine outside the Ecology Pavilion in Mile End Park with Canary Wharf in the background. The 79 acre park was established on waste land around the end of the last century and is bordered by the Regent’s Canal to the west with the Hertford Union Canal to the north.
The Eco Pavilion overlooking the nature park is an earth sheltered building sustainably built with a reed fringed lake in front. Unfortunately I've never seen this resource open and it appears to be used mainly for weddings and other private hires rather that its original purpose.
The abundance of water around the park is a great asset for wildlife and I was amazed to see a flash of blue which turned into a Kingfisher on the decking around the lake followed quickly by a second bird. I wondered if they were looking for somewhere to breed. They appeared quite unafraid. At the same time I heard a Wren calling and later saw it in one of the trees nearby. A little further east I spotted a pair of Grey Wagtails by the side of a second lake. I added Robin and Starling to the list with Mallard, Moorhen and Coot on the lake. Earlier I’d heard a Woodpecker drumming in Victoria Park just to the north. Lastly, south of the Green Bridge and close to Burdett Road a pair of long tailed tits, little bundles of fluff fluttering in the breeze each with a feather in its mouth headed towards a tree next to the path. Could they possibly be making a nest there? A pretty sight in the late afternoon sunshine.. ...more
The winter sunshine tempted me out today to try out my new Manfrotto tripod head. My goal was a magnificent Chaenomeles shrub in the front garden of a house on the top of Highbury Hill. Chaenomeles, also known as Japanese or Flowering Quince, is part of the Rosaceae family and as the name suggests is native to Japan although it can also be found in China and Korea. This specimen is red with a hint of orange and is probably the hybrid c x superba.
The plant overhangs the wall and fortunately the pavement is wide at that point so I was able to set up my tripod without blocking the way of passing pedestrians or worse, tripping somebody over! Not that anybody worried about this except me. People are usually very accommodating to working photographers.
The shrub had plenty of closely furled buds as well as open flowers so there was a choice of subjects. Photographing it was difficult however because of the criss-cross branches behind which are distracting on the image so it was necessary to go in close with a macro lens to exclude them using an aperture of f16 for max depth of field.
As you can see from the image on the left it's well worth a look at if you happen to be passing through Highbury. ...more