Redux: Views of the Thames

Here’s a couple of photos I took this time last year (-ish); both different views of London’s main waterway.

Blackfriars Bridges: Building on What Went Before
Building on What Went Before

The Thames from Southwark Bridge
Thames from Southwark Bridge

Here: Rare & Everywhere

I had a bit of a wander recently.  I hadn’t intended to make it a bird spotting walk, but it kinda worked out that way.

First, the rare; though fortunately not as rare as it was thanks to a reintroduction program.

Red Kite III Red Kite IIIThis is the first time I’ve seen a Red Kite in about 3 years – the last time was in Corsica.

Now, the everywhere:

Common Pheasant, Female
Common Pheasant
There are somewhere around 2 million females; mostly so there are plenty to shoot. Probably a boon for conservation in general, purely because of the habitat that would not otherwise still be with us but which is maintained to breed these.

Newcastle Festival of Flight

[Update 0050 12th Aug 2014 : this post has been completely rewritten from first publication.]

Last Saturday saw Newcastle, Co. Down, hosted the (now apparently annual) BAE Festival of Flight  for 2014.

The AD, my brother, and I decided it would be best viewed not from the promenade carefully set out for exactly that but from the side of nearby Slieve Donard (technically, we watched it from Thomas’s Mountain, which is a mere wart on the side of Donard).  The consensus (*ahem*) decision was to get to our viewing point via the summit of Donard.  Traditional routes being important in Norn Iron we went up the west face, following first the Glen River track and then the Mourne Wall.

The Glen River Path
A hiker on the Glen River track in the Mourne Mountains

Our descent was less conventional, taking the direct route to Thomas’s Mountain on the North-eastern face.  Don’t do this unless you know what you’re doing – it’s one of the few bogs in the world that require rock climbing skills.  I was too busy not falling at this point to take many pictures.

I’ll skip over our perfectly timed arrival for the published times, our wait for the show, my snooze at the top of a cliff, my brother waking me in a hurry when an aircraft snuck into Dundrum Bay from the seaward side, and the fact that not all of the ‘acts’ are shown below.  The Aircraft:

A pair of Vampires - unusual aircraft thathave twin tail booms
The de Havilland Vampires have a kind-of local connection: the nearest (former) RAF Aldergrove had the Auxiliary 502 Squadron flying these until the unit was disbanded in 1957.  The recent strategic defence review means the reformation of the 502.

One of the last two remaining airworthy Avro Lancaster Bombers
This Avro Lancaster, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, is one of the last two remaining airworthy examples – the other is Canadian.  It staged out of and into Blackpool for this display.

NFoF 2014 - Vulcan
Avro is on a roll here (although, the Vulcan was officially a Hawker Siddeley).  The Vulcan was part of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, initially carrying the Blue Danube; however, operationally, it was only ever used conventionally in Operation Black Buck during the Falklands War.

The AD prefers the above (I can see why).  I prefer the below picture, with the Vulcan soaring out of the inlet to the inner Dundrum Bay.

Vulcan in Dundrum Bay
NFoF 2014 - Vulcan over Dundrum Bay

The day was, of course, building up to a crescendo display by the Red Arrows. They started screamingly fast and loud, then cranked it up from there.

Enter the Red Arrows
The Red Arrows in Phoenix formation

Classic Diamond Formation – inverted, natch.
The Red Arrows in Diamond Formation

Phoenix Formation
The Red Arrows in Phoenix Formation

Phoenix Formation swooping over the beach
The Red Arrows in Phoenix Formation swooping low over Dundrum Bay

Near the end of the show, the formation split to all points of the compass.  One of the flight left the bay quietly seaward of Slieve Donard, circled out of sight, then came screaming over the summit following the path I’d taken earlier giving me the experience of a…

Low Overhead Pass
A Red Arrow passing low overhead
It was low enough to feel the breeze against the prevailing wind – that’s as good as my estimate gets.

Last one, I promise
Above and behind a Red Arrow trailing smoke

It was a good day.  Hopefully, I’ll be sitting on the side of the Mountain next year.

Day to Night Heartwood Forest Walk

Last night the AD and I went on a group walk organised by the Woodland Trust and led by Murray Brown.  Timed to straddle sunset, and giving access to the forest after normal opening times, I found it very informative.

In my head, things quite often get classified into ‘interesting photogenic animals and insects’ and ‘wild plants’.  Now, at least, I can identify a few without labels or a reference book.  Such as:

Pineapple Weed and Wild CarrotPineapple weed and wild carrot exemplars held in a guide's hands

Aka: Matricaria matricarioides, and Daucus carota. The Pineapple weed is the closest, and the wild carrot is the larger flat flower falling out of focus to the rear.  Samples held by Murray Brown. There’s no instgramesque filtering going on here – I got lucky with the golden hour.

Kestrals and Hobbies were frequently seen, but at a distance and in failing light so reasonable shots were nigh on impossible (not that I didn’t try, but some things are beyond even the longest of the Nikon trifecta).  By the point I witnessed a murder of Crows politely requesting a Hobby to feed elsewhere, any shot was reduced to blurry silhouettes on a flat grey background.

I could hear robins, saw a host of Cinnabar moth caterpillars on ragwort, and there was plenty of sign of mammals but unsurprisingly the wildlife steered clear of a herd of humans stomping and bellowing about the place.

The walk finished with a brief observation of a barn owl nest by moonlight.  A 20 minute stakeout was highly optimistic. A night-long watch might have been fruitful, but at least the moon was pretty.

Heartwood Forest MoonAn almost Half-moon