November Sightings

Tuesday, November 7In the morning, one of the largest container ships in the world passed down Channel off the Sussex coast.  She was enroute to Southampton on her outbound voyage from Europe after sailing from China via Sri Lanka while on her first round voyage.  The Milan Maersk is one of the largest vessels of her type in the world with a capacity for 20,568 containers – that’s nearly 400 containers more than the previous largest.  In 2016 the largest container vessel calling in Southampton had a capacity for 16,000 containers.

Maersk Milan. Image Credits: ABP Southampton.

The megaship belongs to the second generation of Maersk Line’s Triple-E class (Economy of scale, Energy efficient and Environmentally improved) and is part of a series of eleven container ships, which will be delivered by the end of 2018.  Milan Maersk’s propulsion and software system creates energy savings which aims to reduce carbon emissions per container vessel by 35 percent.  This new generation of more efficient and environmentally friendly container ship joins LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) and solar powered RoRo vessels already visiting the port of Southampton.  For more technical information see    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maersk_Triple_E-class_container_ship  ).

Thursday, November 9.  With thick grey cloud overhead at daybreak, there was a clear, fabulously-coloured sky out at sea towards the south-east, creating brilliant blue skies with a golden sun surrounded by bright vermilion skies, casting bronze hues on the autumn-tinted trees near my house.

 

September Sightings

Saturday, Sept 9.  I took a railway excursion, ending up back on the coast at Folkestone. Rail travel I believe, is a fine way of seeing cross-sections of our landscape. On the outward journey north, I saw what were presumably, two hot-spots of ash die-back disease – one just north of Battle and a very noticeable area at and around Wadhurst station.  Added to this from time to time were instances of alder alongside watercourses, dead from Phytophthora.  Upon reaching Tonbridge station, I was greeted on Platform 3 by a large black and white cat sprawled across the platform grooming itself and not caring a jot about the comings and goings of people and trains.  By its persona, I can only assume it owns the station and answers to the name Sapphie!

See  http://www.kentonline.co.uk/tonbridge/news/station-cat-stars-in-railway-38942/

Folkestone harbour, has changed a lot from when I visited it once about 20 years ago.  A lot of money is being spent on transforming the redundant harbour into a public space with restaurants and bars and a pleasant walk along the long breakwater.  100 years on from WW1, I couldn’t help but think from time to time about the many troops that must have passed by the same scenes that I was seeing today.  The little shops and cafes down The Old High Street were enjoyable too.  A nice spot for a few hours ramble.  Continuing the theme of trees, I saw the two healthiest horse chestnuts for years, perhaps rather out on a limb and with the prevailing wind having a long fetch over the sea, they are protected from attack.

                                                                                                                                            I noticed that on the south-facing slopes of the North Downs overlooking the town that much of the chalk grassland was being engulfed by scrub.  What a pity…

Sunday, Sept 18.  Walked to Bishopstone Tidemills where there is much evidence of the archaeological digging being carried out unearthing the remains of the now ‘lost’ village.  I found the evidence of William Catt’s huge greenhouse intriguing with what I assume are heating pipes?

Monday, Sept 19.  Beautiful sunny day again.  Sat on the near deserted beach and watched lagoons formed by a low shingle ridge, flood on the high tide, these being patrolled by turnstones looking for food – especially washed-up mussels.  There have been numbers of large white and Vanessa butterflies along the beach of late, blown by the NE breeze or, are they possibly looking to migrate south??

 

August Sightings.

Thursday, Aug 3.  Rather un-seasonal weather during the past 24 hours with substantial rainfall through yesterday afternoon and through much of the night.  That has been followed today with quite windy conditions – Force 7- Near Gale, being recorded out in the Channel and the average wave height reaching 6.5 feet, producing plenty of white-crested waves.

Sunday, Aug 13.  Slow boat to Turkey – a new twist on that old saying!  A dutch tug, the Fairmount Glacier, 3,239 gross tonnes, is on passage towing a large drilling rig to Aliaga in Turkey.  It is shadowed by the Belgium-registered offshore support vessel, Smit Nicobar of 2,606 gross tonnes.  The towering rig was a feature on the horizon for much of the day off Hastings for it is travelling only between 2 – 6 knots, walking pace!  Monday morning and they were south of the Isle of Wight.  ETA in Turkey is September 10th!

Friday, Aug 18.  There has been much talk just recently about the amount of rain this month.  One of the BBC weathermen was asked for an explanation about it.  He stated that of ‘the last 13 consecutive Augusts, 9 had been wetter than the average, perhaps indicating a new trend.’

Wed, Aug 30.  Quite a number of house martins hawking above the town this evening, probably because of their migration being put on hold by the wet, cloudy weather and less than perfect visibility?

July Sightings

July 4.  Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.

July 8.  Trained to Brighton…  Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers!  Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations.    In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal.    People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade!    Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles.  I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road.  Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!

July 9.  Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!  Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!

July 14.  Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.

July 19.  during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards.  Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.

June Sightings

June 5th.  At breakfast time, noticed a very large ship going down Channel.  It proved to be the MSC Zoe (which with several sister ships) is one of the largest container ships in the world (as of August 2015), it being the third of a series of ships built by the Mediterranean Shipping Company.  She takes her name from the four year old granddaughter of Gianluigi Aponte, the Mediterranean Shipping Company president and chief executive.

MSC Zoe was constructed by Daewoo in South Korea for $140m.  The ship’s particulars are: at a length of 395 metres and has a draft of 16 metres.  She has a capacity of 19,224 TEU (containers) and a deadweight of 199,272 DWT.  The vessel’s massive main engine is a two-stroke MAN B&W 11S90ME-C diesel engine, which has a height of 15.5 m (51 ft), a length of 25 m (82 ft) and a breadth of 11 m (36 ft).  The engine has a maximum continuous rating of 62.5 MW (83,800 hp) at 82.2 rpm and a normal continuous rating of 56.25 MW (75,430 hp) at 79.4 rpm.  Her single five-blade propeller has blade lengths of 10.5 m (34 ft) producing a service speed of 22.8 kn (42.2 km/h; 26.2 mph)

By Hummelhummel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42056503

June 6.  In view of last night’s un-seasonal gale, I have added a Page* setting-out the Beaufort Scale, the universally accepted scale for wind speed.  In mid-Channel at about 8-9am this morning, it reached Severe Gale force.  Nowadays – even in tv/radio weather forecasts, the term ‘gale’ or ‘storm’ are often misused, so here’s the correct calibration!  *Scroll back to the top of the ‘Reflections’ blog screen and click on Beaufort Wind Scale.  The sea has been wild all day with 2-3 metre waves breaking on the beaches; even by the evening, the wind speed was still registering in the region of Force 7 – ‘Near Gale,’ very un-seasonal for June!

June 11.  There was very good visibility tonight out into the Channel where the cruise liner Arcadia, was slowly passing west along the Sussex coast on passage to Southampton, when I noticed a cluster of lights and orange glow on the very far horizon.  On doing a simple exercise or two on Google Earth, it would seem to be Boulogne, some 45 miles to the south-east!

Today, a 350 tonne transformer was transported by road from Shoreham to Ninfield, see link  https://sussex.police.uk/news/drone-footage-captures-abnormal-load-journey-through-east-sussex/

June 13.  After an apparent absence of about a week due to the un-seasonal windy weather, swifts have returned this morning to hawk insects high above St.Leonards old town. These enigmatic birds have been one of my favourite birds since early childhood.

RSPB image

Late afternoon on the 13th and one Hastings Arrows that’s never going to find its destination!  The engine compartment and almost the whole of interior of the bus being gutted.

June 18.  My strawberries now in full production on the wonderful Marina Allotments!  I came across this thought prvoking quote while on Twitter: “For every kilogram of vegetables you grow yourself, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms…”

Noticed this colony of relatively large digger wasps under the attractive stone flagstones in Pevensey Road.

June 19.  Heatwave.  These  fella’s have the right idea while working in the heat!

While picking another dish-full of strawberries this evening, I heard an approaching bird call and immediately thought I know what’s making that call.  On looking up, a pale-looking ring-necked parakeet flew over, did a circuit nearby and then disappeared towards neighbouring housing.  A summer escape or from a feral colony nearby?

May Sightings

And so the cool, dry spring continues without much prospect of change until towards the end of May…

May 6th and during the evening there was a group of 7 swifts hawking for insects in the cold easterly wind, high over St.Leonards old town.  Still numbers of turnstones along the beach.  May 8th and as I sat down to my breakfast, 6 swallows flew across the street at window height in that purposeful, determined flight behaviour that characterises swallows on migration, heading north-westwards.  I wished them well.

May 8th.  There’s still a reasonable population of english elms in the vicinity of the station at Pevensey.  Also nearby, are a number of trees (poplar?) with thriving plants of mistletoe high in their crowns; nice to see.

May 18th.  In the following pic, scrub-bashing with a difference!  These fellas are removing dense ivy from off the cliff face at Rock-A-nor at Hastings in order to attach steel mesh safety netting as can be seen above them.  They’re working from off ropes using pneumatically powered equipment.

 

On the same day in the evening, saw this amazing ‘barley-twist’ cloud formation.

May 24th.  There were 10 swifts over St.Leonards old town as I sat having breakfast. Went for a walk in Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve in Kent, a lovely wood but unfortunately there appears to be not a lot of coppicing now going on – how this wood was traditionally managed.  Saw this tree which many years ago had suffered severe trauma, survived and prospered!

Nearby the entrance to the woods stands a row of four Victorian(?) cottages.  I thought they were very unusual in that the upper storey is clad all around the entire block with butt-jointed slates with strips fixed over the vertical joints.

On this jaunt I travelled by train and spotted just west of Winchelsea good and bad farming practice – the latter almost certainly contravening government/EU regulations by cultivating as close to a watercourse as physically possible.  The adjacent water must be receiving a very unhealthy cocktail of fertilizer and chemicals  First, good practice with 2 metre wide uncultivated headlands on a neighbouring farm and then the bad.  Apologies that the second doesn’t make the point very obvious but the train was going quite fast! Stile and post are on nearside of watercourse.

In the evening, saw my first painted lady butterfly; it was in beautiful condition and probably had not long arrived from across the Channel.  About 10 swifts screaming high overhead mid-evening.  I’m not religious but full marks to the Pope for giving Trump some serious reading matter today!

Dismantling in Eastbourne

Made a brief visit to Eastbourne this morning and took these pics of changes taking place within the town.  The first is the dismantling of a fine Wheatley variety of a street elm along Southfields Road due to a large cavity within it and also that it was dying from Dutch Elm Disease (DED), note the dead twigs at the extremities of its crown.  One of the tree surgeons told me that Eastbourne is fairing reasonably well with DED.

Elm trees seem to this spring have produced a very heavy crop of seed – though very little elm seed is viable, it mainly spreading by root suckers.

The second pic is of major demolition of redundant shops along Terminus Road opposite the railway station to make way for extending the Arndale Centre.  I just hope that when it comes to the interior design, they don’t replicate the boring interior of the present mall!

April Sightings  – All and Sundry

Up until the early part of the month (including the winter), I’ve been surprised just how tolerant of people that the dozens of turnstones that wintered/rested on the beaches of St.Leonards and on the ironwork of Hastings pier are.

Moving on, a couple of days ago, many of the birds in the centre of the town flew-up and seemed uneasy for a few minutes; I scanned the skies and sure enough, a couple hundred yards away and high up, was a circling sparrowhawk.

Went for a lovely walk with a friend in the Iden area on Sunday, April 9th – that really warm day.  We walked through an area of working coppice with a beautiful display of bluebells and lesser celandine.  After refuelling, on the return leg we saw two swallows, one settled on a nearby telephone wire giving out that gorgeous trilling song as if to say, ‘well, I’m glad to be back.’  Walking along part of the banks of the Military Canal, we were treated to a short, announcing blast from a cetti’s warbler emanating from out of the bordering reeds.

Back at home, somewhere not far from the house, there seems to be a pair of goldfinches possibly nesting; lovely to sit on the steps by the front door and watch them frequently pass over with their singing, resembling a bunch of high-pitched jangling keys.

April 26th and on a walk near Matfield in Kent, we came across a small meadow which was stunning!  It had thousands of cuckoo flower in full bloom, a real high-point in the day.

I’m now able from my window, to take an interest in the shipping passing down the Channel – ships being a subject that I’ve been fascinated by since a child.  I’m surprised by the sheer number of container ships passing by with quite a number owned by the MSC shipping company – the second largest container fleet in the world with 490 ships, four of which are the largest in the world.

The ill-fated Crystal Jewel anchored off Newhaven, after its encounter with the tanker British Aviator in fog off Beachy Head back in Sept 1961.

 

 

Magpies & Crows; Pigeons & Squirrels.

After a lot going on in my life during the past month or so including a bout of ‘flu from hell,’ I am going to try to get back into blogging, with hopefully more posts of an observational nature.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been observing a pair of magpies building their nest in the crown of a fairly large oak about 100m from my house.  But they had a problem.  The local pair of crows also thought what a good spot and hey, somebody has started the nest for us!

The magpies have persevered but with bouts of the crows landing on and around it, hounded by the clacking magpies but due to their differences in size, the magpies being wary of getting too close to the crows.  the crows appear to have now given up and as I look out the window, there is now a sizeable domed nest.

Several evening ago at about dusk, I was watching three wood pigeons foraging below bushes along the side of stream near my house.  What surprised me was that in the same small area was a grey squirrel also foraging.  I would have thought the pigeons would have been most cautious at being so close to a potential predator.