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Monday, 29 February 2016

Owls, Vultures and Hawks! (At the New Forest Raptor Centre)



Carole and I arrived at Ringwood in the New Forest on Sunday 28th February 2016. We were a little earlier than expected so we drove around the New Forest and came upon a raptor centre. We thought it would be a grand way of killing a few hours before checking into our room above a restaurant in Ringwood town.

As we went into the raptor centre a falconry display was going on. We caught the tail end of a falcon or hawk of some sort. As we sat down, the falconer brought out a Turkey vulture. He said this particular bird was from all across the Americas. It flies at ten thousand feet and can smell and spot a rotting carcas at many miles. Many birds of prey rely on their keen eyesight and some have little sense of smell. The Turkey vulture is an exception to this rule. Its sense of smell is well developed and it has huge nostrils. Its eyesight is not as sharp as most birds of prey, yet it is still much keener than human vision.

After the Turkey Vulture went back to the compound, the falconer brought out two Eurasian Eagle Owls. The larger one was female with pointed ears. The smaller one was a male with ears that were a little less pointed than the female counterpart. The falconer spoke a lot on these birds of prey. He said that the two were bonded as friends but would not mate. He went on to say that this is common among owls. Sometimes the female likes the male and will mate. On other occasions, she will bond and tolerate the male, though not mate.

When a male Eurasian owl tries to woo a female of the same species, he will bring an offering. Something like a dead rodent. If the female accepts, she may well go on to mate with the male. If she rejects the offering, she may attack and try to eat the male. It depends on how the female is approached and if she likes the look of the male.

As said previously, sometimes the female will bond in a way of tolerance of the male without actually mating and producing offspring. How this gets passed the rejection of approach and passed trying to eat the rejected male to bonding; I don’t really know. I just took the falconry expert’s word for it. As one can see from the pictures. They are magnificent birds of prey.

Another thing he told us was concerning the wise old owl with huge knowing eyes. He said this is a myth and that all owls are rather stupid and dim on the intellect scale. Their brains are small compared to their advanced eyesight.


Hawk or Falcon

Hawk or Falcon as we entered raptor centre

The Turkey Vulture

































Sunday, 21 February 2016

Good SciFi Books Attract Avid Readers








New Sci-fi books are always looked out for. Good sci-fi books are in the realms of the reader opinions. For good or for bad, best new sci-fi books can only be hoped for by the author. Therefore, keep readers happy and hope for good sci-fi book reviews.

For one of many such top sci-fi books Click Here

War of the Worlds Adaptation Retro Science Fiction Novel (The Last Days of Thunder Child)

Deny yourself nothing where good old retro SF is concerned. Come aboard H.M.S. Thunder Child and see another perspective of the War of the Worlds adventure unfold in dreadful detail. See the uncanny alien events through the eyes of the crew. 

Growing Interest in Adaptation

The Last Days of Thunder Child is a War of the Worlds adaptation on sale in the USAand to be sold in the EU from August 2016, seventy years after the passing of the great H.G. Wells - the master science fiction writer of the late Victorian age.

Fascinating new perspective.

The pastiche story goes aboard the battleship/ironclad and the readers see the Martian invasion unfold via the crew's perspective. At first, just rumour and speculation from semaphore stations. The plucky battleship is destined to confront and fight the alien invaders, as in H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds the old retro sci-fi story. Today it is more of an alternative history as well as Science Fiction. It could also be a steampunk story due to its Victorian setting. It all makes for a fun read of Victorian battleship versus alien invaders from Mars.

The story offers two lines of adventure: 

1. The noble Scottish Captain McIntosh and his crew aboard HMS Thunder Child as they cruise around the channel into the North Sea and up along the south-east England coastline.

2. On land, the shy and reserved English Albert Stanley, a minor administrator from the Ministry of Defence - the messenger who brings HMS Thunder Child's last minute orders. Instructions that stop the ironclad going to the salvage yard.

The Final Outcome

The adaptation story has the alternative history - retro science fiction - steampunk feel about it. Readers can purchase the novel in paperback or on Kindle download USA.


War of the Worlds Fans

Have you ever enjoyed H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, an all-time classic Science Fiction story written in 1898? It tells of a Martian invasion that begins in Britain in the County of Surrey just South West of London. Close to a town called Woking. In fact, if you ever visit the town there is a statue of a Martian tripod in the shopping centre. If you have read this story, you will know of the ironclad H.M.S. Thunder Child that is forced to defend the paddle steamer full of refugees. Do you wonder what it would be like to join the crew a few days before the event? You could follow the brave men on their terrible journey around the coastline and up the River Blackwater to Maldon and the final confrontation with three Martian tripods? 

From Mars, the meteorites shot through space bound for Earth and conquest over all lifeforms that live there. The Martians were unfeeling towards mankind as humans are to sheep or other lesser creatures.

The meteorites land in fields and woodland. After a time, there emerges the terror of mankind. Colossal tripods, before which, humanity flees as the onslaught of the fighting machines begins. People are destroyed by heat rays and black toxic gas. Those that survive are forced to flee the pursuing devastation.

Aboard H.M.S. Thunder Child, the crew are blissfully unaware of the savage terror. Only the new Captain knows and only upon the journey, at sea, do the crew begin to learn the unbelievable news from semaphore stations.

Fear grips the population and hordes of refugees make for the coastline to flee the country. Their world is gone and only death and destruction follows. Ships of all nations and sizes must aid the mass evacuation...

Amid all of this, the mighty little ironclad, H.M.S. Thunder Child must play her role to the full and rely on the bravery of a small crew.








Friday, 19 February 2016

Scotland's Super League Battleship of the Times - The Great Michael


The Great Michael, the Great Michael, the Great Michael. Why is it that hardly anyone knows of this galleon? It was state of the art technology back in 1507 when plans were first laid and construction began. This was ordered by Scotland’s successful King James IV. This period of time is often overlooked by many casual history buffs. However, stumbling upon such snippets of information, concerning such a great galleon, is what makes the casual reading of such obscure history a delight.

The Great Michael was a super league ship of the time. She was revolutionary and caused an arms race because all European Monarchs were jealous of the ship. It was not a superpower that had built such a ship. It was Scotland. For a short time, King James IV was leading the way in Naval supremacy.

The up and coming Stewarts of Scotland were investing in the future. King James IV wanted to build the biggest and the best. The ship was a sight to behold when launched in 1511. She had twice the displacement of England’s The Mary Rose. The young and grand King Henry VIII’s pride and joy. In this time England and Scotland were firm and old enemies. England’s ship was launched at the same time of 1511. In many ways, it might have been an arms race. Another ship was built by Henry VIII of England in 1514. He did not want to be outdone by Scotland’s the Great Michael. The ship was known as Henry Grace à Dieu (The Great Harry)

It is strange how the Great Michael faded into obscurity. She would have been about longer than the Mary Rose who had over thirty-three years of service. The English ship fought in conflicts with France and Scotland. She may have faded into obscurity too, like The Great Michael, but for the catastrophic accident that made the galleon capsize during the Battle of the Solent in 1545. Those last few dreadful moment of the ship’s life immortalised the Mary Rose, because the, by now, old King Henry VIII was watching from the shore when this event happened. It was a moment of dreadful sensationalism that bought the gallon immortality in historical memory. Such a thing is right, but I can’t help feeling that this wonderful Scottish galleon does not get the recognition it rightly deserves. I think it is simply that her service and fate were not sensational enough and only a few historians and ship enthusiasts know of her.

The Great Michael was sent by King James IV to ally with the French Navy in 1513. The War of the League of Cambrai was in full swing. France was at war with the Papal States and other European powers began to join sides to honour alliances and treaties. Scotland joined with France, Venice and the Duchy of Ferrara.

England joined with the Papal States, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Duchy of Milan and the Swiss Mercenaries. Young King Henry VIII of England went to France and fought with the Holy Roman Empire while Scotland led an ill-fated invasion of England which was under regency control of Queen Catherine of Aragon.

The Great Michael had been hired by the French King Louis XII along with two other Scottish galleons. The Margaret and the James. The great galleons were very expensive to run and the loan to an old ally was a sure way of running the fine ships from another richer nation’s purse. The grand ship would never return to Scotland because King James IV was killed fighting at the Battle of Flodden. Also, the cream of Scotland’s nobility fell at the furious battle too.

Scotland’s financial situation had become desperate overnight. The late James IV left his kingdom in the hands of his baby son and Queen Mary Tudor (Elder sister of English King Henry VIII.) She had to be regent with help of the remaining Scottish nobility while the infant king grew up. The Great Michael was sold to the French Navy in the following year of 1514 for a pittance of what the galleon was worth.

She was renamed the Great Nave of Scotland and some say she was left in ports and hardly ever put to sea. There were rumours that The Great Michael (Great Nave of Scotland) took part in the Battle of the Solent thirty-one years after being sold to France. This is feasible, but there is no concrete proof that the ship was with the French fleet. She would still have been a formidable vessel thirty years later and I can’t see why such a galleon would not have been used in the French fleet. If she was, no one knows what became of her in later years. There are no records to date about the Great Michael's fate – Scotland’s wonderful galleon of the seas.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Castle Rising in Norfolk, England


On the way back from our Sunday trip out, Carole and I decided to take a look at a place called Castle Rising. It was a small turn off along the A149 going between Hunstanton and King's Lynn. We had already had a nice day at Wells Next the Sea and Hunstanton. Therefore we decided to throw in a ruined castle visit for a good merger of day visits. We went into the car park and made our way to the tea rooms to buy a ticket and had a wonder about. I sometimes wish the powers that be might consider renovating such buildings to try and give them the old look of what they once were. Still, it was enjoyable walking the narrow corridors and stone spiral staircases. It seemed to retain some of the old world feel. 

The Castle is in the county of Norfolk and was constructed in 1138 by a Norman noble called William d'Aubigny II. He was given the title of Earl of Arundel. In this time the Anglo-Norman would have spoken French and the surrounding lands would be filled with peasant Anglo-Saxons who hated the overlords with a passion. William d'Aubigny II would have needed a strong fortification as did many of the Norman Barons and Earls spread through out the land.   
    
Almost two hundred years later, In the year 1330, Queen Isabella fell from power. She had been married to King Edward II who was brutally murdered some years prior. Isabella had ruled as regent for her infant son until he came of age. Her son Edward III took her regency powers from her upon coming of age. She was housed in Castle Rising as a prisoner. Sometimes her son, King Edward III would visit. When Isabella died, the castle went to the famous Edward Black Prince.

I wonder how it may have looked in those days. I would love to be able to peep back in time and wonder the corridors as the Normans once did.















The Messaih Duck that Walks on Water.


We have fun at odd moments when out and about working. We go out into the fields and visit isolated farms just to empty bins. Sometimes we have to go miles along a track just to get a bin. Well,people pay their council tax and must have their bins emptied. I don't mind because I enjoy the odd sortie across the farmlands in the bin lorry.

We see all sorts of wildlife in the Fenland and some of the things do make us laugh. Today, we reversed the bin lorry down a dirt track towards a cottage. In the side garden was a rather large pond. We saw this white duck standing upon the water and laughed. It looked like a duck Messiah that walked the water. 

Our driver, Alex laughed and said, "Classic! I've got to get a photo."

"Me too," I replied as we both got out our mobile phones and began to take a few snaps of the holy looking white duck.

Of course there is a logical explanation but that would spoil it. :D


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Steam Train at Sheringham Station

My wife, Carole does love a day out in the sticks. We live close to the Norfolk border in Fenland and enjoy the coastal road of the A149 as it goes past King's Lynn and along the coastal road. There are so many quaint little villages and towns along the way.

On Sunday, we got up with no general plan. It was cold. Icy cold, but the sky was clear blue. On the spur of the moment, we decided to hop in the car and go to a seaside town called Sheringham along the A149 Norfolk coastal road that I mentioned. We got into the car and set off on a merry way.

Carole put her REM CD on in the car and we cruised along to King's Lynn and then onto the coastal road. Along the way, everything looked like summer from the warmth of our car because the day was so clear and blue. However, when we stopped and got out the cold had that crisp bite to it. We passed through a number of villages and passed a stately home called Holkham Hall where the 7th Earl of Leicester lives. There is a huge nature reserve around and Carole saw a Peregrine Falcon in the trees on the seaward side of the road. There were bird watchers with tripods out in groups. I wanted to stop but had a couple of cars behind me. Therefore I missed the moment and went on passed Wells Next the Sea.

We arrived at Sheringham some time later and decided to have a fried breakfast. This we did, but not before I got some snaps of an old steam engine that was at Sheringham station. We had a pleasant walk around the town after breakfast and then went back stopping at Wells Next the Sea for another look around. The place was rammed with day trippers. - a bustling hive of activity. All in all, a very pleasant Sunday.

I was pleased to see the steam train, but I would have loved to have got a photo shot of the Peregrine Falcon too. Still, there will be other days.

Mother Nature Bestowed Her Blessing Upon Our Work Crew This Morning

We set off from the works yard towards the Fenland town of Whittlesey today. We are just beginning to see the daylight creeping up, over the fields, earlier each morning as the daylight draws out. Spring is approaching. Because the day was clear though rather cold, we were all in high spirits. We were travelling in the bin lorry across the Fenland farms. The conversation was light hearted and good. The driver Alex was enthusiastic about some of his various projects while Dave and myself spoke of things too. 

Alex got onto the subject of cameras and how good the morning would look with the river we were driving parallel with. Suddenly he pulled the lorry into a lay by and we jumped out to catch the morning promise of a fine day to be. We took several shots with our mobile phone cameras. The day was full of promise and passed very pleasantly for all of us. Mother Nature bestowed her blessing upon our work crew nice and early this morning. The day went well and was very pleasant - very pleasant indeed.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Skin Divers with Iron Buttocks - My Word! (Those Chaps Look Awfully Small)



I think anyone that does this, must have some arsehole. One would need it in such circumstances. It brings to mind just how big sharks are with an awful lot of teeth. The divers look like 'nothing more than' a light snake. The bars look rather flimsy too.

Yes, I take my hat off to these people who take such risks. I don't think it is stupid and pointless. I believe there is much knowledge to be gained. The photo is awesome and I can't comprehend what must be going through the diver's minds. I've a fair idea what would be going through mine. The picture is absolutely WICKED! :D

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Amazing Line of Jim Dunaway's Wolfpack Photo


I was so taken back by this photo of a wolf pack that I came across on LinkedIn. It is from Jim Dunaway and the words below are his. What an amazing blurb about the dynamics of a wolf pack.



"A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other."