Sunday, 2 August 2015

Immature Merlin

John Dowson an attendee on the Wednesday morning sessions has been going a little further afield now the classes are enjoying a sabbatical.  He came across a small raptor on a drystone wall not too far from Pateley Bridge.  As you can see it is a male Merlin.  If you look closely at the feathers on the wing you can see white fringes on the wing-tips.  This would indicate that it is a young bird.  I forgot to ask John if he took this through his mobile phone attached to a telescope, or his new bridge camera.  The latter seems more likely for the quality involved.

We may see Merlins if we are lucky during the Autumn course starting towards the end of September.  It is a possibility at Blacktoft, Patrington Haven or even at some estuary sites.  We are more likely to see a flying individual, and we are unlikely to get so close!
(c) 2015 John Dowson

Friday, 31 July 2015

Purple Hairstreak - New Butterfly Species for Me!

Today the need to publicise vacancies on my autumn course took me in the early morning sunshine to Beverley Westwood.  My nephew brought a 'blue' butterfly to my attention.  I was virtually speechless to see my first ever Purple Hairstreak butterfly.  It was just over eye level on a Hawthorn bush.  I managed a few quick pictures on my phone, before dashing back to my car the quarter of a mile for my telephoto lens.  Ben stood guard on the butterfly, and of course it stayed there the whole time, but flew off just as I arrived back.  Luckily, we saw it fly into a nearby oak tree.   Unfortunately, it was a lot higher up, but it remained in the same area for at least 30 minutes.  There was at least another one a few branches away, and there may even have been a third.  It was very unpleasant attempting to take photos as the whole period we were bombarded with something like "sweat flies", which would not leave us in peace.  If I return I intend to  take an anti-insect spray, and a hat - if only I had one of those anti-mosquito hats!  However, it was a great sighting, as this is a species that I've always wanted to see, but they spend a lot of time high in the canopy of trees.  This must be the only day this week that they were visible in these trees because the weather has been completely unsuitable every other day!
Purple Hairstreak - taken on a mobile
Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Bloody Cranesbill
 Hoverfly Species
 Betony [ID Jan Davie]
 Yorkshire Broomrape
 Rosebay Willowherb

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Who are they Interested In?

Today my nephew and I travelled over 50 miles visiting nature reserves, and well-known local walking places, putting up posters advertising my Autumn classes.  En route we came across 2 very obliging Little Owls.  Ben had to take the photo as the view was better from the passenger side.  We were there less than 10 seconds, to avoid disturbance, but the pictures were quite pleasing!
Little Owls (c) 2015 Ben Coneyworth
 Ditto

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Wayside Waders

This afternoon I was testing out the new highly technological course vehicle, by using a well-known route down to Sunk Island. We were on our way there when we noticed hundred of gulls in a partially-flooded stubble field. Most of them were Black-headed Gulls, but there were also some pristine Common Gulls, and they were surrounded by large numbers of Rooks.  

Black-tailed Godwit
 Black-tailed Godwits
A little further on I was quite surprised to see a single small Ruff, plus some Black-tailed Godwits still with traces of breeding plumage, and then some smart Golden Plovers. When we opened the window, it was clear that there were also some Dunlin in the area. The light was a bit tricky, so we carried on and then approached from the other direction to make use of the better light. I had to pass my camera to my nephew, as from this direction the birds were on his side. Unfortunately, the birds were a little further off this time, but he did manage to snap a few godwits and the plovers. 
Golden Plover
 Ditto
 Ditto

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Goodbye Bessie Mark VI

Bessie has provided invaluable road miles since she went into my service almost 7 years ago.  At that time the first rumblings of the recession were being felt, and she's continued on her merry way through the worst times.  It seems rather ungrateful to be changing her now, but in less than 20 hours time she'll be history.  Together we've travelled just over 100,000 miles, but now is the time to part company.  Bring on her replacement!
Bessie on the day her new livery was added, and she got covered in mud on the return from Shiptonthorpe!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth

Yesterday afternoon my nephew cycled over, and just before he left he thought he'd spotted a Hummingbird Hawk Moth in the small area of wild garden at the back of the property. It was very gloomy, so I put the ISO up to much higher than normal, but as you can see there is still a large amount of blurring. Anyway, you can still see what it is. I hope it returns in brighter weather, if we ever have any bright weather this summer.

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto - completely out-of-focus!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Sketch of Tolkien Re-discovered after 70 Years

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien by Fred A. Farrell, published in 1934
In The Advocate of 9 August 1934 a head and shoulder portrait of an academic (above) was published with the accompanying text: “Professor John Tolkien has been Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford University since 1925.  He served with the Lancashire Fusiliers from 1915-18.  Born of a South African family in 1892, he was educated at the King Edward VI. School, Birmingham, and Exeter College, Oxford.  He was Professor of English Language in Leeds University in 1924-5.”   This sketch does not appear to have been published for over seventy years until it resurfaced earlier this week.   The use of John rather than Ronald suggests that Tolkien was probably not actually consulted about the text.
‘New’ drawings of Tolkien are not unearthed every day, especially from the period before the publication of The Hobbit in 1937, so this image of the author dating from 1934 is particularly interesting.  What was Tolkien doing in 1934?  He had probably fairly recently completed the first version of The Hobbit.  He was a busy academic, lecturing and teaching on a daily basis, and was also working on several academic publishing projects.  The poems ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’ and ‘Looney’ had also been published for the first time earlier that year.  It is interesting that although he had not published any fiction at this point, he was considered of sufficient international significance as a Catholic to be featured in an antipodean religious publication. 
In 1934 The Advocate was a six-penny weekly newspaper specialising in supplying newsworthy items to Catholics in Melbourne, Australia.  The Advocate still appears today, but is now a monthly magazine and a web page.  The feature itself appeared in the regular column, “A Letter from London”, but the only clue as to authorship was that it was supplied by “The Advocate’s Special Correspondent.”  In 1930 and earlier the column was supplied by a named author, Denis Gwynn.
'Intelligence Officer's Shelter, Prisoner Awaiting Re-examination' by Fred A. Farrell
The portrait is signed by F.A. Farrell, and accompanied by the single word Oxford.  It is possible that the likeness may have been obtained from a photograph.  However, Charles Noad, a leading bibliographer and scholar of Tolkien, believes that the drawing is more likely to have been taken from life.  He contends that it would almost certainly be neater if it had been copied from a photograph.  Hopefully, further research may answer this question definitively.
'Daylight Raid by the 6th Gordons at Roclincourt' by Fred A. Farrell
The enigmatic initials of F.A. Farrell reveal the interesting fact that the artist was Frederick A. Farrell – who was Glasgow’s official war artist in the First World War.  This was the only known instance of a city sponsoring a war artist!  As his career and talent have suffered from a great deal of neglect I’m taking this opportunity to flesh out his biography a little here in the hope that someone will be able to discover more about him.  
Only known photo of Fred A. Farrell (centre). Published in Glasgow's The Bulletin, 1 May 1920
Frederick Arthur Farrell was born on 29th November 1882, the third son of John Farrell, curator of Glasgow’s Trades House, and Margaret Farrell, so he was precisely a decade older than Tolkien.  He originally trained as a civil engineer, but at the time of his attesting in 11 December 1915 he gave his occupation as “Artist (Etcher)”.    He was called up on 13 June 1916, but was discharged on 26 November because a gastric ulcer he’d suffered from since 1906 became inflamed.  Then, the following month he went to the western front for 3 weeks as an artist with the 15th, 16th and 17th Highland Light Infantry in Flanders.  On the home front he drew Glasgow women at work in munitions factories, shipyards and engineering works.  He returned to France in November 1917 for two months attached to the 51st (Highland) Division.  It was this latter attachment which resulted in his 1920 book: The 51st (Highland) Division War Sketches.
'Banding 6-inch Chemical Shells, Cardonald' by Fred A. Farrell
In the immediate aftermath of the war Glasgow Corporation selected 50 out of 99 of Farnell’s paintings for a substantial exhibition in the Banqueting Hall of their City Chambers.  Since that time Farrell’s work was not seen in public until Glasgow Museums organised another exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One in 2014.  This exhibition closed last November.  However, an accompanying book: Fred A. Farrell: Glasgow’s War Artist was published last year, and is still in print. 
The new book displaing Farell's War Art with essays by Joanna Meacock, Fiona Hayes, Alan Greenlees & Mark Roberts
Unfortunately, the recent book does not include a postscript to briefly describe Farrell’s post-war career.  What follows are my attempts to pull something together after spending two days searching the internet, so there must be gaps that could be filled in by more dedicated research.  After the war Farrell is known to have continued to produce etchings of London landmarks, continental scenes, and Scottish topography.  His portraits are less widespread, but some of his war work included studies of men in combat situations, as well as commanding officers in repose.  In the early 1930s Farrell’s “line portraits of eminent Catholics in the Old World” were appearing fairly regularly in the Advocate magazine, and his 1935 Advocate obituary stated that his work appeared frequently in London’s Universe, which was another Catholic periodical.  The suggestion is that Farrell too was a Catholic, which seems likely, but so far I have been unable to prove this.  It is possible that his portraits appeared first in an English journal, such as the Universe, before publication in Australia. 
John O'Malley by Fred A. Farrell
Fr. Francis Woodlock, S.J.
At least another four portraits appeared in the Advocate in the months preceding Tolkien’s: John Francis O’Malley (Aug 1933), Fr. Francis Woodlock (Sep 1933) [above], W.R. Titterton (Feb 1934) and Dr J.M. Villasante (Jun 1934) [below].  None of these have the apparent sketchiness, almost unfinished quality, of the portrait of Tolkien, and Tolkien is the only figure in which the head is looking down.  For this reason Tolkien’s portrait fails to exude some of the self-confidence and directness which the others exhibit.  If anything Tolkien’s slightly pursed mouth and frown give the sitter a pensive look.  Perhaps Tolkien was extremely busy when the portrait was executed, and was simply concentrating on a book, or working on a difficult passage of translation?  Whatever the reason it is evident that the tone of this portrait is quite different from the others.  Tolkien also differs in that no date is attached to Farrell’s signature, whilst most of the others are dated, and this dating betrays that the sketch of Villasante was drawn two years before the illustration appeared in print.  Therefore, it is possible that Tolkien’s portrait may also have been drawn as much as two years earlier than August 1934.
R.W. Titterton - journalist
 Dr J.M. Villasante - Lecturer in Spanish at UCL
Apparently, an obituary was published in the Glasgow Herald of 23rd April 1935, but at the time of writing I have not managed to track down a copy.  However, the Advocate reveals that Farrell died after a short illness while he was touring Scotland.  Meanwhile the obituary in The Times on 25th April 1935 is a little more forthcoming on the cause of death, but more reticent on his career.  The full notice reads: "Mr. Frederick Farrell, who died at Mares(?), Scotland on Monday from pneumonia, was an etcher of topographical subjects, a water-colourist, and a member of the Fine Art Trade Guild.  He did many illustrations for newspapers and his works were published by Vicars Brothers" - so his war work was completely overlooked!  From this obituary I'm able to confirm that Farrell died on 22nd April 1935.  
The picture and text from The Advocate have been kindly supplied by Brazilian solicitor and Tolkien enthusiast and collector, Eduardo Ferreira, which were sent to him by a friend, who knew of his interest in Tolkien.
I hope this post stimulates interest in Farrell and encourages someone to unearth more facts about this talented and undeservedly neglected artist.
If anyone wants to see the whole 1934 page of which Tolkien was a part, here's the link: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/171898324?searchTerm=tolkien&searchLimits

Saturday, 18 July 2015

July Butterflies

On Wednesday my nephew wanted to see what all the fuss was about Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's lovely Brockadale reserve, so we travelled all the way to North Yorkshire, actually only an hour's drive away. The weather was sunny, but very breezy, so this may have affected the insects somewhat. My classes usually visit in late June, so this may be another reason why some things were absent. The Kestrel chicks we normally see had flown, and there was no sign of the Little Owls. 
Marbled Whites
 Dark Green Fritilliary
 Male Banded Demoiselle
 Ditto
 Male Banded Demoiselle
 In Flight
 Male Banded Demoiselle
 ditto
 2 males in flight
 Female Banded Demoiselle
 2 males in flight
The first section seemed a bit past its best with the Clustered Bellflower much taller than in previous years, and some flowers already dead and gone. However, a few Marbled Whites were still flying about. We walked through the woodland and when we reached the river at the other side of the grassland the stream was chocked with male Banded Demoiselles with a few females present too. A large orange butterfly was getting chased by a paler version, and the latter settled near us, and proved to be a Dark Green Fritillary. At the sheltered woodland edge there were plenty of Meadow Browns, Ringlets a few Large and Small Skippers, and a Comma.
 Large Skipper
 Small Skipper
 Ditto
 Mating Beetles
 Marbled White
 Marbled Whites
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Small Tortoiseshell
 6-Spot Burnet-Moth
 Centaury
 Cornflowers
 Bloody Cranesbill
We went on to Rifle Butts Quarry, where there were a few Bloody Cranesbills, and most of the same butterflies, minus the fritillaries. On to Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit. However, here the Greater Knapweed wasn't out in profusion yet, so most of the hundreds of Marbled Whites were concentrated on an expanse of thistles off the main path on top of the escarpment. It was a fine sight