Monday, 6 September 2010


These may look like fragile spiders and they certainly have the requisite number of legs, but these are not spiders. The Harvestman does not make a web and has a one-piece body. This tangled collection of legs (48 in total) represents 6 Harvestmen all huddled together by our front door! Varying in sizes, the biggest had a leg span of nearly 4 inches.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Common Lizard

One of only 2 types found in the UK (the other being the Sand Lizard), the Common Lizard can be found throughout the UK. Well known for their love of basking in the sun, this particular example was photographed on our front door step! It stayed put for a few minutes before retreating under the step out of our gaze.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Jay, Part 2

I feel happier with this photo which I took through our lounge window this morning. Typically the weather remains gloomy so the colours do not show up as much as I would have wished, but its the closest that I've managed to get to the Jay. Considering the size of the bird its amazing how easily scared off they are....although now regularly visiting the nut feeders, as soon as a (much smaller) Great Spotted Woodpecker arrives, the Jay takes flight!

Friday, 6 August 2010


Its taken literally weeks to get this far from perfect shot. We have had a parent and young Jay visiting the bird table and nut feeders now for the last month or so. But to get close enough for a half decent photo has proved extremely difficult. They are very wary and the slightest movement is enough for them to take flight. I was in the right place at the right time this morning, but typically on a wet dismal day with poor light conditions!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

RIAT Fairford (continued)

As already mentioned, Fairford was not all fast jets. Virtually the entire spectrum of military aircraft roles were represented. Pictured above is a Boeing E-3A Sentry airborne early warning aircraft operated by NATO. Representative of the troop and cargo transportation needs of the military, below is a Luftwaffe Transall C-160D, one of many of these 40 year old transports that the German military continue to operate.

Most well known and widely used of all military transports is the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. From the first aircraft which appeared in 1953, more than 5,000 of these venerable tranports have been produced, and 57 years later, production continues. The example below is an Oman Air Force C-130H model.

Another aspect of military operations is anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. The P-3 Orion long range patrol aircraft entered service with the US Navy back in the 60's, and like the Hercules, continues in production today, albeit in much updated form. Below a US Navy P-3C taxies to the holding point for take off.

Another vital military role is that of the aerial tanker to effectively extend the range of fighter and bomber aircraft. A variety of civilian airliner aircraft have been used as the basis for a tanker, including the Boeing 707 (although in that instance the tanker appeared before the airliner), Vickers VC-10, Lockheed TriStar and the Douglas DC-10. Below is a USAF KC-10A Extender, the military tanker variant of the DC-10 wide bodied airliner. Not only does it have the capability to refuel 3 fighter aircraft simultaneously, it can itself be refued by another tanker.

Finally no air display is complete without an aerobatic team of some description. Using Alpha Jet training aircraft once such team represented was the Patrouille de France. Here 2 of their aircraft are on their take-off run.

Monday, 26 July 2010

RIAT Fairford

Last weekend saw the annual Royal Interational Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. Although still the worlds largest display of military airpower, attending aircraft numbers were noticeably down due in part to commitments of the various air arms that attend, as well as budgetary constraints.

Nevertheless, there were still were still some 200 aircraft in attendance with participants from the UK, USA, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. Amongst those, 4 countries, (UK, France, Jordan and Switzerland) had their display teams present.

Its difficult to say what the "best" aircraft was...personally for me it was the Sukhoi Su-22M (photo above) from Poland, largely as its (a) Russian manufactured and (b) its rarity. Whereas I have seen Su-22's before, a Polish one is definitely a first. And these aircraft won't be around for much longer...Poland plans to retire its remaining fleet within the next 2 years, which will leave few, if any Su-22's operational in Europe.

Other "stars of the show" include the F-22 Raptor from the US (above) plus 2 aircraft which go right back to the days of the Cold War; the B-52 Stratofortress, still in front line service with the USAF after more than 50 years (and they plan to keep them flying for at least another 20 years), and the recently restored, but civilian owned, Avro Vulcan delta-wing bomber which dates back to the 1950's (below)

Most numerous aircraft present was the F-16 Fighting Falcon (above). This highly acclaimed fighter has been in constant production since the late 70's, with various upgrades over the years and is in service with many NATO and several non-NATO air forces. A Royal Netherlands Air Force example is pictured above.

To appreciate the real power of such aircraft, a good place to be is, as I was, at the point that they start their take off run close to the end of the runway. The noise of the afterburners can be quite deafening though, as this departing RAF Tornado adequately demonstrated!

But its not all fast jets, there were several transport aircraft, trainers and helicopters present. Above a German Navy Sea King helicopter is seen hovering just prior to its departure. Below a French Army Gazelle is hover taxiing to the departure point.

More pictures from Fairford to follow soon.

Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane is a regular at most UK airshows. Aside from those in museums there are actually 14 such aircraft currently in the UK either airworthy or in the process of being restored to flying condition. This one however is unique, being the only airworthy Sea Hurricane, one of about 250 standard Hurricane's that were converted to for use off ships during the 2nd World War. Both photo's were taken at Old Warden earlier this month.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Old Warden - Part Two

One of themes of this particular event was to host a selection of types from the famous Miles Aircraft company. They did not disappoint! These opening photo's show the graceful lines of a privately owned Miles Gemini. This particular example, G-AKKH, was built in 1948 and is one of 7 surviving examples in the UK today.

Several other Miles aircraft attended, including the only airworthy Miles Falcon, 2 Miles Magister's, 2 Miles Messengers and the sleek racer, the Miles Hawk Speed Six. The lattter, capable of speeds of up to 200 mph has an incredible record of longevity in air races over the years....its first in 1935, and its last competitive event was (I believe) the 1973 Kings Cup air race.

Above, the Miles Falcon in formation with one of the Magisters.
Below, the racing pedigree of the 1935 Hawk Speed Six is self evident.

And as a fitting tribute to the display of Miles aircraft, Mr J J Miles, the son of Mr F G Miles, the founder of Miles Aircraft, was also present, displaying in his own Russian Yak-52.

These pictures from my last two posts are only a selection of the 50 or so unique and historic aircraft that were on display!

Old Warden

The UK airshow season is well upon us. Despite being in an "age of austerity" the selection of events taking place is impressive and no weekend goes by between May and October without an airshow or fly-in somewhere in the country. The sheer number of such events far exceeds those in any of our European neighbours, and to the best of my knowledge only the USA has more.

Above, a Tiger Moth leads the worlds last surviving Southern Martlet , one of only 6 ever built in 1930.

For the aviation enthusiast and photographer Old Warden offers a unique chance to see increasingly rare British aircraft types take to the air. This privately owned airfield is home to the Shuttleworth Trust which owns a truly impressive collection of rare vintage aircraft, many of which continue to fly regularly. They also have flying replica's of aircraft where the originals have either been long lost or are not capable of flight.

Above, quite possibly unique and maybe never to be repeated...the worlds only airworthy Gloster Gladiator and Hawker Hind in close formation.
Below, designed for competition purposes in 1924, the only ANEC II ever built, and one of the oldest airworthy civil aircraft in the world today.

The collection of aircraft is open to the public every day, however to see them fly, visit on one of the several flying days they hold throughout the year. For details go to:

Friday, 23 July 2010


Smaller, noisy, inquisitive and bolder than other members of the crow family, the Jackdaw is a common sight throughout the country, having adapted to both urban and rural life. For those that are used to humans in close proximity they can be fun to watch, strutting around (they have a very upright stance), cackling, looking for pickings and seemingly daring each other to get closer to a food source. And when you get up close they don't always fly away; some jump out of the way, others stand their ground...particularly if there is food nearby (those pictured were closely watching an occupied table outside a cafe). Like the Magpie, they do have a reputation (not undeserved) for taking bright objects, such as rings and the like, and have been known to take such items when left by an open window.

I'm back!

Having been gently reminded by various persons who shall remain nameless, I'll try to spend some more time on my blog!

So first up we have a Goldfinch, or I should say the return of the Goldfinch (see one of my older postings). By far the most colourful of the finch family, these are still comparitively elusive when compared to the more common Chaffinch and Greenfinch. However this year, for the first time, we have had a pair nesting nearby and they have been regular visitors to our garden since March. They are however far more timid than the above named and the slightest movement seems to scare them off. Thats my excuse for the picture quality!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Who pays?

Now that the dust has settled (deliberate pun!) the fingers are being pointed, and many of them to the CAA and the British Government. In short the allegations are that it took 6 days for the CAA to turn round and say that in actual fact the aircraft manufacturers and engine manufactures have declared that aircraft can operate quite safely in far worse conditions than was the case with the skies over the UK.

What is becoming increasingly evident is that everyone was dragging their heels, no one would make a deciosn, for fear of recriminations if it were the wrong decision. It took British Airways to force their hand by electing to fly 24 long haul flights back to the UK so as to arrive Tuesday evening. Some of those aircraft were forced to divert to Shannon, but some held for 3 hours waiting for Heathrow to open up. Purely by chance as the aircraft were in the holding pattern the announcement came that UK airspace and airports would be opened in an hours time!

Only after the event has the amount of ash in the atmosphere actually been revealed....and we are now told the aircraft can operate perfectly safely in levels of ash 20 times more dense than that which occured over the UK. So have the manufacturers just come up with this figure...of course not...engines have to operate in all sorts of contaminated environments, including volcanic ash (take a flight into Catania which is next to Mount'll regularly fly through and physically see the ash), high level sand/dust from the Sahara and sand storms on the ground. The manufacturers know the precise tolerances that their engines can operate to. So it all goes back to the UK authorities over reacting.....think back to Bird Flu if you want another classic example!

Now the airlines are being asked to compensate all the passengers in accordance with EU regulations....which were put in place by the Governments who forced the grounding of the aircraft in the first place. If the airlines paid up what is being expected I would suspect many would just go out of business*. Someone has to pay, but it has to be the respective Governments, not the airlines.

* a quick airline with just one aircraft with 150 seats that should have operated say 10 flights over the 6 days....typical repatriation cost say £1,000 per passenger x 150 x 10 = £1,500,000. Thats more than they could possibly make in profit over a 12 month period. Factor this by 10 for a 10 aircraft operation, by 100 for a 100 aircraft get the picture!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Normality Returns!

As of 2200 this evening all UK airports are permitted to open for traffic.

This sudden change around was announced by the BBC at 2100 this evening. The decision followed "consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and a reassessment of the risk to aircraft".

This of course had nothing to do with the fact that most of Europe's airspace had opened up this morning, and obviously had nothing to do with Eurocontrol stating on national news earlier today that their estimates of the location and severity of the ash cloud differed drastically from the information provided by the UK Met Office!

The insanity continues

As I write this 5 British Airways aircraft are holding over various parts of the UK and Ireland, with the expectation of getting into Heathrow. Currently all UK airports are closed courtesy of the so called ash cloud. The only airports open appear to be Shannon in Ireland, and those on the continent.

Yet the skies of the UK have actually seen a number of aircraft. Here in South Wales alone we have seen around 20 aircraft overflying, mainly Lufthansa and KLM aircraft heading westbound towards the US and Canada. These flights have been allowed because we are told that the ash is at a lower level at present. German, Dutch and Belgian airspace has been open all day, as has much of France. It seems the UK is becoming increasingly isolated.

Despite all the various test flights (EasyJet, the low cost carrier are doing the latest), no one has found any visible ash clouds, and none of the post flight inspections have revealed any damage to the engines (or any other part of the aircraft). There is no doubt ash up there, but clearly it is widely dispersed, otherwise we would see it, and pilots would see it.

The prize for the most inventive flight must go to the owners of a private Boeing 737 business jet registered N721BA. Earlier today because of the closure of UK controlled airspace, the aircraft took off from Luton, flew all the way upto Scottish airspace at low level (below 5,000 ft) and then climbed to its cruising altitude of 34,000 ft once it was clear of the alledged "ash cloud"!

So the closure of much of the UK's airspace continues....despite no evidence that the ash could cause any damage to aircraft or their engines.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

BA9156 Heathrow to Cardiff

Here's a rare least it is in UK airspace in recent days. This is a British Airways Boeing 747 which flew a test flight from Heathrow out over Ireland to about 15 degrees west, then turned round and landed back in Cardiff...needless to say the reason for the flight was to see if there was any significant ash at different altitudes. We were fortunate enough to see it as it flew over both westbound (at 30,000 ft) and eastbound some 2 hours later at 15,000 ft. The flight did not encounter any problems although the results are still being evaluated.

Other such events took place in Holland (KLM performed 7 flights today) and in Germany, where Lufthansa performed a number of test flights. None of these flights encountered any ash.

The UK authorities continue to keep our airspace closed, until at least 7pm tomorrow. Yet after the successful Lufthansa flights today, there were several revenue services performed out of Germany this evening to the US and Caribbean, all of which flew across northern France..strangely these weren't reported on the national news here.

Enough is enough

Yesterday a KLM Boeing 737 took off from Amsterdam, climbed all the way to 41,000 ft and came back down again. Why? To observe and detect the ash cloud that is supposedly spread over much of northern Europe. What did they find? ash was detected. The aircraft was spotlessly clean when it returned to Amsterdam.

The satellite imagery that I have seen on the net is pretty inconclusive. Clearly the ash cannot be physically seen in the air so we are reliant on infra red imagery to detect it. Yet the imagery from the Met Office shows the "significant levels" way to the north of the UK

The case that the news items always relate back to is that of the British Airways 747 which suffered multiple engine failure over Indonesia....but in that instance the cloud was all too visible to the crew with visibility severely restricted. Clearly that is not the case now, or again the ash cloud would show up using standard optical imagery...besides which we would easily see it from the ground.

The met office sent an aircraft up....but only in to the lower levels that jets would climb through...not levels at which they actually operate. Yes, they said that they detected "significant" ash, but the aircraft was not exactly covered in the stuff when it returned. But, that aircraft only operated at levels that private flights are still being allowed to operate in otherwords they detected ash at low levels, but the CAA has not considered it sufficient to ban private flghts! How then, can they justify banning flights at higher fleght levels?

In truth of course there has been volcanic ash in the atmosphere since the planet formed; the question is "What density is significant?
" No-one so far has provided an answer to that question. Surely with all our technical abilities and resources that question can be answered or at least someone can say that the levels are currently in excess of that which aircraft engines can safely operate?

Every year we have several incidents where huge volumes of Saharan dust blow up into the stratosphere, clearly visible on all optical satellite images. On occassions this has found its way all the way north to the UK. When it has fallen to low level, it produces a very murky sky, and we see hard evidence by the dust covering our cars. Yet in these circumstances flights operate as normal, they fly through the dust, and so far without any damage being caused.

The VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre) has said that the ash cloud is 60% Silica. Guess what the sand from the Sahara is made of? In reality I fear that it is simply a case of, yes there is some ash up there, the public know that an aircraft nearly crashed once because it flew through ash, so lets just ban all flights...that way no-one is responsible if there is an incident.

There are aircraft available with testing equipment that could be used to give accurate readings of the ash levels up there. The aircraft concerned are operated by NASA. Have we, or any affected country asked them for assistance?

In the meantime the public suffer, businesses suffer and whole aviation industry suffers.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Bank Vole

This is a Bank Vole, who we have christened Victor....seems an appropriate name. We've seen him (although in reality it could be a her) scurrying around underneath one of the bird feeders for the last couple of days, clearing up the seed that inevitably falls to the ground. Similar in size to a Wood Mouse but with a much blunter nose and shorter tail. You have to be very patient to photograph one, they move with amazing speed and the shutter and by the time the picture's taken the vole is about 3ft away and you've just photographed some soil!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Volcanic Sunset

The sunset wasn't spectacular but there was a definite unusual shade of green, which we were warned might be the case. This picture was taken about 30 minutes after the sun went down.

UK and Northern Europe Airspace closed

This is a screen shot as of 1930 this evening. UK controlled airspace and most airports are closed (news reports suggest all our closed, but our local airfield has remained open all day with several light aircraft movements). The situation is similar in Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and northern France. Current expectations are that UK airspace will not reopen until 0700 tomorrow morning, at the earliest. There is no visual evidence of the ash cloud although it is noticeable that the sky (which has been clear all day) is definitely hazy around the edges. Expectations are for a colourful sunset....we will see.

Its not just Icelandic banks that cause grief!

This is a screen shot from an aircraft tracking programme called Plane Plotter. It shows aircraft positions in "real time". The lack of aircraft north of a line from Swansea to Ipswich is not due to a fault in the system, but is a result of a volcanic ash cloud (that resulted from an eruption in Iceland) drifting over much of the country. As a safety precaution all major airports north of this line were closed which has resulted in many cancellations and diversions. Aircraft normally overlfying the UK (between North America and mainland Europe) were rerouted much further south than usual so as to avoid this area and the possible risk of ingestion of the ash.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

RAF training flights

Captured by my better half, this is one of several RAF Dominie T1 training aircraft (military version of the HS125 executive jet) operated by 55(R) Squadron based at Cranwell. They are used for aircrew and navigator training. This particular example passed overhead us at about 1,000 ft probably on a practice approach to our local airport at Haverfordwest.

Friday, 2 April 2010

High level clouds....sort of!

These unusual formations occurred a few weeks back. They appear to have formed out of old aircraft contrails following the passage of several aircraft on a similar routing. However it was complicated by those trails passing through a number of existing cirrus clouds. The end result, if perhaps partly man made, is still quite spectacular.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Squirrels and their nuts!

One has to admire the inginuity of Squirrel's. Here are some photo's of a Squirrel attempting to find a way through the defensive barrier of metal bars that surround the feeder.

This particular Squirrel was getting very frustrated and eventually gave up.

However the way to do it, at the end of the day, is very simple. Just do the same as us, take the lid off!

Normal service has been resumed....!

Its been a while since I've made any contribution to cyberspace. I don't offer any excuses for this, other than the fact that I've just not got around to putting finger to keyboard!

Anyway, Spring is here. After 2-3 weeks of lovely sunny, but cold weather during late February through to mid March it is now dull and wet, albeit a little warmer.

Some recent sightings of the feathered variety include a Pied Wagtail (above) which I photographed perched on the roof of our conservatory (the Wagtail, not me, being the one that was doing the perching!).

Below is a Goldfinch about to sample some sunflower seeds.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Uncle Sam leaving his mark over Pembrokeshire!

Last Saturday saw the return of clear skies and an abundance of overflights by numerous aircraft types. These photo's show (above) an Atlas Air Boeing 747-200 and (below) another 747, this time of Southern Air. These are both freighters of 1980's vintage. The Atlas Air was on a US Military flight from Adana (Turkey) to Dover AFB (Delaware, US). I have not managed to work out where the Southern Air aircraft was going from and to.

The recent build up of forces in Afghanistan has lead to a significant increase in military charters. Other flights that overflew that day operating on behalf of the US Military included World Airways (2 x MD-11's, 2 x DC-10 and a 747), Omni International (2 x DC-10, 1 x 757, 1 x 767), Southern Air (2 more 747's) and UPS (1 x 747). In addition there were 3 USAF C-17 freighters.

Interestingly World and Omni in particular derive most of their business from the US Government with several long term trooping and cargo contracts. This has lead them to acquire additional aircraft, (principally comparitively cheap DC-10's) to compliment their existing fleets. Many people will not have even heard of Omni, yet they operate a fleet of 10 x DC-10's, 3 x 767 and 3 x 757, and have a further 6 x DC-10's in storage. This actually makes them one of the largest providers of aircraft to the US military.

The value of these contracts, which can run into millions, will more than pay for these aircraft, and no doubt once the contracts are complete and/or the military action is over, then the aircraft will be retired or sold on...unless of course there is demand elsewhere in the world.

Monday, 1 February 2010


I have seen them occasionally at some distance in the nearby woods, but finally we had a visit from 2 male Bullfinches yesterday. Like the Snipe no doubt the cold weather caused them to visit the garden looking for easier pickings. Bullfinch numbers have been in decline for some years and this colourful bird is becoming one of our rarest finches.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Common Snipe

The snows have returned, along with a large number (I counted 25 in all) of Common Snipe. We have seen a few this Winter but never in such numbers. Despite their name, Common Snipe are a comparitively rare sight for most, being largely a bird of open moorlands and wetlands. However I suspect the recent cold weather and snow has mean't they have had to vacate their usual habitats in the search for food, which is mainly insects and small invertibrates which they dig out with their long beaks.

The snow also signalled the return of our local Fieldfare, who has taken up his usual station on the rockery!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

High Fliers

The return of some clear weather yesterday gave me (in theory) the opportunity to photograph some high flying aircraft. Sadly not that many high fliers, and most inconsiderately stayed well to the north on the airway which routes from the London area towards Strumble Head. Nevertheless I managed this photo of a KLM Boeing 777. This is flight KL743 routing from Amsterdam to Lima, Peru. It crossed more or less directly overhead at 30,000 ft heading west.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Sentinel, aka Freddie!

Still here after 10 days, mostly spent (by day at least) on or around our rockery. Here are a couple more shots of our resident Fieldfare.