Science Museums & South Bank

Friday, May 18, 2012: I started the morning by walking over to Regent's Park. There were several flocks of Long-tailed Tit. I encountered the first one right at the park entrance. There are a number of exotic waterfowl in the park, but I think it's safe to say that if it's outside the fenced area, it's not part of the collection. Thus the Tufted Duck and Little Grebe count. The Little Grebe was quite similar in appearance to the Australasian Grebes I had seen in Australia in the fall of 2009.

Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese were outside the fenced area, and apparently part of established populations. The BOU considers all three established exotics (category C, which has 6 subcategories), and I consider that equivalent to established exotics on the ABA list. The Rose-ringed Parakeets that were flying around the park get the same treatment. I found a Eurasian Reed-Warbler in one of the reed beds. A Great-spotted Woodpecker was a new bird for my British list.

A number of European Herring Gulls where sitting on top of some of the boats. Although AOU doesn't recognize this as a separate species, DNA analyses indicate that it is closer to many of the other Eurasian gulls than to the American Herring Gull.

Various other birds were present, as was a Gray Squirrel (introduced in the 19th century). I saw several Eurasian Wrens, which once again demonstrated how different their song is from the Winter Wren. While the wrens kept popping up, a Chiffchaf proved remarkably troublesome. Technically, I saw it, but I wouldn't have been able to ID it without the song, and it would not let get a decent look, even when it sang about 10 feet in front of me.

Natural History Museum

I returned to the hotel after grabbing a croissant across the street (a delayed breakfast), then headed off to the Natural History Museum. This was the first time I'd used the Oyster card in the tube, and it worked perfectly. I'd not gotten off at the South Kensington station before, and was surprised to find an extensive underground tunnel that led even beyond the Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.

I wandered around the Natural History Museum for a while, paying particular attention to the dinosaurs (and especially their arms, hands, and feet), and noting the vast difference between the bird-related dinosaurs and the others. I also visited the bird collection. While doing so I had in mind Alan Feduccia's contention that birds are not derived from theropod dinosaurs, contrary to nearly all recent phylogenetic analyses. I can see why he thinks that, and we all know that basing a phylogenetic analysis on morphology can lead to some real howlers (grebes & loons, turtles & anapsids, and high-level groupings among placental mammals come immediately to mind). However, I don't think Feduccia presently has enough evidence to do more than raise some doubts.

They had a number of stuffed birds there. One was a Great Bustard, with a sign about how it has long been extirpated from England. Of course, they are not extinct. I saw a number of them 5 days ago in the Crimea.

A cast of the London Archaeopteryx specimen was in another section about the development of life on earth. I made a point of looking at that too (and photographing it). I figured that that was enough. I get burned out at museums if I look at too many items, and I still had another museum to go.

Science Museum

After a walk in the museum's garden, I went next door to the Science Museum. They had an interesting exhibit on the development of steam power (starting with Newcomen). I was surprised to see a used Apollo command module. I could tell instantly it was real by the scorching. Those high speed returns from Lunar orbit scorched the capsules very heavily. The one they have is Apollo 10, which was the dry run for the lunar landing. They even took the Lunar Module down close to the surface, but left the landing for the next mission.

The Apollo capsule was part of a larger exhibit on rocketry and aeronautics. While it's not the National Air and Space Museum, it was a nice exhibit and I learned some things from it.

The final exhibit I visited concerned the impact of technology on daily life over the last 200 years. They had numerous examples of the household and other products used in various historical time periods. I got a sandwich at one of their cafes for lunch. I skipped the Victoria and Albert, which I visited the other time I was in London. Also, I'd reached my exhibit limit for the day!

South Bank of the Thames

I returned to the hotel for a bit, going back out later to walk along the south bank of the Thames. The section I did was recommended by one of the guidebooks I have. I started on the north side of the Thames at Westminster walked across Westminster Bridge and then turned downriver. The Westminter Bridge was quite crowded, and it only got worse on the south bank, reaching a peak at the London Eye. I thought it might not be so busy there due to the overcast weather. I was wrong!

The buskers took over past the eye. Most were in costumes of various sorts. Eventually, the crowd thinned, but it later regained strength, and the Millennium Bridge, was crowded. I crossed the Millennium Bridge and returned. Then I continued on to London Bridge. Somewhere in here I added European Greenfinch to my British list. Other birds along the river included numbers of European Herring Gulls and Rock Pigeons, a smaller number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, along with a Eurasian Coot and Mallard.

When I got to London Bridge, I crossed back north, and headed for the Monument Tube Station. I caught a Circle line train back to the hotel.

The GPS in the iPhone proved extremely useful today, not just for navigating the streets of London, but also the paths in Regent's Park.

I saw or heard 33 species today, 8 of them new for the trip, including 3 lifers. That brings my trip total to 188, including 111 lifers.

Hilton London Metropole, London, England