What the Commuter Saw : 14th June 2016

A rather chaotic start to the day because of a fatality on the line near Witham. All very sad. The result, however, was that Colchester Station was full of people wondering when the trains would start running again. The station staff were all very good, but they couldn’t tell us when the police forensic crime-scene team would finish. Consequently I took the opportunity to take some rather more leisurely photographs of things around the station that would be missed in the normal course of events. The local wildlife provided entertainment as well.
Most striking initially were the huge and confused cumulus congestus clouds which were boiling round the horizon and threatening to dump large amounts of rain on us at some point:
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A particularly large one was looming closer as the wind carried it towards us along the line from the west:
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Then I spotted one of the resident station collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) apparently trying to reconstruct a nest from a great deal of material which was now scattered on the platform, apparently after some form of nest disaster. Each twig was waggled and twisted before being selected or rejected:
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After the collared dove had flown off to find more satisfactory construction material, I spotted some striking stands of herb robert (Geranium robertianum) growing amongst the stone ballast beneath the rails themselves. The red colouration seems to be a response to extreme drought conditions, but quite what the mechanism is I’m not sure:
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The the ballast itself offered photo opportunities – along with much processing in Photoshop:
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A turquoise grating also caught my eye:
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Then continuing the blue theme, the spring clips holding the rails to the sleepers looked quite interesting as potential images:
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After that, some rail sections piled up waiting for use offered further potential, thanks to Photoshop:
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Then a pair of magpies came strutting along by the fence, prodding and poking everything that offered even the faintest hope of fun, until they, too, flew off:
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Finally the trains started coming through again, and although there were some fairly spectacular skies I managed to nudge the focus button so everything until Chelmsford was totally out of focus. Sigh… Still, the few photos between Chelmsford and the Lone Oak east of Shenfield give a sense of the angry and confused sky:
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The journey home that evening was remarkably smooth, considering that all the trains were probably in the wrong place by mid-afternoon. The sky had cleared, and didn’t really offer much until the poplar field to the west of Chelmsford:
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After Chelmsford the sky became rather dramatic rather quickly, with a thin veil of cirrostratus steadily covering the sky (and creating sun dogs) while beneath this layer the bands of altocumulus were merging steadily into an increasingly thick and continuous layer:
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On gym-school taxi service, I managed to grab a final view of the sun as it set over the adjacent field, and a shot of bird’s-foot trefoil – also known as ‘eggs-and-bacon’ – (Lotus corniculatus) in the still of the evening when there is no wind to blow it about:
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More thunder clouds predicted for the next couple of days. Summer, eh…..??

Author: Richard Lindsay

Having worked for 20 years in the UK statutory nature conservation agencies as Peatland Specialist in the Chief Scientist Team, I then moved to the University of East London where I ran the nature conservation degrees for several years. Now I mainly undertake research and support peatland conservation activities, including the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, within UEL's Sustainability Research Institute. I also paint.

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