Sunday, 7 February 2016

Dragonflies




2014: Baltic Hawker
 This cover is a real collaboration for it combines the talents of Sweden Post's in-house engraver Lars Sjööblom (who has been engraving stamps since 1982), the graphic designer Beata Boucht and

the cancellation is by Carina Länk.  I think they all live in Stockholm so meeting up would be easy.  The Baltic Hawker (Aeshna serrata) is one of twelve different hawker dragonflies found in Sweden and also one of the largest (wingspan 10 cm) and can be sighted from Skåne up to Uppland and is even the official insect of the Närke province in south central Sweden.  The Swedes have many folk names for the Dragonfly such as Trollslända which means hobgoblin fly, maybe it sports with their elves, trolls and brownies in forests.  There is also a legend that the devil weighs souls with dragonflies.


The Swedish speaking Åland Islands probably have the same legends or maybe even more. Here is another Hawker
2012: Dragonflies
which in England we call the Southern Hawker (Aeshna Cyonea) but in Swedish it is the Blue Darner which I guess is from their other folk name, the Devil's Darning Needle and the legend that dragonflies can sew up your ears or eyelids while asleep as punishment for wrongdoing.  In the real world they like small ponds but hunt away from water and "can be found hawking woodland rides well into the evening". I love the expression 'hawking woodland rides' for it brings to mind their determined and darting flight as they flash along footpaths and hover over vegetation. This species is also is one who is curious of people and will fly close to inspect the interloper before continuing with its patrol.

The Maximum Card is a prepaid postcard with a little watercolour dragonfly that almost looks like a piece of marginalia.  This Blue Darner/Southern Hawker is not found where I live but this one is
the Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) found by weedy ponds possibly perched on vegetation scanning for prey.  The artist of the two cards and stamps is the illustrator, artist and sculptor Torbjörn Östman

  
I enjoy the work of illustrators in field guides but with these philatelic examples they can also indulge their artistic side combined with scientific observation.  An old guide I found in a second hand book shop is a translation of Louis Figuier's The Insect World published in 1868 which features the life cycle of the Dragonfly on its frontispiece. Figuier intersperses his scientific descriptions with moments of lyricism and says of dragonflies:
"They may be seen fluttering about on the water during the whole summer, especially when the sun is at its highest. They fly with extreme rapidity, skimming over the water at intervals, and escaping easily when one wishes to catch them. Nothing is prettier than a troop of dragon-flies taking their sport on the side of a pond or on the banks of a river, on a fine summer's day, when a burning sun causes their wings to shine with the most vivid colours"

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Illustrations -  for more stamp finds See It On A Postcard  

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Winter Scenes

2012: 150th Anniversary of the Railway
A train appears out of a snow storm hauling logs.  A lot of the Finnish network is electrified but happily for the photographer this is not one of them so no pesky electric lines.  The loco number is 2631, a mixed freight and passenger diesel engine. Nice to see the beware of trains sign still shows a steam loco.
1972: Cornelius Krieghoff Death Centenary
  Just the place to be on a winter's day, The Blacksmith's Shop, where one could keep toasty warm by the forge.  The Dutch Canadian artist Cornelius Kreighoff was inordinately fond of winter scenes and he painted many featuring both the lives of the settlers and indigenous people.  The 'It's About Time' blog  features a selection under the heading "Snow in the Countryside" here

Someone well equipped for a Canadian winter is 
1981: Canadian Endangered Wildlife
the bison whose coat is so thick that snow can cover their back without melting.
2011: Wildlife in Norway VI
and this Norwegian Musk Ox coat looks even more luxurious.  It shares with the Yak the distinction of having the longest fur of any animal.
2013: Europa Postal Vehicles

My postman has only recently changed out of his 'summer' shorts so I think he would be quite at home in the snowy wastes of Russia driving this sleigh.
2015: The Snowman and the Snowdog
and enjoy taking time out to play catch with the Snowdog 

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Winter Scenes - for more snowy vistas travel over here

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Cycling Work and Play

Looks a pleasant place to relax and check ones map while travelling through the Åland Islands.  
1991: Tourism (Designer: Anni Wikberg)
Featuring a tandem the stamp is from the Norden series whose common theme in 1991 was Tourism and was also the first time Åland (together with the Faroes and Greenland) had joined the other Nordic Countries in issuing Norden stamps showing Scandinavian culture across the region (the first issues started in 1956).

If our cyclists are on holiday they will want to send postcards and in Slovenia they might be delivered like this
2013: Europa Postal Vehicles
on a Krpan mail bicycle, which is named after the Slovenian folk hero Martin Krpan who had superhuman strength in the stories told by Fran Levstik.  It was especially developed for mail delivery by Pošta Slovenije and is made with a reinforced aluminium frame.  First going into production in 2001 it has a low centre of gravity for stability and can carry quite a lot for the maximum permitted weight is 200kg (the bike weight is 25kg) also a trailer can be attached.
2013: Europa Postal Vehicles
Here is postal vehicle that comes with an integrated cart.  The Nihola electrical transport bicycle is made in Copenhagen by the company that started out building family bikes that could carry two small children and groceries.  The stamp was issued as a commemorative sheet and also as self-adhesive stamps  
2021: Europa 'Visit'
Staying with the enthusiastic cycling country of Denmark here is one of their famous Christiania Bikes with Pierrot and Harlequin in charge.  These three wheelers seem to be able to do everything and one of the light weight models even comes with an integrated parasol.  The Christiania site shows all the ways their three wheeler can be used here in addition to transporting small children  
The first Christiania Bikes 1984

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Cycles: bi, tri, motor - see more pedal power over here 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

On the Water

Definitives 1980s: Sea Birds (Designer: Colleen Corlett)
The Calf of Man referred to on the stamp is a small island off the south-west coast of the Isle of Man which is a nature reserve and home to a population of resident and migrating birds.  Here we see the Shag in all aspects of its sea life although not its powerful dive but
1991:WWF Protected Birds
here it is coming up with a rather slippery catch on a Gibraltar Maximum Card.  When I saw its Latin name on the reverse of the card it intrigued me, 'Phalacrocorax aristotelis'.  The polymath Aristotle (384-322BC) is sometimes called the 'Father of Biology' as his knowledge of the natural world was based on observation and I learned that the Shag is being referred to as Aristotle's Bald Raven because the Ancient Greeks linked the species of ravens, cormorants and shags together.
Not a water bird but as the Peregrine Falcon is perched on a sea cliff I couldn't resist including it as it  searches for a tasty snack on the ledges where perhaps the next set of birds, the Guillemots, are nesting in numbers. Lastly are the cute puffins.
These stamps are from the 2006 'Manx Bird Atlas' set and are by the award winning wildlife artist  Dr Jeremy Paul (the Doctorate is for his marine biology research and perhaps that is why he portrays water so well). The stamp shows a Manx Shearwater who will at the moment be wisely wintering on the coast of South America.
Lastly a Grey Wagtail on a fast running stream on the look out for aquatic invertebrates.  

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Water Birds - fly over to See It On A Postcard for feathery friends.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Winter Wonders

The title on the back of this postcard says it all - "Canada - A Winter Wonderland" 
There is also an added line on the sporting picture at the top "Canada - Hockey's Our Game".   

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Forts, Castles and Palaces

2015: Alderney Forts
The island of Alderney's strategic position between England and France resulted in a lot of  forts being built around its coastline.  During the Victorian period the British heavily fortified the island to keep naval dominance in the English Channel while they kept a wary eye on the French and also to protect the English south coast harbours. The  intention was for the island to be the base for the British fleet and hundreds of cannons were positioned pointing seaward although as the years passed the idea of war with France receded.  The island continued to be heavily fortified until after the First World War.  During the Second World War, after the retreat from Dunkirk, the islands were considered by the British Government indefensible and the inhabitants evacuated, the result was on 2 July 1940 Alderney was occupied by German forces who continued the building of heavily defended fortresses.
 The building of forts on Alderney goes much further back. The Nunnery fort on Longis Bay (shown on the right) is considered one of the finest surviving Roman forts in Northwest Europe and interestingly features both 19th Century and World War Two additions. As part of the Living Islands project (launched in 2013) to encourage tourism by protecting the environment and history a lot of the forts have been made more accessible by scrub clearance and conservation.  I imagine a potter along the coastline on a sunny day with the occasional dip in the sea would be a pleasant way to enjoy both the history and biodiversity of the island.

For more elaborate structures perhaps a visit to the homeland of those German forces who arrived on Alderney might be the next step

Germany issued an attractive definitive set of stamps from 1977 to 1982 on Castles and Palaces, the keen eyed among you will see that West Berlin joined in also.  From left to right
(10)Schloss Glücksburg, a water castle, considered to be one of the most important renaissance castles in northern Europe, is situated on Flensburg Fjord and was also used by the Danish kings. (20) Pfaueninsel, Berlin. The name means Peacock Island which is on the River Havel, both the island and the palace are UNESCO World Heritage sites where free-roaming peacocks wander (30) Ludwigstein, Werratal a 15th Century castle on the River Werra surrounded by woodland
   Next (90) Vischering, a moated castle in the Münster region, an area that is a must for the castle lover because it has the highest concentration of castles, palaces and fortifications in Germany.  Lastly (120) Charlottenburg, Berlin; built in the 17th Century and expanded in the 18th it is the largest palace in Berlin with a very ornate interior.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Castles or Palaces - travel to See It On A Postcard for more 
 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Going Forth

I've chosen a bridge in the news for this week's Sunday Stamps II  theme.  The Forth Road Bridge was closed in October 2015 when one of the pin truss end links was found to have failed (a 2cm hairline crack) in the north tower.  There is a nice shot of one of the central towers with its St Andrew's Cross bracing on the cover photograph and here is a diagram of the north tower fault.   

The bridge is now opened to motor cars, pedestrians and cyclists but the HGVs will have to make the longer journey round until February.  The contractor, Amey, have taken the opportunity to do additional work on the bridge but have had to contend with some awful weather.  The cover issued in 2014 for the bridge's 50th anniversary features four Scottish Regional stamps and one 1964 commemorative stamp.  Royal Mail produced two stamps to celebrate the bridge opening designed by Andrew Restall, who seemed to be their go to guy for any technology issues 
The other stamp of the set shows the iconic Forth Rail Bridge (seen through the suspension cables spans of the Road Bridge)  
which celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2015.  The cover features five of last year's 'Bridges' set 
but of the ten I have only walked over one which is the packhorse bridge in the Lake District's Wasdale valley (Row Bridge) on the right although the ancient Tarr Steps in Exmoor is a popular postcard subject.   The full stamp set can be seen here

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Bridges - cross over here to see more