Bird of pray: Meet the most vocal member of St Mary's flock... a tame robin who has made the church his hom

It might not be the largest member of the flock, but this bold robin can easily outsing all the other churchgoers.

The bird has become a fixture at 12th-century St Mary’s in Portchester Castle, Hampshire, after fluttering in during the worst snow of the winter.

Reverend Charlie Allen, 31, is delighted with her new red-breasted friend whose vocal contributions to sermons and hymns are easily audible.

Rev Allen said: 'This robin is just so wonderfully tame - and also wonderfully noisy.

Feathered friend of God: This tame Robin has made a church in Portsmouth his home and is one of the most vocal members of the congregation

Feathered friend of God: This tame Robin has made a church in Portsmouth his home and is one of the most vocal members of the congregation

'If there is a service going on in the church he will be right in the middle making as much racket as he can'

The vicar first spotted the bird inside St Mary's Church at Portchester Castle, Hampshire, when there was a heavy snowfall last month.

Since then the chirpy chappy has made the 12th Century Anglican church overlooking Portsmouth Harbour its home and has received considerable attention from the other parishioners.

Feathered friend of God: This tame Robin's favourite treat is crumbs of cake given by people who are visiting specifically to take its picture

Tamed: He likes seeds and water but his favourite tipple is crumbs of cake by given people who are visiting specifically to take his picture

Not only does the friendly male bird enjoy seeds and water left out for it by the vicar, but he is even treated to crumbs of cake by people who are visiting specifically to take its picture.

The vicar said: ''We have put bird seed and water out for him at the back of the church and the children like to feed him after Sunday service.

A welcome addition: Reverend Charlie Allen is delighted with her newest parishioner and doesn't mind cleaning up after the bird. The robin is treated to seeds, water and crumbs of cake by members of the congregation

A welcome addition: Reverend Charlie Allen is delighted with her newest parishioner and doesn't mind cleaning up after the bird

Church perch: The vicar first spotted the bird inside St Mary's Church at Portchester Castle, Hampshire, when there was a heavy snowfall last month

Church perch: The vicar first spotted the bird inside St Mary's Church at Portchester Castle, Hampshire, when there was a heavy snowfall last month

'Some visitors have been coming into the church after visiting the nearby tea rooms with little bits of cake.

Rev Allen has also revealed how the robin makes a delightful contribution to service with his 'beautiful birdsong'.

Pugh: bird of pray

She added: 'the church has very good acoustics so he is always heard.'

'He is generally very nosey. He really likes to get amongst things and some days he goes to sit with the choir.

'The regular congregation are all quite at ease with him flying around during a service.

'For weddings it has been very touching and poignant to have him with us. Sometimes I think more pictures are taken of him than anyone else.

'And even at funerals he has lightened the atmosphere.'

Rev Allen added: 'I don't know a lot about birds but I have been astonished just how tame he is.

'He eats out of people's hands and visitors to the church are delighted.

'He moved in when we had a cold snap. He will occasionally fly outside but if he comes back to find the door closed, he'll wait by it to be let back in again.

But while the bird has become a welcome addition to the church, the Reverend does have to tidy up after the little fellow, but she doesn't mind.

She said: 'He's a pleasure to have around and we don't mind clearing up after him,' adding:'He has become quite a fixture.'


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Lowry's 'hidden' football painting could set £4.5m record at auction... but what would he make of his beloved Manchester City today?


A painting by 'matchstick' artist L.S. Lowry which has not been seen in public for two decades could set a new world record for his works by fetching up to £4.5 million at auction.

The Football Match was painted in 1949 and is one of the most eye-catching depictions of the sport by the Manchester City-supporting painter, famed for his depictions of Salford life.

The artwork is in the hands of a private collector and is estimated to go for between £3.5 million and £4.5 million when it is sold by Christie's in May.

Manchester millions: The Football Match is expected to fetch up to £4.5m at auction

Manchester millions: The Football Match is expected to fetch up to £4.5m at auction

Football fan: Lowry was a Manchester City supporter

Football fan: Lowry was a Manchester City supporter

A TALE OF TWO CITIES: MAN CITY IN 1949

Bert Trautmann

Lowry's love of football seemed inextricably tied to his love of working class life; he felt they went together.

But his beloved Manchester City are anything but common these days and the artist would hardly recognise his old team now.

Among the richest clubs in the world, the side that was held by lowly Notts County in the FA Cup last weekend cost more than £200million.

They currently hold the British transfer record having bought Brazilian Robinho for £32.4million and their striker Carlos Tevez is reputed to be the best paid player in England on more than £250,000 per week.

It was a little different in 1949, the year that Lowry painted The Football Match.

At that time Man City counted German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, pictured above, among their number.

The former Luftwaffe pilot and prisoner of war has his own place in football legend having broken his neck in the 1956 FA Cup Final but played on to collect a winner's medal.

And he did it for barely more than a tenner.

A year after that cup triumph, Jimmy Hill successfully campaigned for players maximum wage to be raised from £20.

Tevez may be renowned as something of a lionheart on the field by today's standards, but he also wears a snood to keep out the cold.

Hundreds of his signature stick figures can be seen gathered at a match on a washed-out looking pitch between terraced houses and factories with billowing chimneys.

Christie's has described the painting as 'a modern masterpiece'.

Lowry, who died in 1976 at the age of 88, was known for his simple depictions of working class life.

He painted largely in his spare time while working for the Pall Mall Property Company in Manchester, but still achieved much recognition during his life.

He was the royal artist at the Queen's coronation in 1953 - the year after he retired - and nine years later became a Royal Academician. In 1967, his work featured on a stamp.

The money involved in art was a little different then though.

His 1947 work A River Bank was bought by Bury Council for £150 in 1951 - he would likely never have imagined that it would be controversially sold by the borough in 2006 for £1.25 million, at a Christie's auction.

The sale of The Football Match could outstrip the previous highest price for a Lowry, also sold by Christie's, when Good Friday, Daisy Nook fetched £3.8 million in 2007.

The auction house has sold 125 of his works since June 2006, together totalling £29.4 million.

The highest price for a Lowry football painting was £1.9 million when Going To The Match was sold in in 1999. Like the work to be sold on May 26, the canvas was 28 x 36 inches.

Philip Harley, head of 20th century British & Irish art at Christie's London, said: 'The Football Match by L.S. Lowry is the ultimate work for passionate connoisseurs of Lowry's work and of football.'

Rachel Hidderley, Christie's international specialist and director of 20th century British art, added: 'The large-format, panoramic, bird's-eye composite view of Lowry's own landscape perfectly captures the spirit and drama of a town
gripped by the excitement of the Saturday football match.

'The empty streets peopled only with occasional women, prams and shoppers contrast the busy crowd watching the football match.

'The artist warmly captures a Northern town relaxing during a weekend, following a busy working week, which he depicted so often in his revered industrial scenes.'

It will be sold during Christie's sale of 20th Century British Art.

The painting toured in London, the US and Paris shortly after it was completed before entering a collection in 1950.

Lowry was famously celebrated in the chart-topping hit Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs by Brian And Michael in 1978.


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Mona Geezer: Was da Vinci's young male apprentice the model model for that famous enigmatic smile?


Art lovers have for centuries debated the reason for her enigmatic smile.

Now it appears Mona Lisa may have been hiding a remarkable secret – she was a he.

An art historian claims the model in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was one of his male muses, a young man called Gian Giacomo Caprotti, whose nose and mouth bear striking similarities to those of Mona Lisa.

Similarities: Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti believes that the model for both the Mona Lisa and St John the Baptist (right) was Gian Giacomo Caprotti

Caprotti, who was also known as Salai, worked as an apprentice with the artist for more than two decades from 1490 and they were rumoured to have been lovers.

Some experts had already suggested Leonardo could have based his masterpiece on a self portrait.

But Silvano Vinceti, a researcher who has been analysing the painting using state-of-the-art high-magnification techniques, also claims to have found the letter ‘S’ in the model’s eyes, which may be a reference to Salai.

Self-portrait: Leonardo died in May 1519 aged 67 and was presumed to be homosexual

Self-portrait: Leonardo died in May 1519 aged 67 and was presumed to be homosexual

Several of Leonardo’s works, including St John the Baptist and a drawing called Angel Incarnate, are said to have been based on Salai.

Mr Vinceti, president of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, said these paintings depict a slender, effeminate young man with long auburn curls and almost identical facial features to the Mona Lisa.

‘Salai was a favourite model for Leonardo,’ he said. ‘Leonardo certainly inserted characteristics of Salai in the last version of the Mona Lisa.’

Most experts believe the model for the Mona Lisa, which hangs at the Louvre in Paris, was Lisa Gherardini, the 24-year-old wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant.

They say Leonardo started painting her in 1503. But Mr Vinceti claims he may have started in the late 1490s in Milan, coinciding with the time he built up a relationship with Salai.

His claims have caused a stir in the art world, with many dismissing the idea that Mona Lisa was a man. Da Vinci expert Pietro Marani said the theory was ‘groundless’.

The art professor at Milan’s Politecnico university said: ‘All Leonardo subjects look like each other because he represents an abstract ideal of beauty.

They all have this dual characteristic of masculine and feminine.

‘The work began as the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, but over the years it slowly turned into something else; an idealised portrait, not a specific one.

‘That’s also why you have this fascinating face that transcends time and transcends a specific person, and why all these theories keep piling up.’


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But will it fit in my hangar? The Harrier jump jet for sale on eBay at £69,999

It was the iconic fighter plane that helped Britain triumph in the Falklands War.

Now aircraft enthusiasts are being offered the chance to snap up a Harrier jump jet to keep in their back garden.

The last of the first generation of the revolutionary aircraft is being sold on the auction website eBay.

Watch the video below... Bargain: The world's last first generation two-seater Harrier jet is on sale on eBay at an asking price of £69,999 complete with both cannon and missile storage pods

Bargain: The world's last first generation two-seater Harrier jet is on sale on eBay at an asking price of £69,999 complete with both cannon and missile storage pods

Buy it now? This is the cockpit of the 1971 Harrier jet which has missile storage pods. The aircraft, decomissioned in 1997, has undergone 12 months of refurbishment

Buy it now? This is the cockpit of the 1971 Harrier jet which has missile storage pods. The aircraft, decomissioned in 1997, has undergone 12 months of refurbishment

Pugh

For internet shoppers keen to buy this piece of military history, it’s as easy as ordering a book or CD – all they need do is click on ‘Add to cart’.

However, first they will have to meet the asking price of £69,999.

The sale is particularly poignant as the Government announced to widespread outrage in October last year that it was scrapping the country’s fleet of Harrier jump jets to save money.

Considered one of the country’s greatest technological achievements, the British-built military jets were the first in the world to take off and land vertically.

Introduced by the RAF in 1969, their ability to hover above the ground enabled the aircraft to fly in and out of battlefields that conventional jets could not reach.

The 700mph plane stamped itself on the national consciousness when it played a crucial role in the UK winning back the Falklands after they were invaded by Argentina in 1982.

It shot down 25 enemy aircraft without a single loss in air-to-air combat.

In action: Harrier T2 XW269 on active service in Gutersloh, Germany

In action: Harrier T2 XW269 on active service in Gutersloh, Germany

£69,999: The world's last first generation two-seater which originally saw service in West Germany during the Cold War

£69,999: The world's last first generation two-seater which originally saw service in West Germany during the Cold War

Ebay Harrier

The plane also served for five years in Afghanistan. Following this jet’s decommissioning in 1997, it was rescued from the scrapyard by an aircraft restoration company.

Current owner Chris Wilson, 33, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who served as a mechanic in the RAF, said it would be possible to make the Harrier air-worthy.

It has been stripped of its Rolls Royce engine but Mr Wilson said one can be sourced.

He added: ‘Without the Harrier we would never have been able to retake the Falkland Islands. It’s an awesome piece of equipment – a truly classic British engineering feat.’

Will it fit my hangar?

Will it fit my hangar?


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This lot really DO work at a snail's pace: Meet the mighty molluscs who monitor the pong at a Russian sewage plant


It's a snail-paced solution to pollution problems.

But a St Petersburg waterworks is putting six giant gastropods to work monitoring emissions from a sewage incinerator.

The African snails, the size of small rats, are attached to sensors that will show them getting sick if they take in too much bad air.

Mollusc maintenance: Six African snails fitted with heart monitors and sensors are being used to monitor pollution levels at a sewage treatment site in St Petersburg

Mollusc maintenance: Six African snails fitted with heart monitors and sensors are being used to monitor pollution levels at a sewage treatment site in St Petersburg

Snail sewage? Three of the creatures breathe clean air, while three have air from the chimney at the incineration plant

Snail sewage? Three of the creatures breathe clean air, while three have air from the chimney at the incineration plant

Environmentalists have said the move is just a publicity stunt aimed at distracting attention from unsafe practices at the incinerator.

But the company, Vodokanal, said it was a serious attempt to improve control over what comes out of the smokestack.

The plant uses conventional gauges to check emissions, but company officials said it also wanted to keep an eye on compounds that might be produced in concentrations too low for the gauges to detect or that could harm humans if combined with other substances.

Olga Rublevskaya, director of wastewater disposal at Vodokanal, said: 'Live organisms won't deceive anyone about the danger of pollution.

'This is very strict control for us. Now we are under the watch of snails and crayfish all the time!'

Sensitive: The company behind the scheme, Vodokanal, also uses crayfish to monitor water pollution

Sensitive: The company behind the scheme, Vodokanal, also uses crayfish to monitor water pollution

Accurate: The snails become sick if the quality of air is too toxic and were selected because they have lungs and breathe in a similar way to humans
Accurate: The snails become sick if the quality of air is too toxic and were selected because they have lungs and breathe in a similar way to humans

Accurate: The snails become sick if the quality of air is too toxic and were selected because they have lungs and breathe in a similar way to humans

The company is also using crayfish to monitor the quality of city water.

The snails, which grow up to eight inches long, live in a fish tank inside the city's Southwest Waste Water Treatment Plant.

They are attached to sensors that measure their heartbeat and other vital signs. Three breathe clean air, the other three diluted air coming from the plant's chimney.

If the sensors register an unfavourable change in their behaviour and condition, it would be an immediate signal that air coming from burnt sewage residue was dangerous.

'The African snails, which are able to live for up to seven years, will also help to test the influence of possible accumulating substances over a long period,' said Sergei Kholodkevich, an ecological researcher who dreamt up the idea of using the creatures.

Mr Kholodkevich, who works at an institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said he chose snails because they had lungs and breath air 'like people do'.

Novel approach: The South-West Waste Water Treatment Plant in St Petersburg, where the snails live

Novel approach: The South-West Waste Water Treatment Plant in St Petersburg, where the snails live

But Dmitry Artamonov, who heads Greenpeace's St Petersburg office, accused Vodokanal of hiding information about the plant's effects on the environment.

'The issue is that the local treatment facilities are meant for treatment of domestic waste, but not for treatment of industrial waste that contains toxic substances and also gets dumped into the sewage waters,' he said.

'As for snails, it can be hard for them to indicate the environmental danger immediately, because such substances as dioxins, for instance, can accumulate in an organism over a long period of time and only decades later provoke cancer.'


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Small but perfectly formed: Tiny water flea has 31,000 genes, more than any other animal


  • Daphnia pulex is the first crustacean to have a blueprint made showing the sequence of chemicals that make up genetic code

It may be a simple form of pond life, but in terms of genetic complexity the humble water flea beats humans hands down.

Scientists have learned that the 1mm-long creature has more genes than another other animal known.

In total, around 31,000 genes are packed into its DNA. In comparison, humans have only around 23,000.

Daphnia pulex: The common water flea - just 1mm-long - has more genes than another other animal known

Daphnia pulex: The common water flea - just 1mm-long - has more genes than another other animal known

The common water flea - Daphnia pulex - is the first crustacean to have a blueprint made showing the sequence of chemicals that make up genetic code, or genome.

At first glance Daphnia seems ordinary enough, having a transparent body, jointed limbs, compound eyes and a simple nervous and circulatory system.

But its genome is not only unusually large but full of surprises.

'More than a third of Daphnia's genes are undocumented in any other organism - in other words, they are completely new to science,' said Dr Don Gilbert, one of the researchers from Indiana University.

Its peculiar genetic make-up mirrors unusual behaviour that has long been studied by scientists.

The animal has unique ways of responding to stress, with some species producing exaggerated tail spines, neck teeth or protective helmets when threatened by predators.

31,000 genes are packed into the water flea's DNA. Its peculiar genetic make-up mirrors unusual behaviour that has long been studied by scientists

31,000 genes are packed into the water flea's DNA. Its peculiar genetic make-up mirrors unusual behaviour that has long been studied by scientists

Daphnia can also adapt to wide ranges in acidity, toxins, oxygen concentrations, food quality and temperature.

The creatures are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. They thrive in the absence of males by clonal reproduction, until harsh environmental conditions favour the benefits of sex.

A high rate of gene duplication is the main reason why Daphnia has so many genes, say the researchers writing in the journal Science.

'We estimate a rate that is three times greater than those of other invertebrates and 30 per cent greater than that of humans,' said genome project director Dr John Colbourne, also from Indiana University.

The scientists hope that sequencing the Daphnia genome will lead to a better understanding of how organisms respond to environmental changes.


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It’s Friday, you could use some photobombs (31 Photos)
































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