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Saturday, 20 May 2017

509) Songbirds of Great Britain: A set of 10 Stamps issued by Royal Mail, UK on 04.05.2017:

509) Songbirds of Great Britain: A set of 10 Stamps issued by Royal Mail, UK on 04.05.2017:

Where have I heard about the “Songbirds of the British Isles” before?:

Oh, yes. When we read the “Ode to a Nightingale” in College and when I read various works of authors on the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and more recently, when I was researching the Arthurian Tarot, I came across the term “Songbirds of Rhiannon” in the Welsh legend “Mabinogion”, the earliest prose stories of the literature of Great Britain compiled around the 12th Century AD from the earlier oral traditions.

The Welsh Goddess Rhiannon (also referred to as the “Great Queen”) was accompanied by magical birds whose melodious songs could literally “awaken the dead and lull the living into a soothing sleep”. Her three birds were believed to heal the sick and wounded. Rhiannon’s birds could charm the listener into losing track of time as he/she immersed himself/herself into the melodious singing. Often the birds appear together in Celtic symbolism as an association with the “Triple Goddess”.  The birds also “possess super-natural powers” and also symbolise the flight of the spirits to the otherworld.

An artist’s impression of the three Songbirds of Rhiannon, positioned together into an infinite circle, surrounded by intricate Celtic infinity knots/patterns.

A celebration of the songbirds: found in Great Britain:

The Songbirds of Great Britain, (like the Songbirds of Rhiannon), can “stir the soul” with their uplifting choruses, from simple melodies to complex repertoires wherever they may be spotted – from gardens, hedgerows and parks – which all echo with song.

The greatest glory of birds found in the British Isles is song. The chorus starts in January, swells to a peak beginning May and then gradually dies down. Birdsong predates humanity and is perhaps the source of our own musicality – the more one listens, the richer it gets.

This 10 – stamp issue explores some familiar and less will-known Songbirds, whose songs define the British spring and early summer – from birds with simple songs to those with complex repertoires.

The following ten songbirds found in Great Britain have been depicted, by Royal Mail,  in this set in two se-tenant strips of five stamps each all having “First Class” values:

An image of the First Day Cover (FDC) titled “SONGBIRDS” with all the ten stamps affixed thereon in two strips of five each. The Cancellation hand-stamp is inscribed around the outer periphery “FIRST DAY OF ISSUE WARBLETON. HEATHFIELD” and shows a songbird singing in the middle. The Cancellation date is “04.05.2017”

The ten stamps on “SONGBIRDS” released in 04.05.2017 in two strips of five each

The specifications/technical details of these stamps are:

Issue Date: 04.05.2017; this stamp set was launched in time before International Chorus day on 07.05.2017;

Designer: Osborne Ross; Illustrator: Federico Gemma;

Printer: International Security Printers;

Process: Lithography, Self Adhesive; Size: Sheet: 192 mm x 74 mm;

Stamp Value: 1st

Interesting tit-bits about the 10 Songbirds represented on these Stamps:

Great tit “Parus major

Great tits are among the first birds to welcome the spring and they do so with varied songs that are strident, vigorous, monotonous and unmistakable. The most common consists of loud, much repeated syllables often transcribed as “teacher-teacher-teacher”.

Wren “Troglodytes troglodytes”:

If one hears a song of astonishing volume, it is a safe bet that it is a wren. One can hardly believe that such a small bird can make “such a din”. The song is hard and dry and rattly and is usually marked by a prolonged trill at the end.

Willow Warbler “Phylloscopus trochilus:

The first willow warbler tends to announce the arrival of spring. These birds fly in from Western Africa to spend the summer in the British Isles, quite a long journey for such a small bird, coming along the “Africa-Eurasia Flyway”. The song is a soft, lisping descent down the scale, much repeated with subtle variations.

Goldcrest “Regulus regulus:

These are Britain’s smallest birds and they have a thin little song to match. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly higher-pitched than those of its cousins. It is mostly heard from the top of a conifer tree in a pretty trickle of golden notes.

Its colourful golden crest feathers give rise to its English and scientific names. This bird is called the “king of the birds” in European folklore.

Skylark “Alauda arvensis:

Skylarks are essentially ground birds that make their living from open spaces of grass, heath and arable fields, often remaining inconspicuous. During spring, they are mostly seen airborne, darting upwards as if they have been wound up on an invisible string.

The verb “skylark”, originally used by sailors means “play tricks or practical jokes”. The bird is the subject of poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley “To a Skylark”, George Meredith “The Lark Ascending”, Ted Hughes “Skylarks” et al. It is also the bird emblem of Kumamoto Prefecture (Japan).

Blackcap “Sylvia atricapilla:

Blackcaps have often been claimed as Britain’s “champion songsters”. Their song is fruity and fluty but mixes in more challenging notes and phrases. They like to sing from cover and are not often seen – they are “secret superstars”.

Song Thrush “Turdus philomelos:

Song thrushes are great at repetition. They take a phrase, run through it two or three times, then come up with another and repeat that. They like to do from a high, often exposed perch – the top of a mature tree is best, but even a lamp-post will do.

Nightingale “Luscinia megarhynchos:

Nightingales do not just sing at night, they also sing all day. It is the most strenuous option taken by any songbird. The song is a crescendo of whistles, a deep throbbing drumming and strange radio-phonic sounds of pure melody.

Cuckoo “Cuculus canorus:

The two syllable song was once heard everywhere in the British Isles, but is now a rarity. In the right places, often low-lying and damp ones, the cuckoos arrive for a six-week frenzy of sound, from late April to the beginning of June.

The male’s song “goo-ko” is usually given from an open perch. During breeding season, the male typically gives this vocalisation with intervals of 1-1.5 seconds, in groups of 10-20 with a rest of a few seconds between groups. The female has a loud bubbling call. The song starts as a descending minor third to a fourth as the season progresses, and in June, the cuckoo “forgets its tune” and may make other calls such as ascending intervals. Also, the cuckoo seems to have a form of absolute pitch as it tends to sing in the key of C.

We are woken up every morning during the April to June, with the cuckoos singing outside our bedroom window, perched on trees. It begins with one bird, joined by another and then a whole lot of birds join the “cacophony” making it almost impossible for anyone to sleep late, but is  one of the best possible songs, with the scales rising from the lower ones and rising to a crescendo and starting again. I can hear the din outside in the trees as I am typing out this post.

Yellowhammer “Emberiza citronella:

The yellowhammer’s song was once the song of traditional farmland. This is a hedge-loving bird singing a much-repeated phrase that is traditionally written as a “little bit of bread and no cheese”, although it is more like “bread-bread-bread-bread-cheeeeeese”.

Post Cards:

A set of three post cards was issued affixed with stamps having “First Class” values on three Songbirds: Cuckoo “Cuculus canorus”, Blackcap “Sylvia atricapilla” and Goldcrest “Regulus regulus”

Presentation Set:

 The Stamps are placed in a beautiful Presentation Set containing a Description/Souvenir sheet and the 10 Stamps in two sheets of five stamps each. This Presentation Pack gives some fascinating insights into these Songbirds, exploring where to find them, what to listen for etc.

Songbirds Stamps Souvenir Sheet:

An image of the Description/Souvenir sheet released on the occasion, together with all the characteristics as the First Day cover (FDC) but without the personalisation. This is a great memento for every nature and bird lover. The Cancellation hand-stamp is inscribed around the outer periphery “FIRST DAY OF ISSUE WARBLETON. HEATHFIELD” and shows a songbird singing in the middle. The Cancellation date is “04.05.2017”


Bank of England Banknotes:

1) A Ten Pounds Banknote issued on Charles Dickens (Writer) also depicting a cricket match from his novel "The Pickwick Papers"

2) A Ten Pound Banknote issued on Charles Darwin (English Naturalist) also depicting the HMS Beagle, Darwin's magnifying glass, a humming-bird & flora that he may have seen on his voyage.

3) A Five Pounds Banknote issued on George Stephenson (an Engineer) also depicting "Rocket" his Railway Locomotive and Skeene Bridge on theStockton Darlington Railway (1825) - since withdrawn

4) A 20 Pounds Banknote issued on Michael Faraday (a Scientist) issued in 1991, since withdrawn from circulation in 2001 

5) Great Britain's first circulating polymer Banknote issued by the Bank of England in the denomination of 5 Pounds on 13.09.2016

Inspirations from Scottish History (Clydesdale Bank Banknotes): 

1) The Legend of King Bruce & the Spider on Banknotes
2) Commemorating Sir William Arrol and his creation the Forth Rail Bridge by issues of Britain's first ever 5 Pound Polymer Banknote

Banknotes from Bank of Scotland:

1) The Ryder Cup Commemorative Banknote: A 5 Pounds Banknote issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2014 

British Crown Dependencies:

1) Specimen Banknotes from the States of Jersey

2) Coinage and Currency from the States of Jersey

3) Currency & Coinage of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

4) Currency & Coinage of Gibraltar : An Overseas Territory of Great Britain

5) Coinage of Gibraltar: (A British Overseas Territory): An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by the Tower Mint, UK in 2010
6) The Isle of Man: An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by Pobjoy Mint, UK in 2015

7) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15.04.1912 - 15.04.2012): An Alderney Five Pound Coin Commemorating the Maritime Legend

8) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

9) Coins & Currency of Bermuda

10) The Bailiwick of Jersey - Presently circulating coinage - Pounds and Pence 

11) St. Helena & Ascension Islands: An Uncirculated Coin Set from 2003 

12) The Legend of the "HMAV Bounty" is interwoven with the heritage of the Pitcairn Islands: An uncirculated coin set from Pitcairn Islands in 2009 depicting the icons/relics of the Bounty minted by the New Zealand Mint

13) Currency of the Falkland Islands: A British Overseas Territory (BOT) Pounds & Pence

14) Falkland Islands Penguins: 50 Pence Coin Series: The first Coin in the Series of four coins: the Rock-hopper Penguin 

15) Isle of Man : A British Crown Dependancy : A new set of coins released in April 2017 (minted by the Tower Mint, UK) 

Famous Battles

1) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to St. Helena: (Part I): A One Crown Commemorative coin issued by the Ascension Island (minted by Pobjoy Mint UK) 

2) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to st. Helena: (Part II) 1) A 5 GBP Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK. 2) A"Drie Landen Zilverset" ( ot the "Three Lands Silver set") containing coins issued by the Royal Dutch Mint including coins of Netherlands, Belgium and UK

3) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint UK

Gold Coins:
1) Gold Sovereigns issued in 2013 & 2014 by MMTC-PAMP in India under licence from the Royal Mint, UK, carrying the "I" Mint Mark

2) Gold Half-Sovereigns minted by MMTC-PAMP in India in 2014 under licence from the Royal Mint UK bearing the "I" Mint Mark 

Silver Coins:

1) A 20 Pound Silver coin minted for the first timr by the royal Mint UK: reverse design carries the famous St. George slaying the dragon design found on Gold Sovereigns 

British India Coinage:

 1) East India Company Quarter Anna Copper Coin which is one of the first issues under the Coinage Act 1835

2) Victoria Coinage: When she was Queen and afterwards Empress

3) Edward VII: King & Emperor  Coinage

4) George V King Emperor Coinage

5) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors Coinage 

Other British Royalty: 

1) Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (1952-2012): A Five Pound Commemorative coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK

2) Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953: A Five Pound Coin minted by the Royal Mint UK in 2013, depicting the Imperial State Crown

3) The Royal Coat of Arms of the UK: Great British 2012 Coin Set (Uncirculated) issued by the Royal Mint UK

4) Prince George's Christening Ceremony celebrated with coins issued by the Royal Mint UK in 2013

5) The British Empire:  A Case of Numismatic "segregation": (Guest Post by Rahul Kumar)

6) 1) The Portrait Collection: Various Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on Coinage 2) The Fourth & Final Circulating coinage of the Portrait designed by Ian Rank-Broadley and the First Edition of the portrait of the Queen made by Jody Clark

 British Coinage:

1) The contribution of the Great British One-Pound coins in keeping alive the historical legends/emblems/heritage of the UK (1983 onwards)

2) Transformation of a Five shilling Coin (Crown) into the UK Twenty-five Pence & then the Five Pound Coin

3) Transformation of the Two Shilling Coin (Florin) Coin into the UK Ten Pence

4) The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea: A Two Pound Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK celebrating the milestone

5) The new 12-sided One Pound UK Coin introduced into circulation on 28.03.2017

 Commemorative British Coinage:

 1) Commemorating the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens: A Two pound coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian Era

 2) Commemorating 50 Years of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - presently called the World Wide Fund for Nature by issue of a Fifty Pence coin by the Royal Mint, UK

3) Coins commemorating London Olympics & Paralympics (2012)

4) Commemorating 150 Years of the London Underground : Two pound Coins minted by the Royal Mint UK, showing the "Roundel" logo and a train emerging from a tunnel 

5) Commemorating the 100th Birth anniversary of Christopher Ironside with his" Royal Arms" design on a 50 Pence coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK 

Postage Stamps:

1) 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - the Universal Guidepost to Liberty and Freedom

 2) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

3) Celebrating the Centenary of Agatha Christie's first Crime Novel and 40th Anniversary of her passing away by issue of a set of 6 stamps by Royal Mail, UK 

4) Queen Elizabeth II's 90th Birthday: A Souvenir Sheet issued by the Royal Mail, UK featuring four generations of Windsors on 21.04.16

5) Songbirds of Great Britain: A set of 10 Stamps issued by Royal Mail UK on 04.05.2017 

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