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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Raptors over the Heath

The beautifully-marked white male Buzzard spent some time this afternoon looping and soaring over the garden. At one point it was joined by a female Sparrowhawk, still in 'display plumage'. The garden is still full of young Starlings, driving everything else away and squabbling over every tiny scrap of food or drop of water!

What a Lark: still no Meadow Pipit!

Today, as Linda and I were returning home from carrying out 'hedgehog duties' at the Church, she noticed a small brown / buff bird running about on the road a hundred metres ahead. With only rear views, we both hoped it was going to be the perfect end to lockdown listing: a Meadow Pipit. As we drew nearer it turned to reveal the thick, stubby bill and head markings of a Skylark. Most strange: it really did behave like a Mipit...

Oh well: with the relaxation of travel advice, that would seem to be the end of the six weeks or so of listing in the local area. I never did come across an example of what is generally stated to be the most widespread British bird species, but I reckon 101 wasn't a bad total.


Well, no luck with the comet last night... The main issue is that it doesn't get dark enough to see a 7th magnitude object until midnight, by which time the current location of the comet (between Auriga and Perseus) is very low. Still, there was a beautiful waxing crescent Moon, with the 'dark' portion being illuminated by sunlight reflected from the Earth. This phenomenon is often referred to as 'the new Moon in the old Moon's arms', and was first correctly explained by Leonardo da Vinci: his drawing is at the bottom!

Monday, 25 May 2020

Comet Swan: possible first glimpse tonight!

Yet another possible 'Great Comet' seems to have fizzled out, but nevertheless Comet Swan should be visible with binoculars (or better still - a telescope) tonight.
At around 10.00pm, once the Sun has properly set, just above the western horizon you should be able to pick out both Venus and Mercury: just a little 'up' from them is the bright star Capella: Comet Swan is to the right (north) The chart below should help (Bear in mind it's a thin waxing Moon, so also quite cool!!)

Mercury and Venus: the Moon joins in the fun!

Last night an incredibly thin crescent Moon was just to the south of Mercury and Venus: a beautiful and quite unusual sight in the twilight sky. Now all we need is a decent comet!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Yellow Wagtails return to the Heath!

For the past three years there has been at least one breeding pair of Yellow Wagtails near Hemblington Church: I'm happy to say they're back this year! Linda and I carried out the hedgehog and survey rota today and were rewarded by fantastic views of a Yellow Wagtail: the female wasn't so confiding, but was present. What a terrific bird to have on the local patch.

Wildflower survey at Hemblington Church

Linda and I visited the churchyard this morning to change the water in the 'Hedgehog area' and conduct a brief survey of the wild flowers. Thanks to the work of two local groups, BADCOG and BVCG, the churchyard is simply beautiful at this time of year: Oxeye Daisies, Yellow Rattle, Pignut, Black Medic, Vetch and many other species thrive, attracting bees, moths and butterflies.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Mercury and Venus: a rare meeting at sunset

Last night at around 9.30 the clouds cleared from the west just in time to witness a very close conjunction of Mercury and Venus. These are the two inner-most planets of the Solar System and are therefore always close to the Sun in the sky, so it was a great opportunity to catch them side by side just after sunset. Normally Mercury is quite hard to see: it's only around 3,050 miles in diameter and never strays far from the Sun, but being close to the brilliant Venus last night made it really easy to find.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are two or three meteorites that are considered to have their origins on Mercury, adding to the many known achondrites from Mars and the Moon. Venus? Well it is possible: certainly Venus is covered with large impact craters, but it would be very unlikely for surface rocks to make their way upwards through the planet's dense atmosphere. However, there may well be material out there that was blasted into space before this formed.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Thorpe Marsh and a garden full of Starlings

As promised earlier: some other bird delights from this morning's dawn raid on Thorpe Marsh - what a terrific place it is! The Yellow Flags remind me of the first time I heard a Corncrake in the Outer Hebrides...

Meanwhile, back home, the garden is absolutely rammed with young Starlings: what sociable and amusing creatures they are (if somewhat noisy en masse!)