Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Fitbit, Google and monopolisation!

I've had a Fitbit of various sorts for nearly ten years: they are terrific little bits of kit! They monitor all your exercise, calorie burning, pulse rate and even tell you the time! I can reveal that I have averaged over four miles walking a day since I first put on my Fitbit! (See picture!)

An excellent feature is that you have your own online account with a customisable 'dashboard' that you can access from any device. Until last week! Internet megacorp Google acquired Fitbit on November 1st for around $2 billion, adding it to a portfolio that includes Facebook and YouTube. No problem there (unless you're against monopolies on principle)

A couple of days ago I tried to access my dashboard, only to find the link 'hung' without connecting me. Lots of e-mails to the Fitbit helpline were not particularly productive and I tried everything that usually solves this kind of issue, but to no avail. Fortunately my stepson Simon is an IT whizz and put me right: the app. now only works in Google Chrome! Apparently IE 11 (my preferred browser for twenty years!) is no longer supported by most applications (despite it being bundled with the latest version of Windows 10!)

OK: so I've regained access to my Fitbit dashboard, but the price I've paid is to have Google Chrome as my default browser: it would have been nice to have been told (Fitbit's own helpline didn't seem to know this!) and it would have been nice to have been given a choice. How long before Google starts charging for all of its holdings, I wonder?

Monday, 11 November 2019

Transit of Mercury!

The weather forecast was very gloomy this morning, and Linda and I feared the worst: miraculously, however, the sky began to clear around midday and we were able to watch the tiny planet Mercury creep across the Sun until it set behind the houses opposite at 3.15 or so... This won't happen again until 2032, so it may be our last chance!

The majority of the images were taken by projection onto white card (as in a previous post) The others were taken using my 300mm prime when the Sun was behind a cloud layer.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Beautiful Moon...

With the waxing Moon just a couple of days off full and the south polar regions tilted towards the Earth by the phenomenon of libration the terminator cuts across the large walled plain Schickard. This 137 mile wide crater is named after the 17th Century German Astronomer Wilhelm Schickard.

Getting ready for the Astronomical event of the year!

Just in case it isn't cloudy and pouring with rain all day on Monday: here's my set up for photographing the transit of Mercury. I'm sure you all know: you absolutely must not look through a telescope / binoculars / camera at the Sun (unless you have a thing for white sticks and Labradors!) The white screen on the back of the telescope provides a shadow to enhance the image of the Sun....

Fingers crossed for Monday afternoon!

Friday, 8 November 2019

Peering in my window!

This delightful Long-tailed Tit came to look at me while I was working today: shame it didn't have a white head, though!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Big Brother comes to call!

My elder brother Rob lives in Kent and has been a globe-trotting scientist all his life (so far!) For this reason, we don't get together very often, but today (since he was in the area visiting friends) he and his lovely wife Michelle called in for lunch.

We had a fine old time reminiscing about our upbringing in the East End of London and shared photos of our latest avian finds. As you'll see below, Rob has treated himself to the new Nikon 500mm 5.6 prime. Somehow he jumped the waiting list at his local London Camera Exchange and obtained one straight away! He let me have a try: what a fabulous piece of kit!

After he and Michelle left, I tried various combinations of lenses on tonight's waxing Moon: the 300 prime and 1.4 converter still produced the best results...

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The North Coast: Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Duck and lots more!

When Brian picked me up at 7.30 the weather was very unpromising: heavy overcast and showers. We decided to head for Cley and look for Buntings along the beach - in the event the best we could manage was a fly-over Lapland Bunting. However, the walk along the shingle was quite productive, giving us close views of a dark Arctic Skua, as well as a somewhat more distant Long-tailed Duck. Gannets, Scoter and other duck were passing continually, as were Red-throated Divers.

Not many small birds at all, TBH: just a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits, but we racked up nearly seven miles of therapeutic slog through the shingle! A visit to the Whirligig at Stiffkey and a two-mile circuit at Salthouse were not without interest, but there was nothing to set the pulses racing...

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

A very obliging Kingfisher at Strumpshaw Fen.

Despite the early fog, I decided to visit SF this morning, in hope of a Jack Snipe. Settling down in Fen Hide at 7.15, I enjoyed wonderful views of... the fog! Now and then I glimpsed a Water Pipit, a Jay, a Heron and the odd Marsh Harrier: I heard a few Bearded Tits and Water Rails.

Having met up with Brian and Adrian, I settled down to drink my flask of tea and spend another half hour (more in hope than anticipation!) To our surprise, a male Kingfisher arrived and began fishing - it visited virtually every perch, including the very nearest! Once it departed, Brian and I carried on around the reserve, adding just a distant Treecreeper to the list.