Sunday, 17 March 2019

Terrific Moon tonight!

The waxing Moon is high in the South as I type: opening the window a little, I can jam my 500mm t/p lens securely enough to take a few photos without a tripod! (I'm still wheezing and sneezing, so no sense in going outside, where there wouldn't be any problem with warm air causing distortion!)

The comparatively young ray crater Tycho is beautifully illuminated, while the strangely elongated crater Schiller is nearby. Elsewhere, Copernicus and Plato are both very obvious, while my favourite 'bay', Sinus Iridium (The Bay of Rainbows) is the semi-circular structure near Plato.

Friday, 15 March 2019

A pleasant surprise!

I'm stuck at home with a really vile, debilitating cold at the moment: I'm too weak even to lift a glass of claret (!) There's still business to transact, however, so I was working in the office this morning when I glanced up to see a small flock of Fieldfares pass over the garden. Just in case, I picked up the camera and was rewarded with two further small flocks....

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Exotic herons: why are some colonising the UK but not others?

In my fifty-something years of birding I've witnessed an incredible expansion of the ranges of almost all the herons: Little, Great White and Cattle Egrets are now abundant and are becoming regular breeders. Bitterns, Purple Herons and Little Bitterns are moving in the same direction. None of these represent a challenge to any year-lister, whereas twenty years ago all six were very problematical. The same is true of other large wading species like Ibises, Cranes and Spoonbills.

Whatever you believe to be the reason for the northward expansion of their ranges (and climate change must be at least a factor) it's interesting to note that two species are 'bucking the trend': Night Heron and Squacco Heron are just as hard to connect with as ever. Since I more or less retired from long-distance twitching twenty years ago, I haven't encountered either of these charming little herons in the UK. Fingers crossed that I can remedy the situation this Spring!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Garden residents

I'm led to believe that birds tend not to nest near feeding stations: this seems to be borne out by the fact that our garden seems to acquire a resident population of Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges at this time of year. Of these only the Dunnocks typically nest (in the high laurel hedge at the far end of the garden) All through Spring and Summer the others visit the feeders (ultimately with their offspring!) and generally co-exist quite happily.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Marine tank update

Now our small volume tank has been set up for four and a half moths, the water quality has stabilised into optimum levels of nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and pH. The reef is 'loaded' to capacity and all but one of the resident corals seem to be flourishing: several have not only grown, but reproduced. Routine maintenance is, of course, necessary, but this just involves changing five litres of water each week and daily feeds with copepods and minced fish...

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Practical Astronomy Show, Kettering

Back from this highly successful one day event at Kettering Conference Centre. The footfall ( 2000+) was terrific, especially since this was the first show at this venue. Lots of old friends and lots of brand new customers. Old mate Paul came along to help, and top Astrophotographer Nik Szymenek and his friend Mark kept us in stitches.

Our hotel was first class: quiet, extremely comfortable and just ten minutes from the conference centre: the 'Miller & Carter' next door is highly recommended!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Professional Astronomy Show.Kettering

All set up ready for tomorrow's inaugural Kettering Astro Show: if you're  nearby, it's worth popping in - everything (including the talks!) is free!
 On the way westwards we saw lots of Buzzards and Red Kites, as well as a very possible Goshawk in the Brecks..
We've had a delightful supper (Sea Bass, Prosecco and cheesecake!) and are settled into our lovely  hotel  room for the night...

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Early morning stroll at Upton Marsh

I made an early start at Upton Marsh in the hope of finding one of the recently-present Short-eared Owls before the wind and rain arrived. In the event the weather was delightful and I came across some decent birds, but no sign of the owls.

Most interesting were the Buzzards - at least ten different individuals - and a very distant group of seven Cranes, while Chinese Water Deer were just everywhere. Three or four Marsh Harriers patrolled the tussocks, occasionally spooking large roosts of gulls. Once the wind began to rise it was time to head home: maybe I'll have another bash next week...