Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Minsmere

Brian, Norman and I made a very early start and were in the South Hide at Minsmere by 7.45: unfortunately the Semi-P had flown ten minutes earlier! We enjoyed watching the more usual waders: Greenshank, Snipe, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Green Sandpipers (including a group of five that flew through) as well as yet another Great White Egret.

Another birder received a phone call to say his friend had found the SP from the East Hide, so we trotted round and were able to enjoy good 'scope views of this surprisingly distinctive little 'peep'. The last one I saw here was a cool 32 years ago, when it shared the pool with a Pectoral Sandpiper!

A bit distant for photography (as you can tell from the 'unzoomed' image) but still worth the effort to take a few 'record shots'. (Best image of the SP by Brian Tubby)

After coffee we moved up onto Dunwich Heath to look for Whinchats: no sign! We did manage to find a few distant (or flighty) Dartford Warblers.


Monday, 20 August 2018

Red Kites galore at Buckenham RSPB - and a year tick!

Feeling the need for some fresh air, I decided to drive down to the railway crossing at Buckenham and take a walk to the old wind pump. As I descended the hill, I noticed two Red Kites perched in an isolated dead tree: as I crossed the railway a third flew into the 'corvid trees'.

The walk down to the hide added distant views of a Whinchat (believe it or not, first of the year!) as well as two Stonechats on the way back. The presence of a marshman strimming the edges of the scrape (why?) and a quad bike on the track to the old mill meant there were absolutely no waders to be seen: lots of the usual hawkers and darters, though.

Driving back up the hill I stopped to admire three Red Kites perched on the edge of Strumpshaw Woods: another birder joined me and we reminisced for a while about trips to Wales back in the seventies to see these magnificent raptors.

Even better: as I pulled over to the 'Little Owl Layby', a Red Kite was perched just a few yards away in the large dead Ash!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Stalham street market

More and more East Anglian towns are hosting street antiques and collectors' fairs: one of the latest to do so is Stalham. Today Linda and I passed an enjoyable couple of hours scanning through the many stalls for bargains. I found a beautiful cluster of fluorite ('Blue John') crystals for just a couple of pounds and two books about the paranormal, while Linda bought a terrific antique silver bracelet.

The range of items on display was impressive: the two practice amps shown were only a tenner each: I have exactly the same model as the smaller one on the right: I use it for PA at the club - it's a beast!

Quite unexpected was a pitch set back from the road which had several UK birds under rehabilitation, as well as a huge tortoise - over two feet in length!


Saturday, 18 August 2018

Protecting the hives

This Summer has been one of the worst in memory for wasps: I know they're fascinating insects and that they play an important role in pest control and pollination, but they are not only a bit of a nuisance if you're trying to enjoy a picnic or barbecue, but - more importantly from our point of view - they can be a menace to honey bees. Bees are not only extremely brave, but also surprisingly good at defending the hive: the guards are very efficient killers, and it's interesting that Linda and I have witnessed very many bee-on-wasp combats, all of which the bees won!

Nevertheless, they need a little help when there are a lot of wasps around, so we hung a sugar trap in our sycamore tree: we have to empty it every two days! Also noteworthy is that Hornets will occasionally hang around the trap and pick off the odd wasp!

Friday, 17 August 2018

In the air tonight....

Leading on from the previous post: here are some images of the Moon and Jupiter taken tonight with my 300mm prime

I suppose you can't please everyone!

A couple of days ago I bumped into a casual acquaintance, who asked if I'd seen the Pied Crow at Cromer. I replied in the affirmative, but commented that I was surprised he hadn't seen the photos on this blog. He said that he no longer looked at 'Birds of the Heath' because there was too much Astronomy in it!

Personally speaking, the blogs I enjoy most are those with content other than just multiple images of a well-twitched bird: I enjoy reading about things of which I have little or no knowledge (leaf mines, micro-moths, hover flies) or no chance of seeing in the flesh myself (walrus, Andean Condor, Wallcreeper etc.) I also find the occasional personal sagas of some well-known bloggers to be compelling reading at times: whether it's a domestic crisis, a foreign holiday or a newly-discovered restaurant, they can be very absorbing.

My reasons for posting astronomical blogs are quite straight forward:

1) I'm an astronomer and it's my blog!
2) I usually only post details of scarce or aesthetically interesting celestial occurrences such as eclipses, occultations, conjunctions and planetary transits.

I concede you'd have to be a bit of a space-nerd like me to appreciate the images of the asteroid Vesta I posted recently, but I don't think you have to be an Astronomer to appreciate seeing Jupiter and its four largest satellites, which you can easily achieve with a birding 'scope. (At the moment, it's just above the western horizon at 10pm, right next to the Moon) And I'm sure the sight of Saturn's rings and its largest satellite Titan are worth a look: it'll be above the southern horizon at the same time. The incredibly bright red 'star' in the south-east? That's Mars! The even-brighter object that follows the Sun to the horizon just after it sets in the west? Venus!

So, notwithstanding the comments of my acquaintance. I'll carry on giving astronomical 'heads ups' to those of you who haven't abandoned blogs for tweets!

Jupiter, with its satellites Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa

Crescent Venus in the twilight

Partial eclipse of the Sun from Strumpshaw.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Strumpshaw and Buckenham: Great Whites, Red Kites and other goodies!

Knowing a spell of wet weather was forecast, I left home early and talk a stroll around the Fen. It's a great place at 6.15: I saw no other birders and had the place completely to myself!

Nothing in particular from Reception or Fen Hides, but Tower Hide held a few waders  (2 Common Sandpipers and 3 Ruff) which were quickly joined by first one, then two then three Great White Egrets. They flew around the scrape before settling in the hidden pool to the north, apart from one which crossed the river and headed south!

The rain clouds were gathering, so I quickly moved to Buckenham. As I drove down the hill from the tip, five Red Kites were swooping over the road, gradually drifting towards the woods at Strumpshaw Hall. (They were still there when I drove back: one was feeding on roadkill!)

I walked out to the hide, picking up two distant Green Sandpipers and a Snipe on the way. Lots of Linnets, Goldfinches, House Martins and Swallows, but little else: time for breakfast!