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Monday, 17 February 2020

Essex Rock & Mineral Show

Buy a meteorite: or just look at some!
We'll be at the Essex Gem and Mineral Show next weekend with over a THOUSAND meteorites and impactites on display! Unlike other similar shows, this annual event attracts the top mineral, fossil and gem dealers, rather than just dozens of  so-called crystal therapists and bead vendors!
 
 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Marine tank update

Maintaining a coral reef tank is considerably more challenging than keeping a few tropical fish: the water chemistry, temperature, light and many other factors have to be optimal. Not noticing that the skimmer has stopped working or that the nitrate levels have risen are the kiss of death to all coral species.

However: if you're prepared to put in the time and thought (and never be away from home for longer than a week!) the rewards are terrific! We've had our little 'cube' for over a year now, and learned what we can and cannot keep in the system: generally speaking, polyps and discs do well and - touch wood - so do Duncans. (These are the green and pinkish fleshy hard corals on the left of the tank.) Although you don't really want algae in a reef tank, some of the green caulerpa species are highly sought-after and attractive, so it's great that several types have spontaneously appeared.






Friday, 14 February 2020

Valentine's Day: breakfast at a new restaurant in Norwich

Well: new to us! Having exchanged gifts, Linda and I were in Norwich before nine, intending to enjoy a romantic breakfast at one of our usual haunts. As we walked down London Street, however, we noticed that the recently-opened Ivy House was open and not too busy, so we thought we'd give it a try.

As you can see below: the décor is absolutely tremendous, but that is surpassed by the service and quality of the food. Our poached eggs in hollandaise sauce, halloumi, avocado, mushroom and so on was probably the best veggie  breakfast we have ever been offered.

As we returned to the car we noticed another addition to Norwich's already excellent merchandising opportunities: Montezuma's, a brand new chocolate shop. I treated Linda to some delightful dark chocolates and then enjoyed their amazing edible panorama of Norwich!




 

 

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Another beautiful Moon!

It's hard to resist photographing the Moon at the moment: the skies being so clear, even a birding DSLR set-up allows really good detail to be picked out. The image below was taken as Brian and I were waiting for Norman yesterday, so no monopod used!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Minsmere: Smew and Green-winged Teal!

With nothing new in Norfolk, Brian, Norman and I headed south to Minsmere for a change. The walk round to the East Hide gave us close views of several pairs of Stonechats, as well as Gannets offshore. A long search from the hide eventually turned up the long-staying Green-winged Teal lurking very distantly among the reeds: Avocets, Pintails and both Godwits were the best of the rest. (The first GWT pic is Brian's!)

The remainder of our circuit produced a family group of Whooper Swans, but little else, so we had coffee and prepared to move on. However, Matt at reception mentioned that a red-head Smew was currently viewable from South Hide, so we trudged round for a look. Brian - again - was the hero, picking out this pretty little sawbill among a flock of Shovelers.

We made our way home via Hardley Staithe: no owls here, but we did see a Barn Owl, two Red Kites and a Buzzard as we passed through Claxton and Surlingham.












Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Blackcap in the garden: a short video

How could I resist?

Over-wintering Blackcap in the garden!

Linda and I have occasionally glimpsed this little fellow before, but today the cold wind caused him to drop onto the lawn and feed with the resident Blackbirds. He's been here on and off all day, which goes to show the importance of providing food for wild birds during the winter...






Stunningly clear skies...

The sharp frost and high winds just before midnight meant that the skies were unusually clear last night: even with my 300 prime lens, the detail on the waning Moon was just incredible. My favourite twin craters (Petavius and Palitzsch) are really well-defined: you can just about make out the rill that travels from the rim of Petavius to its central peak.




Monday, 10 February 2020

Après moi le déluge!

Thunder, lightning, hail and snow...
Ciara wreaks havoc, blowing over our sheep and bending the Buddleia. Still: we'll pull together and get over it...


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Saturday, 8 February 2020

A rare chance to see the planet Mercury!

Tonight Mercury and Venus were visible just after sunset. Since they are both nearer to the Sun than we are, they display phases (like mini Moons!) Venus has a dense, almost opaque atmosphere, so it's incredibly reflective: impossible to miss! Mercury is so close to the Sun that it's rare to be able to catch a glimpse - it has to be at one or other extremes of its path around the Sun.

Also tonight, a beautiful full Moon: this ((in keeping with modern journalistic traditions!) has a name - the Snow Moon!






Horsey / Winterton: a long walk for very little!

With the weather tomorrow predicted to be apocalyptic, I thought I'd better put in a few miles today., After breakfast I drove to the Nelson's Head turnoff, parked and walked the couple of miles to the 'Plantation'. On the way I passed several photogenic young seals actually by the dune-top path: there were hundreds of adults on the edge of the surf, as well as the predictable dogs / kids / weekend toggers and so on who just couldn't prevent themselves from getting up close and personal...

Plenty of Linnets, Stonechats and Meadow Pipits, as well as couple of Marsh Harriers and a vast flock of Pink-footed Geese, but no Hooded Crows or Raven. After an hour or so, I walked back to the Nelson's Head: a flock of twenty or so Tundra Beans flew northwards towards Waxham. Accordingly, I followed in the car, stopping to watch a couple of distant Cranes (and say hello to visiting birders Bob and Norman!) I couldn't relocate the Beans, so retraced my route back towards Horsey: as I passed Poplar Farm I noticed the Raven flying north along the dunes. I couldn't stop until Walnut Tree Farm, but, by the time I turned round and drove back, the bird had dropped down. And so home to batten down the metaphorical hatches!