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Monday, 25 September 2023

Final passes by the ISS for a few weeks...

These are the remaining bright passes by the International Space Station: after October 1st it won't be visible from the UK until November. (Reminder: the Sun is incredibly active at the moment: aurorae are occurring almost nightly between 22.00 and 01.00.)

Getting it in the neck from the old man!

This afternoon friend Sue rang the doorbell to tell Linda and me that a pair of Migrant Hawkers were disporting on her Buddleia! I popped round with a camera and photographed this intimate moment: really, it's a bit of a peculiar way to go about things!

Buckenham Marsh: no Yellowlegs

Feeling decidely rough after my recent Covid booster, I hoped a walk might improve things. Since a Lesser 'legs had been reported at Buckenham last evening I thought that might be a suitable 'short walk target'.

In the event the only waders I managed to find (distantly!) were Ruff and Dunlin. These were on the 'main pool': the Mill Pool was empty apart from three Mallard. A few raptors (Kestrels and Buzzards) were loitering on the gateposts, while a distant ringtail flew eastwards on the other side of the river. Two Pinkfooted Geese dropped onto the Marsh: the first of many...

Saturday, 23 September 2023

Everything's 'out west': less birds, more Astronomy!

Back in the day, as they say, I was part of a crew - Linda, Bob Walker, Martin Read and Pete Bewick - that would tear off at the weekend to try and catch up with the previous week's rarities. These days, with diesel nearly £2 / litre, all that's in the past: nowadays I restrict my outings to once or twice a week in Norfolk and Suffolk. This is why I'm not on my way west to add half a dozen new birds to my stagnating 450-ish life list.

However, there are still things to point a camera at even from the back garden: the current incredible crop of sunspots being a good example! (Don't forget: you need special filters to look at or photograph the Sun!)

Friday, 22 September 2023

Two gas giants and three galaxies!

Last night just before midnight the skies were pretty clear for a change, so I thought I'd try out various camera settings on the fanous Andromeda Galaxy, M31. (All the various fuzzy objects in the night sky were catalogued by Messier, a French comet-hunter who wanted to be sure what he'd found was a new comet and noit a galaxy or nebula. Such objects were assigned an 'M' number) I couldn't quite get things 100%, but below are the better efforts: you can see two other galaxies close by M31.

Jupiter was conveniently placed for photography of its moons, although the triangle of three bright stars close by were confusing! Nearby the greenish gas giant planet Uranus was easy to pick out...

Thursday, 21 September 2023

September passes by the International Space Station

Assuming the sky ever clears this month, here are the times you can expect to see the ISS passing over the UK. If you've never looked for it before, it resembles a fast-moving, very bright star that generally rises in the south west and travels across the sky to the east.

This is the last time I'll give the apparent brightness of the ISS in terms of astronomical magnitude: people seem unfamiliar with the scale! In future I'll give word descriptions.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

SYNERGY at Heathlands Social Club

 Possibly our last gig of the year: a charity fundraiser at Heathlands: two hours of rock and blues - bar at club prices!

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

The Aurora: a missed chance....

I was briefly up and about at 03.30 this morning (as many gents of my age tend to be) and happened to glance at my PC monitor: it was - as usual - displaying the 'Aurora Watch UK' activity screen. To my amazement, it was lit up red and orange - indication of strong auroral activity. 

I grabbed my camera and went out onto the patio: as you might have predicted, the sky was covered by a veil of thin hazy cloud. Looking to the north, I could, however, see a few stars. I took a couple of long exposures (no tripod, I'm afraid!) at high ISO: you can just make out some green and purplish patches. 

I did try again an hour or so later, but the sky was completely covered by then...

Monday, 18 September 2023

Desperately waiting for some snow!

We haven't had any snow worth mentioning since 'Snowie' first appeared: he really is looking a little worse for wear! Nevertheless, it was time for a photo-call before the scheduled rain starts!

Longest interval between sightings?

Looking back through the 'hard copy' diaries I kept for thirty-odd years, I found that the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper I'd seen was at Cley, back in 1986: last week's Minsmere bird was, therefore, nearly forty years later! I can't bring to mind a species that took so long to repeat: the closest possible future challengers I can think of would be Naumann's Thrush (1990) and Nutcracker (1991)

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Little Stint and Dunlins

A short video (taken from Bishop's Hide, Cley) Shows the size difference really well.

Final glimpse of Comet Nishimura

Having rounded the Sun, the comet was just visible after sunset last night if you knew exactly where to look. Not the most spectacular of objects, any satisfaction came from simply finding it at all!

Friday, 15 September 2023

Buff-breasted: the video!

Just a short video of yesterday's charming little Yank, showing its distinctive feeding pattern

Bearded Tits at Minsmere

This confiding flock of Beardies fed for ten minutes along the path between the sluice and South Hide. (Actually: I think they were picking up grit - I've watched Beardies doing that at Strumpshaw to help them digest seeds)

Thursday, 14 September 2023

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Minsmere

I just couldn't resist the urge to leave home at dawn and drive south-east for a bash at Suffolk's Buff-breasted Sandpiper. There was little traffic and I was on the public viewing platform by 7.00am. The Sandpiper was temporarily obscured behind some reeds, but soon appeared, allowing some reasonable views despite the early-morning gloom.

As it grew bolder - and nearer - it attracted the attention of a Sparrowhawk, from which it only just escaped, flying off westwards across the scrape. I decided to go and investgate the sluice bushes: these were entirely devoid of birds, but a small flock of Bearded Tits was nice to watch. The South Hide held just a handful of waders, but they were decent ones: Little Stint, Grey Plover and Green Sandpiper. Other interesting birds I came across as I walked round included Spotted Redshank, Common & Curlew Sandpiper, Spoonbill, Great White Egret and Yellow-legged Gull.

After lunch at the Visitors Centre, I walked back round to the platform: the BBS had returned, albeit somewhat further away. This time it was nearly taken by one of three maurauding Hobbies: leading a charmed life, it escaped once more and flew towards South Hide.

As I left a very confiding Water Vole entertained a large gallery at the dipping pool...

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Quick visit to Cley & Potter Heigham

Linda needed to drop off some of her wax wraps at Cley Visitor Centre, so we took a quick walk to Bishop's and then out along the East Bank. What a contrast to yesterday: last night's heavy rain had raised water levels, causing most of the waders to disperse! We did see a few Little Egrets and the first Pinkfeet of the Autumn, while a scan of Snipe's Marsh revealed two Green Sandpipers.

Later on I took a walk all the way around Potter Heigham Marsh: no sign of the reported Cattle Egrets, but a flock of Cranes was noteworthy.