Monday, 17 December 2018

Beans, Buzzards, Peregrines and a Hen Harrier on home turf...

Lured to Strumpshaw by reports of a Great Grey Shrike (Hmmmm!) I walked right around the reserve with very little to show for the early start: a Snipe in front of Tower Hide was about it. Then, on the walk back to Reception, I 'kicked up' a female Hen Harrier by the boat staithe and added Cetti's Warbler, Bullfinch and Fieldfare to the day's total.

I carried on round to Buckenham, where I enjoyed watching six Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and a juvenile Peregrine kettling together, before connecting with the Bean Geese again: about fifteen today.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Comet 46P Wirtanen: closest approach

This morning I crawled out of bed at 3.30am to look for the much-hyped 'Christmas Comet', Wirtanen.

Back in the summer we were told to anticipate a bright, naked eye comet, just as we were with Halley, Holmes, Lovejoy, Panstarrs et al. In fact, yet again, we were disappointed! I could just make out Wirtanen as a fuzzy, greenish blob in between Taurus and the Pleiades. The last really good comets were over twenty years ago and you have to go back to 1910 for really spectacular objects with tails stretching right across the sky: that year there were two! Many people (including legendary astronomer Fred Hoyle) postulated a link between the two great comets of 1910 with the flu pandemic that followed a few years later.

If you're interested, one of my recent books (available on EBay and Amazon) investigates the links between comets and global catastrophes.

Enchanted Felbrigg: a delightful evening experience!

Following an afternoon of coastal birding, Peter, Sue, Linda and I moved on to Felbrigg Hall to experience their Christmas light show. Although designed essentially for young families, it was a marvelous evening out: some of the lighting effects in the woodland were truly magical! You're never too old for a spot of Christmas magic, IMHO!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Smew at Filby Broad

With an hour or so free this morning, I dashed out to a windswept Filby Broad to see if I could collect the final sawbill I needed for the set this year. The viewing platform looking out over Ormesby Little Broad produced just a few common ducks, grebes and a Buzzard, so I walked back to the road bridge and fishing platform in the company of the single other birder present. No sign from the boardwalk, so we turned back toward the carpark. As I glanced north from the bridge I noticed the Smew (a redhead) perhaps fifty metres away: it flew over the road, allowing just a single shot, before landing at the far side of Filby Broad. Although it was continuously visible for the next ten minutes, it never swam any closer...  The only other birds of note were four female Goldeneye.

North Coast : Divers, Lapland Bunting and Twite

Linda, Sue, Peter and I had arranged to visit the Felbrigg Christmas light show: this didn't start until 3.00pm, so we spent the morning on the North Coast, starting at Blakeney Freshmarsh. The walk out to the 'usual spot' was enlivened by a good raft of Mergansers, most of the expected waders and a flock of Twite, while, to Peter and Sue's delight, the fence by the metal gate held Stonechat and Lapland Bunting. The Wildfowl Collection by the carpark was, as always, a delight, with a terrific pair of Hooded Mergansers being the highlight.

After lunch at Cley VC, we spent an hour at the Coastguards, where seawatching revealed the presence of numerous divers, including a single Black-throated Diver. The Eye Field was pretty barren, apart from a vast flock of Brent Geese. After a quick walk along Sheringham seafront, we headed inland to Felbrigg: more later!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Marine tank update...

Our little 30L reef tank is close to completeness: just room for a couple more corals, so they'll need to be spectacular! Virtually everything fluoresces under actinic light, although it's almost impossible to photograph: sitting at my office desk, it's really hard not to keep turning around to look!