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Friday, 30 July 2021

Heavens Above got it wrong!

I must apologize to any of you who stood outside at ten o' clock last night, waiting to see the ISS and Nauka science module pass overhead: it didn't happen!

I source my satellite transit times from the usually very accurate website 'Heavens Above''. For the past few days they've been inviting their members to look out for the two spacecraft in close proximity at 10.00pm on 29th July: in fact the Nauka module docked with the ISS during the afternoon. What's more, I failed to see the ISS during its predicted pass...

I did get a couple of decent images of Ursa Major, however! For those of you with no background in Astronomy, I've added an arrow to show how you can use the Great Bear to find the Pole Star (Polaris)


Thursday, 29 July 2021

Grand Annual Music Quiz!

It's that time again! A few weeks earlier than in previous years, our now-annual music quiz will take place at Heathlands, Woodbastwick Road on Saturday, September 4th. Given how much fun we've had in previous years, perhaps not surprisingly tickets are selling well: due to Covid considerations, the numbers available are restricted, so you'll need to book early!

The Moon and Jupiter

Since I woke up at 4.ooam and couldn't get back to sleep, I thought I'd try photographing the Moon using a DSLR and Barlow lens. Jupiter was close by, so I had a go at him, too!

The results were slightly disappointing: I think the Barlow may not be very good optically - it came with a cheap kit I bought years ago. Then again, it's quite difficult adjusting fine focus looking through a camera viewfinder. As always with Jupiter, the issue is exposure: to capture the Galilean Moons, you over-expose the planet...



Wednesday, 28 July 2021

A chance to see the Russian 'Nauka' module!

The Russian Nauka module is gradually catching up with the International Space Station, to which it will soon be attached. This huge orbiting laboratory should pass over Norfolk at 10.05 on Thursday night (29th) followed five minutes later by the ISS. If it's clear it will be a must-see for space freaks like me!

Bizarre year list!

I have always enjoyed year-listing: it's often a great incentive to get out birding when old age or the weather are tempting you to stay in and watch 'Four in a Bed' (Other daytime shows are available!)

Just once I achieved the self-imposed target of 300 species in a year: this was back in 1991, when Linda and I went on our first Scillonian Pelagic together and made several long-distance twitches. These days I aim for 240 - 260 species: some of these will be seabirds and auks seen on trips to offshore colonies, others will be species only encountered in Wales or the West Country.

Eighteen months of C-19 restrictions have reduced the opportunities to see birds such as Cirl Bunting, Puffin, Dipper and so on and it looks like this year's total is likely to be just 200 or so. However, among these have been some amazing birds: none have been 'lifers', but several have been my best views of difficult species.

Of course: nil desperandum: it's possible that the Autumn might throw up some unexpected additions as well as white-winged gulls, auks and skuas. Fingers crossed!









Monday, 26 July 2021

Potter Heigham 1, Dickleburgh 0: second helpings of the Dowitcher

Even before breakfast, Linda was encouraging me to go to Dickleburgh for better views of yesterday's Dowitcher: despite no news on the pager, I went anyway. An hour later it became obvious that the bird had moved on... Nevertheless: some good craik and a few avian highlights -  Wood & Green Sandpiper together and a pair of Turtle Doves being the best.

As I was leaving, the pager chirped, revealing that the place the Dowitcher had moved on to was Potter Heigham - just a quarter of an hour from my front door! After a quick check in with Linda, I headed north, parked, crossed the road and slogged round to the far end of the marsh. On the way I added Spoonbill, Great Egret and lots of Little Egrets to the day's tally

The Dowitcher was easily viewable, but at even greater distance than last night: still, good to see and amusing to note that a couple of guys from Dickleburgh had made the trip too!











Sunday, 25 July 2021

Long-billed Dowitcher at Dickleburgh

Yet another rare visitor to the County this Summer! Linda and I were just back from the local garden centre when the pager alerted us to the discovery of a Long-billed Dowitcher on Dickleburgh Moor. We delayed tea and drove through largely empty roads (albeit occasionally awash with rain!) arriving in time to park in the small set-aside area. After a short walk and a two minute wait for this handsome American wader to wake up, we 'enjoyed somewhat distant views. An old acquaintance kindly allowed us to get a better look through his 'scope!






Saturday, 24 July 2021

The Loch Ness 'Flipper' photo: exposed?

While I was fossicking about in the loft yesterday, I came across an ancient copy of 'Nature' magazine that I'd been given at the public announcement of the Robert Rines Boston Academy of Applied Science Nessie photos. At the time these photos were taken I was at the loch researching my own book 'Loch Ness Enigma' (sadly long out of print!) and well remember meeting Rines, Klein and LNM legend Tim Dinsdale

Rines and his team had suspended a camera rig and strobe lights under a boat in Urquhart Bay and, on the night of the 7th August, 1972, a number of images were obtained. These were eventually revealed at a press call at the NHM in South Kensington, the 'stars' being two shots apparently showing a large reptilian flipper, a third that was claimed to be the head, long neck and part of the body of a large creature and a final gargoyle-like picture of the animal's head.

All of these had been 'computer enhanced': many people commented on the wonders of modern technology, but, of course, few individuals - or academic bodies - had the hard or software to repeat this process. Now things are different! I've had a go at enhancing the Rines photos using Paintshop Pro and Irfanview and frankly find the results less than impressive. I wonder how many other historical images would suffer similarly if subjected to modern IT processes?







Friday, 23 July 2021

Hemblington Church butterfly survey

The usual small group carried out our regular butterfly survey of the (freshly-mown) churchyard. Some species were present in large numbers, particularly Large White and Meadow Brown: others were conspicuous by their absence. Nevertheless, we recorded eleven species, as well as several other interesting insects.