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Friday 31 March 2017

A quarter of a million hits!

Astonishing! My little local blog has managed to attract 250,000 visitors in five years. Many thanks to those of you who drop in from time to time and who, hopefully, have enjoyed reading about the rich wildlife of east Norfolk, the comings and goings of the celestial objects in its dark skies and the occasional triumphs and tribulations of yours truly!

Stock Doves

We now have a pair of these gorgeous little columbids feeding and displaying in the garden: as can be seen, the male (?) has a really well-marked green and purple 'collar' that positively glows in the sunshine.

As I said in an earlier post, these excellent birds deserve more recognition in order to reduce the chance of them following the Turtle Dove into oblivion...

Another terrific garden bird today was a mint-fresh Goldcrest that alighted on my office window ledge! I was far too slow to obtain a photo.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Peregrine, Garganey and Grey Seal: a strange mix in the Yare Valley...

A very brief stroll along the River Yare at Cantley and Buckenham revealed that the Peregrines at the beet factory seem to be using their nest tray: one (a male, I think) took off as I was by the Reedcutters and glided away towards Buckenham: another followed soon after.

At Buckenham the spring sunshine had brought out the Linnets and a Sand Martin, while A Grey Seal dozed mid-river. Lots of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier activity and a female duck seen distantly among the long grass from the hide seemed good for a Garganey.

I popped into Reception at Strumpshaw for the news: nothing spectacular (although I did hear a Blackcap!) A very pleasant couple from Lincolnshire had been watching a Jack Snipe five minutes before I arrived: all I managed was this Common Snipe.

At some point tomorrow, somebody will become the 250,000th visitor to my blog! How cool is that!


Wednesday 29 March 2017

Herpetology: a tale of two Heaths...

I'm afraid I can't reveal the location of either of today's venues: too many sensitive species involved. I checked carefully before Brian, Norman and I set out, and none of the photos below contravene any laws or guidelines.

Both the heaths we visited are in Norfolk and both are thriving ecosystems, with Dartford Warblers, Nightjars, Adders, Common Lizards and - most special of all - Great Crested Newts. Despite the cool breeze and lack of sun, we managed to see many of the above species, although the warblers were very flighty!

Later on we failed to find the Sparham Great Grey Shrike, despite help from local photographer Stuart Butcher. Apparently the bird was available, but on the other side of the Fakenham Road!


Tuesday 28 March 2017

Hawfinches in the mist!

With just a morning available, Brian and I returned to Lynford to see if we could improve on our recent views of the Hawfinch flock. The early morning mist refused to lift (despite the BBC's upbeat forecast) and we were beginning to think we were going to be unlucky again: we could barely see the feeders along the 'Orchard Ride'. We strolled down towards the stone bridge and, as the sky gradually brightened, Brian and I picked out a pair on top of a tall tree. These flew towards the feeders, so we retraced our steps and were soon treated to views of two, then four, then twelve of these enigmatic 'super finches'. It's only when you see one beside a Nuthatch or Brambling that you realise just how large they are! Too foggy for good photography, but pleasing 'record shots' anyway.

We stopped off at Santon Downham where Mandarin and Great Spotted Woodie were added to the daylist: we glimpsed the rear end of a Lesser Spot as it flew away calling. but that was it.

Monday 27 March 2017

A very under-rated bird...

For the twelfth straight year we have a pair of Stock Doves visiting the garden on a daily basis. These beautiful birds superficially resemble a Rock Dove or Feral Pigeon, but lack a pale rump. They possess a stunning iridescent green patch on the neck that positively shines in bright sunlight.

Probably about half of the European population breed in the UK, making them an important and valuable part of the country's avifauna. Despite this, most people seem hardly to give them a second glance, but I regard them as a really special visitor to the feeders.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge

Linda and I took our 'meteorite roadshow' to the IoA at Cambridge for their open afternoon. We set up in a different area to usual, (the Cavli Building) and we were a little concerned in case visitors didn't find us. In fact we had a great day, chatting with hundreds of space enthusiasts and meeting lots of old friends.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak

The sky was  beautifully clear and dark here in east Norfolk last night, so I put my camera on a tripod and had a bash at photographing this faint periodic comet. Despite being just magnitude 7.5, it was surprisingly easy to find, thanks to its position in the 'bowl' of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) Using a highish ISO (12,800) I managed the classic 'fuzzy ball' shot you can see below. (Images 2 and 3 are actual photos!)

It really is time we had another Great Comet like those of 1910, whose heads were just above the horizon while their tails reached up to the zenith. One of these two was, of course, Halley's Comet: the Earth actually passed through its tail on that occasion, causing all kinds of dire warnings and 'end of days' prophecies!


Friday 24 March 2017

It's only rock & roll, but I like it!

As I was reading through recent posts on Facebook today, I came across a newspaper page listing the bands playing in and around Norwich thirty years ago! Glancing down the list, I found that the band of which I was lead singer and rhythm guitarist was playing at the Festival House. Sobering to read the list of venues and realise that many are now closed and hardly any of the remainder have live music.

'My' band was called Serious Risk: we played the circuit for ten years, with three different drummers and two vocalists: initially our front-man was the charismatic Tony Spencer, who had a fabulous soul voice but powerful appetites for too many of the fleshy pleasures! When he failed to turn up before a big gig at the Florida Club on the East Coast, I stepped in and stayed behind the microphone for five years. We made a well-received CD called Scrapbook and were rated one of the top Norwich rock and blues bands.

We eventually all went our separate ways: I still play at my local club on a Thursday night, while bass player Paul and lead guitar Howie occasionally turn out with a middle-of-the-road three piece. Our last drummer Chris played with the Veil, Red Hot & Blue, and, for the past five years, Firewire, a very successful function five-piece.

The photos below are various Risk's gigs over the years: interesting to see how my 'look' altered!