Monday, 24 September 2018

Buckenham RSPB: Whinchats, Stonechats and Pectoral Sandpipers.

While Linda was giving her bees a good sorting out before the cold weather arrives, I took a quick run down to Buckenham for another look at the pair of Pec Sands that have been around since Saturday.

Lingwood birder Murray was on site and kindly showed me a Whinchat in his 'scope: since the Pecs were playing hard to get, I carried on to the anglers' car park for a closer look. In the event there were four Whinchats and three Stonechats along the fenceline: a mid-Yare record for me!

I walked back to a vantage point from which to scan the (distant) scrape and quickly located both the Pectoral Sandpipers feeding among the Ruff and Lapwing. I saw them in flight on a couple of occasions, but they never came particularly close (and, being a warm afternoon, the heat haze was ferocious compared to Saturday.)

Home to cook supper: langoustines and a bottle of Prosecco. Later, the full Moon was a splendid sight hanging above the eastern horizon.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

First Pinkfeet of the Autumn over the Heath

Alerted by their puppy-like yelping, I watched the first skein of the Autumn heading North over Blofield Heath tonight. With temperatures of 4 - 5 degrees predicted, maybe I can put away the fans now!

Think you know about music? I mean REALLY know?

Advance notice: December 1st should be a terrific evening of quizzing, food and fun! Lots of good prizes, a raffle and there's a bargain-priced bar, too!

If you have a few friends and want to get a team together, get your tickets ASAP!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Two Pectoral Sandpipers at Buckenham

Linda was out at a bee-keeping course, so I was catching up on a backlog of Jason Statham films on TV: I glanced at the RBA map to find that a pair of Pec Sands had been found by Steve and Dot at Buckenham, so I grabbed the camera and jumped in the car.

Luckily for me, Buckenham is literally a ten minute drive, so I was walking down towards the river by 3.50, meeting the two finders as they were leaving. Although the birds were right over the far side of the scrape they were easily pickable even without a 'scope: however, another birder let me enjoy excellent views through his! The birds fed for ten minutes before being disturbed by a helicopter: they then flew around for a minute before dropping behind an island. Several other locals were there: nice to bump into Dave Holman and his charming wife.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Prof Lucie Green: oh dear!

Tonight Prof Lucie Green (the Astronomer!) appeared on the quiz show 'Eggheads' and elected to answer questions on Science. All the way through the round she commented that she was hoping for an Astronomy question: finally she got one. "Which planet has three moons called Miranda, Titania and Oberon?" Her reply was "Saturn!" Oh dear... the answer is, of course, Uranus..

I appeared with Dr Green on 'Stargazing Live' a couple of years ago (when the BBC was having a brief flirtation with Astronomy) and can report that she is a really nice person with a profound knowledge of solar Astronomy, but you can't help but feel sorry for her: but you also have to feel that maybe some scientists have become somewhat over-specialised: a dangerous trend...

International Astronomy Show

Those of you who:

a) Live in the Midlands or near a motorway
b) Are interested in Astronomy

...might enjoy a visit to the International Astronomy Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire next month. It's a fantastic event, with all the top telescope and astro-gear dealers present: I'll be selling meteorites and my books and will be giving a lecture on the origin and chemistry of iron meteorites.
Here's a link to the show:

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Cranes and Tree Sparrows

While Brian and I were enjoying the beautiful Pallid Harrier at Welney we were also entertained by the largest flock of Tree Sparrows I've seen in Norfolk for years. In the past Flitcham, Choseley and Waxham were all sites where Tree Sparrows were easily found, but that is no longer the case: at Welney they are still very abundant!

Other birds of note included a flock of six Common Cranes that joined a group of three that were already on the reserve and a pair of Whooper Swans that over-summered: always good to see these elegant birds up close in the sunshine!

Stone Curlew fill-up!

On the way to Welney yesterday, Brian and I looked in at a traditional pre-dispersal gathering site for Stone Curlews. We had visited the fields a couple of weeks ago and seen nothing, so we weren't over-optimistic. In the event we quickly located 80+ of these amazingly prehistoric-looking birds spread widely over the stubble. After a bit of traffic avoidance and stealthy hedgerow stalking we obtained some decent pictures, often as the birds flew or walked towards us.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Pallid Harrier at Welney

Brian and I combined a visit to a Stone Curlew gathering on the edge of the Brecks (photos tomorrow!) with a drive across to Welney for a stab at the recently-present Pallid Harrier. Arriving at around 10, we played it cool by enjoying coffee and croissants (and the large flock of Tree Sparrows) before hiking north to the Lyle Hide. After a short wait, I located the Pallid Harrier at the far side of the scrubby fields to the north west. To our delight (and that of the only other person in the hide!) the bird drifted nearer until it reached a reedy dyke: this it flew along until it was just two hundred or so metres away!

Once the bird had flown out of sight we returned to the main hide by the footbridge: after another short wait the Harrier reappeared at reasonable range before pouncing on a pheasant and dropping out of sight. I don't usually post lots of photos of the same bird, but this was too special not to!