Friday, 24 May 2019

International Space Station: next transit

The ISS went over for its fourth transit tonight, rising in the west at around 11.16pm. It was beautifully clear, so not only was the time-lapse trail very bright, but I picked up a second satellite in a similar orbit. A military jet made an attractive trail too!

The Great Bear (Ursa Major) was right overhead, and the binary stars Alcor and Mizar were really obvious.

International Space Station

The ISS passed overhead tonight, rising in the west at 9.37pm. It will come around again tonight at around 11.15pm and will be even brighter. Check on 'Heavens Above' if you'd like to see more transits: it'll be going over several times a night for the next few days.

Garden-ful! And some disappointment with the new pager...

At the moment the garden is absolutely rammed with young birds: the most abundant are the Starlings, with over seventy being usual. They are generally accompanied by just a couple of adults. Also present in numbers are Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds and Collared Doves. We have a 'glowing eye' cat on top of the pergola, which is designed to scare off Sparrowhawks. It doesn't work: every day a new bundle of feathers is on the lawn! And the other birds aren't impressed by it either!

As I mentioned, I ordered a top-of-the-range pager: the first in twenty years. Imagine how thrilled I was to find it was receiving any alerts... Assuming there was something wrong with it, I phoned the providers (probably the best-known supplier) only to be informed that there was little coverage east of Norwich! This is (allegedly) due to a transmitter tower being rebuilt. Wouldn't you think the providers would tell you that before accepting payment?

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Hemblington Church: monthly bird survey

Friend and neighbour Sue rose with the lark and joined me at 6.00am for the monthly survey of the birdlife at Hemblington Church. Quite a few differences from last month: no gulls at all, no Collared Doves and several species down in number. However, we did add Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher to the churchyard list!

Black Winged Stilts: the movie!

Just a short video clip of the delightful pair of Black Winged Stilts at Wells yesterday.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Black Winged Stilts in North Norfolk

Brian and I had our usual 7.00am meet-up on the Heath, before driving North to Cley. High water levels meant there were few waders in evidence on Pat's (or anywhere else!) but a Spoonbill and some superbright Black-tailed Godwits were good to see.

We decided to move westwards rather than spend time on a futile Bluethroat hunt, and pulled into an increasingly productive cluster of pools and scrapes: the first birds we saw were a pair of Grey Partridges, the third and fourth were a pair of Black Winged Stilts! Only one other birder was on site, and he was watching a Turtle Dove up by the road. He soon joined us, as, fairly soon, did two other guys. We watched for some time at a more than discrete distance before a Warden from the Holkham Estate arrived to assess the situation. He left soon after, and so did we!

We carried on to Titchwell, which was pretty disappointing: hardly any waders, no Turtle Doves and few passerines: two male Red-crested Pochards were some consolation... After lunch at reception, (which we shared with a cute little Bank Vole) we retraced our journey, stopping for a walk down to the scrapes at Burnham Overy (dozens of Wall Browns!) before ending up at Cley (where nothing new had been reported) We broke our journey home at Horstead Mill Pool where, despite building work, we glimpsed a family group of Grey Wagtails.

I had intended not posting about the BWSs (which are obviously an adult pair) but since the bird pagers and news services have already given their exact location, that seemed fairly pointless!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Strumpshaw Fen: some great odonatids to get the season rolling!

Brian and I had a walk around the reserve, heading westward and returning via Lackford Run. Predictably there were very few waders or anything else of note on the pools, but there were three Cuckoos (2m, 1f) and a couple of Redshank, as well as a single 'boomer'.

Lackford Run is the place for insects in early summer: we encountered scores of Banded Demoiselles, as well as three other species of damselfly: Large Red, Blue-tailed and Variable. Both Four-spotted and Scarce Chasers were drying themselves in the sunshine, while we had a brief glimpse of a Swallowtail - our first of the year.

I know the water levels have to be kept high to encourage Bitterns, but couldn't RSPB head office find a few quid to put in some islands in front of Tower Hide?

Ely Cathedral Festival of Science

Linda and I spent the afternoon and evening in the beautiful nave of Ely Cathedral, talking about (and selling!) meteorites. In truth, we probably gave away nearly as many meteorites as we sold, but this was more of an outreach event than a commercial opportunity.

The well-travelled Moon Globe was suspended below the 'octagon' and was even more impressive in this location than when we last came across it in the Forum, Norwich. Before the doors opened to the visiting public, Evensong was celebrated, with absolutely wonderful choral singing and a specially commissioned piece by Tim Watts,  'Artist in Residence' at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.

All in all. a well-organised, well-attended event: back again on Wednesday, 29th