Thursday, 28 February 2019

Linda's little friend!

Linda has put up a bird table in front of her office window: we expected Blackbirds, Robins and Blue Tits (and weren't disappointed!) but this female pheasant has become a regular visitor!




Wednesday, 27 February 2019

North Coast: Black-throated Diver, Dartford Warbler and other odds and ends

A funny old day: with the noon temperature at nineteen, today was like a pleasant day in June! We started off at Titchwell with a seawatch: lots of Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes, but among these were two Black-throated Divers - Dave Holman was kind enough to let me look at them through his 'scope. Plenty of waders roosting on the beach: Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderlings being the most abundant. The only other birds of note were one of the regular Water Rails in the ditch and my first singing Chiffchaff of the year.

The drive eastwards to Kelling added Great White Egret to the daylist (on the grazing marsh at Holkham) as well as a couple of dozen Buzzards.

A good walk around Kelling Heath eventually produced distant views of a few Stonechats, which - sure enough - were accompanied by a Dartford Warbler...










The Moon and Jupiter in conjunction

A beautiful sight in the pre-dawn sky: the Moon and Jupiter just a few degrees apart (with Venus and Saturn to the east!)




Tuesday, 26 February 2019

It might as well be Spring! Strumpshaw and Hemblington....

I was out and about at 6.00am to carry out my monthly bird count at Hemblington Church this morning: biggest surprise was a big Peregrine that dashed through the churchyard! The last quarter Moon and Venus were good to look at (and photograph!)

I carried on to Strumpshaw afterwards: as expected, not too much about, but it was quite pleasant walking in the sunshine. Lots of display going on, notably Great Crested Grebe and Cetti's Warbler. Other odds and ends included Little Grebe, Snipe and Sparrowhawk.

In the garden the bees were finding plenty of pollen (note the different colours!) while several fresh Peacocks were out and about.













Monday, 25 February 2019

Mercury!

If you haven't seen Mercury yet (and you're not averse to a spot of astronomy!) you really should take a look: it's hardly ever this easy to glimpse! As soon as it starts to get dusky (say 6.15) look towards the western horizon and Mercury is more or less the only 'star' you'll see. Even with my 300mm prime I had no problem photographing the tiny planet's phase last night: like a small crescent Moon!

In the southern sky, Mars is still a bright object, while Venus, Saturn and Jupiter are still visible just before dawn. (If you know where to look, Uranus is visible as a small greenish object just to the west of Mars.) Last thing of interest: the Moon and Jupiter will be very close on Wednesday morning: through even a small telescope you should be able to see some of Jupiter's four large satellites.

So if you make the effort, you could see seven of the eight planets of the Solar System this week!


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Prehistoric teeth!

I may have mentioned that I have been a collector of fossils since I was a boy of six. A visit to Charmouth on a west country holiday in 1957 produced my first find: a pyritified ammonite (which I still have!) The photo below is me at around ten years of age with a big ammonite I wasn't allowed to bring home.

I don't have a huge collection - perhaps a couple of hundred specimens - but I have found virtually all of them, including ichthyosaur and plesiosaur vertebrae and limb bones, part of a mammoth's tusk and plenty of excellent trilobites.

At the mineral show yesterday, a fellow dealer was kind enough to give me a good deal on a couple of sauropod teeth: one is American and is probably from a Diplodocus, the other is from Morocco and is most likely that of a Rebacchisaurus, I suddenly realised I have the basis of a prehistoric tooth collection: watch this space!



Saturday, 23 February 2019

First show of the year and a rare sighting of Mercury...

Linda and I left home early (5.00am!) to attend our first sales show of 2019: the Essex Rock and Mineral Show at Collier Row, Havering. A good crowd attended, including one of our best mates, Jason, all the way up from Brighton! We had a great day and sold lots of rare and choice items. while I treated myself to  Diplodocus and Brachiosaur teeth!

As we arrived home, we were delighted to see Mercury peeping above the houses opposite our bungalow: a rare sight, given how close it generally is to the Sun.






Friday, 22 February 2019

And again! Gorgeous Moonscapes last night!

As the waning Moon rose in the East last night the sky was totally clear, allowing excellent views of its craggy south polar region. Janssen, one of the largest conventional craters (as opposed to maria basins!) was unusually easy to pick out, despite being ancient and somewhat eroded.

Tonight (if it's clear!) Mercury should be visible low in the south west just after sunset.

Meanwhile: in the garden today the spring-like weather brought out displaying Buzzards and lots of Brimstones. Linda's bees were fully active for the first time this year: let's hope we don't get a snowy March like last year!





Thursday, 21 February 2019

Fabulous Moon tonight: my favourite crater Petavius is right on the terminator. Also: you can just make out the site of Sir Patrick's 'Moon bridge' across a bay of the Mare Crisium…





Ross Coupland plays 'Redhouse'

You may recall that last Sunday I enjoyed a jam with my old mate Garth Coupland and his mega-talented son, Ross. I've just been sent a short video of one of the numbers we played that showcases Ross's fantastic blues guitar playing. Sadly, Kelly didn't video any of my vocals or Garth's fabulous harp playing...

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Brecks bonanza!

In the absence of any obvious targets in North Norfolk, Brian, Norman and I decided to spend another day down in the Brecks. First stop was Santon Downham, where a four mile walk and two hours of patient tree watching produced just Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Kingfisher.

A move to the famous Goshawk viewpoint immediately produced distant but thrilling views of possibly four birds, both displaying and hunting: a large female Sparrowhawk provided a useful comparison.

A short car journey and brief walk finally found us positioned discretely near the Willow Tit feeders along a forest ride. There were lots of Marsh, Coal and Great Tits, but we could hear the 'trill' call of at least one Willow Tit. I think the single bird below is a good candidate: but what about the ringed individual?  As we drove south towards Lynford we caught a glimpse of the three Tornadoes (plus one!) as they carried out their final pre-decommissioning tour of RAF bases.

Lynford was crowded, but nevertheless produced fabulous views of three Crossbills, as well as a dozen Hawfinches and a mixed finch flock that included a smart Yellowhammer!