Don't forget: you can click on an image to enlarge it!

Monday 30 September 2019


'Viz' is a hilarious but somewhat gratuitously vulgar comic for grown-ups that was first produced by a couple of Geordies in 1987. I actually bought the very first edition and began collecting it: soon there was a huge, pointless pile of them in the spare room. Fortunately, the Donalds decided to release yearly compilations of the most popular strips: Roger Melly, Buster Gonad, The Fat Slags, Biffa Bacon and the others. I'm told that I used to resemble Sid the Sexist when I had long hair: can't see it myself!

I wonder how many people have a full set of Viz annuals? Even though I'm an old crumbly and have read them all dozens of times. I still find them amusing and 'edgy': excellent stuff!

Saturday 28 September 2019

Kelling Heath Star Party

Despite a really dodgy weather forecast, Linda and I headed north to Kelling Heath to set up at the biannual astronomy star party. We arrived around 8.00am to overcast skies and a really gusty northerly wind: nevertheless, we 'stalled out', keeping things to the minimum so that - should it be necessary - we could clear away quickly.

In the event we managed to carry on until 2.30 or so, when rain showers could be seen approaching. A terrific day:  lots of fun with the Liverpool Astronomical Society and other old friends and - as always - it was good to enjoy the antics of the young Red Squirrels in the captive breeding programme.

The International Space Station over Blofield Heath

For once the skies were clear all night, allowing me to take a few long exposure shots of the ISS as it passed over Norfolk. Several other satellites appear too! The first four images are of the early pass at 7.30, the fifth is the 9.10 transit. I've added a couple of shots of familiar constellations: firstly Cygnus, the Swan (Sometimes referred to as the 'Northern Cross) The bright star to the right is Vega.  The final image is of the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia, with an arrow showing the position of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.


Friday 27 September 2019

Osprey and other raptors at Strumpshaw Fen

I felt the need to add a few miles to my Fitbit log, so dodged the showers for a walk around the Fen, arriving at around 9.00. There was no sign of the recently-present Jack Snipe, either at Reception nor Fen Hide: there were plenty of Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, however, as well as frequent fleeting glimpses of Kingfishers.

As I was leaving Fen Hide I glanced north west to see a distant, large raptor hovering in the wind: it could only be an Osprey! I ran back to the hide to alert the two birders with whom I'd been chatting: sadly the bird never came really close, but it was interesting to watch it being harassed by a Hobby!

Other birds included a small flock of Bearded Tits along the Sandy Path, numerous Cetti's Warblers and a distant Red KIte.

The International Space Station: see it pass over Norfolk!

The ISS is starting a sequence of excellent early-evening passes: it is incredibly bright, so you don't need any optical aids to see it. It's the largest man-made structure in space, so a decent lens (or telescope) will actually show the vast array of solar panels and modules.

The ISS crosses the sky from west to east: on these occasions it will pass more or less overhead, looking like a fast-moving bright star. The two later passes will take the space station into the Earth's shadow ('into eclipse') causing it to disappear.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Late Hobbies!

There were still Hobbies at Strumpshaw on Tuesday and there were two (or one twice!) over my garden today: they are obviously still finding lots to eat. On our trip up to the North Coast there were Ruddy Darters and Common Darters everywhere, as well as a few Migrant Hawkers....

Strumpshaw Ruddy Shelduck: short video

Here's a video of Tuesday's Ruddy Shelduck: I'm surprised it hasn't turned up elsewhere in the Yare Valley...

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Dodging the showers: Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers...

Brian and I decided to risk the predicted 40% chance of showers and head northwards for a morning's birding. First stop was Bishop's Hide, where two delightful Curlew Sandpipers were the pick of the waders: one juvenile came obligingly close!

The move to Gramborough Hill added Gannet, Wheatear, Mipit and - distantly - an elusive Lapland Bunting to the daylist. A certain well-known (notorious?) local patcher seemed to delight in disseminating duff gen, but we ignored him and moved on to Walsey Hills. No sign of the reported Swifts or Yellow-browed, but a Hobby was good to see.

We headed west towards the better weather, making our next stop at Burnham Norton. The cattle were much closer to the path today, but unfortunately the Cattle Egrets weren't with them! We made it back to the car just before the rain started in earnest. On to Titchwell, firstly for lunch, then to look for Little Stints. We managed to find two eventually, but they were always somewhat distant (as was the second Wheatear of the day)

A Water Rail delighted the largish crowd in Island Hide and a very distant Hobby occasionally spooked the waders - but not the usual group of Spoonbills!

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Ruddy Shelduck at Strumpshaw: getting lucky for a change!

I try to meet Brian at the Fen every Tuesday, but today the weather looked less than promising. However, since I was already awake, I thought I'd try to beat the rain, and was at the reserve by 7.00am. I went straight round to Tower Hide, bumping into  friends Tina and Rod on the way.

At first there was very little of note, but after a good scan I picked out a Garganey: an eclipse drake, I think. Apart from a skulking Water Rail, four Swallows and a few Marsh Harriers that was it for ages: eventually Brian arrived and Tina and Rod left. As I was having a final scan (the rain being about to arrive) I suddenly noticed that a Ruddy Shelduck had joined the dozen or so Egyptian Geese over to the right. I'm almost certain this is the same hybrid that Brian, Norman and I encountered at Kelling Quags recently...