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Thursday 31 December 2020


Today - possibly because of the heavy frost that has persisted all day - the trees have been full of Redwings: hundreds of them! They are extremely territorial about 'their' sprig of cotoneaster berries and quickly drive off any interlopers! Every now and then, however, the resident Blackbirds come along to chase away their northern relations!

The ISS, Venus and the Moon

The ISS passed close to the very bright star Arcturus on its first pass: notice a second, fainter spacecraft on an almost parallel orbit to the south (right!) Later, Venus rose just before dawn. The just-waning Moon made the whole sky very bright!

Wednesday 30 December 2020

The International Space Station in January

Here are the dates and times of passes by the ISS in January: early mornings, still, but with Tier 4 everywhere, you can go back to bed after you've watched them!
Remember, the lower the number, the brighter. (So the brightest pass is the mag. -3.5 on the 31st of December)

Serpent stars!

One of the unexpected delights of keeping a marine reef tank is that the addition of new corals often brings accidental introductions of larvae or eggs of other species. The most common of these are small, white cushion stars and brownish glass anemones (Aiptasia sp.) Neither of these are particularly attractive or welcome and we remove them whenever we can. Probably the worst interlopers are Pistol Shrimps and Mantis Shrimps, both of which can allegedly shatter the glass of the tank with their chelae !

Whenever I carry out a weekly routine water change (as I did today) the drop in temperature seems to irritate other unintended residents: Serpent Stars. I don't think these are harmful, so won't remove them unless they grow really large or too abundant: fascinating creatures to watch!

Last full Moon of the year...

Just after sunset last night a beautiful full Moon - the last of this troubled year - rose above the magnolia on our eastern border. Despite the hazy cloud, it was an atmospheric sight. Then, at around 7.00am, the cloud and mist thinned enough to watch the Moon setting in the west.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Some beautiful garden visitors!

Feed them and they'll come! As soon as the weather grows frosty, Linda and I hang up plenty of suet blocks: these contain a variety of additives, from insects to fruit to seeds, and are a welcome high-energy stop off for most garden birds: today we've had Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits on the suet, as well as a Goldcrest (too quick to photograph!)

Our tall tree Cotoneaster has been constantly visited by Blackbirds, Redwings and even Jays: fingers crossed for a Waxwing before the berries disappear!

Monday 28 December 2020

Easy, Taiga!

An early 'exercise walk' at Buckenham was more atmospheric / therapeutic than productive: the reserve looked gorgeous in the early morning mist, with Cantley and its plume of water vapour dominating the eastern skyline. The fields on the other side of the swollen River Yare were flooded, with lots of gulls and wildfowl feeding happily...

A walk around to the wind pump produced typically distant views of five or six Taiga Bean Geese, while three Peregrines and a Buzzard kept the Lapwing flocks nervously aerial! Other birds included a few Pinkfeet and Whitefronts, lots of Teal and a few Wigeon.

Best birds of 2020

It has, as they say, been a funny old year: two periods of 'lockdown' limited most birders to short journeys on their local patches. Nevertheless, I managed to see - and photograph - 220 species with just a couple of legal trips out of Norfolk. 

Despite the restrictions on travel, it was a year during which I added three new birds to my UK list (four, if you include Lammergeier!) saw two species of Phalarope, five species of Wagtail, and five species of Grebe. 

It was a good year on my walking local patch, with Kingfisher, Wheatear and Glossy Ibis among the additions to my 'lockdown list'  list of 176 species!

Here are some of the more special birds of 2020: let's hope we all can legally enjoy more freedom in 2021...

Sunday 27 December 2020

First walk under Tier 4 regulations

Linda and I enjoyed a 'walk around the block' after lunch today: although it was cold and still a little breezy, I was glad I'd taken my camera. As soon as we reached the woodland edge at Bonds Lane we started to hear - and then see - Buzzards. There were at least six birds, possibly eight swinging around over the treetops: always a special sight. Lots of small finches and tits, as well as several large flocks of Redwings.