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Tuesday 31 March 2020

Lots going on in the heavens tonight!

The ISS passing through Orion: note the two other faint satellites: wonder if the Astros could see them from the window? Also the waxing (nearly first quarter) Moon and Venus close by the Pleiades. Although this loose cluster is often called 'The Seven Sisters', you can see it actually consists of a lot more stars!


Linda and I have just passed a pleasant couple of hours watching 'The Glenn Miller Story'. To people of our generation, this music is about as good as it gets for whisking us back to our childhoods in post-war Britain.

But for me there's an extra frisson. Years ago I owned a hotel on the East Coast: we often let out the entire establishment to touring entertainers: the nearby Ocean Rooms and Cliff Hotel hosted some very famous artists, and we were happy to look after them for the Summer season. Among these was the Herb Miller Orchestra, led by Glenn Miller's younger brother. Together with the vocal group (I think they were called 'The New Modernaires') we had some fantastic evenings of music, nostalgia and fond memories of a simpler world...

Today's walk: all the regulars, plus two new species for the patch!

Near our house is a small, tree-girt reservoir: I've intended to take a look at it for a while, since it seems ideal for Downy Emeralds. Today I made a visit for the first time and was delighted to find that it exceeded my expectations! The surrounding woodland and streams were absolutely full of birds, including two species that are new for my patch list: Nuthatch (a pair) and Kingfisher. Additionally, I saw at least ten Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrushes, a male Blackcap, Wrens and lots of Chiffchaffs. As is the nature of dense woodland, not everything posed for the camera, but it was great to find such a terrific piece of habitat so close to home!

I carried on walking, taking a circular route of around five miles that led me to another new spot: a long corridor of grazing marsh and woodland. To my delight, I came across an active Badger sett! All the same species here as in the reservoir woods, but several Buzzards drifted overhead as the air warmed up. Eventually, after a few detours, I ended up on the bridal way past South Walsham Fen that leads back to Hemblington Church. More Buzzards and some delightful Yellowhammers kept me company as I slogged back home...


Monday 30 March 2020

Yellowhammers, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and lots more!

Linda joined me today for our five mile walk from the front door: there was a somewhat threatening sky, so we 'got a trosh on' (as they say in this part of the world!) All the regular species were in evidence: there are large numbers of House Sparrows, Greenfinches and Chaffinches this Spring, which is great to see. It is a terrific place to live if you have to avoid human beings (but not if you want a pint of milk!)


Sunday 29 March 2020

Bright trio in the western sky...

The Moon, Venus and Aldebaran with some colourful cloud effects tonight

Garden bird list: updated

Friend and fellow-naturalist Garth Coupland has been kind enough to point out that there were several omissions from my photographic bird list: these have now been rectified!

                                       Click HERE

The total now stands at eighty six species, which isn't bad for an inland location. I may have heard or seen a few more without getting a photo, the most obvious being Barn Owl (which isn't that uncommon locally!) Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

Best of all have been, I suppose, the two or more pairs of Turtle Doves that nested with us for a number of years and the Redstarts that did so on just a single occasion.

Taking stock!

At least three pairs of Stock Doves are currently visiting our garden feeders: delightful, timid little birds, they tend to get muscled away from the food by Wood Pigeons and even Collared Doves.

I can't pretend I'm any different to the rest of the birding world (and humanity in general!)  in being frustrated by the current enforced quarantine, but I totally get the need for it. Like many birders, I have rediscovered the pleasure of monitoring the visitors to the garden and skies around. If it hadn't been for 'lockdown' I doubt if I'd've seen the Little Owls across the fields. We've had two species of Butterfly, too!

Still: it would be nice if the wandering White-tailed Eagle chose our woods for a visit!

Saturday 28 March 2020

Out of retirement: briefly!

As some of you may recall, I used to run a pretty successful space & aviation memorabilia business: Linda and I wound things up a few years back when:
a) The Apollo astronauts started to become thin on the ground
b) The Shuttle fleet was retired, so you couldn't source any bits to frame
c) It became obvious that most younger people couldn't give a stuff about spaceflight and weren't interested in buying the displays!
A long-time customer of mine (who isn't in the best of health) contacted me last week and asked if I'd do a 'special' for him: he wanted framed (period) patches of the four main US manned spaceflight programs. I was happy to oblige and added some flown foil samples from Apollo 11 and STS-1 (Columbia)
Hope he likes them!

The International Space Station slides past the Moon

Last night was the last cloudless night for a while, so I took advantage of the current crystal-clear skies to photograph the ISS rising in the west and passing close to the crescent Moon and Venus. The lunar terminator cut through my favourite 'sea': the Mare Crisium: here, back in the fifties, British astronomers Patrick Moore and HP Wilkins claimed to have observed an artificial bridge straddling a bay at the edge of the Sea of Crises. I've seen the feature myself and imagine it's actually an effect of light and shade: even with the Moon's gravity being 1/6 of the Earth's, I don't reckon something that long could be self-supporting.