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

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Great time to find your way around the Moon

When the Moon is a day or two away from full (as it was last night) even with a small telescope it's easy to pick out the so-called 'seas' and larger craters: the maria are, of course, huge impact craters that filled from beneath with lava / basalt.

These features were traditionally given Latin names (as is generally the case in Science) but the English translations are used with increasing frequency. (Personally, I'm a traditionalist!) I think Mare Crisium has more of a ring than 'The Sea of Crises')

Here's a photo of last night's waxing gibbous Moon and another naming the maria and a few craters:

Monday 28 September 2020

Little Gulls, Little Stints and a Grey Phalarope: an early North Coast dash!

The weather forecast was slightly more promising than usual, so I left home at 5.30 and an hour later was the first car in the  East Bank car park at Cley. The walk to the sea produced just a few Blackwits and Redshanks, while the seawatch was even worse. I scanned the Serpentine (adding Grey Plover to the day list) but there was no obvious sign of yesterday's Phalarope, so I decided to move eastwards to Kelling.

As I walked down towards the Quags I rounded a bend to see a Flycatcher sp. on the edge of a Sycamore: as it flew off (never to reappear) I couldn't fail to notice a brilliant flash of white from its rear end: another one that got away.

I cautiously carried on to the pool (picking out half a dozen distant Little Gulls roosting in a ploughed field) Apart from a few large gulls and four Swans, there was no sign of any of yesterday's interesting birds, so I continued on to the beach: almost the first birds I saw were three Grey Phalaropes bobbing up and down near the pill-box. As I raised my camera, they flew off west. Back to the pool (adding Stonechat) Still nothing unusual: I was about to return to Cley when I noticed one, then two, then four juvenile Little Gulls  swooping across the pool. After a thoroughly enjoyable half hour's solitary gull-watching, I decided on a last look at Cley. This time I parked at Walsey Hills and was soon watching a somewhat distant Grey Phalarope at the back of the Serpentine. On one occasion it flew a little closer until it was driven off by Dunlins. Other good birds included two Peregrines, two Little Stints and two Grey Plovers.

Sunday 27 September 2020

How about this for a chunk of the Moon?

Not everything gets more expensive! Twenty years ago when I first gave up teaching to focus on selling meteorites, there were only a couple of dozen known to Science. If you could find someone with a piece they were willing to cut up, you'd pay around £1000 /g. Now, over 300 lunar meteorites have been found. Some, of course, are in museums or private collections: others, originating in Antarctica, are off limits. Even so, the price of a decent specimen puts them within any collector's budget.

The sample I'm holding here has a mass of over 4g, yet - coming as it does from a large strewn field - I've just been able to sell it for the price of a decent meal out for two (with Champagne!)

Saturday 26 September 2020

Seawatch at Walcott: some good birds (but no good photos...)

With further gale-force north-easterlies forecast, I decided to drive to Walcott on the 'corner' of Norfolk in the hope of a storm-blown seabird passage: this venue offers the distinct advantage that you can park right on the seafront and use the car as a hide. In the event (as is often the case here) the birds were present, but just too far out for photography - and I wasn't getting out of the car in any case!

During the couple of hours I watched, plenty of ducks flew north: all, as far as I could see, Teal and Wigeon. The 'good stuff' was further out and flying south: two Sooty Shearwaters, a skua (probably a Bonxie) and, I'm fairly certain, a Sabine's Gull.  Probably the best birds, though, were two Leach's Petrels that fluttered by a few yards apart in the surf - I managed a single dodgy photo of one of them.

On the way home I stopped to admire a flock of Pinkfeet, Egyptians and large gulls at Waxham.

Friday 25 September 2020

Coral reef update

It's coming up to two years since we set up our marine tank: it seems to have settled down into a balanced, sealed ecosystem, which is what you're trying to achieve. It looks particularly beautiful under actinic light, when lots of the polyps glow green or blue.

Obviously, regular water changes (at least once a week) filter cleaning and parameter tests are essential, but virtually everything in the tank seems to have 'bedded in' and, in most cases has spread or reproduced. This is usually a sign that, for them at least, conditions are nominal. The large green disc (with a Cleaner Shrimp perched on it!) has divided into two individuals, while most of the soft corals have populated new rocks. The one real shame is that, because of CITES regulations, we can't even give away the new individuals...

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Buckenham Marsh: wildfowl and waders!

Linda and I had some cardboard to recycle (as you do!) so we carried on to Buckenham Marsh for a quick walk to the river and back. We had hoped for a Whinchat or two, but the only passerines we encountered were Reed Buntings. However, there were plenty of odds and ends to enjoy: the Winter wildfowl are beginning to arrive and Teal and Wigeon were present in some numbers. I think we can be certain that the Barnacle Geese are feral and the lone Pink-footed Goose with a broken wing has been here since last Winter, but both were good to see. Several Buzzards and a Peregrine flew around annoying the corvids, while lots of Herons and Little Egrets were stalking the dykes. The large pool (contrary to what I've read elsewhere!) held eight Dunlin, fourteen Ruff and - best of all - one or two Curlew Sandpipers, while the small one by the hide gave us a couple of Snipe.

Shrike and shrew!

As I mentioned a couple of days ago: as Linda and I were walking back to the car from the flax (?) field where the gallery was standing, we realised that the Shrike could be seen moving around in the depths of its favoured thorn hedge. It was never exposed enough for the autofocus of my camera to grab a shot and it was only while transferring the image files from SD card to my laptop that I realised I'd managed a single picture of the Shrike impaling its shrew.