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Saturday 31 October 2020

The Moon and Mars say their farewells and a Red Kite moves onto the Heath

Sadly, thick cloud and persistent drizzle on Thursday prevented me from seeing the really close conjunction between two of the four brightest objects in the sky: however, they were still near enough to be noteworthy last night.

On the way back from a shopping trip, Linda and I were delighted to see that last week's Red Kite is still hunting over exactly the same local field: let's hope it's going to become a permanent feature.

Friday 30 October 2020


It's that time of year again, when every day Pinkfeet cross the garden in 'V's and small groups. They seem to be heading northwest from the Yare Valley towards the Wash, presumably to roost. Whatever: their delightfully evocative 'yelping' always causes me to look up from my monitor and watch them pass by (partly, I admit, in the hope there might be a Red-breasted or Ross's with them!)

Hey! Who's moving rocks around on Mars?

If you spend time looking through the vast catalogue of photos obtained on Mars by Spirit, Opportunity and the various other rovers, you'll come across plenty of amusing - and perplexing - images. Some are obviously examples of the human mind's tendency to interpret odd shapes in terms of familiar objects (pareidolia) while others seem a little harder to explain in mundane terms!

Here are a couple of examples of rocks that have apparently been moved - but by whom?

Thursday 29 October 2020

Mars and the Moon: the ISS and Venus - it's all happening!

The Moon is moving closer to Mars in the early evening sky: the photo below was taken at around 8.00pm. Meanwhile, just before dawn, the International Space Station slid past Venus, which is so bright at the moment that I could photograph it through the kitchen window

I actually captured a general impression of structure on the ISS: might be worth persevering!

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Raw Prawn!

Our Cleaner Shrimp must be well over two years old, since he was an adult when we bought him in November 2018. I had no idea they lived that long - probably not the case in the wild! Here's a video illustrating why he's called a Cleaner Shrimp!

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Beautiful Fallow Deer at Holkham Park

While Linda and I were walking through the park and along the lakeside, we came across several groups of Fallow Deer. The magnificent males were calling continually in an effort to keep their 'harems' in a tight group: most fascinating to watch.

The International Space Station and Venus

The ISS slid past Venus again this morning: the sky was so clear and dark (no Moon!) that both were spectacularly bright. The phase of Venus (waxing gibbous, I think) was easily visible with binoculars!

My favourite constellation is Orion: it is just such an impressive pattern of stars, and actually does look a bit like a hunter wearing a belted tunic, with a sword, shield and raised club! To his west is Taurus, the savage wild bull that Orion is hunting! The 'sword' includes the famous Orion nebula, a region, where new stars are condensing from clouds of dust and gas: it was so bright tonight, it was visible with the naked eye.

While I was photographing the ISS I counted four more bright satellites and - finally! - saw an Orionid meteor. (These are bits of debris from Halley's Comet, believe it or not!)

Monday 26 October 2020

Ring-necked Duck at Holkham

Linda and I had an early breakfast and headed north-west, arriving at Holme around 8.15. Despite a good search we had just one inconclusive glimpse of a possible Blue-tail, so returned east to Holkham. On the way we stopped at Thornham - no Twite, but Rock Pipit and a variety of close common waders were some return.

An hour's trudge up and down Holkham Lake, scrutinizing every Tufted Duck, finally resulted in reasonable views of the Ring-necked Duck - I wonder how many people realise that's Daffy's species?

Bonus bird was a fine (ringed!) Peregrine Falcon near the monument.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Some fascinating lunar features

Really clear skies tonight allowed me to obtain reasonable images of two interesting lunar features:

The Alpine Valley - an oblique meteoroid impact near the crater Plato
The Straight Wall - a massive slip fault near the crater Arzachel

These two objects are a great way to assess the 'seeing' conditions and how well your optics are performing!

Hedgehog rehousing at Hemblington Church

Since the surroundings of the beautiful (late?) Saxon church at Hemblington are absolutely ideal for hedgehogs (isolated, little traffic, loads of hedges and compost piles etc) the Friends of the Church wildlife crew seem to be high on the list of potential rehousers - which is terrific!

Our latest tenant was found in a car maintenance pit: hence his name: Pitt! He's a young male who has been restored to full health and expected weight by Hedgehog Rescue heroine Annie. She brought him over just before dark and released him in an ideal part of the churchyard: needless to say, after a quick nibble he disappeared under the hedge! (The white blobs are non-toxic markings so we can keep an eye out for him!)

(When we opened the lid of the hedgehog box, it contained two hibernating Peacocks)