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Sunday, 19 September 2021

The ISS, Jupiter and the Moon - but no Inspiration!

Again: very frustrating! The cloud cover was patchy and rapidly-changing: it thickened in the south just at the wrong time, obscuring the Space-X Dragon as it made its final pass before returning to Earth. Interestingly, the  online sources I use for the timings of various astronomical events all published different data for Inspiration, so I might not have seen it even had the skies been clear!

The time outside wasn't completely fruitless: the Moon and Jupiter were close in the south east, and just after 8.00pm the International Space Station passed over them. The whole time I was observing, several Hedgehogs snuffled and grunted around the borders: no need for slug pellets in our garden!

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Too much astronomy!

A correspondent on Facebook recently commented that many of my recent postings on this blog and elsewhere in the 'social media' have been a little 'astronomy top heavy'. There's a reason for this!

Today (with Linda at a bee-keeping function at the Forum) I thought I'd go for a walk around Potter Heigham Marsh, where Spoonbills, Great White and Cattle Egrets have been reported over the past few days. Despite a decently early start, the absence of any other walkers and a fine morning there was virtually nothing at which to point a camera: just a few Little Egrets and thousands of feral geese. Water levels were very low, and the only waders I saw were a couple of Golden Plovers and some Lapwings!

So that's it: at this time of year it seems a wicked waste of fuel and road miles to go chasing off after guaranteed targets in Yorkshire or Lincolnshire, so I'll stick with astrophotography - if the sky ever clears again, that is!

Defeated by the clouds!

Last night's 20.20 transit of the four-astronaut spacecraft 'Inspiratiion' would have been easy to see and photograph, passing close to Jupiter and being pretty bright (mag 2) The clouds had other ideas, however, and there just weren't enough holes to catch the spacecraft passing by.

Frustratingly, I could see Jupiter and even the 2nd magnitude star Nashira, but I'll have to hope for clear skies tonight for a final chance to see Space-X's impressive craft before it returns to Earth tomorrow.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Hemblington Church survey, September 21

The 'usual suspects' (Sue, Linda, Peter and yours truly) met at the Churchyard for this month's survey. A chilly breeze and overcast skies promised little, but after half an hour the clouds parted and wildlife began to appear!

Nothing rare, but Golden Plover and Chiffchaff were noteworthy.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Tonight's beautiful waxing Moon...

See 'Inspiration 4' from Norfolk!

The Space-X 'Crew Dragon Resilience' entered orbit yesterday, becoming the first all-civilian, independent orbital space mission. It carried four astronauts, Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Chris Sembroski and Hayley Arceneaux, into a 585km high orbit (higher than the ISS!) and will be visible twice a night during the three day mission. On several occasions the spacecraft will pass above Jupiter and Saturn, while at other times it will pass more or less overhead. At its brightest, Inspiration will be the same magnitude as some of the stars in the Plough (Ursa Major)


Not really ideal conditions last night: a bit hazy and a first quarter Moon lurking near Saturn and Jupiter, but I managed a few interesting images using the  'Startracker' app on my Pentax with 300mm prime lens.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Disappointing Hickling!

With a morning free (and encouraged by photo sets on Facebook) I decided on an early morning walk around Hickling NWT reserve. My first stop - the new vantage point over Brandon's Marsh - revealed that the FB posts were misleading: there wasn't a drop of water on the marsh! No water, of course, meant no waders or herons, and the same situation obtained all the way around: no water birds at all (if you don't count hundreds of raucous Canada Geese!) The scheduled ditch-digging and lowering of the water table had emptied the reserve.

Lots of Ruddy and Common Darters, as well as Black-tailed Skimmers, Migrant & Southern Hawkers and a few Shield Bugs: but that was it! 

The Faroe Islands: something must be done...

During this year's 'grind' (as the islanders call their annual whale slaughter) over 1400 White-sided Dolphins were rounded up and pushed ashore by motor boats. The poor creatures were then slaughtered with knives or, it is reported, left to suffocate because there were '...too many animals to deal with'

I would be most surprised if all of the dolphins ended up in cooking pots, so there can be no justification for this dreadful yearly event. (Which, by the way, received very little coverage in main stream media.) 

Surely international pressure must be brought to bear on Denmark and the Faroes to end this barbaric practice: calling it part of the islanders' culture just isn't good enough. One place to start might be to remove the islands from the itinerary of North Atlantic cruises until they clean up their act.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Just before the rain: butterfly bonanza...

Looking from my office window now, it looks like mid-October - cold, driving rain and a leaden sky. But earlier things were quite different: the Buddleia outside the window was heaving with butterflies - Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, whites and a single Painted Lady: on the lawn a Holly Blue dozed in the sunshine. I hope that's not it for the fine weather yet!

Monday, 13 September 2021

Two Buzzards and a UFO!

Like most (?) birders, I do spend a lot of time looking upwards: living in a fairly rural area, this pays off both night and day. Today I was pottering in the garden when I heard the familiar 'mew' of a Buzzard, so I quickly grabbed the camera and took a few shots. A minute later a second bird flew over: neither of these were 'our' local birds. As I was following the second Buzzard I noticed a small, brightish ball of light passing high behind it: it's quite obvious in the sequence of photos below. I used the edge detection tool on Irfanview to check the object had genuine density: it did!