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Sunday, 28 February 2021

Patch tick!

On our early morning walk Linda and I came across a new bird for the Heath: a beautiful Grey Wagtail! It was feeding happily by the sluice at Pedham, before flying downstream towards the irrigation reservoir. Other birds seen or heard included Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Song Thrush.

On an entirely unrelated note: what's up with 'Fat Birder'? I've noticed Penny has had issues with the counter on her blog in the past: there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the number of hits my site gets and the ranking number. Despite 300 - 400 daily hits, the ranking swings from 94 to 78... most strange!

The International Space Station in March

Here's a table of the passes the ISS will make over the UK in March. Many of these are very early indeed!

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Siskins in the sunshine!

Having dropped off a couple of parcels at our local post office, I decided to carry on walking the circular route that leads past the little irrigation reservoir at Pedham. Not much about until I reached Pedham Green, where a roadside Alder held three Siskins: I haven't seen this species since before lockdown last year, so they were very welcome!

Carrying on around to the reservoir and sluice, I quickly added Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Cormorant and at least eight Buzzards to the day list. Among these was the spectacular male that often displays over our house.

The reservoir itself held another 'lockdown tick': a pair of Tufted Ducks! Last pleasant surprise was an uber-cute Muntjac right by the sluice. As I returned home, I met Peter and Sue off on their morning walk: I hope they saw as many species, if not more!

The Snow Moon and the ISS...

I crawled out of bed quite early to photograph the so-called 'Snow Moon' while the sky was still fairly dark: an impressive sight, hanging over the houses opposite mine. I knew the ISS would be passing over at 5.25 or so, so I had cameras ready set up to catch it, both as a timed exposure and a high-mag shot using my GPS tracker.

As I was snapping away, I heard both Little and Tawny Owls calling very close by: the male Tawny seemed to be in Peter and Sue's oak tree...

Friday, 26 February 2021

High altitude flirting!

Last year's Buzzard pair are displaying over the Heath once more: the strikingly pale male has joined up again with the well-marked male. They approach each other from opposite ends of the sky, then spiral upwards for a bit of talon-tangling and sky dancing! Terrific to watch...

Stunning Moon

Although the images I can obtain with my new telescope and CCD camera are better than anything I've achieved before, a good DSLR on a tripod - or held with a steady hand! - can show amazing detail. This photo was taken last night, using my Pentax K3, a 300mm prime and 1.4 converter. Settings were: f7.1, 800 ISO with the 'backlight' feature wound fully left. (AV - aperture priority, auto exposure)

Have a go! 

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Our nano-reef tank

Our small reef tank is 30 months old and seems to be maturing into a beautiful little ecosystem. Keeping the water parameters optimum is actually quite a time-consuming process, requiring protein skimming, biological filtration, phosphate scrubbing and weekly water changes, but the end result is very satisfying. I think my favourites are the Xenias: these are the pulsing, flower-like polyps that actively trap small items of food.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Incredible sunrise!

This morning's sunrise was a remarkable combination of blues, yellows, oranges, pinks... If you painted a picture using this palette, people would say it was over the top!

True to form, after a longish spell of sunshine, the clouds rolled over and the temperature dropped from 17 to 8!

A quick dash to the shops revealed that a pair of Buzzards are patrolling the same woodland belt as the Red Kites: additionally, we added Meadow Pipit to the lockdown list - something I failed to do last year!

Red Kites on the local patch

While on our way to the shops, Linda and I have noticed a Red Kite over a nearby patch of woodland. The few photos I managed (there's nowhere convenient to park!) revealed that at least two birds were involved: a promising sign.

Yesterday we saw both together for the first time: one was carrying twigs into the canopy, while the other occasionally dropped to the ground to look for worms! For obvious reasons, I shan't give exact location details: watch this space for developments.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Fresh in from the Sahara!

It's been really tough trying to source new stock during the present lockdown: sales have been very strong, but many countries have banned exports. Luckily, Lahcen,  one of my regular contacts in North Africa, has been able to send me a small amount of really beautiful common chondrites. Here are a few photos of him out in the desert collecting them: seeing where they originated really adds to their romance, I reckon!