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Monday 31 May 2021

Insectivorous plants

Some of our insectivorous plants failed to make it through the cold, insect-free spring: others have started to blossom: the purple flower is a Butterwort, the 'trifid-like' greenish ones are Pitcher Plants, with the white flower of a Venus Fly Trap in the background.

Sunday 30 May 2021

Tooting and quacking! Queen bees chatting...

Until Linda starting keeping bees, I didn't know that the Queens can vocalise. They make two sounds: a 'quack' that is reminiscent of Jimmy Carr's laugh and a toot like a toy trumpet. You can hear them both on the video below, taken just before one Queen exited the hive with a swarm of followers.
I should imagine that the similar 'toot' of a Death's Head Moth is an attempt to emulate a queen's call to encourage the other bees to tolerate and feed it.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Potton Hall sculpture trail: Nightingales and Stone Curlews

Linda, Sue, Peter and I met old friends Joyce and Andrew at Potton Hall, just a stone's throw from Minsmere. We spent a delightful morning looking around the beautiful parklands around Potton Hall (and catching up with each other's gossip!) before driving the short distance to J & A's house for lunch. Bird highlights of the trail were numerous Buzzards, lots of Hirundines and a singing Nightingale as we enjoyed coffee. (There was an amazingly bright halo around the Sun for most of the afternoon...)

After a wonderful lunch, the Burthenshaws led us on a four mile walk around Westleton Heath: what a beautiful part of the world! Displaying hawk-like eyesight, Peter found us both Stone Curlew and Nightingale, with 'back-up' from Hobby and Stonechat. (It was good to hear Stone Curlews calling on several occasions: a first for Linda.)

On the way home, we stopped at the Waveney House Hotel in Beccles for supper: a terrific end to a perfect day!

Friday 28 May 2021

Planets at sunset and sunrise

Last night I drove to the top of the Heath to obtain a clear north-western horizon: with a virtually cloudless sky, I was able to take a few pictures of Venus and Mercury, the two innermost planets of the Solar System. Mercury is growing dimmer each day: as it moves around the Sun it shows an increasingly thin crescent. Tonight will be the best time to view this conjunction until 2033: worth a look!

This morning an early rise provided views of giant planet Jupiter and its four largest moons: Io, Calisto, Ganymede and Europa. I was interested to note on several photos that a bright red point of light moved around to the west of Jupiter...

Thursday 27 May 2021


It's been a rotten May for Linda's bees: lots of pollen (eventually) but too cold for the flowers to produce nectar. This seems to have upset the poor little things: every five minutes they look as if they're about to swarm. Linda has been rushing about trying to find a solution - she's split the hives, called in another, more experienced keeper for help, but nothing seemed to be working... Then, at around 6.00pm, one of the hives did swarm! They flew all around the garden, before settling in a Magnolia tree: as I write, we're waiting for a beekeeper to come and collect them!

One interesting occurrence: while Linda was looking for 'spare' queens, she recorded two calling from one hive: most strange sounds - one was 'tooting', the other 'quacking'. Never heard that before!

Flower Moon

While observers on the other side of the Atlantic were enjoying a total lunar eclipse, we just got a 'Flower Moon' (When did Native American mythology take over the UK's collective consciousness?)

Still: an impressive sight at Moonrise: the Moon was genuinely suffused with an orange glow...

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Advance notice!

Those of you who enjoyed my meteorite Zoom last week might like to join in with the next installment:

The meeting is free and open to anyone with an interest in Astronomy, Meteoritics or general science: it will start at 7.30pm on Thursday, June 3rd: here's the link.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Is someone else visiting the Moon?

Last night I went outside to photograph the International Space Station (its second of three passes, at 10.00pm) After the ISS passed into eclipse, I turned my camera southwards towards the gibbous Moon: as I started a series of 20 exposures, I noticed two objects moving towards the Moon from the west. The brighter, higher of the two changed direction twice before passing in front of the moon: it reappeared (alone) a few seconds later. What were these objects? Were they in Earth orbit, or beyond the Moon?

Monday 24 May 2021

Rose-coloured Starling in Blofield Heath? Hmmmmm...

Oh the irony! When Linda and I were heading north on our trek around some of Norfolk's parks and gardens, the pager chirped up that a RCS was showing in Blofield Heath. Now I'm not saying I'm completely dubious about this, but our garden is visited daily by up to a hundred or so Starlings, both adult and juvenile. My office windows look out at all the feeding stations, so I can't help but think that if there were a 'Pastor' mooching around the village I might have seen it! I'd be fascinated to hear more details about Saturday's reported sighting: where? By whom? Age?