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Monday 28 February 2022

Brecks with Sue and Peter: lots of finches and raptors!

It's been a while since Sue, Linda, Peter and I enjoyed a day's birding together, so we decided on a trip down to Lynford Arboretum and the nearby Goshawk watch point. Needless to say, the day also involved plenty of fuel stops - the Lynford Coffee Stall, The Twenty Churchwardens and a pleasant restaurant in Swaffham!

Lynford held good numbers of winter finches still, including Yellowhammers, Siskins, Bramblings and - of course - Hawfinches. A move northwards to the familiar raptor watching layby added very distant Goshawks to the day list, as well as lots of Buzzards. One large raptor caught the attention: just a Buzzard, or a White-tailed Eagle? It never came near enough to be definitive - it certainly seemed large enough. Shopping at Waitrose and then home!

What price can you put on nostalgia?

When you get right down to it, the urge to collect seems to be a deeply ingrained part of British culture: whether it's stamps, china, postcards or ticks on a bird database, most of us have collected something at some stage...

Many years ago I helped run a coin and stamp shop in Romford, Essex: this gave me access to some incredible coins at bargain prices. I look back wistfully on the Roman Imperial type-set I put together: sestertii, denarii and aurii of every Roman Emperor, from Augustus to Contantine. I even had denarii of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Pompey. As often happens, a divorce thirty years ago necessitated their sale...

Although I still have a few interesting pieces, the only set of coins that remains is of British pennies from 1902 to 1966. This includes all but one of the rarer items: 1902 'low tide', 1912H, 1918 & 1919H & KN, 1950 and 1953. (H - Heaton - and KN - Kings Norton - refer to tiny letters to the left of the date on some pennies of those years: a shortage of coinage in circulation forced the mint to outsource production to two other metal works.) There is just one missing from the set (not counting 1933, of which only a handful were struck) Ironically, the missing date is 1951, the year of my birth. This is quite rare, having never been circulated in the UK - the entire production of 120,000 were sent to the 'colonies'.

The usual cost of a 1951 penny is in the region of £50 - £80 depending on condition. There's no way I can justify spending that sort of money, just to fill a gap in an album.... Or can I? 😉

Sunday 27 February 2022

Skytrain and the ISS (Again!)

I just thought it was worth trying a different approach when photographing satellites passing overhead: to prevent 'trailing' of the stars in the images, I used the GPS / Startracker function on my camera. This worked pretty well, although I had to use a high ISO and as short an exposure as I could get away with to separate the 'Skytrain' into its individual satellites.The video shows the International Space Station sailing east into the dawn...

Saturday 26 February 2022

He had to go...

Earlier this week I glanced into our marine tank and saw to my horror that the Lilac Stone Crab that appeared recently was contentedly munching away on a polyp colony! As soon as I moved towards the tank he scuttled off, but in the morning it was obvious he'd been back...

We tried catching him with a baited bottle trap, but he was too clever: in the end we had to dismantle the entire reef. Hopefully, now he's been evicted, the polyps and discs will grow back. Oh! One amazing find: the Candy Shrimp that we thought had died months ago was living happily inside the 'cave'!

X-37B, Skytrain, the ISS and lots more!

Definitely worth crawling out of bed at 5.00 this morning: I finally managed an image of the American X-37B spy craft, just visible as it passed above Venus. A few minutes earlier one of Elon Musk's 'Skytrain' satellite clusters went overhead: impressive, but eventually every astro image will be photobombed by this bright commsats.

The ISS passed close to two bright stars this morning: Arcturus and then Vega - it was brighter than either!

Finally, the Moon and Venus hanging in the south eastern sky was an impressive sight: still no sign of Mercury - or Mars, for that matter!

The X-37B (Just above Venus)

Skytrain cluster

ISS and Arcturus

ISS and Vega

Moon: note the Sinus Iridium

Moon and Venus

Friday 25 February 2022

Annual trim!

Once a year, before the birds start nesting, members of the Friends of Hemblington Church (including Linda, Sue, Peter and me) trudge up to the church to trim back the laurel, hawthorn and bramble hedges. This is quite an arduous task, but each year it seems harder: tempus fugit! But it'll all be worth it in the Spring, when the hedges are filled with bees, butterflies and birds...

A secret American spacecraft

The Boeing X-37B is a secret spacecraft that resembles a miniature Shuttle Orbiter. It carries out classified missions for the US Space Force / DARPA, staying in orbit for several months at a time.
You stand a good chance of observing it just before dawn for the next few days, since it passes close to Venus in the dawn sky. It's not a particularly bright object - around 2nd magnitude - but if you have clear skies and binoculars you could well catch a glimpse! The chart below is for Norfolk, February 26th

Thursday 24 February 2022

An unusual garden visitor

In the twenty-plus years we've lived in Blofield Heath, we've only been visited by Green Woodpeckers on ten or so occasions. Surrounded as we are by arable fields, that's perhaps not surprising. However: our Sycamore is now one of the tallest trees in the village and attracts a few passing flocks from time to time. This Yaffle stopped by for literally two minutes this morning: I had to grab a few shots through the gloom and mist!

Red-breasted Goose

Just a short video of the Red-breasted goose, on the Eye Field at Cley with Dark-bellied Brents

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Red-breasted Goose at Cley: second helpings

Since Brian hadn't caught up with the long-staying eastern visitor, we started the morning at Cley with a walk along Beach Road. No luck, however - just a Little Egret flirting with a Mallard! We decided on a move west to Titchwell - our first visit there for over a year - picking up a long-overdue year tick in the shape of a Red Kite.

There may have been a Dotterel in among the Golden Plover, but if so, I couldn't pick it out: very little else to get excited about (just a Buzzard and Siskin!) , so we returned to Cley for tea and scones and excellent views of the Red-breasted Goose.