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Tuesday 31 January 2023

Final evening passes by the International Space Station

The ISS makes a few evening passes during early February before becoming an early morning object from the 10th. 

Long-eared Owl and Long-billed Dowitcher

Norman and Brian had very little free time, so we spent most of the morning on the North Coast. First stop was a very cold and windy Blakeney, where a walk out to the five-barred gate produced little of note - particularly not the hoped-for Twite.

A move to Cley and a walk out to Pat's gave us distant views of the Long-billed Dowitcher, lounging around with Godwits, Lapwing and Dunlin. In flight the white 'lozenge' made it easy to pick out: not so easy once it was on the deck! Good fun reminiscing with some of the senior Cley birders: all veterans of Nancy's and the Beach Cafe.
Since the delightful Long-eared Owl had returned to Glandford - and since Norman and Brian hadn't caught up with it yet - that was our last stop on the way home.

Monday 30 January 2023

The Comet: still playing hard to get!

At 4.00am this morning I had another bash at Comet ZTF E3 or whatever it's being called at the moment! The sky was a bit watery and I'm still trying to find camera settings that result in the stars being points of light rather than blobs. Still: at mag 5.8, the comet is easy to find with binoculars: it's halfway between the 'pointers' of Ursa Major and the Pole Star.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Lunar X, Y and V and Jupiter's Moons all lined up!

There's a well-known optical effect (or 'clair-obscure' to astronomers!) where the rims of some craters and other lunar features produce the shapes of capital X, Y and V. Tonight the X was only just visible - I was a couple of hours late - but the Y and V were both impressive. Jupiter continues to dominate the southern sky: tonight its three largest moons Ganymede, Io, Europa and Callisto were lined up, two each side!

Saturday 28 January 2023

Latest bit of Astro kit!

The device on top of the 'scope (where the finder scope should be) is a Celestron StarSense AutoAlign.  If you haven't the space for a permanent observatory / shed in the garden, then every time you use a telescope with an equatorial or 'go to; mount, you have to spend half an hour aligning it with two or three bright stars and logging these into the mount's memory. Hopefully this new gizmo should do the job automatically: once it's standing on a flat area, you turn it on and it scans the sky until it works out where everything is! Then you just use the handset to navigate and lock on to hundreds of pre-loaded objects. Just need a clear sky now to try it out!

Garden bird survey at Hemblington Church

Despite the weather (and perhaps tempted by the terrific soups and cakes provided by some of the 'Friends') a decent group arrived at 11.00 to help count the birds that visited the churchyard.

Yellowhammer was a new bird for the RSPB survey: most welcome, as were the Chinese Water Deer and numerous Brown Hares.

Garden Birdwatch at Hemblington Church

The first of this year's surveys takes place either side of midday today: the results will be sent off to the RSPB's Garden Birdwatch database. All welcome: hot soup and refreshments available!

Friday 27 January 2023

Astronomy Domine!

Another beautiful sunset, with Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all visible and a gorgeous first quarter Moon.

Thursday 26 January 2023

Purple Sandpipers: a short video

Always a pleasure to watch, especially at close range. These three (plus a fourth bird) were feeding on a slipway at Ness Point, Lowestoft, making them the most easterly waders in the UK!

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Waxwings and other goodies!

Just half a day available, so Brian and I headed through the traffic to Reydon in Suffolk for a look at the long-staying Waxwings. As soon as we turned off the main Southwold road the small flock were visible in a low tree. The four birds were incredibly confiding, flying down to feed just feet from us.

We moved on into Southwold, checking out the sewage works for Water Pipits. Although we both saw a couple, the only birds we managed to photograph were Grey Wagtail and Chiffchaff.

From there we drove north to Lowestoft where a flock of four Purple Sandpipers posed for us at a range of perhaps ten feet! In the harbour I found arguably the bird of the day: a Shag: hard to collect in East Anglia. A Rock Pipit added to the day's haul, flying from the sea defences onto the roof of a warehouse - and so, home!

Snow Buntings at Holkham

A brief video... What's delightful about these lovely birds is that if you stand still, they walk over to you!

Tuesday 24 January 2023

A grand day out! Shorelarks, Snow Buntings, Dowitcher and lots more!

Peter, Sue, Linda and I enjoyed a relaxed day on the North Coast. We started at Holkham, where almost the first birds we saw were the covey of six Grey Partridges: forty or more Snipe were feeding in the damp grass... A walk out to the east of the Gap provided good views of Golden Plover and other assorted waders, before the pager sent us scuttling back westwards, where we soon found flocks of ten Shorelarks and thirty plus Snow Buntings. 

After coffee, we moved inland for an excellent lunch at Byfords in Holt. We retraced our steps, taking the last parking space at the end of the East Bank: the walk seawards gave us Stonechat and Little Grebe for the day. We ran into tour leader (and thoroughly nice bloke!) Chris Lotz scanning the sueda islands on the edge of Arnold's Marsh. Between us we managed to pin down the Long-billed Dowitcher: distant, but very welcome. Chris put the news out and soon a few people arrived in time to enjoy the long-staying Yank before it flew off westward.

Last interesting bird was a very orangey ring-tailed Harrier: on timing alone, I think it must have been a Hen Harrier.