Friday, 17 November 2017

Oops, I did it again!

I only took the Strat into Cooke's to have a new jack socket fitted - I came out with this absolutely lush Tele! When I finished playing full-time in a band, I sold my Fender Super 60 and Fender Twin amps, as well as my back-up guitars and Shure mikes. I kept the Strat because it has sentimental value and have added two Fender semi's to the inventory. But since I seem to be playing a lot more regularly, I thought I'd splash out on this Squier Telecaster (by Fender, of course!) as a standby. I gave it a good work out once I got home: fabulous! With this, the Strat repair / set-up, a new Shure and stand, this 'charity' gig is costing me a fortune!

Leonid meteor shower

With clear, dark skies at the moment, it's a great time to look out for Leonid meteors. The peak of this shower will be tonight, the best time being after midnight (although I saw quite a few before dawn this morning)

Meteor showers are named for the part of the sky from which they appear to originate: this is called the radiant. The Leonids, not surprisingly, are most abundant around the constellation of Leo, which is easily recognised by its reverse question mark 'head'. Leo is just to the east of the fabulous winter constellation, Orion: find the Hunter and you'll find the Lion!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Shorelarks - the movie!

Just a short clip....

Shorelarks and Fieldfares with a bonus Purple Sandpiper!

Brian and Norman hadn't yet seen the Happisburgh Shorelarks, so we arranged to meet at my house at 7.30. As they arrived it started to rain, but we thought we might as well persevere, so headed north through Wroxham. I suggested a detour to St Benets to look for owls until the rain eased off: in the event we didn't find any, but there were lots of delightful Fieldfares, as well as Brian and Ann Shreeve!

By the time we reached Happisburgh it had started to drizzle again. I volunteered to go for a scout around and quickly found a group of half a dozen Shorelarks feeding on the path - I returned to the car to fetch the other three and eventually we all enjoyed decent views despite the weather.

A move to Walcott failed to reveal any Purple Sandpipers, so we carried on to Sheringham, where a single PS was feeding distantly on the rocks (it being low tide!) We enjoyed the friendly Turnstones for a while, before carrying on to Cley for coffee. As we drove towards the Beach Carpark a Woodcock flew right in front of the car: terrific! The weather had deteriorated once more and a close scrutiny of the huge flock of Brents failed to turn up the Brant. This seemed a good time to head home, stopping once more on the way at Ludham Marshes.

Still no owls, but we were treated to the sight of at least a thousand Cormorants heading westwards: flock after flock passed us, presumably on their way to roost at Ranworth.


Field Vole

I happened to glance from the office window just as it was getting dark: I had heard a Wren shouting away at something. To my delight there was a tiny Field Vole scuttling about at the back of the garden pond. Although this is thought to be the most common British wild mammal, you don't often see them for a sustained period.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Some fantastic raptor action at Strumpshaw Fen!

Not a great day for a walk: at 7.00am it was cold and damp - drizzling, even - but I felt the need for a walk, so I threaded my way through the ridiculous road closures, parked and walked out to Fen Hide. On the way a decent flock (20+) of Siskins was feeding high in the canopy (so not great for photos!) while a few Bullfinches were calling along Sandy Path.

Just Brian S and Adrian in the hide, but we were soon joined by Brian T, Ben and an Australian couple on holiday. For a long while there was virtually nothing for to see, but then a pair of Stonechats appeared, followed by half a dozen Marsh Harriers. These alternately chased corvids and each other! I picked up a distant raptor over near Tower Hide: initially it looked good for a Rough-leg or something else really interesting - I'd glimpsed a very pale underneath and rump. As the bird came closer, it seemed to be merely an extraordinarily marked Common Buzzard. Ben L also gave the bird a good examination, before concurring with the I/d. With Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk also chasing around, it had been one of the Fen's 'raptor mornings'.

Norwich RSPB Group

Over a year ago I was invited to come and talk to the Norwich RSPB Group: January's dose of pneumonia meant I had to cancel and reschedule. Last night I finally met the group and gave a talk about wildlife in the Yare Valley. As you know, I deliver many talks and formal lectures every year, typically to quite 'compact' gatherings: last night, however, was a refreshing exception! I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout - Hellesdon Community Centre was full - and by the warmth of the welcome I received. I spoke for around two hours with a short break in the middle and thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening.

Nice to bump into RSPB local groups officer Drew Lyness (wearing his trademark woolly hat!) and pleasant to be able to put faces to a number of people (blogger Sarah, John and David in particular)  who I've only previously 'met' online! A terrific evening: many thanks for the invitation!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Conjunction: but only just!

I was extremely fortunate this morning that my 5.00am 'get up' produced fleeting glimpses of this very rare event: a super-close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter! Other planets are available: Mars was in Virgo, halfway between the Moon and the conjunction.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Star of Bethlehem: Astronomy suggests a possible explanation!

If you're up early tomorrow (ie: an hour before dawn) and have a clear eastern horizon, you could see an extremely close conjunction of the two brightest objects in the sky (not counting the Moon, of course!) Jupiter and Venus will  almost appear as a single object, spectacularly bright and twinkly because of their position just above the horizon. It has been calculated that a similar conjunction took place around the Spring of 6 BC, suggesting that the 'Wise Men' (Astrologers) may have seen this rare phenomenon as a portent of a significant event...

There was a beautiful crescent Moon this morning, with the recent ray crater Copernicus very prominent. You could make out (just!) the four central peaks and the terraced inner walls of this spectacular lunar feature.

The very impressive crater in image 2 is Clavius, the third largest visible from Earth.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Shorelarks and Snow Buntings: an afternoon stroll at Happisburgh.

With lots on the agenda for the next couple of days and a surprisingly mild afternoon, Linda and I wrapped up and drove out to Happisburgh to look for the reported Shorelarks...

For those of you who haven't heard of this pleasant east coast village, it has several claims to fame. Firstly Happisburgh (pronounced 'Hazebrer') was the site of an incredible archaeological discovery in May2013, when a set of fossilized hominid footprints that date to the early Pleistocene were exposed by beach erosion: dating back 850,000 years, these are the oldest hominid footprints found outside Africa!
Happisburgh's other claim to fame is that the striking lighthouse on the cliffs was once repainted by Anneka Rice in one of her 'Challenge Anneka' programs. Unfortunately, she apparently used the wrong paint, so the local community (who own the building) had to restore it themselves at considerable cost!

Linda and I arrived at around 2.30pm and paid for an hour's parking. A brisk walk southwards along the cliffs soon revealed a flock of Turnstones which (with the help of a friendly visitor's 'scope) could be seen to hold ten or so Shorelarks. We eventually enjoyed great binocular views both on the clifftop and on the beach, where a splinter group of five flew down to feed. While we were photographing these, Linda noticed a flock of fifteen or so Snow Buntings perched on the face of the low cliffs. These were hard to see without taking risks, but at one point the flock flew around the lighthouse field before returning to the cliffs.

And so home, via Walcott where the tide had pushed the reported Purple Sandpiper off the beach and groynes.