Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Swallowtails, Savi's and some surprises in a country churchyard!

Linda and I helped out at one of the regular 'bioblitzes' at Hemblington Church this morning: on the way we detoured briefly to Strumpshaw where we bumped into Lee Evans and, shortly after he moved on, a distant Swallowtail. A brief spell in Fen Hide was rewarded by a short spell of reeling from the Savi's Warbler and some croaking in front of the hide by a Snipe.

The bird count at the church totalled eighteen species, including Whitethroat and Chiffchaff for the first time. Among the insects were two pleasant surprises: a Hairy Dragonfly and a Norfolk Hawker.

After lunch, Linda and I returned to Strumpshaw, where this time we were rewarded by really good views of an immaculate Swallowtail in the small meadow just before Dr George's cottage, as well as a recently-emerged Scarce Chaser and lots of Variable Damselflies.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Red-backed Shrike at Winterton Dunes

It was a glorious sunrise so, after a hasty breakfast, Linda and I headed east to Winterrton, paying our £3 to park by the beach café.

Following a short walk (enlivened by Stonechats, Linnets and Whitethroats) we came upon a small group of birders standing on a dune-top. Joining them, we discovered that the reported male Red-backed Shrike was perched just below us on a bramble bush. The heat haze was already ferocious, so I used the monopod to steady the camera for a few record shots.

This delightful migrant flitted from tree to bush, but was never close enough for high-quality photography: nevertheless, really excellent to see! Other noteworthies included a small (less than 30cm) Adder and lots of Little Terns flying over the café while we relaxed over a cup of tea.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Green Hairstreak and other odds and ends...

On my way down to meet Jason at Rendlesham, I stopped briefly at Wrentham (where I 'enjoyed' distant views of the escaped Black Kite soaring with a Buzzard) and at the Quarry on Westleton Heath.

This was much more productive, with Green Hairstreaks, more Buzzards, several Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, a Tree Pipit and some family groups of Stonechats.

Woodbridge UFO conference 2018

A while ago, old friend Jason suggested attending a conference in Woodbridge at which 'new evidence' about the 1980 Rendlesham Forest Incident would be presented: this we did last night.

Following a short walk around the forest, a chat with organiser Gordie and an excellent supper in town, we joined around 200 other attendees in the Community Centre.

The first two speakers, Brenda Butler and Chris Pennington, did, indeed, present new opinions about the nature of the RFI, but, I'm afraid, neither stood up to even the most cursory consideration. (If anyone is interested in a fuller description of their theories, do e-mail me!) Why Chris placed a fir tree on the table was never explained!

Ronnie Dugdale and John Burroughs then took the stage and, to my pleasant surprise frankly, were superb! Ronnie has constructed what seems to me an impeccable timeline of events over the four days of December 1980 which he presented with input from John whenever appropriate. Everything they said had the ring of truth and authority about it and made it worth not arriving back home until nearly 2.00am! My only regret was that time considerations meant that Jason and I were forced to leave at 11.20, before the Q&A session had even started! Their in-depth review of witness statements and Ronnie's timeline did indeed produce some original and startling conclusions.

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Moon, Venus and Jupiter put on a show...

Tonight at around 9.30 the Moon and Venus were quite close above the western horizon, while over to the south east Jupiter was the brightest object in the night sky. Its four largest moons (Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa) were strung out in a line, while two cloud belts were just visible. (The image is a composite of two photos taken with different ISOs using my DSLR and 5" refractor)


'The Dam Busters' at Cinema City

Our great friends Peter and Sue had organised tickets for us all to attend the special showing of the original (but remastered) black and white Dam Busters film. This took place last night (on the 75th anniversary of the raid) at Cinema City, in Norwich.

Linda and I had never been inside this historic venue before and we were both very pleasantly surprised how comfortable and well laid-out the complex is. There's a decent little bar for pre-show drinks, excellent seating and ease of access.

The film was more or less how I remembered it from seeing it in the cinema back in the fifties and countless times on TV - I'm still mildly irritated by the clips of Mosquitos allegedly testing 'full sized upkeeps' - but the stirring music, tight direction and superb acting makes this, IMHO, one of the finest British films ever made.

Despite the initial problems with the satellite links from the Albert Hall preventing us hearing most of the Glenn Miller Band's offerings, it was a terrific evening...

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Dingy and Grizzled Skippers: a perfect left and right!

An early start saw Norwich rock legend Garth 'The Flyman' Coupland  and me driving south west to the Brecks at 7.30am. After one false turn, we arrived at the traditional site for Norfolk's two scarcest Skippers just as the Sun was emerging from behind the clouds. Terrific views of several Cuckoos, but no butterflies, so we drove a few miles to my favourite restaurant for coffee (and breakfast for Garth!) before returning for a rapid and productive walk around the Common. Not just both Dingy and Grizzled Skippers (32 and 1 respectively) but also Four-spotted Chaser and Hairy Hawker. After a fruitless scan at a nearby site for Goshawks (just a few Buzzards) we were back in Norwich for lunch.