Saturday, 30 June 2012

Ringlets and Skippers

Earlier today I was out on my bike and came across a couple of sand martins opposite their usual nesting site in the castle wall.

First I've seen this year, seems a bit late for them to be nesting if they are thinking about doing that. Never mind, whatever they are there for they can eat all the horrible midges for me.

Went for a run, and headed South down the cycle path. Lots of pretty blue and purple wildflowers about, and, lo! Some butterflies. A few Ringlets have made an appearance, and also there was a Small Skipper - or a Large one, I can't tell the damn things apart when I am running past them - a few Large Whites, and a flash of brown, if you can have such a thing as a flash of brown, which might have been a speckled wood.

The path to Cotham has attractive life in the verges, before you get to the rubbish tip at least. But I didn't go so far, I turned off at British Gypsum and ran along Bowbridge Lane. A single Kestrel flew up, as I ran alongside the dyke that always intrigues me, but as I rounded the corner where the substation is, three more seemed to be in the air! A couple of them went and sat on a pylon.

Wonder if that was a little Kestrel family I saw! "Ahhhh" say the sentimental types!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Lance Armstrong Birding

Cycling home after a miserable, sticky day in no-aircon work decided to detour on the lovely evening along the river. An unfamiliar bird suddenly shot above my heads as I passed the lock - a brief glimpse of black and white wings, a wader shape rather than duck shape I reckoned, and emitting a furious "peeping" noise as it went overhead.

I'll punt at Oystercatcher, never seen any by the river, but they are certainly at Langford Lowfields, these feistiest of waders.

Later was out on the bike again, Hawton, Farndon, then home. Many swifts out and about in Farndon, many of them over a paddock, screeing away presumably horses attract large amounts of insect life.

Wanted to have a look along the Devon for Dragons, but a bunch of ne-er do wells were in the way! A bit further on a drug deal was taking place in some parked cars. Charming what you can find out in the country!

But it was a lovely evening for a cycle!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Observing Report

A bit brief, as it is late and I have work tomorrow, but last night, 1230am, was a great little night. After initially getting rather lost, reacquired Messier 13, 5 and 3, the great Globulars of the Northern Hemisphere.

Still no joy in Ophiuchus for the globulars though, although I did pick up IC 4665 and NGC 6632 easily enough.

Lyra revealed to me Messier 57 for the first time! Messier 71 was seen in Sagitta, and the Vulpecula coathanger. Messier 39 looked great, easily resolved, and the stars around Cygnus and Lacerta were glorious in the 10x50s. Picked up two open clusters in Lacerta I think, NGC 7423 and one other.

And then, just rised above the roof, Messier 31. The Andromeda galaxy is back with us.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

There be Damsels Here

Just back from a pleasant little bike ride while all this soccerball stuff goes on - I'm rather more a summer sport man - cricket, cycling, athletics - and on a chilly but blue of sky evening, the swifts and House Martins were out over the river, sadly trying but failing to eat every single blasted midge in existence.

On Balderton Lake, Mummy and Daddy swan had four cygnets out for the first time I've seen.

Earlier, went running out to Willow Holt in Farndon and back along the river, and at last, in the fields at the far end, signs of more interesting life.

As soon as I came through the gate, I spotted a Common Blue Damselfly amongst the blooming brambles and other plants  - the entrance is very boggy and overgrown.

And then every so often through the meadow - grass rather long at the moment, I seemed to scare up a few Ringlets out of the grass. But they were tiny! Little flying Velvet - Black-Grey butterflies  - someone I  know is reporting tiny Skippers about too? Is this a consequence of bad weather hindering development? Or are they smaller when they first emerge?

Then, by the next gate, saw another damsel atop some elderflower. Couldn't get a clear view in the flat light, but it seemed dary - might have a been a blue tailed damselfly.

I was proud of my run, windy though it was and very boggy the river paths. I just love being outside, and as I passed the windmill, swallows swooped past my head and made me think that any and every day is a nice day, in some way.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Swallows and Martins

Got out for a run today in gaps between unpleasant sqaully blattery rain. Decided to go out to Coddington on the Barnby Lane Route, slightly tight chested but alive!

The fields of green wheat on Barnby Road and Balderton Lane were busy with Yellowhammers trying but failing to glint in the occasional sliver of watery sun that made it through the grey. Roses? Or things that very much like pink roses, decorated the hedges as I hauled myself up the hill into Coddington past the windmill house I love. But nothing much was going on. No ringlets or meadow browns that I would be expecting to have emerged by now. It's too cold.

On Beacon Hill Reserve I did get to see a pretty sight though. The rape field, fallow this year although plenty of rape and poppies in it, obviously was supporting an insect population that attracted Hirundids - as I've seen them called - for a nosh. About 10 House Martins, and given away by its deeply forked tail, a solitary swallow. Fascinating to compare how they fligh - the Martins have flappy, stuttery wingbeats like your bog standard garden bird - although they are better flyers - but the Swallow takes much more powerful pulls on the air, its wings reaching forward before scooping back like a falcon. A much more slender bird do than the stubby Martins.

The House Martins are Hurricanes, the Swallows are Spitfires.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bleak Prospects

I've been for a couple of runs this week, and really have seen so very little of note! The Daily Express, which has replaced its Diana fixation with one for the weather, has delighted in saying that Summer will not start until September. 4 seasons in one day? More like 4 in an hour, as high winds blatt rain into your face, before the sun comes out and turns everything  into a steaming mire of humidity.

Insect life, apart from midges, is in short supply - I haven't seen a dragonfly all year and butterflies are in pitifully short supply. I saw my first Speckled Wood on Clay Lane a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've been more likely to see winged demons than butterflies.

Without butterflies and dragonlies, summer is a grey grey thing.

At least in town there are plenty of Swifts to keep things pretty, screeching the air blue in bird swear! The RSPB tell me there aren't many about in some places - typically here I'm seeing flocks of up to 6, in several places round town - one near my home, another by the river, another in the town centre. They are nesting on a chinese take away near me, they seem to be able to fly straight into their  nests at 60 miles an hour without splattering themselves on the wall.

Wonderful birds.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Watership Down Apocalypse

I've just come back from a very very pleasant evening run, the low sinking sun even deigned to make an appearance, that bright yellow thing about as rare to the eye as it was in April.

The owner slash leaseholder of London Road lake has been complaining in the local newspaper that waterfowl and fish have been poached from the lake - this is the same guy who put up "Don't Eat the Swans" signs a few years ago aimed at the local Eastern Europeans - and I have to say the lake has been bereft of its usual mallard populations. But I'm not seeing many Coots, Moorhens and Canada Geese either, it could be poaching, it could be a lot of birds are nesting in the reeds.

A few swifts about, not many swallows. House Martins have a few nests on the Chinese Restaurant at Beaumond Cross!

What is about, on Beacon Hill Reserve, are rabbits. Huge numbers of rabbits, more than I've ever seen. Most of them clocked me a long way off, and suddenly 50-60 white backsides were high-tailing it for the copses on the reserve boundary. Many are very young kittens.

I'm very surprised not to see more raptors hovering overhead, or startled a prowling fox. Because there are a lot of pies running about out there!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Beautiful Buzzard

Work is a miserable place, a place of cardboard dust, despondent faces and the mental stench of the willfully ignorant.

But today, as I sneaked into the reserve canteen for a stupid paper cone or three full of water, I saw the familiar fuzzy "Y" shape of a Buzzard soaring.

Only it wasn't soaring, it was too damn cold to find a thermal, the air kept seeming to give way under its wings, so it had to repoint its wings, and turn head on into the wind and actually flap and hover like a kestrel until it tried soaring again, flying in wide spirals but barely gaining any height before going back to hover into the wind.

Eventually, after five minutes, the sun started to come out, and the bird was now repeating this routine much closer to my window. It flew downwind, and I get a fantastic view as it turned and swooped close to the window, white blaze on it's chest and under its wings. And then, it found the thermal, and it spiralled up like a glider.

The only thing that has been worthwhile about the day!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

I bore the Serpent and tamed the Wild Duck

My runs lately have not produced much in the way of excitement apart from beautiful clouds of swifts and the odd butterfly - my broken bicycle (now fixed) prevented hoped for excursions to Langford, and Rutland Water at Whitwell is a bit sterile.

Dragonflies just not showing around here at all! Broad Bodied Chasers in swarms down south by the sound of things, nothing at all here yet!

Two nights ago, had a great nights astronomy observing when arriving home at 2am and finding a decently starry night in progress - the first quarter moon low, and the twilight not yet disturbing the North-West. Out with the 10x50s and a cider.

Despite this, the moon prevented sightings of Messier 5 and Messier 3 - there was a little bit of high cloud about, and a bit of general smoggy town haze too. However, Ophiuchus occupied the gap between the Oak and the Sycamore, and I was able to pick up IC4665 faintly near Beta - Cebalrai. But further East, near a quadrilateral of I guess 6th magnitude stars, was a more compressed looking hazy unresolved open cluster. Later investigation revealed this to be NGC 6633 near the border with Serpens Caput.

I thought I picked up another cluster further east, a fainter smudge. There is an IC cluster around there, may have been that but need darker skies to confirm.

Having another look for Messier 5 I didn't find it, but came across a very orange red star that kept catching my attention, maybe the K class Alpha.

Had another doomed look for Messier 57 and 56 in Lyra, but just about got Messier 71 in Sagitta with averted vision. A treat here was the coathanger in nearby Vulpecula - so prominent! and strangely cute! It's a bit of an upside down coathanger.

Finally, getting a bloody tree out of the way, got a glimpse of Messier 11 The Wild Duck in Scutum! Low, so not as impressive as I expected, although I wasn't expecting wonders. The glorious milky way down south, which I have seen in 7x50s in the South of France, is never going to show well from my house, nor the things in it.

But I still enjoyed looking, and always will.