Thursday 26 July 2012

Nature Update much to write about!

Tuesday, did Langford in the morning - the reed bed hot and sultry and quiet  - Lapwing colonies and a lot of Common Terns about too. A songbird was making a hell of a froggish rasping noise behind me at  one point, saw a warblerish looking bird with a very pale underside seemingly responsible - some sort of Whitethroat?

Many Common Blue and Blue Tailed damselflies on site, not so many dragonflies though. But as I left, there were a couple of large browny looking specimens about, maybe brown hawkers, no idea!

I've done a lot of running through Willow Holt and Beacon Hill, many Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Gatekeeper butterflies, Swifts still about, often screeching about down Millgate. Not many swallows compared to other years.

The weather is gorgeous. Will probably head to Langford again if it holds.

Astronomical Observations

Oh my poor blog, how I have neglected thee. Well, I've been a busy boy.

The weather has been superb this week, I have been out all of the days, and outside a lot of the nights. The milky way has been visible from my little urban "observatory" - I bet you can't take rum up Mount Palomar, and although not quite good enough to see the Cygnus Rift well, I've had lovely views of Messier 39, The Perseus Double Cluster, Messier 31, Messier 15, Messier 34 - I know, winter sights are back with us - The Mirfak Cluster, Messier 71, possibly Messier 56, Messier 13, possibly Messier 52 and the other in Cassiopeia. Messier 11 and other clusters unknown in Scutum. Ophiuchus Clusters

And the Milyway from Aquila to Auriga! More stars dripping off the surface of the sky, filling every bit of binocular field of view with glitter. Patti Smith sang in a song "It seemed that the sky was made of butter as the stars started to slip." I could see what she meant.

But the news is I confirmed La Superba on one of these clear nights! It is indeed such a deep red it is actually a pinky crimson under our sulphurous skies, and yes I had seen it before but not under good enough skies to get a real sense of colour.

Still think Mu Cepheii the garnet star is more dramatic though!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Butterflies in Willow Holt

Busy writing today!

Went running out to Willow Holt today, on a half sunny, half cloudy but warm and humid day. I was figuring after seeing a Southern Hawker by London Road lake there might be a bit more interesting life about with the warmer temperatures, and so it proved.

The meadows at the entrance to Willow Holt, especially at the Bramble bushes round the second gate, was busy with Butterflies - mainly Ringlets, but a few Meadow Browns and lurking close to the long grass and the bramble leaves, these citrus yellow moths - possibly looking at google Brimstone Moths, were very numerous.

On the part of the Holt next to the river, a large dark dragonfly whipped over my shoulder, no idea what and I never got near enough for a good look. It was Hawker sized, might have been a Brown Hawker I suppose. But further round, by the corner of the river near the power station, lots of Banded Demoiselles were flapping about, looking like insect X wing fighters actually, very erratic wingbeats compared to other Dragons and Damsels, they fly more like Butterflies.

And on the private path past the Bypass bridge, a Common Tern, tail deeply forked, was working the river, another great sight after a very pleasant run!

Auroras, Cuba Libras

Well, we had a lot of excitement with the KP (whatever that means) Aurora storm projections of 8-9, leading to the possibility of the Aurora being visible from England.

And so it transpired! Great stuff! Only from my garden, "The North" is across town and across an industrial estate, so it would have had to have been a mega Aurora of fluorescent pink and blue spots, there was no chance of seeing it. Unlike March 13th 1989, which I'll always remember for the sky looking like sunset was taking place overhead.

However, in  between clouds, on a crisp night, and in between clouds, the starfields in 10x50s were amazing. Cygnus and Cassiopeia were universe deep in glittering stars. Had a go at finding Messier 52 but I think this is too small, and at mag 8.0 too much of a challenge for my 10x50s. M39 was as clear as day though, as was Messier 31 the Andromeda Galaxy, Messier 13, and over in Ophicuchus IC4665 and NGC6678.

I had another look for La Superba, once again finding a rather pinky looking star. It's quite a sparse patch of sky, I must have seen it by now!!! I'm just not certain!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Butterfly Park

Yesterdays run was a Hawton - Farndon - Home route. The Devon looks swollen, the sky was a threatening battleship grey. It didn't perturb the swallows though, which were skimming the big fields of unripe wheat on the Hawton-Fardon road in largish numbers - to me they seem to like following the tractor paths that flatten the stalks.

The chestnut back of a kestrel settled low in a tree just in front of me, but I couldn't get a closer look. Perhaps it had a portal to Bill Oddie's head in the trunk, hence its disappearance.

Today went out to RHP cricket ground, then down along the cycle path past London Road. A solitary large white was the only butterfly I saw.

Passed London Road lake escaped across Clay Lane and entered Beacon Hill Reserve at the lower end, watched by a smaller number of rabbits than usual - about a thousand. As has been my habit the last few days, I stopped and had a look at what you may have seem me refer to as "Butterfly Park".

This is a scrubby corner of a scrubby hardcore wasteground - not really soil, sentried by this sort of diesel punk gas substation, and at the moment covered at a high level by Buddleiah - in flower again at the moment, mainly purple with a few white ones thrown in, mixed in with flowering thistle and this tall yellow flower I've never been able to identify.

At the moment, it's beautifully carpeted with buttercuppy looking small yellow flowers, and these purple almost heathery looking plants that I photographed a lovely Cinnabar Moth on a few days ago.

It's such an unconventionally attractive spot, the ground is littered with the evidence of fly tipping and underage drinkers, yet the straggling, blown where they want plants and rugged locale make it attractive - a concrete factory stands nearby. Yet, in late Summer, this is the best spot for finding and photographing butterflies I've seen in this whole area. 3 years ago every flower was covered by painted ladies, more recently I've found and sometimes photographed Peacocks, Commas, Brown Argus, Cinnabars, 6 Spot Burnets (yes, moths I know I know) Red Admirals, Tortoisehells and Painted LAdies, and various other flying things.

And sometimes, I think no-one knows about this place apart from me, and a few flytippers and teenage drunks!

Monday 9 July 2012

Hot chicks

Yes, it's another shameless search engine fishing title.

But there are chicks about. My runs past London Road lake have revealed a family of Great Crested Grebes, some young Coots, and a swan family that seem to take any oppurtunity to block the cycling path or leave huge green defecations everywhere.

They have been hiding in the reeds a fair old while!

The weather is very very sticky, hence the hot part, I come back from my runs dripping like a kebab rotating in a takeaway. Moths are about - a lot of Cinnabars, photographed one of these in Butterfly Park on Beacon Hill Reserve yesterday, and also the lovely picture on the blog below of an obliging Swallo Tailed Moth I let into the house.

Seeing a very few Meadow Browns on the wing at the moment, still not dragonflies anywhere round here and I imagine Willow Holt is very boggy at the moment. But as ever, I'm just loving being outside!

And so should all of you!

Friday 6 July 2012

Swallow Tailed Moth

Noticed this handsome fellow banging on the door two nights ago, so I decided I'd let him in, at the cost of giving me a decent photo op.

Didn't know what it was at the time, research reveals it to be a Swallow Tailed Moth. Beautiful, and released unharmed and un cat molested.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Coddington Mystery Spider!

Well it probably isn't much of a mystery to nature experts, but it was to me. Came across this egg carrying beauty sitting in a flower next to a wheat field on the way into Coddington Village. I stupidly followed a public footpath sign that I thought might be going somewhere.

Anyone know what it is?

La Superba

Recently I've become obsessed with a star.

This is just as unhealthy as being obsessed with a woman, and likewise takes place mainly at night, after the pubs have shut. But ever since I read about it - and to be honest for some reason this star has not shown up on my radar until very recently, La Superba has become a nightly target for my atronomical observations.

It is a rare C-J spectral class Carbon star in the constellation of Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs, that sits beneath the Great Bears Tail not doing a whole lot apart from being faint.

It is said to be the reddest star in the sky, and in my town sky site, rum and coke to hand to keep the cold out, it's a tricky one to find! But find it I have, I think, roughly halfway between Cor Caroli and Megrez.

But it doesn't look very red to me! It looks pink in my 10x50s, I was so gutted! Mu Cepheii, the famous Garnet Star in Cepheus, is far redder, a real bloody ruby of a star. I keep looking at it, and it still looks pink.

Now a pink star is rare enough! But it is not quite what I was hoping for. My explanations are...

1) I'm looking at the wrong star - very possible, knowing me, but it is not a part of the sky rich in stars, I'm pretty sure I've been looking at it.

2) At the moment it's too faint for me to make out much colour in my 10x50s.

3) It's lowish at the moment and the haze and light pollution is ruining the colour.

Any ideas, I'll take them! But to see a star the colour of real blood, not child's wax crayon blood, is something I want to see.