Thursday 29 November 2012

Home Town Floods

I understand large amounts of Willow Holt and my favourite run along the Fanrdon reach of the river trent are underwater; similarly RSPB Langford Lowfields has suffered badly. I guess it is better it happens now rather than in Spring and Summer when birds are nesting, but you wonder about the effect on mammals and any reptiles about.

I ran today round the Coddington Route - a bright, sunny and cold day. Somewhere over Banrbygate, a Buzzard was struggling to find a thermal in a very urban location Ive never seen a Buzzard in before!

But the purpose of the run, other than not becoming a repulsive fat oinker as normal, was to take some photographs of the floods in the town centre and along the castle and weir reach. This is about four feet down on peak level, which apparently was 4.8m above the usual Trent level! Yikes!

The Barge pub not attracting many drinkers

Newark Castle and Soggy Riverside Park

The Weir and The Island

Rose Hips and Fluffy Stuff

No idea what the fluffy stuff is, the berries looks nice though! No little birdies eating them though. This is near the gas substation thing on Beacon Hill Reserve

Sunday 25 November 2012

The Creeping Terror of Mars...

It's not there to be seen at the moment, it's crimson brilliance hidden away until it next approaches opposition in a year or so's time. Jupiter entertains all night, Venus glitters in the frozen mornings and soon Saturn will be shaking off his duvet just before the dawn.

But not planet Mars, not for now.

And in some ways, this suits me fine.

To see Mars, late at night, in silence, on your own, is to be reminded of the tentacled terrors that we know DON'T, but REALLY DO, wait for their chance to cross the gulf of space between us and devour our living blood. I go inside after observing Mars, and every hanging coat, every shadow, every shadow cast by a streetlight, becomes an animate creature of terrifying, horrifying, scareifying Martian origin waiting to put a clawed finger on your shoulder the moment your eyes close.

You wake in Sleep Paralysis, and just beyond your frozen visual periphary, an upright bipedal grey martian prepares his probes and samplers for journeys into unmentionable parts. They control the horizontal, they control the vertical. They control the speed with which they open up your stomach and eat your intestines while you watch.

Observing with a telescope at 2am, as I have done, is worse. The green flash of launching cylinders is an imagined nightmare only a heartbeat away, the collapse of civilization under piles of mouldering, mutating red weed.

I shiver with fear every time I look at it. I bet many of you do too, as you stand alone surrounded my menacing whispering trees. But we all come back for more to see the God of War gaze contemptuously down at us, seeding our mind with fears...

Friday 23 November 2012

Waxwings Bloody Waxwings!

So, I've been on a couple of pretty long runs, 10-12 kilometres, the last couple of days and every berry laden bush or tree my neck roates like an owl as I strive to see any interesting feathered contents as I walked past. For it is winter, and I've been telling readers I don't have yet where best to see Redwing, Fieldfare and Waxwings.

Only, I haven't seen many myself yet. I caught a few Redwing in Beacon Hill reserve in the trees between the nursery and the open grassland yesterday, but the Waxwings are eluding me, despite a flock of them being reported a couple of hundred yards from my home, and all over Nottingham. In fact there is a lot of them being reported all over the country, sweeping south.

But not in my line of vision!

Of course, my running isn't just about the top birds, I like to see the flocks of Long Tailed Tits. Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches you see this time of year, and out in the sticks round Barnby Lane and the Coddington Road there are Goldfinch a Yellowhammer about.

But I do feel like I'm missing something. And meanwhile The Waxwings laugh at me, concealed in the hedges I run past, the trees I cycle past, their crests jiggling with every chuckle...

Thursday 22 November 2012

Moores Winter Marathon

After horrendous rain that had ruined all of our damn days here, evening brought on a clear weather front (which I got a nice picture of) advancing overhead at sunset and clearing the skies.

Of course I didn't take advantage of this until I got home after a couple of nice pints of Reverend James at The Prince Rupert and had then obtained a small tipple of something or other to keep the cold out.

Tonights main objectives were a couple of objects on Moores Winter Marathon list, and I figured I was in with a good chance as it was cold and clearenough to see Lepus, the hare leaping around his apppointed spot below Orion's feet.

First up, after some shuffling about to get a good sight line amogst the trees was Messier 41 in Canis Major. A bit of help from my wonky Google Sky Maps - it has never worked that well on my phone - I tracked it down as a small but faint patch of nebulosity south of Sirius. I'm never going to have a good view from my garden due to streetlights alas, but it was there.

Shifting back to Sirius, I headed North East as guided by wonky sky maps, and found Messier 50 as a larger and brighter, but still unresolved in my 10x50s, nebulous patch. Neither terribly exciting, but I'm glad I've seen them. Staying in the area, I took in the much more prominent Messier 35 in Gemini, before noticing a dim haze hovering above the rooftop.

Messier 44, The Beehive, is back in business and very good it looked too!

The final thing that caught my eye, was a very orangey red looking star lurking in a vey dim patch of the sky between the Great Bear's paws, and Gemini. Very red 4th mag star. REsearch indicates this could be alpha lyncis. Some sources have this as spectral class K, it's way too red for that surely!

Monday 19 November 2012

Crisp evenings, frozen mornings

As I said before, the sight of Arcturus rising in the sky is giving me hope that eventually, as ever, winter will be over, and I will no longer have to worry about cycling through ice and snow on dangerous roads filled with dangerous drivers.

All the while, my hands are hands turning purple and making me scream with agony despite the fact I'm wearing two pairs of gloves.

I've now more or less confirmed Kemble's Cascade, the colours of the stars are elusive with my 10x50s. At midnight, it's directly overhead and a real neck strainer to see! In the mornings, Venus is still dazzling but is sinking horizon-wards rapidly now, and Leo is poised across the South, in the gap between the Sycamores and The Oak.

As I sat in the work canteen today, head full of a story I was writing, I watched a couple of dazzlingly white shapes tumble across the backdrop of the Showground runway; white indeed above but seemingly dark underneath. I swigged my dishwater tea and wished I had my 10x50s or even my little field glasses with me. Curses!

My runs (athletic, not diarrhoea) have yielded little life lately, mainly as I seem to have been heading out in twilight slash dusk as the nights draw in - MUST CHANGE! But as I ran over the A1 on Barnby Lane a few days ago, Long Tail tits purred and zupped in the hedgerow, a kestrel sliced the sky, and a Lapwing slowly beat the air overhead with its ragged, broad wings.

I'm planning a winter trip to Langford Lowfields in the next few days. THEY HAVE WAXWINGS! NEWARK HAS WAXWINGS! I MUST SEE ONE!!!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Tough luck goose!

Went for a run through Willow Holt today, which was boggy, attractive, and quiet! The Eponymous Willows sport a few yellow leaves and look rather sorry for themselves. A Dunnock flew low across my path, and sat in a hawthorn next to the river.

I carried on my run, along the muddy path heading for the power station reach, and noticed a large flock of Mute Swans standing around in the wheat field (I think). A loud bang went off - the swans didn't move - and I saw a couple of characters in countryish looking jackets carrying a long pointy thing. A shotgun.

As I turned East, they picked up something big, and began to carry it back to a pick up. I waited to see what it was, thought it was a Pheasant at first. It turned out to be a Canada Goose. I think the farmers were worried I was going to report them for illegal persecution.

"Swans, they're protected. But these Canadians, well they've got to go."

Checking up, I now see they are regarded as vermin now and it is legal to shoot them. Still felt uncomfortable to see it done though. Tender hearted fool that I am! I hope they don't extend this cull to human Canadians, though I'm told they will probably taste infintely better than the geese themselves.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Kemble's Cascade

Last night managed to have favourable sharp skies and Mr Moon taking his waning crescent self out of the picture for a while. Also however, I had work today - what a thrill! what a joy! and thus couldn't spend much time taking in the delights of the sky in a leisurely fashion.

No, last night I had a target, and I meant business.

So, I warmed up, professionally, like a trained astronomical assassin, by taking in Messier 35 - which never quite resolves in my 10x50s, Messier 42, and a trip through the star rich fields of Monoceros, still a little low at midnight. The two open clusters I pick up here are The Rosette NGC 2244 and North of this the Christmas Tree, I think of NGC2264.

Messier 50, it turned out, was behind a roof.

Job done, eyes warmed up. Looking straight up, I used to the two end stars of Cassiopeia, and swooped across to the zenith. There I was hoping to find Kemble's Cascade...

...and so I did. I think. Twice. I think! I found two curved lines of stars, both slightly longer than the field of view in my 10x50s. I figured the northernmost one for the Cascade, as there seemed to be a fuzzy nebulous patch indicating cluster NGC1502 at one end, only it wasn't at one end like it's supposed to be!

Sky at Night winter marathon spot, although further confirmation is needed under darker skies - yeah like I can manage that in my yard! It may be the actual cascade is shorter than I thought, and the further stars are not part of the already unofficial grouping - rather charmingly I believe it was coined by an astronomer monk a few years ago!

Next time, I'll have rum. To improve my eyes, of course.

Monday 5 November 2012

The View from the Library Window

A writing exercise to staty mentally sharp, this is! I'm sat here, writing e-mails, thinking about my screenplay, and looking for career inspiration and life improving things while thinking of the tea and cake I shall have later, once I have trecked the lightly frosted pavements looking for DVDs.

Twenty feet to my right is a the one set of windows I can see that aren't blocked by bookshelves. The slanting uppers are streaked with dirt, tree sap and the like probably infused with a heedy brew of pigeon droppings. The main tree outside is a silver birch just outside is a Silver Birch, many of its leaves still green, it's boughs looking a little damp and shivery. At its base are a couple of shrubs, probably well watered by the street drinkers that use the civial war sculpture I can't see as a meeting place. A female blackbird roots around in the leaf litter with frenetic tosses of its feathered head.

Beyond is a tree I can't identify, again hanging on to its leaves but these are the colour of polished brass - how instense the colours are this autumn, exacerbated by today's harsh light issuing out of a slightly washed out looking blue sky. This tree obscures most of the millenium arch, one metallic column stands in modern contrast to the original Beaumond Cross whch stands behind it, curiously off the vertical.

In the furthest part of the view, tall trees stand around a large house, multiple chimney stacks signalling old money.

There are a thousand greens outside, all beautiful.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Spring hopes as Jupiter kisses the moon

Sorrow again.

The cold deepens and the winds rise. The waning moon is reaching across to kiss Jupiter in the Eastern sky, but never quite reaches it; celestial love denied.

Haloes around the moon show the gathering frost; high snowly looking clouds feather the firmanent.

These are the miserable months, the months of riskily cycling to work on icey roads being sworn at by flatbed truck drivers as my hands freeze purple even within two pairs of gloves. Work is no warmer, there is nothing to huddle against as you try and warm your insides with gestapo ersatz coffee.

Yes there is hope. 615am, the skies are clear, the temperature glacial. But up there are the signs of spring that show that winter will not last forever. Leo the lion rests with Venus below his paws. The bowl of Virgo rises with all its galaxies I've never seen.

And brightest of all, Arcturus the orange harbringer of spring hauls itself into the sky above the streetlights.