Sunday 29 September 2013

RSPB Langford Lowfields 29.09.13

It was a bit of last minute decision, but such a crystal day, warm but blustery, made me feel guilty not to head out on a "scientific mission" to RSPB Langford Lowfields.

This was a decision I perhaps regretted as a cold Northerly wind blasted into my face as I set out, but I soon settled into a rhythym. Felt refreshed as I hit the quiet country lanes, good to see all manner of folk enjoying the good weather. Best of all was an octagenarian lady on rather posh retro tricycle!

As I turned onto the off road section of the Sustrans 64, it was evident that dragonflies, which in my usual haunts have become a little scarce, were around in large numbers out here - blood red common darters were scattered in great numbers as I rode on. And as I entered the reserve proper, beautiful blue migrant hawkers joined them, performing at high level rather than the ground level manouvers of the darters.

And there were more visible from the hide, my favourite place of solitude within ten miles, although when I arrived a couple with a large labrador afraid I was going to steal his ball . But birds, well it was various brown ducks and coots I'm afraid, with a solitary egret visible across the other side of the bed. But there were plentiful insects, and the feeder was being visited by chaffinch, great tits and blue tits. The darters were almost frenzied in their behaviour, there was some mating going on and some vigorous fighting too. By contrast the migrant hawkers were serene in their comings and goings.

A solitary comma fed off the flowers behind the hide, fresh and unusually tidy for this most raggedy of butterflies.

I didn't stay long, I had a busy day to get on with. Meaning I got to see a kestrel, one of several out hunting, hovering over the path near the entrance pond, and the sun shone as I headed home, probably my last visit for a while. Roll on spring!

Lunar Observations with a Cold Drink

After arriving home at around 2am last night, I fetched something cold yet fortifying from the fridge and headed outside with my 10x50s on a decently clear night. The milky way summer constellations are now well past their best, and the low waning crescent moon was causing a little interference - Messier 39 was visible, but Messier 29 wasn't.

Over in Pegasus, surprisingly heading horizonwards already for an autumn constellation, the old faithful globular cluster Messier 15 wasn't really visible, but Messier 33, the Triangulum spiral galaxy, was visible, looking as usual like a ghostly Star Trek special effect. The Andromeda Spiral always puts on a show, and moving away from the sycamores in my garden, but into the annoying streetlight glow, I enjoyed looking at The Hyades, a nice little asterism above The Hyades, and also The Pleides looking like gemostones sitting upon a black velvet presentation cushion.

And then after looking at Auriga, only two of the three Messier clusters visible, I wandered right out onto the pavement and risking the laughter of taxi drivers and the questions of policemen - it has happened before - I observed the moon, a very creamy, gold top looking crescent moon low in the North East.

I don't observe the moon a lot, well, after having had observed it at x203 with a 6 inch reflector, what use are a pair of 10x50s? It's an irritant, a big bright white thing that stops me seeing stars. But tonight, as a thinning crescent, there was detail to be seen.

The visible surface was dominated by the Ocean of Storms, and the Copernicus rays although they aren't as dazzling as they are at full moon. The big crater Clavius was visible as a deep black hole on the terminator, and in between massive tremors from my shaking hands, I could see the dark floor of the crater Grimaldi towards the limb.

And I wasn't arrested either!

Monday 23 September 2013

Indian Summer Nature

Elderberries next to Clay Lane Bridge
Brimstone with bonus bee
Speckled wood by London Road lake
Think this might be an invasive harlequin ladybird sat on my arm

Saturday 21 September 2013

Cycling in the So Called Indian Summer

This morning I ran at Parkrun as usual, and it was chilly and slightly misty. The swallows of the week before hadn't bothered to come out for a fly over the football pitches; everything felt very reminiscent of my old school cross country runs.

And then in the afternoon, after a guilty sleep, the weather was warm I decided a small bike ride was in order along the cycle path. The primary mission involved the buying of biscuits, but this was a scenic route.

So, there is still life about. A southern hawker dragonfly was patrolling alongside London Road lake, many white butterflies, and a brown hawker alongside the river, bronzed wings catching the low autumn sun. The liveliest thing I saw, however, was at the end of a fishing line. A group of young lads who I initially thought were Eastern European but were actually local, had hauled a pike out of the river opposite the Barge pub.

Always curious about fish, I went and had a look, my initial assumption that they were Poles meaning I figured the fish was destined for the pot. I spoke to the lads, but they were a bit on the rough side, and when I tried to take a picture of the fish, they youngest one started demanding money, the cheek of it!

They then weight it through it's gills, as one of them shouted "kill it! kill it!" He then started punching the fish as it hung on the hook.

This left me feeling rather down. I don't really have an axe to grind against fishermen, I find seeing fish fascinating. But I'd rather the fish were taken to eat, or put back straightaway, rather than being tormented by a bunch of idiot kids. It reminded me of when I saw a kid stabbing a fishing hook through a frog, shouting "It's what the French do!". Ugh.


And more Ugh.

I was wishing the pike would punch the kids.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Fat hoverfly at play

This was about the only "nice" insect I saw out today. Lots of wasps suddenly about on the sap on sycamore leaves.

Thursday 12 September 2013

The Loneliness of Voyager 1

The thought of the Voyager 1, cold, alone, silently travelling the starlight sprinkled obsidian darkness, always moves me very greatly.

This little spaceship, launched 36 years ago to the gas giant planets with the latest in hi-tec - a tape recorder for data storage and transmission - has no crossed the heliopause and is now cruising the realm of interstellar space where the sun's influence is overwhelmed by that of the general cosmic drift of deep space.

It's journey will never end, unless it is intercepted by aliens, and it's analogue gold record played, and the sounds of earth heard by unimaginable entities, a concept that by the way formed the plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Little spaceship, I hear your call.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Further evidence of Autumn

As well as the dominance of the Square of Pegasus at night, there are these little increasing sights by day that colder times are ahead.

Yes I know it's getting colder. And darker. That would be too obvious. I mean the birds. The garden birds have just come back from their late summer holiday fattening themselves up country, and now my garden's family of blackbirds - the youngsters with fully developed tails but still showing a gape - are now crashing about the hedgerows.

Sadly, there is no singing any more.

As I cycle to and from work, there are other signs. The starling murumurations have not yet started, but every morning and evening, increasing numbers of starling in their spotty winter plumage, are lining up on the green metal fences at work. They look at me like a chorus of Disney characters as I scoot by.

The teasels are in seed on the waste ground by the lime clad cycle path near work. Sometimes, as I'm heading home, large flocks of tweeping and twittering finches with yellow wing bars were feeding on them. I couldn't see much detail and thought initially they might have been greenfinches, but it seems that goldfinches are far more likely teasel nibblers.

And then, scuttling about the floor doing their thing, are more and more pied wagtails. In a month to six weeks time, as I leave work in the autumnal twilight, the crap park will be carpeted with them, and in the mornings at 6am, you can see them circling in the lights of the work building. They roost in the bushes in one part of the site, hundreds of them, and the sight of them always makes me feel a little better about life.

Especially if it is when I'm leaving work when I see them!

Sunday 8 September 2013

The Changing of the Seasons

So I found myself running today, a gentler pace, on a fine if autumnal feeling day. I've been overdoing running for distance and speed and not really taking in the world around me, so it felt pleasant to take in the tour of the two lakes and see what I might see.

A couple of weeks ago, swallows and martins were still around in town, even if the swifts were long gone, and a lot of garden birds were having their summer holidays. Now the hirundines seem in short supply, and more robins, blackbirds, and especially starlings are to be seen on my running and cycling routes. Small murmurations are starting to form.

The enduring, butterfly beloved thistles are over, and the buddleiahs are just hanging on in flower, but the peacocks seem to be no longer feeding off them in the numbers they were. Small tortoiseshells and whites are the commonest butterflies still on view, meadow browns and speckled woods were no longer on the wing in Beacon Hill Reserve. No dragonflies either.

It is berry time. Elder, damsons, sloes, and above all blackberries are fruiting. Everyime I head out on the roads and track of Newark, I encounter someone with a plastic lunch box full of bleeding berries, and today, there were folk everywhere. So far I've forgotten to get my folks any blackberries, but I taste them and most of them are still pretty sour despite being apparently ripe in colour.

One day, I will make some headdway with wild food.

A Little Touch of Astronomy in the Night

I got home very late last night, and although the night was cold, I headed out with my 10x50s to have a look and see what was around. Skies were clear, but the cold air signalled the dive of the Summer Triangle below the weatern horizon, indeed Aquila is getting very low by 3am.

But the autumn skies bring news sights. Messier 15, the Pegasus Glbular cluster, is an easy to find object that looks decent in binoculars, if not having the impressiveness of Messier 13, 3, or 5.

Moving west, the Mirfak cluster was a piece of abstract jewellery upon a black cushion, with the fascinating Mag 7 orange-red interloper. Messier 34 in Perseus and the double cluster also showed well, but lower down still a read indicator of colder months ahead was showing between an awkward angle of two rooftops. Messier 35 in Gemini was visible, and making me wish I had a little more aperture, darker skies, and a tripod. Because in, say, a pair of 20x80s, it would look staggering.

Auriga's Messier triplets, 36,37, and 38, also put in an appearance. But for me, the memory of the night was just an ordinary star, the vividly orange Deneb Kaitos in Cetus. At magnitude 2.0, it really dominates a fairly blank patch of sky low below the Square of Pegasus.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Tonights Stunning Moths

Beautiful creatures, all found on the kitchen window:

Red underwing. Possibly the largest moth I've ever seen. Magnificent.
Red underwing reverse angle
Large yellow underwingin beautiful condition
Old lady, AKA black underwing. Another large species

Vignette - A Titanic Invertebrate Battle

Flappings at the kitchen window last night...

 ...this unfortunate fellow, a large yellow underwing, had been having a rare old flap against the kitchen window. I went outside to take a photograph, and just after I did so, it bumbled around the window sill, and went straight into a small tangle of spider's webs in the corner of the window frame; a dark, evil corner.

And so it proved to be. Seconds after, an extremely fast moving spider pounced like a funnel web from the frame, and was on the moth in less than a second. The moth fluttered away, but the sticky webs held it in its graps, and it was dragged back down to ground. The spider leapt in a second time, and jumped on the terrified moth's back. 

I managed to free the moth at this point - who says nature photographers shouldn't interfere? - but, I was too late. The moth took to the air for a brief time, before the paralysing toxin took effect and the moth silently fell away, out of sight in the dark.

"Nature red in tooth and claw" as Chris Packham always says, but I was sad for the moth, and happy that the spider wasn't getting any dinner in their parlour that night.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Very Miscellaneous Recent Pictures

Have had various runs, cycles and walks in the past few days, here's what I found...

Rescue eagle owl in the market square
Saker falcon
Dead on the bathroom tiles
A rustic not letting me open my door, I'm told...
Strangely reminiscent bits of plant, The Prince Rupert Pub
Very tatty speckled wood by the library
Bumblebee shelters from rain, Beacon Hill Park
Small tortoiseshell, entrace to Beacon Hill Park
Large white, Beacon Hill Park
Silver Y moth feeding on ragwort, Beacon Hill Park