Sunday 12 May 2024

Northern Lights - Once in a Lifetime Territory

I genuinely believe I'll be dead next time there's a geomagnetic storm of this strength. It was utterly, utterly ridiculous. I'd been excited about Friday/Saturday since all the flare activity on Wednesday, with some nicely directed CMEs, well before any of the space weather agencies put out any of their predictions and the media got hold of it. I'd been talking this up on my socials well in advance, which is always a risk as nothing is guaranteed in this game; a lot of factors need to align. Thankfully everything went to plan and I didn't have masses of angry people asking why they didn't see it haha. 

2 x 1 hr naps between 3 all-nighters Thursday - Sunday (I work weekends as well). Sleep deprived does not cover it. Was it worth it? You tell me. Thousands of photos to go through, but here's one of them. Aurora was EVERYWHERE. North, corona overhead, SAR arc, even South. Bonkers.

Oh yeah, had Nightjars churring and a Cuckoo calling whilst I was there.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

228+ Red Kites from Colyton, Devon

A look at the forecast on Sunday and another look on Monday had me thinking Tuesday would be a strong candidate as the day the Kites pass us. I suggested to my Dad that we should try and keep Tues free and perhaps Weds/Thurs too, and oh boy was it the right call. Tuesday was THE day. The day of 228 Red Kites seen from Colyton, with almost certainly dozens and dozens more missed.

50-60 of them were overhead but most were gaining extreme height in thermals north of Colyton then heading W / WSW. Observing was rather challenging with hours spent looking through optics as they were mostly too distant to see naked eye. When they rode thermals up into and above clouds, that didn't help either.

A bonus Osprey over Colyton was nice too. Today (Weds) saw another 3 Kites and 2 Hobby from Colyton, and then another Osprey north over the A3052 in the afternoon. I've been seeing Goshawk, as well as the usual Buzzards, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Peregrines recently too. I've been quietly hoping for something better like a Honey Buzzard or Black Kite... Gotta have some optimism for birding whilst my astro is at a total stand still (far East Devon has been by FAR the cloudiest part of the entire UK at night-time over the last 20 months, and it's not even remotely close. I have astro buddies all over the UK so I get a pretty good idea). Us astro-folk are good at whining about our weather, in case you hadn't noticed (some justified a lot more than others mind).

Whilst we're on the subject of astro (sort of), the Sun has been extremely active recently, with dozens and dozens of flares. I'm expecting there to be northern lights visible this weekend, there's a very good chance depending when the CMEs (coronal mass ejections) hit. Of course I'm forecast cloudier than most of the UK... but try I shall. I'm predicting activity in the early hours of Saturday morning, and perhaps activity Saturday night into Sunday.

Here's the Sun, taken today. The cloud actually helped for this, I didn't blind myself or melt my camera, so that's a plus.

Saturday 13 April 2024

UPDATE - 4+ Marsh Harriers, Pied Flycatcher etc

Nearly half a year since I posted. Wow. A lot has happened in this time, and I have no idea why I'm still often getting 1000+ blog views daily given that there's nothing new! So, the last 6 ish months:

- My main camera failed (a disturbingly common fault that should probably be a recall, or at least a free repair, but alas, these companies rarely do the right thing...).
- Viral photo of the ISS with the moon, seen by over 8 million people. Deluded flat-earth morons helped me here!
- Worst Winter for clear skies that I can remember. East Devon hasn't had a clear, moonless night since 2022 (yes, 2022) whereas Scotland and South East England have had 20-50 in the same time frame. Madness.
- More trouble with incompetence in our health service where I've had to effectively handhold them to get their jobs done properly (I cannot emphasise enough how frustrating this is when it's regarding your 2 (now 3) year old child).
- Waxwings not quite on patch.
- Baikal Teal and a STONKING male Hen Harrier during a rare off-patch venture into Somerset.
- Tough slog with patch birding. 4+ Marsh Harriers, Pied Flycatcher being my patch highlights. I've spent a huge amount of time looking at gulls when I've been out, with the most interesting ones 'only' being Meds. 
- Superb views of a couple of Sandwich Terns lingering around BHM.
- Avocets!

So, the patch harriers. We've had 2 lingerers, one of which is still here. I also had an additional 2 birds fly over in one afternoon. I had the impression at the time that these were new birds, as they were high, and carried on SW. Sure enough pics confirmed these were 'new' birds and they weren't seen again. Here are pics of the 4 which are obviously different, but there may well have been more as these were just me. The top bird is the one that's still here:

Now, come on Spring. Give us something properly good. And for goodness sake, some clear skies!