Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Another Sunset

The sky cleared in the early evening today and we were treated to a spectacular sunset...so it was time for some more photos!


The other morning we actually saw our first rain for a couple of weeks. Being a just a light drizzle and virtually no wind, I managed to take this photo of our Sweet Peas through the conservatory window (didn't want to get wet!). The water droplets look almost glued to the stems.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Whats flying over your head: 2

Just following on from my previous comments, yesterday saw a few "participants" flying over for the G20 Summit in Pittsburg. These included Czech and Italian Government Airbus A319CJ (corporate jet conversions of the standard twin engined A319 passenger aircraft) and a German Government Airbus A310 widebody aircraft. Now with so called "Green" issues on the agenda, and being ever concious of ones carbon-footprint one wonders if these people should have travelled by more regular means? Not that it bothers me, on the contrary, it mean't I got to see a few aircraft that are far from regular in the airports of the UK. But it is a little hypocritical to jump up and down and insist the Chinese (as an example) reduce their emmissions when a President/Prime Minister has flown 4,000 miles to the meeting in his or her own private airliner!

Yesterday also saw a reappearance of N54PA, the Learjet I mentioned. This time it was heading eastbound after making a refueling stop in Shannon. I wonder where its next stop was?

The images above show a Lufthansa Airbus A340 (left) and Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, both heading westbound towards the US or Canada.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


I do like to take photo's at sunset. The colours always seem that much more richer and vibrant than at sunrise. And generally I am awake when the sun sets, but not necessarily when it rises, particularly during the Summer months! So here are a couple of photo's I have taken recently.

Autumn Morning

Its now officially Autumn, and to set the scene, we were surrounded by a low carpet of mist this morning. It was cold too, just under 5 degrees. This was the view looking to the north west just after 7 this morning.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Certainly one of the most colourful visitors to the peanut feeders, more active during the Spring than now, but even so, they still show up from time to time. We have seen both male and female as well as fledglings (see photo below) this year.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

So whats flying over your head?

I doubt many people realise how many aircraft are passing over or near their houses particularly when they are no where near an airport. Arguably few people probably want to know, but I'm going to give you an insight anyway! Typically where I live, which is close to several busy airways, if the weather is clear you could easily see 200-300 aircraft in a day. These are not noisy or obtrusive, on the contrary many people would not even notice them, but there again my interests are perhaps different to many! Most of these aircraft are flying between North America and Europe and between the UK, mainland Europe and Ireland. Amongst the usual transatlantic airliners are more interesting offerings, such as US military transports (5 to 10 per day is normal), civil operated aircraft on trooping flights (10-20 per day), private jets (anything from 20-40 per day), which on Sunday included this Bombardier Global Express, owned by a South African company. This is one of the largest private jets (the size of a smallish airliner), easily capable of flying from London to Tokyo non-stop.

There are also supposedly "clandestine" flights one of which is a certain Learjet (a mid size 6 seat executive jet), registered in the US as N54PA (see photo below), which has been allegedly used on rendition flights. This aircraft continues to operate with some regularity (I have seen it overflying twice this year) despite claims in the press of its association with such activities. A quick internet search on this aircraft will show it turning up all over the world, with sightings as diverse as Guantanamo Bay, Shannon, Peking, Ponta Delgada, Thule (Greenland) to name but a few.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Blue Tit

Well this fellow needs no introduction. We have been supporting numerous families of these cheeky little birds for the last two years. I have counted 6 of them on the feeder on more than one occassion with more waiting their turn in the neighbouring shrubs. They are certainly the most frequent visitors to our peanut feeders, and together with Great Tits and the less common Coal Tit's collectively they can typically get through a feeders worth of peanuts in 4 or 5 days!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Meadow Brown

One of the most common butterflies in our neck of the woods albeit less noticeable than those I've previously mentioned. These have been active all Summer and should continue to be seen throughout September, particularly if the fine weather continues. They are amongst the easiest to photograph largely because they appear to be more lethargic, spending less time on the wing than other varieties.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


These are produced by high flying aircraft. Their shape and form (and whether they form at all) depends on the atmospheric conditions at the time. The basic science of it is that the hot exhaust gasses mix with freezing air typically around -40 to -50C. The moisture generated turns into ice crystals which cause the thin linear clouds that we know as contrails. How long the trail is and how long it lasts depends on the air temperature and humidity. Interestingly they are now generally recognised as a cloud type, albeit manmade.

This picture was taken looking north west from our house. One can only guess as to the reason for the somewhat artistic manouevre undertaken by the aircraft on the right!

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Final Frontier

With the recent clear weather and some favourable timed passes, tonight was a good night to view the International Space Station (ISS). I believe with the exception of the Moon, the ever expanding ISS is now the brightest object in the night-sky. I decided to put my camera to the test, so I mounted it on its tripod and took a timed exposure. This was my very first attempt at this kind of shot and although far from perfect, you can at least see the movement of the ISS across the sky against the background of stars.

A few facts about the ISS. Typically it takes 3-4 mins to cross the sky on an evening when its visible and it orbits the earth every 90 mins or so. Its altitude is around 200 miles.

If you want to find out when you can see the ISS, go to http://www.heavens-above.com/. Once you have entered your position, this website will give you details on passing satellite's (on a clear night you could see as many as 20-30 over the space of a couple of hours) as well as where to look for planets plus a general overview of the night sky. Well worth a look.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Peacock Butterfly

My favourite

Butterflies galore

Of course it is not just birds and planes that fly. Insects do and whereas most do not capture my interest, the varied array of butterfies does. This year, despite less than desirable weather, has given us an abundance of these insects. Above is a Tortoiseshell, and below a pair of Painted Lady butterflies.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Spotted Flycatcher

Having mentioned the Spotted Flycatcher in my opening piece, here is one that was nesting in our garden in late July and early August. It was frequently seen catching flies with amazing regularity and returning to the nest with a beakfull to feed junior!

Love of flight

From aircraft to birds I have always been fascinated by things that fly. This all started in the late 60's, firstly with an Observers Book of Birds, and then an Observers Book of Aircraft. I was about 9 or 10 at the time. For many years my interest was primarily in aircraft, which developed to aircraft spotting (yes, I am a bit of an anorak!) and then aircraft photography. Some may regard aircraft as ugly noisy things but which are a necessity for anyone needing to travel long distances. I am the first to admit my opinion is entirely biased, however whereas some are undoubtedly ugly, and some are certainly noisy, they continue to hold an interest for me some 40 years or more after it was first realised. However in flight, even the huge purpose built military transport aircraft that are perhaps associated with current conflicts show an element of grace, given the right conditions:

This is a US Air Force Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, flying over our house at 34,000 ft earlier this year. It's capable of carrying nearly 400 troops or 75 tonnes of cargo. As this one was heading westbound there's a fair chance it was taking US troops back home after deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. In my book, a lovely sight, heading as it is towards the setting sun.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Beginning

After reading so many different blogs I decided to create my own. This is not exactly ground braking stuff, but merely a way for me to communicate to anyone who's interested my enthusiasm in all things that fly, not to mention my own occasional opinions on what's happening in my world, and the world in general. How this will develop remains to be seen!

I thought I would kick off with a couple of photo's of recent visitors to our garden:

A mysterious visitor? I am not actually sure what bird this is.....it looks like a bit like a Chiffchaff but the tail is too short.

Now this is definitely a Chiffchaff

This one has been hanging around since mid August. The behaviour is not unlike a Spotted Flycatcher. It sits on a fence and suddenly takes to the air to catch a bug and then returns to the fence, but not necessarily the same spot (in fact it seems to work its way along the fence). Photographing it was not easy as it's constantly on the move! It took me many attempts to get the above shot.