Sunday, 28 October 2012

Another good day

5 year ticks for Wembury in two days now! Early vis mig watch this morning was a bit of a damp squib with two Brambling being the highlight. At least two of the Firecrests were still present as were 12 Wigeon, 3 Mute Swan and 3 Teal.

Best I could manage at 1/30 of a second

Patch highlight this morning!

My wife then suggested a day out and the Soar area came to mind for some reason (actually, I have never been to those areas before and wanted to be nosy and work out why they get so much more good stuff than Wembury)? First stop was Thurlestone/South Milton where the best bird was a Sanderling on the beach.

After some helpful directions, off to Soar where I started to understand just how much good looking and accessible habitat there is compared to Wembury. A single Jay was a bit surprising near the car park. The Sibe Stonechat was showing really well and close when I got there and then promptly disappeared:

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Long standing thrush problem finally resolved

Four years I have birded Wembury and of the several shockingly common things I have yet to see here, Ring Ouzel was high on the list of really embarrassing. No more! One around the stables. Also saw 4 Firecrest today but everything was against the sun so no photos. Even better (in some ways) were 6 Wigeon - proper Wembury Megas!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Forgetting things is good for your waistline...

...... at least according to the Landauer Limit. A wonderful bit of maths and entirely useless until you get to computers. The Landuaer Limit suggests that the minimum amount of energy required for any computation (creating or destroying one (information) bit) is 2.85 zJ (zepto Joules, 1 x 1021 Joules or 0.000000000000000000000285 Joules). To give an idea of how much that is, a teaspoon of sugar contains about 64000 Joules of energy. That mean that if you manage to forget 22.5 million million million million things, you can work off the cup of tea you just had! A Big Mac, on the other hand contains about two million Joules of energy requiring about 700 million million million million bits of forgetting.

What was I on about?

Monday, 22 October 2012


This is scary. Six Italian scientists sentenced to jail terms for giving "inaccurate" information. My understanding of Seismology is scant at least but I don't really see many earthquake warnings managing to save lives. Seismology is really about studying what happens during earthquakes in order to try to predict - maybe in the future - when an earthquake might happen rather than prediction. <rant> Scientists are paid a fraction of what doctors are paid and do their job largely because it keeps them out of the pub and from needing to find a proper job. We predict, hypothesise and guess but with no level of certainty more than stats can pretend we mean.  That does not mean that we are a waste of time but if you need us to be exact then give us reasonable funding, working conditions and some respect! </rant>

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Armstrong Limit

Sometimes it takes a popular event to realise something about science. The recent skydive stunt (I say stunt but am still slightly scared getting in the lift where I work!) brought out a wonderful bit of science - the Armstrong Limit.

As most people are aware, the boiling point of water at 100 degrees is only actually true at sea level (and this is actually the definition of 100 degrees C like the freezing point of water is the definition of zero degrees). Thus, as you go higher, the boiling point of water decreases (as the pressure decreases, water finds it easier to evaporate and boil) to the point where water boils at 71C on the top of Everest). Extending this, it means that there will be a certain altitude where water boils at body temperature (37C). That point is the Armstrong Limit (or Armstrong line) and is found at about 19 km above sea level. If you were to get up to that height without any type of pressure suit, your tears, snot, saliva and lung fluids would start to boil spontaneously............ Despite not being a doctor, that does not sound good!!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Garden Cannabis

This story from the BBC reminded me of something similar that happened to me a few years ago. An old couple who bought a plant at a car boot have managed to grow the largest Cannabis plant seized by Beds police! My mother managed the same feat but, according to her, the seeds must have grown form some bird seed she had thrown out:

Cannabis sativa

Perhaps the first time that someone has ever had to complain that their mother was growing Cannabis plants?? If I had come up with the same story, do you think my mother would have been quite so understanding?

House Martins 7/10/12

After witnessing the mega HM passage of yesterday (in the fog today and just a few heard) and seeing reports form around Devon, I'd be interested to hear of any number of HM on 7/10/12 (or in previous days) from the south west or otherwise. It is apparent that the reports on the Devon Birding site refer to quite a small area and there seem to be no notable counts from west of Plymouth or east of Torquay. I am interested in any high counts particularly but equally useful are small counts or observations such as "not more than normal at this time of year".

If you have any sightings, please leave them on the comments including place (+county), number, date and time (my own sightings suggested a developing phenomenon throughout the day).

I hope to stick together the data into some sort of graphic for no other reason that it will amuse me. Thanks in advance for any sightings!


Sunday, 7 October 2012


A good weekend and nice to finally get out and do some birding. This morning looked promising with a nice easterly.

It soon became clear that there was not much new stuff around. Still plenty of Meadow Pipits (500+), Linnet (200+) and Goldfinch as well as a single Jay and a Crossbill.


At about 9 AM, the first groups of House Martins started to appear and they just didn't stop all day. By the afternoon, clouds of House Martins were moving through with all available fields of view containing 20/30. Estimates from further east (where they were heading) were of 50,000 and while I have no way of even getting close to an estimate, that figure does not seem excessive. Weirdly, there were very few Swallows and just a single Sand Martin with them. Will be good to see how far east and west of here the passage arrived.


Couple of new moths last night

Black Rustic
Beaded Chestnut?