Saturday 13 May 2023


It's been a while since my last post here, there's a lot to catch up on. I've got back into astronomy after a break of many years, so this post shows you a few pictures I've taken through a telescope in the past few months. It's a Skywatcher dobsonian 200mm reflector, the photos are taken with a DSLR camera in prime focus, which means effectively using the telescope as a huge camera lens. You have to take quite a few photos and then combine them using a computer to produce good images. Here's my best so far:

Andromeda galaxy

Andromeda 25 Feb 2023 

Pinwheel Galaxy

Pinwheel 18 March 2023


Pleiades 8 Jan 2023

Comet c-2022 e3 

Comet c-2022 e3

More posts on other topics to follow soon...


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Saturday 20 August 2022

Cockatiel news!

It's been a very busy summer, both in the woods and getting used to the new job. I'll post some pics from the woods soon, but there's some important sad and good news to post first.

Sadly our cockatiel Pete, who lived with us for 16 years, died a few weeks ago. We miss him lots, and have made a memorial video of him here:

We thought we'd try not having a pet for a while - we lasted just two weeks before deciding to look for some new birds... and today they arrived, so here's a short welcome to Floyd and Dusty!

They're brothers (the breeder assures they are males), with a mixed Pied and Pearl heritage. They're a bit tired in this video, having just put up with a long drive, but they settled in very quickly. We're looking forward to getting some proper time with them out of the cage tomorrow. We intend for them to be out of the cage all day eventually, but initially we'll only have them out while we're around, until we're sure we can trust them. Their parents sadly plucked their feathers out at 11 days old, so they've been hand reared since then, and it really does show in their behaviour - though in this video they're still a bit nervous as they only met us a few hours earlier. They don't have flight feathers yet, because of being plucked, but they should grow some during their next moult - and Dusty in fact has a few flight feathers already growing, and can manage a short hop through the air.

More videos to come soon...


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Monday 18 April 2022

Spring arriving in the woods

This is always one of my favourite things to spot in Spring - the first Wood Anemone flower in our woods (taken on 19 March):

2022-03-19 13.47.07
I've also got quite a few interesting videos of wildlife on the trail camera! But first, let's rewind a bit, because back in February there was Storm Eunice! The storm knocked over some coppice stools towards one edge of the woods, which we've cleared up to some extent but will go back to later - we're converting some to firewood, and others to dead wood to leave on the ground. There was some more immediate damage to sort out though, like this holly branch that was blocking the footpath:   
2022-02-18 16.34.43
More of  a problem was this two-stemmed coppice stool that had also blown across the footpath. This was sad to see, as we'd saved this tree when coppicing here over a decade ago, to allow it to grow on to become larger. But, the intention was to fell it at some point for timber, it would never have stood for decades with two stems, so I guess the wind just did the job for us:
2022-02-18 17.19.19
2022-02-18 17.20.07
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Tracy and I cleared a path right away, on the afternoon of the day the storm hit, when the wind had died back a bit:   
2022-02-18 17.38.27
And then a few days later I carefully removed the stems, and the stool settled back into the ground:   
2022-02-25 15.24.24
2022-02-25 15.24.32
There's also been a flurry of firewood deliveries, so we've been collecting the last of the wood cut in winter 2018-19, which is very thoroughly seasoned now!    
2022-03-14 14.04.18
Some was processed straight into the trailer for delivery:   
2022-03-14 16.02.59
The rest was moved round to our main area for storing timber:   
2022-03-14 14.30.03
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I've also been experimenting with using my bike trailer to move timber through the woods, as a way of reducing the use of fossil fuels:   
2022-04-11 15.24.08
Moving on to the wildlife, here's three recent videos from the trail camera, showing wild boar, bats (surprisingly!) and a lovely close up of a Roe buck (male deer):


As you could see in the final video above, there's a brilliant carpet of Wood Anemone right now: 
2022-03-24 13.50.51
The trees are coming into leaf too - here's some Birch just opening up in mid-March, the Oak was a couple of weeks later, and Sweet Chestnut after that, over the Easter weekend:
2022-03-19 13.52.43
Up in Sweep Wood, where we coppiced just over a year ago, the ground is now looking very green again:   
2022-04-11 14.07.36
And by early April the Bluebells were showing. They're usually a bit later in our woods than some other places nearby, because of the local geography.   
2022-04-11 14.08.21
There's been some warm, sunny days too, so quite a few butterflies out, like this Comma and Peacock:  
I was pleased to get a nice shot of this Buzzard overheard too!   
Winter did have a sting it its tail though, this photo was taken on 1 April!   
2022-04-01 08.41.30
Back at home Pete has been enjoying this playground (some old cardboard packaging): 
2022-01-11 12.49.07
We also brought him a 'tree' home from the woods. At first he needed to be tempted into it using millet:  
2022-04-03 08.09.26
But now he flies straight into it and perches there!   
2022-04-07 16.04.38
And finally, sunset on Camber beach in late January:
2022-01-29 16.28.47
That's all for now. Mike

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Saturday 16 April 2022

Final days at Dungeness, and a new job!

It's taken me a while to get round to this post, but things have been busy! The day after I finished my fixed-term part-time job as a Ranger at Dungeness, I put in an application for another job, and am now on the point of finishing work at Ashden after over 15 years there! I'll be working at Citizens Advice 1066, leading on energy efficiency and energy advice projects. Part-time though, so I still have time to spend in the woods, of course.

But let's get back to my final days doing the Ranger job. Despite being mid-winter, there were still some nice days in December as the end of my contract neared:
2021-12-28 14.54.35

I'll certainly miss spending long days in the unique shingle environment there, which looks barren but is incredibly diverse when it comes to plants, insects and birds.
2022-01-03 14.07.17

2022-01-02 15.23.35

I did have a special treat in my final week there, with this bin lorry managing to get stuck: 

A breakdown truck came to help get it out, and it got stuck too....

Quite spectacularly stuck! People don't seem to realise that the shingle goes down for many metres...

It took a second breakdown truck to pull the first one out, and between them they got the bin lorry out too, several hours after it got stuck!

I can of course go back to Dungeness any time I like, and one of my first trips there after finishing was to try some night-time photography. This is Orion, from the end of the boardwalk at the Point of Dungeness, taken using multiple exposures combined into one image using Deep Sky Stacker:
Orion, from Dungeness

And then a few shots around Dungeness, showing the lighthouses, power station and some other buildings:



And finally, I popped back in late February to see what Storm Eunice at done to the Dungeness A power station!
2022-02-27 15.41.35
News from the woods coming up next... Mike

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Sunday 5 December 2021

Nearing the end of a busy 6 months - news from the woods and Dungeness

Well, things have certainly been busy since July, while I've been working as a Ranger at Dungeness as well as doing my desk job. I've only got a few more weeks to go on the contract at Dungeness now, I'll certainly miss the work and my colleagues when I stop, though I'll appreciate getting some time back in my life. Fortunately there's nothing to stop me still visiting there and staying in touch with people, as it's not far away. There's been some amazing views there over the past few months, e.g. sunset looking from the Point towards Hastings:

2021-11-28 15.44.22
Storm clouds over the English Channel:

2021-11-22 15.00.37
Expansive skies and acres of shingle:

2021-11-28 09.13.36
Views from the 'Boardwalk', one of a range of features to make it easier for visitors to appreciate the site:

2021-11-14 10.09.15
2021-11-27 10.19.20
There's been some stormy days too, I took these pics just a few days ago:

2021-12-03 09.31.27
2021-12-03 09.32.38
There's also been any number of stuck vehicles to deal with, from relatively simple ones like this camper van:

2021-09-18 13.15.52
To more challenging ones like a bin lorry weighing over 30 tonnes!

2021-08-20 13.01.49
2021-08-20 13.02.01
The moral of the story is to pay attention to the signs at Dungeness, and only park in the official car parks!

I've not only been at Dungeness in my Ranger role though, I've also worked at a range of other sites that RMCP manages, and on some of these I've been able to put my chainsaw experience to good use, for example felling some large willow trees at Romney Warren:

2021-09-27 15.58.53
2021-10-06 10.41.00
These were being removed to get more light into a series of ponds, to improve them as a habitat for newts. That does mean all the willow brash has to be burned up, as we don't want it putting down roots and shading the pond again...

2021-09-27 15.59.03
I've also done some interesting work in a very boggy woodland the other side of Ashford, felling trees and then winching them over to create new pools. The amazing thing was that while we were still in the process of winching these stumps out of the ground, there were hoverflies laying eggs around the edges of the pools!

2021-10-25 16.44.39
I've even been trained in how to check on cattle being used for conservation grazing, not something I'd ever expected to do, as I'm not really keen on being around large mammals!

2021-10-18 13.44.17
And in this era of deadly airborne viruses, it's been nice to be able to have team meetings outdoors around a fire at the end of a day's work:

2021-11-12 16.52.10
One benefit of doing the Ranger work was that I got a 1-day chainsaw refresher training day, to update my skills on CS32 - felling medium size oak trees. Here's one of my fellow students on the training day, taking down an oak while the rest of us observed:

Back in Rye, everyone was delighted to be able to join in with Rye Fawkes again, after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the area being in lockdown.

2021-11-13 20.06.27
2021-11-13 21.22.30
Despite the extra working days, I've still managed to get a bit of time in the woods, and used the arbor trolley to get some logs from last winter's coppicing down the hill and into the trailer:

2021-09-06 14.08.10
2021-09-06 14.16.11
2021-09-06 14.39.21
There's been a bit of leisure time too, sitting by the fire in the woods and meeting up with friends.

2021-11-20 10.46.10
And just last week I was pleased to be able to get some nice pics of these Coal Tits and Blue Tits arriving and departing the bird feeder:

I've also had the trail camera back up again, and there's a few interesting bird videos as a result, including a Buzzard, a Jay and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker:

That's all for now, we'll be back in the woods over Christmas so there should be some more photos to come after that...


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