At least one blackcap in the garden during the last week of the month - presumably an overwintering bird?
28th. Northwick Wharth to see a shore lark, the first I've seen since the Barrow bird of 2010. A peregrine also flew around the Second Severn Crossing.
22nd. A trip to see the adult male RUFOUS-TAILED ROCK THRUSH at Pwll Du quarries, above Blaenavon, in the land of my father. My second new bird of the year in the UK, and they have both been rock thrushes! The bird came down twice in about 3 hours to a feeding area where mealworms have been put out, and is very confiding. A wheatear was also photogenic. It was worth sitting in driving rain and strong winds to see. I also saw a red kite near Usk. Photos with the 5D Mark 4, 500mm and 1.4x extender.
18th. Hurricane Ophelia recently swept across the Atlantic, and carried atmospheric particles with it from Africa and forest fires in Iberia. The sky in Bristol took on an orange hue, with a spectacular red sun.
12th-14th. Ireland for research collaborations in Dublin on ageing with Emma Teeling and her group. Emma's husband, Peter Gallagher, has built a radio-telescope at Birr Castle, and it was amazing to see images of black holes emitting gas clouds into the Milky Way from it. The telescope is linked to the LOFAR network across Europe, which offers panoramic viewing of the night sky. Birr also hosts the Leviathan optical telescope which was the largest in the world until early last century. A sketch of the Whirlpool Galaxy made from that may have inspired the background in Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'.
7th-11th. Bittersweet Belgium. Lucie and I had 3 wonderful days in Ghent. Traffic is restricted in the centre, and the city has some great old (and contemporary) architecture and restaurants, and is beautifully lit at night. The last day of the trip in Brussels, a place I did not enjoy, was a disaster, and ended up with me being unceremoniously dumped out of the blue. No more Italy pictures for now! Pictures below with the X70.
The three towers.
Night time reflections.
Castle of the Counts.
From the Belfry.
The most famous work of art in Ghent is the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers. It is the altarpiece in St Bavo's cathedral, where we enjoyed a beautiful night of opera arias to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Ghent University. There is graffiti of it in the city, used in the film 'The Monuments Men'. Borreman's De Maagd at the base of the belfry also has piercing rays of light from the subject's eyes, reminiscent of those in the Mystic Lamb. In fact, Ghent has a rich graffiti culture including a graffiti alleyway, though most of the work there is pretty dire.
Ons Huis, where socialist health insurance and the cooperative association were established.
Brussels - Grand Place.
1st. Pilning Wetlands - 5 little stint, ca.10 knot, 3 ruff, ca. 5 curlew sandpipers, 1 spotted redshank and about 700 black-tailed godwits.