I was up at 4.00 UTC to see a rare event. The planet Mars was occulated by the moon. The next time this happens will be January 2025. I took around 80 photographs, discarded many, and superimposed each image on top of each other. You can see the moon in the center of the image, and images of Mars on the top left getting closer and closer to the moon. Eventually Mars was behind the moon. This occurred at around 4.59. I went back to bed, intending to photograph the moon when Mars reappeared on the bottom right. I was a little late for this and missed the initial image of Mars reappearing an hour later at 5.58.
I was lucky, a noticeably clear night in Buckinghamshire, though cool at -5C. The down jacket did little to keep my hands warm.
Unusually we had the Kingswood Firework party this year on the actual fifth of November. But, as is usual, we had a magnificent bonfire & fireworks & BBQ. No guy to burn this year, despite plenty of candidate effigies, such as a lettuce, a Liz or a Boris. The weather was a little damp, although the rain did hold out to the end of the firework display. Those finishing off the burgers, bangers, beer and wine did have to shelter under the canopies when there was a short torrential downpour.
For a few, the evening ended in a Kingswood house where a considerable volume of whisky etc was consumed, amidst much camaraderie.
The second of our two local pubs, the Akeman (formerly the Crooked Billet), the one we don’t often visit, has a vegetable garden. Planning permission was granted several years ago, but COVID came along and delayed the opening of the vegetable patch. This year all changed, and the garden was planted with veg, while plastic poly tunnels were erected to grow heritage tomatoes. The intention is to supply fresh vegetables to several of the Oakman inns. We went with neighbours to an open day with the gardeners and management on hand to explain their vision. It looked impressive, but would it be able to supply much veg? Who knows? Let us see what happens next year.
Of course, it would have been rude not to have had a glass of beer in the bar.
I missed several days of fox cubs, they run the battery down on the camera in only a few days. One night the fox cubs spent the whole of darkness playing! The Infrared light soon depleted the battery! The batteries changed and, on the 4th and 5th of May the Fox cubs are still around. A little bigger, now steady on their feet and much more active.
On the 31st of October a strong wind blew through Aylesbury Vale. It was an exceptionally strong one which drew my immediate attention to the outside world. The poplar trees in the garden were being whipped around by the gusts. Luckily they did not succumb to the wind, but they did blow around, losing leaves and a few small dead branches. We lost a few larger branches from our willow trees. The large willows near the field pond were flattened even more. They were already going over, being supported by their neighbours and the hedge. Outside our home the A41 was covered by the last of the autumnal leaves.
I walked out to investigate the road block down the road, but soon stopped. There was this weird hissing sound, and then the smell of gas. A tree in Kingswood had lost a branch and broken a link pipe between two bulk Calor gas cylinders supplying the local eatery. The sound of the escaping gas could be heard throughout the village.
We were worried the gas could ignite and cause a serious problem, so called 999 to asked for the fire brigade. But it took so long that we hung up and tried again. Finally, we were put through to the fire brigade which answered immediately. They said they would come out. In the meantime a neighbour had sorted out the gas and was able to turn off the taps. Called the fire brigade again. They were already en route but said they would still come so they could check as a precautionary measure. They took some time to arrive from Aylesbury, because they had to negotiate several blockages on the A41 due to fallen trees.
A video of our Red-legged Partridges. When we first saw the partridges there were 7 chicks. Every day we checked and counted the chicks, she managed to hang on to seven for several days. We were concerned the Crows, Magpies and Kestrels would feed on the chicks. The partridges were in our garden every day, though for only part of the day. They would be missing for long periods and then suddenly show up.
After a few days, the number of chicks started to decrease, first to 4 chicks. Then a few days later there were only 2 and finally, a couple of days later, all the chicks were missing. We thought maybe they had been predated by the Crows or Magpies. Interestingly our neighbour across the road also had a Red-legged partridge which also lost its chicks over the same days. It does seem this dim bird was taking the chicks across the A41 where the traffic is high with large numbers of trucks feeding the building spree going on in Aylesbury Vale. I am sure Darwin would have some comments about the survival of Ref-legged Partridges
A video of the partridges in better times as they walked about our garden.
On Sunday 18th July, just before I left for my Sunday Clay Shoot, a hot air balloon hove into sight from the North. The wind was extremely light, and it was drifting very slowly towards us. At one time I thought the dirigible would land in our field. Then the zephyrs shifted and blew her towards the East. It spent an inordinate time tracing the hedge between two fields, edging closers and closer to a row of houses on the main road. She did land at the edge of the field. The pilot kept the canopy inflated, waiting for the recovery vehicle. Without help, the canopy could have been damaged by falling over the nearby house and fence. I suspect the house & fence could also have been damaged, but luckily no harm.
Back in the day, 16th July, while we were having a lockdown drink with friends. One of our number, George, arrived in his newly purchased 1932 784 Alvis 12-60 TL Beetle Back. Even for me, an electric head, this was a fabulous looking car.
We had a pair of Moorhens nesting on the pond, and then a brood of cute black Moorhenlings (Moorhen chicks). The pond was unusually full for the time of year, so the Moorhenlings were there for quite a while. One of the very few benefits of the incessant rain this year. Before the arrival of the Moorhenlings, the Moorhens actually coexisted with three Mallard ducks for several weeks. The Mallards could be spotted on the pond day and night. They appeared never to sleep, steaming around the pond at any time of the day or night, unlike the Moorhens. The Moorhens disappear back to their nest during the night. For many days we had only one Moorhen, presumably the other was hatching the eggs. At this time the ducks vanished, I presume forced off by the Moothens. We now had a set of baby Moorhen chicks (Moorhenlings).
The Moorhens chicks soon increased in size. You can see them searching the margins of the pond for food, and being offered morsels by their parents. A Heron paid a brief visit. Did any of the Moorhenligs fall prey to its avaricious appetite?
The Moorhen chicks also spent a considerable amount of energy hiking across the fields in search of food. Sometimes we would see them in the garden. Recently I was surprised to find the adults and chicks investigating the badger sett in our Compost Heap. This is a considerable distance from the pond with long grass in between. (We are limiting the grass mowing this year, with a no-mow Summer.)