Categories
Astro-photography Astronomy

Whipstock Farm Astrophotography

High up above McGregor in the Breede River Winelands is a dark sky site par excellence – Whipstop Farm. The skies are dark and the horizons are low enough not to become intrusive.

Orion setting into the light pollution of Worcestor

The only down side of the site is the light pollution from Worcester but it is far enough away to be minimally intrusive. The rest of the horizons are pretty much clear of light pollution. Even Cape Town doesn’t really feature.

Facing south. The Milky Way dominates

The light in the trees is from a nearby chalet. There are areas away from the chalets, but the management were happy to kill the lights for me.

Satellite photo bomb
Scorpio rising with the Milky Way in attendance.

I liked the effect of the lights on the trees so I left the lights of my chalet on for effect.

The famous alignment with Jupiter and Venus very close together

I was fortunate enough to be there during the great alignment with Jupiter and Venus almost touching. Such a beautiful sight.

Venus and Jupiter, plus Jovian moons

Separated by a long telephoto lens accompanied by much swearing. The two planets were incredibly bright in the morning sky.

If you fancy some good dark skies, this is the place Whipstock Farm

Categories
Birding

Little Grebe Breakfast

Also known as Dabchicks the Little Grebes are common on water bodies across the Western Cape. Their epic territorial battles are wild and noisy and totally unmistakable. What I didn’t know is that they eat frogs. They catch them by diving under the water for long periods and then reappearing with prey in beak. I was lucky enough to see the whole process enacted under the bird hide I was in.
The bird was swimming along and then suddenly disappeared. Only to emerge with a frog in in its beak.

The disappearing act

Categories
Flowers Photography Trees

Snow in Summer Tree

One of our neighbours has this amazing tree which, in early summer breaks out in white blossoms. The whole tree gets covered.
Enjoy the sight of a Snow in Summer tree

Categories
Birding National Park Travel

Our KZN Trip

We went to KZN in October and took lots of pictures – as usual. Join us in a brief journey through Hluhluwe and St Lucia

Narina Trogon
Narina Trogon

The Narina Trogon was the sighting of the trip so it takes pride of place and for the purists, we saw it in St Lucia.

Burchelss Cougal
Burchelss Cougal

Burchels Cougal or Vlei Loerie or Rain Bird. Such a beautiful bird

Finding that bird
Finding that bird. St Lucia again.
Wild Jasmine

Wild Jasmine grows all over Hluhluwe.

Rain on the Petals

It rained for most of the time we were there. Kept the temperature down, but was a bit disappointing for the birding.

Buffalo in a wallow

This buffalo was getting rid of parasites in a hollow. Looked a bit foolish

snorkelling st lucia
Amanda getting ready

The viz was awful and the sea rough

together diving

Together Diving.

Rhinos

Rhinos in Hluhluwe. Family outing

Rhino Video
Warthog

Warthog and Red Billed Ox Peckers

Crowned Lapwing

Crowned Lapwing

Dung Beetle
Spoon Bills
Categories
Art

Secret History Art Exhibition

I was invited to submit a painting to an exhibition featuring Greg Kerr students. One of my paintings was selected to be exhibited.

Uncertain Times

My painting Uncertain Times was selected for exhibition.

The opening was last Saturday you can see the paintings on display in the Art.B FaceBook page.

Categories
Birding

Vagrant

We went to Bontebok National park on Sunday. On the way down to swim in the Breede River we noticed a bird we didn’t recognise. Out came the birding books and the camera as this tiny, sparrow looking bird dodged in and out of the road margins.

The only bird that matched the description, had one small issue. It was completely out of range. The southern most border of its range was north of Ceres in the Tankwa Karoo. Diagnostic feature? Solid black under wings.

An SUV thundered past and the bird took flight.

Black under wings A communal “Oh!”

We get home and consult the experts and they agree that what we saw was a vagrant Black Eared Sparrow Lark.

Pardon the awful picture but seeing as how the picture is now on the Rare Birds webpage with my name attached it cannot be all that bad.

Categories
Flowers Travel Western Cape

A trip to the West Coast National Park

The west coast of South Africa is a dry semi-desert region with an average rainfall of 280 mm (12″). For most of the years the vegetation is low scrub and thorn bushes with patches of dry dusty ground. In August after the winter rains things change dramatically. The flower come out in raging colours. This display lasts three months and by the end of October the flowers are gone and the dry dusty veld is left.
We drove up to Langebaan in mid August after good winter rains and enjoyed the glory of the flowers

The flowers spread across all the open ground and wild profusion. If you drive through quickly you only see the carpet of flowers. If however you stop and look, there is a wealth of beautiful flowers hidden within the showy flash of white, yellow and orange.

Categories
Art

East Cape Painting Part 2

I painted this painting from a photograph, made some adjustments to the background, and now it is finished.

Categories
Astro-photography Astronomy

Jupiter and Venus

On 1st February 2008 Jupiter and Venus were very closely aligned to one another. These pictures, taken with a digital camera show that event. And some other stars as a bonus.

The Moon in Scorpio
Categories
Europe Travel

The Normandy Landing Beaches

A visit to the Invasion Beaches and my tribute to the men and women who landed on those beaches. Many did not make it.

In 2019 we traveled to Europe. Included in the itinerary was a visit to the Normandy Landing beaches. Guided by a very competent guide, we saw and walked on Juno, Sword and Gold beaches. What I saw there stunned me and for the first time I understood the shear horror of those landings. I understood the blind courage required to leap out of the landing craft into the ice cold sea and wade ashore into a hail of bullets. Come with me on a personal trip to those beaches.

Phoenix bridge. Not a good picture but it needs to be here.

Phoenix Bridge: Allied Commandos were instructed to take this bridge at all costs. Three gliders landed nearby and then according to the tour guide three soldiers stormed across the bridge to silence a machine gun nest at the other end.

Phoenix Bridge from the side.

You can get an idea of just how long that bridge is.
I asked the guide if the bridge was wider in those days but he said, “Narrower.”
I cannot imagine storming a machine gun down a narrow alley of steel and hard road surface.
I have no idea how they survived that crazy run.

A landing craft

The landing craft were mainly wood with the front door being steel and the soldiers packed together shoulder to shoulder inside.
On an aside note, this is the landing craft that was used during the filming of “Saving Private Ryan”.

The beach.

The tide was out when I was there so the run was longer than during the invasion but as you can see that there is no cover whatsoever.

Gunnery emplacement

The guns were positioned to fire directly along the beaches, not down them. There was thus no way of a soldier further down the beach from evading or stopping the the fire.

A memorial to the fallen.

There are memorials all along the beach.

A memorial statue of a charging soldier