Moon, Venus and Jupiter were aligned over Knutsford when I looked out one evening last week.
A happy occurrence of heavenly alignment. This one even pretty well aligns with the street lamp on earth.
Have we forgotten what it is to align our affairs with those in heaven? Do we always act from the highest motive, for the greater good? This question becomes ever more urgent amid the permacrisis with undercurrents of unwinnable warfare.
On a more mundane note, I was amazed to find that this photograph looked even remotely presentable, having been taken hand-held with my smartphone. There’s some incredible software in these things!
The mass of white buildings spread along the quayside road (of the one-time port) shows up well on a sunny day at Parkgate in the Wirral.
The quay looks out over marsh and reedbed, part of a vast area of RSPB reserve that stretches across the Dee Estuary to North Wales on the other side. Large numbers of pink footed geese and lapwings periodically rise and land a short distance away. The marsh is regularly patrolled by a pair of Marsh Harriers, hovering over the reedbed and occasionally swooping down on their prey..
Many visitors walk up and down the quayside (or the nearby Wirral Way) in the sunshine and eat locally made ice cream or fish and chips on the quayside.
The dominant building is Mostyn House School (right and featured image), now converted to apartments (see earlier post).
Just becoming a teenager, I remember the fuss in the papers about some professor who was wasting taxpayers’ money on a new-fangled radio telescope in Cheshire. It was late and well over budget. Then in October 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. It became apparent that the near-complete telescope at Jodrell Bank was the only instrument in the world capable of locating and tracking Sputnik and its carrier rocket. Overnight the fortunes of the telescope changed, and within weeks it was fully operational.
Bernard Lovell, whose baby it was, went from zero to hero almost overnight. He had successfully created the largest radio telescope on earth at 250m diameter, fully steerable so could be pointed in any upward direction.
You can investigate the story and exploits of this wonderful piece of technology at the Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre in Cheshire. You’ll find out, for example, that the technology emerged from wartime research into radar, and Lovell scrounged parts from the armed forces for his early experiments.
It’s also quite beautiful, and awe-inspiring when the wheels are set in motion and the disc slowly rotates in two dimensions.
The telescope is still operational today and an integral part of world radio telescope networks, still the third largest. In 2019 Jodrell Bank was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
One story from the exhibition sticks in my mind. Lovell visited fellow scientists in the USSR to discuss the technology. During the visit he was asked to set up a radio telescope in Russia, which would have meant defecting. After Lovell refused, he believed members of the KGB tried to wipe his memories of the visit using some sort of radiation, he was very sick for a brief period on his return. Le plus ça change….
Chester is one of England’s most historic cities, established as a Roman port on the Dee Estuary in the 1st century AD, and very prosperous in the Middle Ages. The Roman walls have been largely maintained over the centuries, providing a scenic walk around the central city and its modern shopping centre although the port silted up many years ago now. The large number of historic buildings makes for a fine High Street, photographed here from the central pedestrian bridge on the wall walk.
The 11C Chester cathedral has a chequered history as Saxon Minster and Benedictine Abbey. The sandstone used in its construction is characteristic of many religious buildings in the area.
I just rediscovered photos from May of this large moth on the drive, maybe 1-2in long.
I think it is probably a lime hawk moth. The colouring, shape, time of year and location near a birch tree are all right. although the markings are not quite as in the examples on the web. Attractive pattern anyway!
The rambling roses on the arch in our garden are now in their glorious second blooming of the summer. The individual flowers show a beautiful but subtle range of colours from pink/apricot/yellow through to pink tinged white and finally faded white – all in view at the same time.
Those ducks looked oh so familiar, lurking under weeping willow trees by Knutsford’s Moor Pool. But something felt wrong. Then I realised. These were black bellied whistling ducks, very familiar from our visits to Houston, Texas. And this was Knutsford, Cheshire, far away from the homelands of these American sub/tropical birds (see Wikipedia entry).
How did they find their way to Knutsford? A mistaken migration across the Atlantic? Unlikely, as this is not a migratory species. More likely, they are escapees from somewhere like WWT Martin Mere? Anybody know?
The next day after the previous post, another dragonfly appears in the vicinity of the garden pond, and stays still on the crocosmia, presumably waiting for its wings to develop after emerging. This was maybe between one inch and an inch and a half long.
It seems to me that this demonstrates one of the many benefits of a garden pond in providing for a diversity of wildlife. Unfortunately, garden ponds are no longer as popular in UK as they were in my memory, probably due to the work involved in maintaining them. It’s so much easier to mow a lawn, put down plastic grass, or tarmac it over.
You know how dragonflies are always on the move, usually continuously patrolling their territory. So it was a surpise to see this large one just basking on a loganberry stem in the garden. The insect was probably a couple of inches long.
The British Dragonfly Identification Guide suggests that this is a common hawker. We realised that this was probably newly emerged, maybe from our garden pond, waiting for its wings to fully develop.
Another revelation was the following zoom closeup taken with my Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone, confirming that high-end modern smartphone cameras have caught up with many of the capabilities of my previously favoured compact superzooms Panasonic TZ80/TZ200. And this shot has been reduced to 2500px width.
This evening primrose seems to like our garden, having transplanted itself several times to give miltiple sources of beautiful yellow flowers that seem to glow at evening time. The flowers soon die, but more appear continuously for months on end through the summer.