The night skies are never still, and several time a year they are illuminated by meteor showers. During the Big Wild Sleep Out, we might be lucky enough to see part of the Perseid meteor shower. Usk, Heads of the Valleys and Abergavenny Astronomical Society will be bringing their telescopes to help us discover more about the night skies. They will also be running sky tours in their indoor planetarium, so we won’t be foiled by the weather even if it’s cloudy or raining. A meteor display and talk will also bring alive the distant galaxies we will be gazing at later in the evening.
Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus. This is because the meteor shower seem to come from the same direction as the constellation Perseus, which can be found in the north-eastern part of the sky. Meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter Earth's atmosphere at very high speed. When they reach our atmosphere, the heat created vaporizes them, creating what we call shooting stars. Most meteors become visible at around 60 miles up. On average, meteors can speed through the atmosphere at about 30,000 mph and can reach temperatures of 1,650 C.
If this wasn't exciting enough, we will also be having an action packed time bat detecting, moth trapping and otter spotting (or signs at least), to name but a few of the activities that we’ll be getting up to from dusk 'til dawn.
If you want to join us book soon whilst we still have space! For more details and info call 01633 636363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As you walk through the visitor centre you may take one of many options, chat to one of our lovely members of staff, walk straight through to the reserve, browse through the shop and take advantage of our many sale items or walk through to the coffee shop. If you take the latter, look through the window and do some “window shopping”. On the bird feeders are House sparrow families with parents feeding on seed and then passing some to their chicks. Focus on the House sparrows because after looking at them for a while you may see them wiping their beaks on the metal pole of the bird feeder. This behaviour has two explanations, one is a sign that they are cleaning their beaks after a good feed and the other is thought to represent territory marking, which would more commonly take place on the branch of a tree. Other animals that have been viewed through the window in the last week: Common sandpiper, Lesser black-backed gull, Blue-tailed damselfly, Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly, Swallow, House martin, Sand martin, Grass snake, Scarlet tiger moth, Great spotted woodpecker.
A couple of window collisions this past week as well, including a Chaffinch on Tuesday that flew in through the Visitor Centre entrance door, through the shop to look at our sale items and into the cafe window. Fortunately the impact was not hard and the Chaffinch was gently rescued and released outside where it flew away. Earlier in the week a young Chiffchaff decided to take overnight refuge in the Visitor Centre. When staff arrived in the morning it was slightly startled but was again gently rescued and placed on the hand rail near the decking where it later flew off unharmed.
Dazed and confused Chiffchaff by Steve Jones
Full sightings list 09/07/15 to 14/07/15
Buzzard, Canada goose, Cetti's warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Common sandpiper, Common whitethroat, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Grey heron, House martin, House sparrow, Kestrel, Lesser black-backed gull, Linnet, Little egret, Little grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Raven, Redshank, Reed bunting, Reed warbler, Ringed plover, Robin, Sand martin, Sedge warbler, Shelduck, Swallow, Tufted duck, Wren.
Lots of Butterflies and other animals
Black-tailed skimmer dragonfly, Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly, Comma butterfly, Common darter dragonfly, Emperor dragonfly, Gatekeeper butterfly, Grass snake, Green-veined white butterfly, Large white butterfly, Narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moth, Painted lady butterfly, Rabbit, Red admiral butterfly, Scarlet tiger moth, Small skipper butterfly, Small tortoiseshell butterfly, Small white butterfly, Weasel, Yellow underwing moth.
Please note that we take our recent sightings list from the visitor sightings board that anyone can contribute to. This is great as everyone can get involved, but obviously can lead to potential errors too as they aren’t always verified! We try to keep this list as accurate as possible but if you see something unusual feel free to comment here!
Where have all the men gone?
You may have wondered where all the men have gone? Of the duck variety that is of course! After the mating season ducks moult their flight feathers all in one go, leaving them vulnerable to predation for about a month. To mitigate this, the males lose all their brightest plumage first, in order to camouflage themselves amongst the reeds. The dull brown feathers which replace the long wing feathers make the males and females more difficult to distinguish, hence the reason it appears that all the males have disappeared. This is called the eclipse plumage. Once the flight feathers have re-grown, the birds moult again, and by October the full colours are back and the males are once again on full display!
Mallard gradually getting eclipse plumage by Mardos07 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Recent sightings 01/07 to 08/07
Bearded tit, Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue tit, Bullfinch, Canada goose, Carrion crow, Cetti's warbler, Chiffchaff, Common sandpiper, Common whitethroat, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Goldfinch, Great spotted woodpecker, Great tit, Greenfinch, Grey heron, Herring gull, House martin, House sparrow, Jay, Kestrel, Lesser black-backed gull, Lesser whitethroat, Linnet, Little egret, Little grebe, Long-tailed tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute swan, Pheasant, Pochard, Raven, Reed bunting, Reed warbler, Robin, Sedge warbler, Shelduck, Shoveler, Song thrush, Spotted redshank, Stock dove, Swallow, Swift, Tufted duck, Whimbrel, Woodpigeon and Wren.
Bee orchid, Black-tailed skimmer, Blue-tailed damselfly, Cinnabar moth, Common blue damselfly, Common frog, Emperor dragonfly, Four-spotted chaser dragonfly, Garden tiger moth, Large skipper, Large white, Large yellow underwing, Marbled white, Meadow brown, Narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moth, Peacock, Red admiral, Ringlet, Scarlet tiger moth, Small tortoiseshell, Southern hawker, Speckled wood, Stickleback and Weasel.