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Wednesday 17th November 1999

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pied wagtial THE TOP OF THE ROOF of the house opposite is the first to catch the morning sun as it rises above the ridge. Traffic on the crest of the hill a quarter of a mile away casts blurred moving shadows. A juvenile Pied Wagtail flits about on the tiles.

goldfinch on teasel, with sparrow A single Goldfinch feeds on the Teasels by the pond.


moon The best showing for years of the Leonid meteor shower is predicted for the early hours of tomorrow morning. In the early evening a watery half Moon shows through thin cloud, as do Jupiter and Saturn. Let's hope it's clear later.

I remember the last predicted maximum 34 years ago. In the event they didn't turn up in the numbers expected, but it was overcast anyway. I sat in the shelter of a doorway, looking east and getting cold waiting to see even a single meteor to put on my Sky at Night survey card.

Last year they didn't start to show until 11.45 p.m. on the 16th of November. But about all I could see was a synchronised display of the neighbours' security lights. What a difference when I woke just after 4 in the early hours of the 17th. I watched for half and hour and saw an average of 2 a minute. Most of them like the flash of distant cameras at a concert, but one in ten would be as brilliant as a slither of crescent moon and would leave a greenish glowing trail that hung in the air for ten seconds or so.

I found the most comfortable way to view was to lay with my head on a pillow on the desk under the big skylight window in my studio, my feet resting on a chair, which gave me a full field of view of the eastern sky with, Leo itself almost directly overhead.

If it is a spectacular, or even better, this year it will be worth a look.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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