Showing posts from November, 2018

Tawny Frogmouths

24 November 2018 Tawny Frogmouths are nesting at the moment. Tawnies (which are part of the Nightjar family) are probably more common than you might think, because they're so good at camouflage that in the right tree, they look just like a stick, especially as they tend to sit absolutely still with their beaks in the air. Their call is pretty strange for a bird. It's a droning "woo-woo-woo" sound. Here is recording of one that Nick Talbot has uploaded to the Xeno-Canto website. The adult that lives down our street has developed a nifty feeding technique. She perches on a telephone pole one down the street from a street light, and then flies past the streetlight through the cloud of moths that the light attracts, then perches on the next pole down. She'll fly up and down the street all night, snaffling moths all the while.

Comet 46/P Wirtanen

23 November 2018 There's a comet coming! 46P/Wirtanen will be here in December (although it's already visible if you're clever). It'll sweep past Earth quite close, passing closest on the 16th of December, and at that time it'll be very photogenic in the late evening, coming right between the Pleiades and the star Aldebaran. This photo is my shot of Halley from 1986. I blogged about it at

InSight Lander

21 November 2019 NASA’s InSight lander is approaching Mars, and is scheduled to land on 26 November. This is no small feat, as if it doesn’t slow down from its current 5.5 kilometres per second (that’s about 20,000 kph!), the lander will end up a dirty smear in Mars’ deserts. It’ll use three different ways to slow down: a heat shield while it blasts through the upper atmosphere, a huge parachute, and finally a “sky crane”, which is a bank of 12 retro engines to land gently on the surface. Hopefully. Once these challenges are over, the science will begin on Elysium Planitia. Keep up with all this in real time on NASA’s live broadcast, and for more information, check out NASA’s mission page.

Eastern Koel

19 November 2018 Eastern Koels are back in Melbourne! For the last couple of years at about this time, Koels have begun to make their presence felt. Other Australians, particularly down the eastern seaboard, have been swearing at this bird for years. A Koel calls loudly overnight, making it both recognisable and unloved. They’re also unpopular with other birds, as it’s a type of cuckoo, and will lay eggs in other birds’ nests. Somewhat sadly, the other birds aren’t sufficiently intelligent to tell the difference between their own eggs and the Koel eggs, so once they’re laid, the host birds end up raising the Koel chicks. Photo credit: Geoffrey Dabb