Monday, 26 May 2014

Brandon Marsh - Sunday 25th May 2014

As usual, for a Bank Holiday weekend, the weather appeared to be a little "iffy", and while we were hoping to be able to go out somewhere, we weren't sure if the weather would be on our side.

Thankfully, it seemed not too bad this morning, and we decided to take a chance and go somewhere not too far afield for a walk. Although Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve is only a few miles from where we live, neither of us had ever been there, so we didn't quite know what to expect.

The sun continued to shine, and the wind stayed reasonably low, so we were able to comfortably explore the reserve, which covers over 200 acres of land, and is a mixture of ponds, marshes and woodland.

The map were were given when we got there showed several paths around the reserve and some "hides" from which you can watch the birdlife. According to one of the signs we saw, there have been well over 200 species of birds spotted at the reserve, so it must be very successful. I knew it was popular with the wildlife enthusiasts, but had no idea that such a varied number of birds could be seen there.

We walked along the well made paths to begin with, but ended up trying out some of the slightly muddier ones after a short time to get to the more interesting areas. Despite it being quite a nice day there were not too many people there, and some of the 6 hides we visited had no one else in them at the time.

Of course, we hadn't really got the faintest idea what we were looking at most of the time, but nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable few hours we spent there. It was very tranquil, and it was hard to believe that we were only a very short distance from both a major dual carriageway and the local airport.

We did spot a few helicopters flying around, but this did not detract from the tranquility we felt. 

One of the hides did have a bird watcher in it, who greeted us with "would you like to see a cuckoo?" - not really knowing what else to say, we said yes! He pointed to a tree in the distance, and Sally having the binoculars around her neck looked first and spotted it straight away. I had a look and found it too after a short while. We had heard the distinctive noise of a cuckoo while we have been walking, so it was nice to see it. Sadly, my camera has not got a zoom lens on it, so i wasn't able to take a photo of it, however the twitcher had taken one on his camera which he showed us.

All in all, it was a very pleasant time there (almost 3 hours, so you can tell we enjoyed it!), and we are looking forward to going again, and are also searching the internet for other similar places that we can visit.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

It's been a long time...

After a ridiculous length of time away from this blog, i finally get around to trying again!! Lots of things have been happening "in the shack", new equipment, new modes being tried, and i have also discovered the joys of Twitter!

Equipment wise, the shack now consists of a Yaesu FT897 as the main radio, this is used with a random wire in and inverted V configuration via an LDG Z11 Pro II automatic antenna tuner. This is also connected to the computer via a Tigertronics Signalink USB sound card for data modes. (I also have a G4ZLP sound card, which i use from time to time while i try to decide which is better)

This gets used for SSB with up to 100 watts output, but mostly for data modes with up to 30 watts output. Mostly i use PSK31/PSK63 modes, although i do swap to RTTY and JT65 when the mood takes me, or the stations that i want to work appear on those modes. I have also had a quick play with SSTV, although the software for that has left me more than a little baffled. WSPR gets used when there is nothing else happening on the bands, and i have also had a quick go with Hellscrieber having made just one contact using this mode.

I find myself mostly using the 30meter band (10MHz) these days - no contests to get in the way, fewer stations and generally nicer people on there! 40meters (7MHz) gets a bit of use, as does 20meters (14MHz), but i would say that 17meters (18MHz) has become my second band of choice after 30meters, for pretty much the same reasons!

15meters (21MHz) and 10meters (28MHz) get a little visit from time to time, although i don't transmit on them too often. My antenna does not really work that well on 80meters (3.5MHz), so i tend to leave that alone.

I also have a Yaesu FT817 connected to a multi-band vertical which is actually tied to the downspout from the guttering, so does not work at all well, and as this radio only puts out a maximum of 5 watts, it is pretty much useless except for receiving.

Finally, a Kenwood R5000 (with all the optional filters) is the receive only part of the station. This is mostly used to monitor my own transmissions when carrying out tests, and for quickly checking activity on other bands. I also use this for broadcast band reception from time to time.

As for Twitter, I have to confess that I did not see the point of it for quite a while, but now that I have gotten my head around the basics and learnt how to use the search and hashtag features, I actually do find it both entertaining and useful. Most of the people I "follow" are radio hams, photographers and crime writers, all of which are categories that interest me tremendously.

The fellow radio hams that I am in contact with via Twitter are always full of useful and helpful tips and advice, and we also share a lot of amusing banter with each other. Many times I have had tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks during our banter sessions!