Category Archives: Moon View

Stake Out

Observatory 5
Black Barn Mound TQ 771729/ Moonrise 11.52

Electric storms circle the observatory and shafts of silent lightning regularly illuminate this currently rain free site. It very humid though, and condensation is worryingly building on the tent, laptop, video server and on me. I have staked out a water vole hole hidden behind a bank of reeds, should one of my ratlike neighbours decide to brave the weather and come out to eat or to visit the latrine.

King Frog

Observatory 5
Black Barn Mound TQ771729 / Moonrise 10.36

A gust of wind carries a concentrated spatter of rain to the tent. In a fraction of a second it speckles the water of the ditch I’m observing on screen. It’s immediately a real, if shadowy window onto a six metre length of brackish ditch water with a metre high bank of reeds and grasses. The camera reveals scores of tiny Gobi fish, a large shrimp and the long shadowy form of an eel just below the surface. Marsh frogs however, dominate the night scene and link this underworld with mine.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Rocks TQ 771714 / Moonrise 09.18

Grainy predawn images flicker inside the tent at twenty frames per second. Fluttery mesmerising moths have danced on camera for the past half hour, like tiny ghosts. By day they are almost impossible to see. The camouflage on this goat moth is a perfect match for the concrete rubble were it has come to rest.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins/ TQ 771714/ Moonrise 07.58

At first I thought this 25mm mite was a sick watervole pushed from inside a nearby hole to die. On reflection, I think its a tiny shrew. Though waiting for over an hour, no living member of the vole colony appeared and so I quietly padded away with just this image of a death.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins/ TQ771714/ Moonrise 06.33am

‘You used to get grass snakes over there by the sea wall, and there’s edible snails on that bank over there’ It’s about eight thirty in the evening and John, out walking his dog, helpfully shares his knowledge of the local wildlife. This one looks like a common garden snail, but is it edible? I could never tell an edible mushroom from a poisonous one either. One the other hand, I am sure there are many birds, toads and hedgehogs here that would find any sort of snail acceptable fare – whose food and indeed whose environment is it.

Lunar Rabbits

Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins TQ 771714/ moonrise 05.05 (new moon)

The Aztec moon god, was sometimes pictured as a rabbit, whilst Chinese, Japanese and Korean lore all feature a rabbit in the moon. Tonight’s new moon however, has been totally rabbit free. Ne’er a bushy tail nor quivering nose to be seen for miles.

These marshes are like a giant Swiss cheese, hollowed, tunnelled and undermined by the fervent digging of this wanton army. They have colonised so many a path and earth bank that it’s a wonder all the water in the lagoons has not drained away. Every twilight step is usually accompanied by a speedy blur as singletons and sometimes entire families, leg it at my approach.

Is their absence perhaps the result of some unknown effect of lunar gravity? With so many predators around, perhaps its simply a question of staying safe on the darkest night (When there’s no big rabbit in the sky to watch over them).


Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins TQ771714/ Moonrise 03.45

A colony of spiders inhabits the teazels beside the lagoon. My predatory friends are doing a good job of capturing the mosquitoes, if the large numbers of bodies stuck to their silky webs are any measure.

Cliffe Fever

Observatory 3
Cliffe Creek TQ 715769/ Moonrise 02.11

The mossies are gathering and getting ready to strike. In the north Kent marshes you can be unlucky and get the attention of a female Anopheles plumbeus, a type that can transmit malaria if it first bites an infected person and then feasts on you. As the climate camp assembles just across the river at Kingsnorth, it’s a reminder that global warming is leading scientists to predict a resurgence of the disease here in the low lying salt marshes of north Kent, where in the nineteenth century is was common and known as the ague.

Here in Cliffe there was a mini outbreak in 1918, when soldiers were returned to their barracks after being diagnosed with worrying symptoms in Thessaloniki. The men had been treated in Greece by a British Army doctor called Ronald Ross, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for demonstrating the role of Mosquitoes in the spread of malaria. He had made explicit the need for them to avoid regions in England where the anopheles atroparvus mosquito thrived. During the next twelve months 500 civilians living close to the Hoo peninsula were diagnosed with malaria.


Observatory 3
Cliffe Creek/ TQ 715769/ moonrise 01.02

It is 22.43 and just about high tide; a low neap of about 5.3 metres. Neaps coincide with the moon in its 1st and 3rd quarter and so around four thirty this morning I should be able to see a moon fitting this description dipping toward the eastern horizon. A good spring tide will reach 6.8 metres on the Medway when the waters, pulled by the gravity of sun and moon together, seem to ‘leap upward‘. The neaps conversely, as the old medieval word might imply, appear nipped or stemmed in their flow. There are many mosquitoes about, intent of a good deal of neaping too.


Observatory 3
Cliffe Creek TQ 715769/ Moonrise 00.11

In tented residence beside the seawall, in an area littered with small cinders and the many droppings of rabbits. Experimental scrapes evidence expanding colonisation of this immediate area. Every path and trail have burrows. I expect the rabbits will make an appearance sometime just ahead of sunrise to feed on the brambles, dock, thistles and sorrel that have also settled this unpromising ground.