Category Archives: Pastimes

my diverse and exciting hobbies!


Not having seen Mercury for many years I was rather happy to catch the little, sun-grazing inner planet during yesterday’s beautiful sunset.

While the picture doesn’t look like much, if you look closely you can see the little moon-like disk shape of the planet. The picture was taken at around 60x magnification using a Nikon P900 bridge camera.

For comparison, here’s a picture I took of Venus using the the same camera and magnificaton a few weeks earlier:

As you can see, the image is much crisper as the venusian planetary disk appears much larger than Mercury’s (both because Venus is much closer to earth and also considerably larger). The Mercury image was zoomed in using the “GIMP” image processing software on Linux, here’s the picture in its original size:

Birding Corfu / Kerkyra, September 2019

In September 2019, we spent a couple of weeks in Agios Gordios on Corfu’s western coast (from the 14th to the 28th). This wasn’t exactly a birding holiday, but I managed to drive over the island a couple of times on my own in our rental car (thanks Spiros of for the great service) to explore some areas that weren’t exactly adjacent to a beach. 🙂

I brought with me my trusty Nikon Monarch 10x56DCF binoculars, my Nikon P900 superzoom camera and my Celestron C-90 spotting scope (always a hoot with airport security if you carry it in your hand luggage) on a very shaky cheap plastic tripod for obvious weight reasons which was used exclusively on our balcony overlooking Agios Gordios bay:

Agios Gordios Bay, “Ortholithi” rock formation on the right

Main observing spots where the bay pictured above, Lake Korision and the Roda Valley near Ermones (both visited twice).

Roda Valley near Ermones
Lake Korision as seen from the Northern mudflats

What follows is a loose account of the species observed and the places visit, I hope you may find it useful in planning your stay on Corfu if you’re interested in birdwatching or observing wildlife in general.

List of observed species:

Little Grebe
(Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
European Shag (Phalacrocorax Aristotelis)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
CormorantKorfu, Agios Gordios
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
European KestrelCorfu, Ermones
Peregrine FalconCorfu, Agios Gordios
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Black-headed GullKorfu, Kerkyra
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
Feral pigeonKorfu, Kerkyra
Scops Owl (Otus scops)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Bee eater (Merops apiaster)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
Sand MartinKorfu, Kerkyra Town
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
StonechatCorfu, Ermones
White throated warbler (Sylvia curruca)Korfu, Agios Gordios (gr/cfu)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
WagtailAgios Gordios
Red Backed ShrikeErmones, Korfu
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
Blue Jay (Garrulus glandarius)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)Korfu, Lake Korission (gr/cfu)
RavenAgios Gordios
European Sparrow (Passer domesticus)Korfu, Pelekas (gr/cfu)
European GoldfinchCorfu, Ermones
JackdawAgios Gordios
MagpieAgios Gordios
Coal TitAgios Gordios

Observation details

This list is not complete, I’ve tried to focus on the more interesting species on the island.

Little Grebe: observed on one occasion at Lake Korision (LK); 6 ind. hunting on the lake.

Shag: two ind. resting & feeding on a rock near Orthoilithi, Agios Gordios Bay (AGB) observed during 2 consecutive days.

Cormorant: few observed over the course of 2 weeks in AGB

Little Egret: Quite common, seen over AGB, LK, and near a small pond in the Roda Valley (RV) this species seems to replace the white heron common in central europe on Corfu.

Grey Heron: Quite common, occured over AGB, RV and LK.

Greater Flamingo: Observed one right at the Airport lagoon in Kerkyra Town (KT) on arrival, also a few hundred present during both visits to LK.

Marsh harrier: 2 ind. over AGB during the first week on one occasion, not seen again.

Pallid Harrier: observed one adult male over the RV near Ermones on one occasion; 2nd visit a day later to take a good photograph sadly wasn’t successful. (migrant) Crappy photo only I’m afraid.

Common Buzzard: seen on a few occasions over AGB and the RV, not as common as in central europe though.

Kestrel: 2 ind. observed over the RV near Ermones on one occasion

Peregrine Falcon: One ind. over AGB (observed once)

Osprey: One ind. passing North over AGB; another one hunting over LK a week later (may have been the same bird)

Stilt: Single imm. bird on the first visit to LK; not seen again during the 2nd visit a week later. I was very happy to hear its distinctive call when it flew off. I’ve been chasing this bird for a few years now!

Kentish Plover: 5-6 during my first visit to LK on the northern mudflats (lifer), not seen again the 2nd time around.

Cory’s Shearwater: 5 birds hunting over ABG on the very first morning, possibly migrating south; this was the only occasion I saw this bird in spite of many hours spent on the eyepiece of the C-90 spotting scope scanning the bay. (lifer)

Gulls: Herring and yellow-legged seen regularly all over the island; black-headed seen once over the airport lagoon on arrival. Pictured: Yellow-legged near Paleo Frourio in Kerkyra.

Caspian Tern: 2 adults over LK during my 2nd visit. I’ve been told by Nikos from this bird is rarely observed on Corfu, sadly I didn’t manage to take any good photos.

Scops Owl: At least 2 individuals calling every day both at dusk and at dawn at AGB, but never observed. Still I was very happy for this lifer as I wasn’t too optimistic during my planning of the trip, and the pair sounded ever so sweet apparently calling for / to each other (lifer)

Bee-Eater: two flocks of about 20-30 birds observed and heard calling twice during our stay over AGB.

Sand Martin: Quite a surprise to see these birds not shy at all hunting in significant numbers near the old fortress in Kerkyra! Also many barn swallows present there.

Spotted Flycatcher: seen regularly all over the island.

Red-Backed Shrike: The number of shrikes (both in indiviuals and species) was a bit of a letdown to be honest, only one red-backed could be found during the entire stay in RV near Ermones.

Raven: a pair could be observed regularly over AGB, sadly I could never make out their nesting site as the rocky cliffs around the town would probably have provided a perfect breeding ground for these impressive birds.


Despite the 6 new “lifers” observed during my trip I was slightly disappointed with the local variety of species and number of birds. Sparrows seemed to be by far the most common birds, but wherever I went it was quite easy to find spent shotgun cartridges, even in so-called “nature reserves” which kind of sheds a negative light on the way the local environment is “protected”. While I never witnessed any shooting first hand the evidence for it was quite obvious.

Lake Korision (during our visits) was plagued by several 10-vehicle quad tours roaring up and down the narrow beach… not something I’d expect to see in any continental nature reserve without some visiting nature enthusiasts making a stand 🙂

Caveat: I didn’t manage to visit all the areas I had planned to (most notably the Pantokrator mountain region in the North and Lefkimmi in the South), so I may have missed out on quite a few species which are supposedly present in those locations. A dedicated birding trip will probably turn up many more species which I didn’t manage to spot during my stay.

Mondfinsternis 2018-07-27 in Herford

Es war richtig voll an der Hilgenböke in Herford: Mindenstens 100 Menschen jeden Alters interessierten sich für die Mondfinsternis. Da ich als einziger ein Spektiv mithatte (TS Optics 100mm mit Zoomokular 20x-60x), bildete sich teilweise sogar eine Schlange von Leuten, die mal Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars (oder natürlich auch den verdunkelten Mond) mit eigenen Augen sehen wollten.


Es war sehr schön, so viel Interesse an diesem schönen Himmelsphänomen zu erleben.


Das Finsternisende liess sich dann perfekt von der heimischen Dachterasse beobachten.

Birding am Ijseelmeer

Post aus dem “Sturmmöwe”-Blog, hier für die Nachwelt festgehalten:

Nach einer Woche Ijsselmeer wollte ich euch mal ein paar der schöneren
Bilder zeigen, die bei meinen Beobachtungen dort entstanden sind (zwar
nicht aus OWL, aber vielleicht für andere NL-Reisende bzw. für die
Suche hier im Blog ganz interessant).

Dank Örn’s Website-Tipp ( konnte ich direkt
in der Nähe von Wervershoof / Nordholland am östlichen Ufer des
Ijsselmeeres gelegen ein wunderschönes Gebiet bei Twisk
( ausfindig machen, welches aufgrund
der Nähe zum Ijsselmeer und vielen Flachwasserzonen eine Menge Viecher
anzieht. Leider war der ein paar Tage zuvor dort gemeldete “Lachstern”
(zu dt. Lachseeschwalbe) nicht mehr vor Ort (Seeschwalben auf der
Durchreise übernachten nicht, wie wir ja vom Hücker Moor schon
wissen), aber trotzdem gab es eine Menge zu sehen (vor allem
Haubentaucher, die dann schnell aufgrund ihrer schieren Anzahl in
“Haufentaucher” umbenannt wurden).

Leider glänzte auch die Trauerseeschwalbe durch Abwesenheit (diese Art
hatte ich eigentlich fest eingeplant als neuen “Lifer”, aber wie das
Leben so spielt… die Viecher machen, was sie wollen!), eventuell war
es auch noch zu früh für diese Art auf dem Wegzug in die

Als Standort kann ich Wervershoof (“Camping Vislust”) für Birder nur
wärmstens empfehlen. Auch die Nordseeküste (Den Helder / Fähre nach
Texel) ist von dort nur 20 Autominuten entfernt, die fest
installierten “mobile homes” sind gemütlich und preisgünstig zu

Direkt über die Straße ist ein toller Beobachtungsplatz in 3 Minuten
mit dem Rad erreichbar (erhöht auf dem Deich mit bequemer Bank), an
dem sich regelmässig bis zu 40 (Maximalzahl) Löffler einfinden sowie
auch weitere interessante Arten. Fast jeden Abend liessen sich dort
(mit der Sonne dann praktischerweise im Rücken) neue Besucher
ausfindig machen, wirklich toll. Auch die Holländer waren immer sehr
interessiert und hatten viele Tipps, so daß man wirklich nie länger
als 5 Minuten “alleine” war und so auch einige Artnamen (“de
Knoppelzwaan”, “Aalschover”, “Kiektiif” etc; einfach herrlich) in der
Landessprache schnell erlernte. Auf der “Gartenliste” landeten dann
auch schnell Arten wie Flussseeschwalbe, Löffler, diverse Gänse und
sogar Regenbrachvögel (2x überfliegend und dank ihrer
charakteristischen Flugrufe auch für mich sicher bestimmbar).

Abschliessend nochmals vielen Dank an EM (auch wenn er meinen
vermeintlichen Seeregenpfeifer gnadenlos “abgeschossen” hat ;-)) für
den Support per Smartphone bei zahlreichen Bestimmungs(an-)fragen.

I love X-Plane 11, and X-Plane loves Linux, too


If you’re interested in flight simulations, you may be aware that “X-Plane 11” hit the digital streets a few weeks ago. I shelled out the €60 or so for the Linux version without thinking twice, and boy, has this been a good investment.


Flying along the “Obersee”, situated about 20km from where I live.

Trying out custom scenery (LGSA Souda on Crete)

FPS look very good even with object-intensive add-on scenery (much can be downloaded for free off the net using some custom, free libraries)


Ready for take-off from RW 11 @ Souda

Flight from Iraklion to Souda along the Cretan Northern Coast


Installation was very painless and worked like a charm. Updating X-plane also worked without any issues. I really like the fact that you can simply move the installation around on your hard disk (as I ran out of space in my /home partition) and re-activate it by simply creating a softlink to the new install folder. That’s how software should work, without any crappy registry entries that break once you move the installation folder.


Parking Position at Emden airport… note the ability to include real weather updated in near real-time.

I just love the Linux support, the version runs flawlessly and natively on my Linux box (currently Mate Cinnamon 18.1) and even the HOTAS Warthog from Thrustmaster works great on Linux natively as two separate devices (throttle / stick) without requiring any drivers or fiddling.

Naturally there is a lot to learn and a a lot of time to be spent on studying the manuals… make no mistake, while you can hop right into X-plane and enjoy the occasional care-free flight, it’s a full blown simulator (what the BMS folks like to call a “study sim”) that will teach you a lot there is to know about aviation and aircrafts.

Bottom line: 9/10 to Laminar Research for this excellent product.



New “Birding” section


I’ve created a new section to post some of my “birding” pics taken with my new camera.

While the results are probalby mostly ranging from mediocre to horrible to a professional photographer, I’m still amazed what one can do with the Nikon’s zoom while not lugging around a tripod (which I’m usually doing anyway when birding for my spotting scope, but I’ve yet to buy a 2nd tripod adapter for the camera).

I also hope my composition skills will improve over time so shots will hopefully get better, too… call it a sort of “study history” if you will 😉

You can find the section as a new page next to the “home” link on top.

Dave Purdy passes

The SimRacing community mourns the loss of one of its most gifted figures: On May 15th, Dave Purdy passed away aged 71.  His countless contributions to simracing will be remembered for a long time.

We raise our glasses in remembrance to a man who never shied away from stating his opinions in a very soothing and likeable, yet determined  voice (the only medium that many of us ever got to know him over, sadly)  and who produced a plethora of useful information and genuine content  that helped us improve, enjoy and pursue our passion.



Our thoughts & deepest sympathies are with his family and friends.

You will be missed.


Godspeed, Dave.


Mercury Transit (not much to see here ;-))



Not much to see here I’m afraid, more or less this post is a reminder to myself that I observed the Mercury Transit using my 100mm spotting scope and a custom built mylar foil filter (basically just a bit of cardboard wrapped abound the tube with some mylar strapped on the business end).

While the view wasn’t very spectacular it boggles the mind to think about what’s actually happening out there: A little planet forever caught up in the Sun’s gravitational well, its hemispheres being alternately boiled by our central star or deep-frozen by exposure to empty space when in the shadow, racing across the Sun’s face in a mere couple of hours… wow, it really boggles the mind, not least of all our ability to predict such events with fantastic precision.

Comet Catalina… check ;-)

This morning I woke up a bit earlier than usual and decided to take a stab at observing, or at least glancing, comet C/2013 US10 “Catalina” which has put up quite a show over the recent couple of days:


(This image has been taken from and was taken by Yasushi Aoshima a few days ago).

After about five minutes or so I managed to spot the comet in my 15×70 Celestron SkyMaster binos around here:




The comet was much dimmer than I had expected it to be, maybe a case of very low surface brightness, but it’s still a great feeling to have seen a celestial body that’s bound for interstellar space once it completes its swing around our central star… puts stuff into perspective really.


Fixing FaceTrackNoIR head tracking with 64bit game binaries

If you’re like me, you’re both a simracing and flightsimming buff. My sims of choice are rfactor2 for simracing and Falcon BMS (4.33 was released not too long ago) for flight sims.

While using a head tracking device feels very natural when it comes to flightsimming (I’m using the excellent DelanClip with FaceTrackNoIR), it always felt strange when simracing in rfactor2, I just couldn’t get used to it. The fact that the stock FTNoIR install didn’t work with the 64bit rfactor2 executable didn’t help, either.

Shtalik” on the BMS forum came up with a solution: Simply use the npclient64.dll from the OpenTrack zip archive and extract it to your FTNoIR directory. Following that, you should not have any problems enjoying head tracking in your favourite 64bit sim of choice.