A Day at the Museum for the Bittern DXers

Well, it was two days really, Sunday and Monday at the end of August, when the Bittern DX Group, attended the Village at War Weekend at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum in Norfolk activating the GB5GFW special event callsign.

Given the theme of the weekend, we put a special focus on attracting the interest of young people away from guns and war, to the hobby of amateur radio and in particular, space related operations.

At the beginning of August we emailed the Funcube 1 (AO-73) operations team and asked if a Fitter Message could be put on board the satellite for the event, and we were ‘over the moon’ when Graham, G3VZV, said ‘No problem.’ The message requested reading “This is FUNcube 1 in space calling Gressenhall Farm Workhouse and the Bittern Dxers in Norfolk on Planet Earth. Greetings to all earthlings!”

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Despite the difficult surroundings resulting from both from the very effective RF shielding provided on three sides by the Workhouse and the high levels of local QRM, we were able to receive and decode telemetry and the Fitter Message on both days ‘live’ for visitors. This was quite pleasing as on Sundays, Funcube 1 is in Transponder mode making the telemetry beacon quite low power.

It was interesting to note that whilst the reception of the message attracted the attention of our audiences, the ‘Greetings to all earthlings!” always raised a laugh. There was also considerable interest from parents regarding the educational aspects of Funcube 1 and many young people were able to make good suggestions of the cause of the varying output of the solar cell voltages. It did seem that it is the 8 – 11 year olds who are most interested, teenagers appearing to be somewhat blasé.

Reinforcing the space theme, we also caught passes from FOX 1 (AO-85), listening to QSOs over Europe and also looking at spacecraft telemetry and also the ever popular images from the NOAA weather satellites. Again there was great interest in watching the passes appear on the monitor screen and several times people returned at the right time to watch the whole pass, and there were some lively discussions about the weather!

Also running and active were an HF data station running on a Raspberry Pi, a 2 meter station, SSB on HF and a receiver on which visitors could listen in and tune to what was going on. At every event we attend, we have morse keys with sounders for young people to send their name and everyone takes away a certificate of achievement, which again is always extremely popular.

Gerald,  PA3GEG, recorded his QSO with us has kindly allowed us to include it on this site

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Lastly we were visited by quite a few licensed amateurs who have been inactive for some years for various reasons. We did manage to sign up two new members and we hope to get them back on the air in the near future.

A great weekend for us and we hope that we might further increased the awareness of the scope and depth of this remarkable hobby to all ages.

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Bittern DX Foxhunt Team Triumphant once more!

The Bittern DX Group Fox Hunt team were once again triumphant in the annual NARC organised hunt held Wednesday 6th July 2016.

Setting off from NARC HQ at 7.45pm, the Bittern team consisted of Chairman Balders M0HET driving, Alec G3YOA, and Adam 2E0TKZ, working as bearing takers and Thomas 2E0TKZ oevrseeing operations.

Alex, G3YOA and Adam, 2E0TKZ get an initial bearing

Alex, G3YOA and Adam, 2E0TKZ get an initial bearing

Very shortly into the hunt the team had to decide whether to go North or South of the river – a major decision that would affect the outcome of course. Having taken a couple of bearings from the South, the team decided to go to the North – which fortuitously proved to be the correct direction. The teams Top secret weapon (Alec) doing a superb job with his DF kit.

The Fox

The Fox

The Fox was eventually found against the Church wall at Wickhampton at about 9.45pm The Bittern team locating in the shortest distance travelled. At completion everyone retired to the Rampant Horse for refreshments and LOTS of BANTER by the other NARC members which was only to be expected after such a crushing defeat!

Adam, Thomaz Alec and Balders

Adam, Thomaz Alec and Balders

Great fun was had by all and we extend our thanks to NARC for all their efforts. Till the next time chaps!

Pictures from NARC – much appreciated gentlemen.

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GB5GSM – Gunton Park Sawmill on air again

This year’s Special Event Station season got off to a good start with a return visit to Gunton Park Sawmill for the May ‘Mills on the Air’ weekend to activate GB5GSM

Gunton Park Sawmill is a privately owned early 19th Century, thatched Water Powered Sawmill that has been preserved and now restored to working order over the past 30 years, set in the stunning North Norfolk Countryside. (Longitude: 1.30123 E Latitude: 52.8527 N QTH locator: JO02PU).

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We had 3 stations on air. HF SSB, HF Data and VHF FM but the band conditions were dire! We managed just under a 100 contacts in all, with the majority on 40m SSB. Of those, 21 Mills on Air stations were worked.

Apart from the radio side of things, Sue’s spinning wheel attracted a lot of interest from the public as did Peter’s little car. We also had our growing display of demonstration projects which combine to show the transmission of sound by light.

Overall it was a pleasant weekend despite the rathe poor propagation conditions!

Beautiful setting for a lovely building. Gunton Park Sawmill

Beautiful setting for a lovely building. Gunton Park Sawmill

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Village at War Weekend, Gressenhall. Sunday 30th & Monday 31st August 2015

It’s true to say that when it comes to Bank Holidays and weather, the Bittern DX Group are generally optimistic folk, however this last August holiday weekend did not turn out as well as we hoped when we set up camp at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum to activate GB5GFW for their Village at War weekend.

When I say, did not turn out as well as we hoped, I mean it poured with rain all weekend! But there was a good turnout of rather damp club members, who were kept busy chatting to members of the public and the weekend’s re-enactors about the many aspects of amateur radio.

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We took a slightly different approach to this event and beside our usual HF event station, we included some working demonstrations of different technologies with connections to the hobby.

For the first one we recycled an old MP3 player, loaded it with wartime music and used that to drive a modulated LED transmitter and receiver which in its turn drove the loudspeaker of a mid-1950’s radio. Young people in particular were fascinated by this and took great delight in seeing how blocking the light with their hand stopped the music playing!

It is little things like this, that may seem trivial, to us that spark an interest that leads to a lifetime’s interest in amateur radio.

Secondly – and perhaps fortuitously in light of the dreadful weather, we had a live demonstration of the reception and decoding of NOAA Weather Satellites. This seemed to attract a lot of interest from adults, who, after looking at the received pictures, immediately understood why it was they were paddling inside the awning of our caravan!! Strangely the presence of a double crossed antenna on our mast to facilitate the reception of the satellites drew many curious people into our displays.

We also ran a Raspberry PI data station and also used another Pi to run a compilation of films from YouTube relevant to the weekend, together with some great photos of radios and their operators in wartime and the 50’s on display along with several items of vintage equipment. It was a good job there were quite a few visitors to our displays because the bands were flatter than a flat thing that was feeling particularly flat, and we were disappointed with the number of QSOs made! Even so, it was a fun, interesting and damp weekend and we look forward to doing it all again next year – although perhaps, if we can, without the water!

Setup Crew and Operators for the weekend: Alec G3YOA, Linda G0AJJ, Richard G6VOV, Balders M0HET, Adam 2E0OWX, Thomas 2E0TKZ, Parsley 2E0MPM and Donna M6HDM, Julian M0NUX

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Blakeney Lighthouse Weekend

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Fantastic weekend at Blakeney with good weather and a Saturday BBQ. Thank you to Balders M0HET, Lee 2E0DKN, and Alec G3YOA for delivering all the equipment to the site and also to Adam 2E0OWX, Thomas 2E0TKZ, Richard G6VOV, Peter G6ZRV and Emma M6HVY for their help in running the stations. We were kept busy on air all weekend with two stations on both SSB on 40m and Data on 20m with a few local calls also worked on 2m FM. Despite the band conditions being absolute “pants” we managed to contact over 50 other Lighthouse and Lightship stations.

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Trunch Village Scarecrow Day GB5TVS – Sunday 19th July 2015

A small team of five BDXG members turned up at 9am on Sunday morning at the Paddock to set up the special event station for Trunch Village Society Open Gardens and Scarecrow Day. This year the weather was overcast but very warm, so we were glad of the shade provided by the gazebo. The good weather encouraged a large number of visitors to the village and the various exhibits were fairly busy.

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Our participation in the event was mainly to promote the hobby and spend time with visitors to the station. The band conditions were very poor and as is often the case with these sorts of public events there were occasions when we suffered quite a high level of noise from some of the local stalls who were using electrical devices. We operated SSB on HF and as an added interest Adam, 2E0OWX set up his radio to demonstrate APRS to the public. We received quite a number of visitors to the station including some local amateurs.

Despite the lack of DX the band conditions improved towards the end of the afternoon and we managed to work quite a few European stations on 40m before closing down at 4.30pm.

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VHF National Field Day – 4/5th July 2015

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All pictures by Richard G6VOV

Setup Crew and Operators

Neil G3RIR, Alec G3YOA, Iain G4SGX, Linda G0AJJ, Alan G0TPH, Richard G6VOV, Steve G7VRK, Dave M0BGR, Dave M0BKH, Balders M0HET, Adam 2E0OWX, Thomas 2E0TKZ, Parsley M6FBE and Donna M6HDM

Section entered: Restricted Bands: 432Mhz, 144Mhz, 70Mhz and 50Mhz.
Callsign: G6IPU/P
Locator: JO02QV Site: East Rising Farm, Trimingham. 61 m ASL

After a very stormy wet night with plenty of lightning and thunder during the early hours the Bittern DX group were relieved to find on arrival at Trimingham that the 70cm mast and antenna with pre-amp which had been erected the previous evening, was still intact and functioning.

The 70cm station was first to be erected and fully tested, with the 2m station up and running shortly after. We encountered a small problem with the 6m beam which needed one of the sleeve inserts replaced before being coupled together and some adjustments were also necessary on the rotator housing on the mast, but we have learned to expect minor difficulties on field days and took these in our stride. Alec G3YOA soon put his soldering iron to good use and with the combined effort of Alan, Balders, Iain, Parsley and Dave the 6m station was soon connected and ready for testing. All stations were up and tested by 12 noon and it was a very hot and thirsty team that queued at the caravan for the first of many cups of tea. The day continued to heat up and we experienced temperatures of 33c in mid afternoon!

We were hoping for good conditions during the evening as the day cooled down but unfortunately the tropo didn’t reach the south east of England and was mainly over central Europe and the Mediterranean, although some stations in Cornwall reported working into Portugal.

70cm station was operated by Neil G3RIR and Dave M0BKH. Neil supplied the 70cm equipment comprising of a Kenwood TS2000 plus a 100 watt amplifier and a 35 element beam together with a masthead pre-amp.

Alan G0TPH and Iain G4SGX manned both the 4m and 6m stations. The 6m station which was supplied by Alan, comprised of an Elecraft KX3 plus 100w linear together with the club’s 8 element yagi. Alec provided his Ft847 plus the club’s Bremi Amp for 4m with Alan providing the 8 element yagi courtesy of DeMontfort.

The 2m station was manned by Steve G7VRK, Linda G0AJJ, Adam 2E0OWX and Dave M0BGR. Equipment FT847 plus 100w amplifier supplied by Steve, together with a masthead pre-amp.

All in all a very good weekend and an excellent team effort by everyone! My sincere thanks to all who turned up and participated including those members that came along to encourage us and those that gave us those all important points. Thanks also to those who brought along their own equipment for the club to use over the weekend. The statistics for each station will be published as soon as I have collated them. Linda – G0AJJ

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GB5GFW activated for International Museums on Air Weekend 20th & 21st June.

The Bittern Dxers set up camp again at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum on 20th and 21st June for International Museums on Air Weekend.

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Club Secretary Linda G0AJJ said “Thank you to all the members who helped with the station or visited over the weekend. I’m particularly grateful to Parsley and Donna who towed the caravan over and returned it after the event and also provided the data station for the weekend.

Some members were unfortunately struck down with illness before the event, but the Club were able to operate all weekend. Adam 2E0OWX had Data station as well, running Fldigi on a Raspberry Pi2 which was very interesting and opens up all sorts of future possibilities for the future.

“The weather was a bit disappointing and we had a very spectacular storm on Saturday evening with lightning and thunder and heavy rain, however we had enjoyed a very nice meal and a drink at the local pub before the storm hit us.

“Sunday afternoon was better with more visitors and time to have a wander around the exhibits. The central arena of the Museum had a nice display of vintage tractors and a very popular Robot Wars stand.

Of course Sunday was Fathers Day and the queue of dads waiting to play was never ending and the children didn’t get much of a look in! There were also some huge pieces of modern farm machinery.”

“Overall it was a great weekend out”

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Boom time for Bitterns

The bittern – a type of heron extinct in the UK at the turn of the 20th Century – is bouncing back to full recovery. Scientists count bitterns by listening for the male’s foghorn-like booming song, and this year over 150 males have been recorded in England and Wales, making it an exceptional year in recent times, with numbers not thought to be surpassed since early in the 19th Century.

Bittern - Botaurus stellaris.jpg
Bittern – Botaurus stellaris” by https://www.flickr.com/photos/lincsbirder/https://www.flickr.com/photos/lincsbirder/10839969015. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Bittern numbers peaked at around 80 booming males in the 1950s, but had declined to only 11 booming males in England in 1997. Concern over a second UK extinction led to a concerted conservation program which is driving the current recovery. The bittern was absent as a breeding bird between the 1870s and 1911.

During the breeding season, the bittern prefers sizeable tracts of wet reedbed – a habitat which, two decades ago, in the UK had become scarce and under managed.

Simon Wotton is an RSPB conservation scientist. Commenting on the bittern recovery, he said: “In the late 1990s, the bittern was heading towards a second extinction in the UK, largely because its preferred habitat – wet reedbed – was drying out and required intensive management ,restoration and habitat recreation. But thanks to efforts to improve the habitat, combined with significant funding from two projects under the European Union Life Program, the bittern was saved, and we’re delighted that its success keeps going from strength to strength.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He added: “The bittern is a species which proves that conservation can be successful, especially when you can identify the reason behind its decline and bring in measures and funding to aid its recovery.”

Over the last 25 years there have been several significant habitat-restoration projects, some of which are now RSPB nature reserves, including:

Ham Wall, in Somerset, which was created from old peat workings from 1995. The bittern has been booming regularly from 2008 with first nesting in that year. In 2015, 17 boomers have been recorded at the site.

Lakenheath, in Suffolk. This wetland site was converted from carrot fields from 1995. Bitterns were first recorded booming here in 2006 and the first confirmed nesting was recorded in 2009. This year six booming males are being recorded on site.

Ouse Fen, in Cambridgeshire. This partnership project with Hanson has seen wetland creation from former mineral workings, which started around 10 years ago. In time, it will be the largest reedbed in the UK. The first confirmed booming was in 2012, with 10 recorded in 2015.

According to this year’s figures, the top UK county for bitterns is Somerset, with over 40 booming males. Following the restoration and extensive creation of large wetlands in the Avalon Marshes, at Ham Wall (RSPB), Shapwick Heath (Natural England) and Westhay Moor (Somerset Wildlife Trust), bitterns became re-established in Somerset in 2008.

East Anglia with over 80 booming male bitterns remains the bittern’s regional stronghold in the UK, particularly in traditional sites on the Suffolk Coast, and in the Norfolk Broads but also increasingly in the Fens, particularly at newly-created habitat.

Over half (over 59 per cent) of the booming males are on sites protected under international law, namely the European Union’s Birds and Habitat’s Directives. These sites, referred to as Special Protection Areas or Special Areas of Conservation, are collectively known as Natura 2000 sites.

Martin Harper added: “These sites have been vital to the conservation of the bittern and other key species in the UK. However, the European Union is consulting on the future of the Birds and Habitats Directives. And we fear this may lead to a weakening of the directives, with potentially disastrous consequences for many threatened species.”

The RSPB is working in partnership with a range of organisations across Europe and across the UK which are encouraging people to take part in a European Commission-led consultation on the Birds and Habitats Directives.

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International Museums on Air Weekend 20th & 21st June.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

The Bittern Dx Group will again be taking part in International Museums on Air weekend which runs on 20th & 21st June.

We are planning to set up home at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum again this year and operating with the GB5GFW callsign. You can find out more about the weekend here and about Gressenhall here

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