Thursday, 9 September 2021

Signs of Autumn at Ayton

You can define autumn several ways, but some say that autumn starts here on 1 September. I always judge it by the arrival of the harvesters and the removal of the golden sea outside the shack window. This time though they arrived at the end of August.

The significance of this time of year for radio is that this tends to mean the end of the peak Sporadic E season. Sporadic E carries on of course, and it can occur at any time of year. I will be keeping a close look out for more Es, but the main season is now over. Not only is this according to the calendar but according to my radios which have fallen silent on 6m and 4m.

I get the impression that 2021 was not the greatest Sporadic E season. Certainly it was not great on 4m, where most openings were confined to southerly directions for me. The traditional eastern direction did not deliver as much as usual. I am not complaining of course, as I have worked 9K2YM this year.

Funny enough, as the harvesters roll and the Es season comes to an end, there is often a tropo opening here. It happened last year. And it happened again this year.

The odd thing about this year's harvest tropo opening was that it lasted for two weeks.

Yes, from 22 August to 4 September 2021 there was a series of tropo openings from GM4FVM. They came and went, sometimes opening towards Norway and Sweden, sometimes towards Spain, usually somewhere in between. Not really an opening, more a series of openings. There were few contacts to ON and PA, but as I say I cannot complain.

I worked a new country on each of my higher bands, 2 metre, 70 centimetres and 23 centimetres. Plus dozens of other stations. So I should be happy with that. And so I am.

1296MHz contacts at GM4FVM 22 August to 4 September 2021

As you can see (though you might need to click on the image to make it larger) I only worked three stations on 23cms, and the openings there only lasted for 3 days. One of the three was worked twice on 23cms.

Nice contacts with Niels OZ2ND and Jaap PA0O were much appreciated. In fact, Jaap replied to a random CQ I sent, which is the first time that has happened to me on 23cms. First prize went to LA3EQ for giving me a new country on 23cms in the shape of Norway. Not that I even realised that I had not worked Norway. I had forgotten that this country, along with several other nearby ones, was still missing.

Three stations on 23cms add up to a good haul and best DX of 690km was good going. Somewhat annoying was hearing a station at 900km distance who couldn't hear me. At the moment I am lacking in power. The linear I had on loan has developed a fault and I was back to 60 watts. Another time maybe.

432MHz contacts at GM4FVM 22 August to 4 September 2021

 On 70cms there was activity for the entire two week period. I was really pleased to work 20 squares and 10 countries. There was a time when I could only dream of 26 QSOs on 70cms never mind completing them in two weeks. SP1MVG was best DX at 1097km, but also a new country. Once again, like Norway on 23cms, I did not even realise at first that I had not worked Poland on 70cms. EB1B was heard on 70cms but I could not reach him.

At times I found 2m to be far too hard to keep up with. The openings were swirling around and there was a lot of QSB. Many QSOs were easy to start but hard to complete. For long periods I gave up on 2m and concentrated entirely on 70cms and 23cms. Who could have predicted that a few years ago?

144MHz contacts at GM4FVM 22 August to 4 September 2021

What a fortnight! 112 QSOs and even one on FM (G1ZJQ/P), but nothing at all on SSB even though I looked every day. 56 squares and 16 countries with a best DX to SP3N at 1406km. Always a joy to work Spain with EB1B now joining EA1HRR as something of a regular.

Then of course was the new country on 2m. GJ3YHU made it country 43 on 2m.

Any tropo opening is good fun. This one was certainly unusual being spread over 2 weeks. At some stages I got frustrated by how difficult it was to complete a QSO on 2m. As usual stations in the 700-800km become more interested in working further than me, and who could blame them? On the other hand it is very hard for me to work beyond that distance to the East, North East and right round anti-clockwise to South. This is not anyone's fault, it is another aspect of me being located on the "edge of Europe". Still, I enjoyed sitting here listening to Swedish and Norwegian stations working into France, Ireland and Wales.

It is also a pleasure to work stations during these openings who are located closer to me. A good many stations located in valley bottoms and behind hills can suddenly work much further afield during a tropo opening. As a reward for their patience I am always happy to give away a new square to them if they need it.

There is no perfect location. Even in Central Europe, where contacts appear to possible in all directions, there is a lack of the sea paths I use regularly. And of course activity is lacking to the East for them too.

The harvest 2021 openings are over but there will surely be more in the future.

Here is a strange development. I have started to use a digital voice hot spot. As with my failed plan to use network radio or Echolink as a sort of intercom to other interested radio amateurs, I have now decided to try DV. So far I have got D-Star running and I am trying to get DMR going now too. DMR is not easy to set up. I will report on that later.

I feel that the snag with this Digital Voice plan is that almost nobody uses these aspects of amateur radio to talk about amateur radio. I must not judge it before I have tried it. However, from what I have seen so far I am not optimistic. The technology works, but is there anything there to justify the effort?

More later on this I hope.

Farewell to Summer and the peak Sporadic E season. Welcome to harvest season. Let us hope for a mild, tropo-opening rich, and solar activity packed, Autumn.

A harvester piles up the stalks for the baler, outside GM4FVM's QTH.





  1. Great post Jim and congratulations on the contacts. I am saddened that no one was on SSB though. I haven't connected the antennas in over a year and I'm not sure I can be bothered as whilst FT8 does provide opportunities I did like hearing a voice at the other end. The fact that no one goes on SSB leaves me wondering is it worth the effort? I am not sure.

    Best of luck with the DMR hotspot!

  2. Gav. Good to hear from you. I have been away for a while and then busy with work.
    I agree with you, but the hobby does whatever the hobby does. I expect that a later posting from me will release some of the bile that has been building up inside about what is happening. Having said that, I can understand why some of it is going the way it is. It does not make me happy though.
    I am sorry that I have not heard you for a while and I would look forward to a chat sometime. 73 Jim