Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year .. Partial Eclipse of the Moon .. Squirrel Flicks for Friday


Sending one and all very best wishes for 2010

As well as tonight, New Year's Eve, being a Once in a Blue Moon event (the second full Moon in the same month) there was also a partial eclipse of the Moon at about 7.21 p.m. which could be seen from Europe. I had hoped for the clear skies which were forecast for much of the UK but it has been very cloudy most of the day. In fact there was a light snowfall an hour or so ago. Near the allotted time I took the cameras outside in the hopes of being able to photograph the event. I had no idea how much of an eclipse it was going to be. Fortunately the clouds cleared enough to see the Moon and the Earth's shadow only touched a very small area near the bottom right of the Moon.

Moon Partial Eclipse

 This is one of the first pieces of video I took with my first camcorder. An old 8mm Samsung job bought from the local branch of Cash Converters. This video was hand held so is a bit on the wobbly side and shows a Grey Squirrel which used to visit my garden nearly every day.

A really big THANK YOU to all who have visited my blog during 2009. When I started it in mid January I had no idea which direction it would take me or whether anyone would visit to see what I had been up to. The experience has been an eye opener, meeting so many new friends and seeing so many great blogs which I try to keep up with. I wish you all a great year ahead.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Heron Poem

Much relief this morning after my yearly check up following major cancer surgery six years ago. Once again given the all clear. I asked how long the follow ups would continue and was informed it would be for a minimum of ten years and probably longer. It is nice to know that you are not just abandoned but continuously monitored.

On checking the comments this morning it was great to receive another of Glo's (of Porcelain Rose) poems.

A heron named Harry was wishing
He’d learned the fine art of ice fishing,
For here and beyond
There was ice on each pond,
With nary a fishtail a-swishing.

He saw a few holes, which was thrilling!
Perhaps they were left from John’s drilling.
He had to admit
That his beak wouldn’t fit
And to foot the whole bill would be chilling.

Grey Heron

He stood on the edge looking wistful
Pretending his mouth held a fistful ~
An instinctual drive
He decided to dive ~
Upended and stuck in the midstful!

Brilliant Glo and thank you so much.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

No Fish Dinner Today

As I was standing by the sink in the kitchen a large grey shape glided across my view. The local Heron had come to pay a visit to see whether fish were back on the menu yet. Fortunately for the fish, and unfortunately for the Heron, the pond is still frozen over.

Heron Visits the Frozen Pond

It stood there for a while keeping one eye on the pond and the other on me. In the end it decided there was no free meal and took off.

Heron Taking Off

A bit on the blurry side but gives a good impression of just how long their wings are. From this photograph it appears to me that there is a double layer of feathers under part of each wing.

It must be very difficult in the weather conditions we have been experiencing for birds such as Kingfishers and Herons to find the food they need.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

This month is one of those rarer times when a full Moon can be seen twice in the same month. The phrase 'Once in a Blue Moon' appertains to its rarity rather than the colour of the Moon. On average, there will be 41 months that have two Full Moons in every century. The next full Moon is on Thursday, New Year's Eve.

After my previous session where I finally managed to photograph some features on the Moon's surface I decided to see how the Panasonic camcorder would cope at night. Its 70x optical zoom helped to get close in. In fact I didn't need the full 70x. There was a faint halo which the camcorder didn't pick up but you can see the thin cloud which was zooming across the Moon. I did find out why telescopes need to be motorised to track heavenly bodies. Even in the short time this video clip was taken you can see the Moon drift across the screen with the motion of the Earth so I had to adjust the camcorder to bring the Moon back to the centre of the shot.

Today as I was topping up the feeders just before it got dark I noticed the Moon was showing clearly so I fixed the Sigma 170-500mm lens on the 50D and used a hefty tripod to see what I could see.

This is the untouched full photo: ISO 800 1/400 sec @ f8 zoom is just off the full 500mm ...

Moon 003

... and here a different clipped shot with the colour changed to grey scale.

Moon 004

Well - that's got that out of my system so with luck we will be back to photos of our feathered visitors next time.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


With a few thin breaks in the cloud last night there was a halo round the Moon. I tried several shots but it was very difficult to photograph the effect. Either the halo showed but the Moon was well over exposed or the Moon surface features showed and the halo was lost.

Moon 001

Moon 002

I didn't get the tripod out, just rested the camera on the side gate, so I was quite pleased to see the Moon's craters in the second photo.

We did manage to get out of the lane this morning so Bobby won't be giving me dirty looks all day today.

Yesterday I put a large auger bit in the cordless drill to make a few holes in the ice on the pond and was quite surprised to find it was over one inch thick. That is going to take a long time to thaw.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

In the Bleak Mid Winter

Most of the garden pond has been frozen over for several days. A little clear water is evident where there are thick growths of pond plants. Hopefully the higher temperatures today and tomorrow will melt some of it. Surprisingly the fish have survived these conditions in the past.

Frozen Garden Pond

The slightly higher temperature last night melted the top layer of compacted snow which has made walking even more treacherous. I cut this mornings walk very short. My lane does not get treated and there are no footpaths. This is the view from my front gate.

Ice bound Lane Ice bound Lane

It is possible to walk on the grass verge but every time we reached a driveway the compacted snow was like walking on glass covered with a layer of oil. The same goes for the road surface itself.

Not for Walking on

I don't think we will be straying very far today!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Friday at the Flicks - Visitors in the Snow

All the feeders have been very busy these past few days as the garden birds found it more difficult to find natural food and fresh water.

Male Blackbird
Wood Pigeon
Male Chaffinch
Female Chaffinch and Starling
House Sparrows

Occasionally a few of the larger birds would visit the fat ball container though not as many as I expected. Here a Jackdaw is feeding itself as well as showering pieces for the ground feeding birds to enjoy.

Quite a bit of the snow in my garden has disappeared though the packed snow down the lane will take a lot longer to go as the temperature is only just above freezing.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

At Night The World Turns Orange

Taken through the kitchen window at night. Misty conditions were reflecting back the orange light from the village street lamps. Used a sturdy tripod as it took an eight second exposure with the Canon 350D.

Orange Glow

The mist has turned to a fine drizzle which is falling on the frozen snow so I think I will have to borrow some skis tomorrow when I walk to the local medical centre a quarter of a mile away.

Season of Goodwill - except for Blackbirds

I get used to the Starlings continual squabbling as they become impatient for their turn at the feeders but they do sit quietly next to each other a lot of the time. The same cannot be said for the Blackbirds. Just recently there have been several visiting at the same time and there is no way a Blackbird will tolerate another getting too close. As a result they spend more time chasing each other around the garden than they do feeding.

Blackbirds Arguing

Blackbirds Arguing

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Turkey Fat is not for the Birds

Whilst trying to find some information about the under wing colouring on Robins I came across an interesting page on the RSPB site. Basically they are recommending that left over turkey fat from the Christmas dinner is not used, by itself or mixed with seeds, as a food for our garden birds. One problem is that it is a soft fat which does not solidify and can get on their feathers and ruin the water repellent properties. Another is that many people rub salt into the turkey to crisp up the skin during cooking. Unfortunately this will get into the run off fat and is not good for birds.

Other left overs from the Christmas feasting which the birds will welcome include Christmas Cake crumbs, Crumbs from mince pie pastry and biscuits. The full article can be seen HERE on the RSPB site.

With the prolonged cold weather many of us have been experiencing the visitors to our gardens need our help to survive. Please remember that water is just as important as some food scraps or bird seed. That is the one thing I have to attend to several times a day as each fresh container of water I put out freezes over quite quickly.

Trying to Find Water

Water is Important in Frozen Conditions

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Determined Robin

Yesterday I was watching a Robin which, from a distance, seemed to be head butting a planter over and over. It would perch on the dark planter and watch the green one nearby. Every so often it flew across to the green planter aiming at the same point on the rim and then fly back to the dark planter. I would guess it had spotted a spider or some other tasty morsel as many spiders, earwigs and other small creatures live under the rim.


In the end it stopped and moved on elsewhere but I don't know whether it got its meal or just gave up trying.

Something I can't say I had noticed before - that is how pale the colouring is under a Robin's wings. They are usually seen hopping about with wings closed or flying rapidly from one piece of cover to another so only the brown upper colouring shows.


Sunday, 20 December 2009

Busy Birdy Bistro

It was definitely a bit on the nippy side at 7 a.m. when we went for our morning  walkies. According to my outdoor thermometer it was -5.6C and I don't think it was far from the mark. A couple of inches of overnight snow added to yesterday's inch made for fairly easy walking until we reached the main street. There, as usual, the scattered salt from the council lorries had melted the snow before the temperature dropped and the road and pavement were covered in patches of ice. In these conditions scattering salt on pavements makes them more dangerous than doing nothing.

Yesterday the Starlings hung around the feeders all day instead of making their usual three short visits. In fact the Birdy Bistro was packed all day with the usual vistors and the chef had to work hard to keep up the supply of seed.

Photos are grainy. I think I should have lowered the ISO but lighting conditions were very variable.
I am always fascinated by the wide open beak method used by Starlings to gather seeds.


This meant that a lot of the time they ended up with a ring of snow round the beak which they had to keep shaking or brushing off.


Every time the birds moved around there would be snow flying about, as with this Chaffinch walking along the top of the bird table.


Some of the smaller birds, as with this Robin, kept out of the way of the Starlings and were very hard to photograph as they kept moving - like this one which took off just as I pressed the shutter.


Between meals the birds found what comfort they could. Here a Collared Dove found a branch in full sunlight and settled down to warm up in the -2C temperature.

Collared Dove

This House Sparrow and Robin found a sunlit spot amongst the old brambles.

Sparrow and Robin

A Jackdaw found that one of my aerials made a great vantage spot to survey the garden.


A dog has to do what a dog has to do so every now and then Bobby ventured to the bottom of the garden after stretching his weary legs. After all it IS exhausting being curled up in you favourite chair most of the day.


Friday, 18 December 2009

Friday at the Flicks (Merry Christmas, Snowy Weather)

A Christmastime greeting from Bobby (and yours truly) in the way of a slide show of him with a short video clip at the end.

The soundtrack this time is a short section from DJXMAS, a Protracker .mod file written by 'Death Jester' in 1992 and released on the acme bbs in Huston. Ah, memories of the time when the Amiga ruled when it came to music production on a home computer. Psycle was used to convert the mod file to an mp3 which can be heard in full (DJX.mp3 about 9.5 minutes) on my eSnips account. I think it can also be downloaded from there. Anyone wanting the original mod file can find it on the ModMecca site.

Yesterday brought the first snow of the Winter to this part of Lincolnshire. The day was a mixture of sunny periods with occasional blustery snow showers - but - birds still have to eat and a bit of snow and wind wasn't going to put any of the regulars off their food.

Another missed photo shoot opportunity. While I was concentrating on filming the activity at the Birdy Bistro I saw the Heron take off from my garden. A quick glance at the ripples in the pond showed what that was after!

We hope the weather is kind so you can enjoy observing the wildlife around you. Only a very small dusting of snow in this part of Lincolnshire so far this morning though more is forecast.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Little Excitement

As we came back from the afternoon walk I head a loud squawk from the back of a nearby house and up flew a Grey Heron. It settled on an adjacent rooftop so I raced Bobby to the front door so I could grab the camera and try for a few shots. Luckily it was still there when I rushed out again with camera in hand. I should think the bird was a good 300 feet away so it was a fairly small section of the frame and with the dull conditions doesn't stand much enlargement.

Grey Heron on a Rooftop

It was still standing there when I had finished taking a few shots so I decided to set up the camcorder and managed some video of it. Dull conditions but at least the 70x zoom let me get a lot closer.

I should think it was there for over ten minutes just surveying the area. No doubt working out which fish pond to try next. The soundtrack I call 'Moody' and was something I threw together this morning while I was experimenting with a program called Acoustica and some Ejay Dance wav files.

Just as I was taking the camera in there was a sudden flash of movement as a Sparrow Hawk dived in the centre of one of my small trees not 12 feet from me and grabbed a Sparrow. When it saw me it took off with its prey. Flying very low it was just missed by a passing car and then only as the driver braked. As usual - no photo but another rare bit of excitement for this sleepy village..

A touch of Colour on a Dreary Day

The sky has been overcast for several days but just occasionally the early morning Sun manages to brighten things up for a few minutes.

A Collared Dove waiting for breakfast.
Collared Dove at Sunrise

The other day when I was reading Tricia's Tales and saw the photo of a Mahonia in flower it reminded me I hadn't really looked at mine for a while as it is in an area of the front garden I seldom visit.



It is not a plant I get very close to unless needed as those pointed leaves seem to be able to penetrate almost any clothing but it nice to see some colour in the Winter.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

At the Feeders

Thick cloud and rain all through yesterday but the bird visitors still need their food.

Bird Visitors

House Sparrows and Goldfinch
Male Blackbird, Goldfinches, Chaffinch
Male Blackbird with Robin and House Sparrows
Starling, Jackdaw

Monday, 14 December 2009

Do Rooks Hate Wheelie Bins?

These photos were taken in 2005 before this area went over to wheelie bins for refuse collection.


Back then, especially in the spring time, hoards of Rooks would descend on refuse collection days and examine every black sack they could reach for any morsels of food. A flimsy plastic sack was no match for their powerful beaks and often it would end up with plastic bags, stale bread and meat bones being scattered down the lane.

Geminid Meteor Shower
I wonder if any of you managed to spot the Geminid Meteor Shower last night. I had a look a couple of time but 100 percent thick cloud cover made any observations impossible. Last night was forecast to be the peak though it can continue until the 17th December. Some information can be seen on the Space Fellowship site.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

All Change

Yesterdays change of ISP went very smoothly. Switched on at 7.30 a.m. as usual to find the Tiscali connection was rejected. I hadn't expected things to be swapped over that early. Plugged in the new router and within a couple of minutes I was back on the net. So now I am with a company, Zen, which is at the top of the Which? best buy list of ISPs instead of one which has dropped into their Don't Buys. I had to wait until today before I could set up my new email addresses, which was a doddle. Can't say the same when it came to changing the personal information on some sites that I deal with though.

All change in the bird world.
A Coal Tit waits its turn as the Blue Tit makes off with a sunflower seed heart.

Coal and Blue Tits

Pity about the glare from the kitchen window.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Flix For Friday - A Bucket of Sparrows

I think this short clip was filmed a couple of years ago. I had some scruffy decorative stones soaking in a bucket of water. It was a real attraction for the local House Sparrows. I t was too deep to stand in and bathe so they could only wash behind their ears and every now and then one would dash across the surface.

The soundtrack I call Thumper. I put that together several years ago using software called eJay Dance 4. I had to give up playing with the program as it wouldn't work on later versions of Windozy but I've finally got round to ordering a newer version - so you have been warned - better get a supply of ear plugs on order.

Bobby had his check up today (Thursday). Mike, the vet, was very pleased with his progress though Bobby was not best amused when a blood sample was taken to make sure the tablets were not doing more harm than good. Mike phoned me the results. Red and white blood cell count fine, kidney and liver function OK. Bobby stays on half a table a day. I can try halving that dose in a weeks time.

Keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow's change of ISP goes smoothly.

Long Tailed Tits Return

What a lovely surprise this morning. I was putting some rubbish in the wheelie bin when I heard quiet chattering in the bushes next door and out popped a Long Tailed Tit not six feet from me, settled on the cables briefly and then descended to the fat ball feeder. I nipped indoors smartly, grabbed the camera and managed a few hurried shots before the group disappeared again.

Long Tailed Tits

Long Tailed Tits

Hopefully this means they will become regular brief visitors again during the Winter.

I may well upload my 'Friday at the Flix' video this evening as tomorrow my broadband is being migrated from Tiscali to Zen - just in case I hit any snags setting things up.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Blackbirds, Greenfinches and Plants

I think this male Blackbird was spoilt for choice as he sat on a fence with a female on each side.

Spoilt for Choice

On closer examination of the photo I noticed his tail looked out of the ordinary. He seems to have lost most of those feathers and the one remaining one appeared to be very jagged.

Blackbird Tail

I would guess he has had a narrow escape recently.

It was great to see five Greenfinches visit the feeders the other day. At least some have survived the attack of finch disease.


I didn't have a tree to plant last Saturday but I did get round to planting a bush I had bought a week or so before. This is a Skimmia japonica. Its mass of berries on such a young plant attracted my attention as well as the evergreen leaves. It went in a section of the front garden where there are mainly deciduous plants.

Skimmia Japonica

This is not a very large growing variety so it won't try to take over the whole garden. After I had planted that I noticed the catkins on the corkscrew hazel. They are as advanced now as they were last February and some of the buds are more advanced than they were then.

Corkscrew Hazel

I think birds, plants and I are all becoming confused by the changing weather patterns. One day at zero and then eleven degrees a few days later.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

Watching the rain running down the windows and the birds getting soaked as they gathered for their breakfasts reminded me of the old nursery rhyme ....

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Little Johnny wants to play;
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again!

.... which may well date back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada. I can remember chanting it as a nipper, especially on rainy washing days when mother had to dry the clothes indoors. No tumble driers then, not even a washing machine. Just a dolly tub, me turning the handle on the mangle and a clothes horse draped with damp clothes in front of a roaring coal fire.

The first visitors this wet morning were the Goldfinches soon followed by House Sparrows and Chaffinches. Pictures very grainy, even after processing, as it was very gloomy under the thick rain clouds.

Goldfinches in the Rain   Feeding in the rain

A few days ago I managed to catch a glimpse of the local Robin. Unusually for Robins it is very shy and seldom stays in one place for more than a second or two.

Robin 4

 Bobby continues to progress well on his medication which seems to have helped a lot with his arthritis.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Friday at the Flicks (Food and Drink)

Yesterday when I added some suet pellets to the ground feeder it didn't take long for the Magpie to spot them. As it was getting late in the day it decided the best thing to do was to collect as many as possible and hide them in the edge of the lawn.

Magpie Burying Suet Pellets

Some birds find the raised edging round the pond is just right for them to get a welcome drink.

A few days ago when the Starlings descended en mass a couple of them decided they wanted fresh apple. No rotten old windfalls for these. Much better to eat them straight from the branch.

The action was about sixty feet away but the 70 times optical zoom on the camcorder comes into its own on these occasions. By comparison here is the same view taken with the Canon at 200mm zoom.

Starling in the Apple Tree

Hope you have some decent weather so you can enjoy observing the wildlife around you.

Mystery Bird.

As I opened the back door a bird took off from the direction of the pond. Size - larger than a Blackbird, probably about Collared Dove size. Colour very dark mottled brown. Fanned tail with slightly lighter brown curved stripes across. Unfortunately I could only see its back as it beat a hasty retreat. I assume is was a raptor. In fact a quick check of the area showed the evidence in a pile of small grey feathers. Which bird of prey was it I wonder. Now I know why there were no birds at the feeders at what is normally a busy time.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Night Visitor Returns + Thanks + Bobby Doing Fine

Last night a little mouse visited on two occasions. The first about 1.30 a.m.. The poor thing was soaking wet as it was raining heavily but that didn't put it off as it was nibbling away at the bird seeds for about six minutes. It, or another, came into view about 6 a.m. for a short while. Just before 7.30 a.m. the Robin was the first bird to arrive for its breakfast. There were no cats sighted in that area of the garden last night.

Whilst looking through the latest comments this morning I was pleased to find Glo of Porcelain Rose had left me another of her poems. Thank you Glo.

I'm glad to hear your lovely pet
has visited the local vet
and found relief from aching hip.
Here's hoping that you both don't slip
on morning walks down icy streets.

A rainbow's one of nature's treats
appearing magically it seems,
as if the sun and rain have dreams
of spreading joy to winter's blues.

Descending starlings cannot lose
When swooping through! ... A cloud of needs
devouring all the breakfast seeds.
Poor collared doves and sparrows flee!

Nocturnal Norris heard your plea
and ventured near your camera's eye.
Of course I didn't need to spy
ANOTHER MOUSE! Now where's my bucket?

The bucket refers to a problem Glo had with a mouse in her home that she was trying to catch so she could release it back in the wild. You can read about it HERE.

Also a belated thanks to Crista of Nature As Is who left me a Friends Award on her blog a while ago.I am most flattered and grateful. I really must try to work out how to get these awards to show on my blog. I am such a scatterbrain I keep forgetting.

An update on Bobby's progress. (Photo taken last year)

His medication seems to be working well. On our way back from our afternoon walks I had got used to him lagging behind. He would stop to have a good sniff and I would have to wait for him to slowly amble along until he caught up. Yesterday he was actually trotting along and getting ahead of me. Obviously, now, his arthritis had been coming on for a while but like many animals he didn't make a fuss about it but just carried on as best he could. The sudden problem with his back legs last Sunday was probably a blessing in disguise as he can enjoy his walks even more now.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A Bit Nippy This Morning

First off - Bobby sends his thanks to all those who left him their good wishes. He is walking much better since his visit to the vets and seems to be making a full recovery. In fact if you had seen him dash across the cricket field yesterday afternoon you would have wondered what all the fuss had been about. Hard to remember that on Sunday morning he had great difficulty even standing.

A quick glance at the readout from the outside thermometer this morning (0.5C) and I knew it was going to be a slow walk for both of us. The main street through the village had been salted but of course pedestrians don't count in the grand scheme of things and the footpaths were frosty with pockets of ice after some overnight rain. Bobby is always very good on these occasions and adjusts his speed down to mine. I slipped over on ice several years ago and I have no wish to repeat the experience.

Two shots of the skyline taken from my front door. The top one with the phone when we got back from out walk. The lower one with the old Canon 350D about an hour later.

Morning Sky

A quick zip through last nights video recording showed no sign of a mouse, just the usual cat. This morning the Blackbird beat the Robin to be first at the ground feeder.

As I was brewing my morning coffee it was as though a dark cloud had descended from the sky. The Starlings had arrived for breakfast and were milling around everwhere.

Starling Invasion

I could hardly see the bird table or the ground feeder at one stage. The Starlings must have left their roost early as the visitation was a good three quarters of an hour earlier than usual. They only stayed a couple of minutes but in that time the heaped seed trays ended up looking as though I had forgotten to put out any food.
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