Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Who Says it's for the Blue Tits?

Only for the Blue Tits

I am trying out a different layout from the new ones available in Blogger. I do see that the word 'cloud' doesn't seem to display properly in the latest version of Opera though the  latest versions of IE and FireFox seem to show everything OK.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Two Hedgehogs Visit

First a question to those who use the Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 USM IS lens. Have you used a polarising filter with it? If so did it focus properly? I ask as I have a Fujiyama Digital P.L. filter. When it is on the lens the camera (50D) appears to focus, camera beeps and red dot lights up, but the photos are out of focus.It was tried in bright conditions where I was getting values of f8 and f11 so the image should have been bright enough. Is there something faulty with my filter or is it that the lens doesn't respond properly with a polarising filter? It behaves just fine with my UV filter.

Last night there were two different Hedgehogs visiting. Horace (should really have named him Horatio) was recognisable by his one shiny eye. (No soundtrack. Uploaded to Flickr for a change)

If you enjoy watching our night time visitors then you can see more Hedgehog activity on  HOGBLOG and TWOSIE THE HEDGEHOG blogs.

Other updates:
Once again the Blue Tits have been conspicuous by their absence from the nestbox though they are still visiting the feeders.
A week after the frog spawn appeared I was pleased to see a second batch. Both are now in the nursery pond. Yesterday I saw that some of the first batch were changing from a full stop to a comma shape so things are looking much better than last year when none was fertilised properly and there were no tadpoles.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Hungry Corvids

It has become a regular event to see four or five Jackdaws in the garden along with three or four Rooks eating the left over seed I scatter on the lawn. They have quite different eating habits. The Rooks gather and store seed in the pouch under their beaks whereas the Jackdaws eat there and then.

Yesterday there was one Rook among three Jackdaws. It was getting quite annoyed as they encroached on its feeding area and kept trying to chase them off but it was no match for a group.

Rook and Jackdaw 5

Rook and Jackdaw 4

Rook and Jackdaws 3

In the end it waddled away to a different part of the garden leaving the spoils to the Jackdaws.

Jackdaw 6

Jackdaw 7

I usually put a slice of bread in one of the feeders which helps to fill up the larger birds. Yesterday a Rook had managed to pull out quite a large piece and was sat for a while with it in its beak as if it was working out what was the best way to deal with its prize.

Rook with Bread

There is never a dull moment watching the larger birds as I can often see them stand and look carefully from various positions as they work out how to approach a problem.

Quite a surprise this morning when we got back from an earlier than usual early morning walk as there was a tight group of eleven Rooks feeding on the lawn. Still too dark to photograph unfortunately.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Colourful Starling, The Moon, Pond Water Tastes Best

Look at a Starling in dull weather and they seem to be a very drab bird, black or dark grey. On the other hand when the Sun is shining at the right level their feathers appear to glow with a multitude of colours.

Colourful Starling

As the sky was clear last night I decided to take a sturdy tripod outside so I could try the 100-400mm lens to see how it would cope with photographing the Moon. I was quite surprised and not a little pleased with the results which contained good detail even after cropping.

MOON 27 March 2010 a

MOON 27 March 2010 b

I wonder what is special about pond water. Although Bobby has a bowl of water next to his food bowl it seems that the water in my nursery pond must have a taste more to his liking.


A good job he was drinking from the opposite end to the place where I had put the frog spawn for safety.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

More Frenzied Spring Cleaning and Hedgehog Visits

Yesterday morning the Blue Tit was once again working hard to clean out the nestbox. The video runs at about double speed to keep the file size down. No soundtrack on any of these video clips.

Once the bird had had enough of cleaning the interior the outside was given a thorough examination.

During last night a Hedgehog made two visits to the feeding area. This one has been seen twice before this year but I'm fairly sure it is not Henry from last year so I will christen it Horace as from its size it could well be a male.

The IR light only reflect from one of his eyes so I guess Horace is blind in one eye for some unknown reason. This should not affect his ability to find food as Hedgehogs have poor eyesight and rely mainly on their excellent sense of smell.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday at the Flicks (The Early Rook, Bathing in the Rain, Frogs)

It's the early Rook which catches the left over mealworms:
(Silent video capture)

Once again a Wood Pigeon was making the most of a rainy day to have a wash and brush up. They often stand on the raised edge of the pond and use their heads to splash wather.

Some video clips of the Common Frogs which visited the pond a few days ago:
(It was a windy day so there is some noise on the soundtrack)

 Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Different Hedgehog Visitors

An earlyish visit from a Hedgehog last night. I am not sure whether it is the same one seen two nights ago as the marking look different though they appear about the same size. It stayed for nearly five minutes helping itself to dried mealworms, unsalted peanuts and raisins. No sound on this clip which shows the final part of the visit.

On checking back this is the Hedgehog which visited on my birthday. There is a dark mark on its left flank where the one two nights ago has a light patch on the left hand side.


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Bees are a Buzzing

After a session of Heath Robinson experimentation in the morning the weather was so nice in the afternoon I took a chair out and sat with the camera hoping to catch a few photos of the birds which come to bathe in the little waterfall on the garden pond. As usual, in the hour I sat there, not one bird came anywhere near the pond.

All the activity I saw was centred on a new tree I had planted a few weeks ago. One day when I was looking round the local Focus store I spotted some small grafted weeping pussy willow trees and though that one would look nice next to the pond. With the warmer weather the catkins have started opening and yesterday there were constant visits from the local bees. I watched as one bumble bee flew over the roof of the building and made a bee line for the tree.

Bumble Bee


Share and Share Alike

Love the way this bee clings on to the branches and squeezes through to get at the nectar.
Hang on Tight

Fill those pollen sacks
Bee Pollen Sack

 With the warmer weather there is less strain on the seed feeders as the birds find more of their natural food but I still get quite a few corvids first thing each morning. This Rook presented a lovely side view for a portrait.

Portrait of a Rook

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Henry Enjoys His Food

Since I last spotted Henry the Hedgehog four nights ago he had been nowhere to be seen. Last night he turned up early and soon tucked in to dried mealworms, crushed peanuts and raisins. In all he made three short visits to the food dish.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Nature playing Catchup

Things are certainly moving on a pace now the weather has turned warmer. Last time I looked a week or so ago I couldn't see any of my miniature narcissus now they are all in flower.

Miniature Narcissus

The corkscrew hazel produced its catkins long before the cold weather but they remained tightly closed. Now within a few days they have elongated and opened up to show all the yellow pollen and the tiny red flowers are open and ready to be fertilised.

Corkscrew Hazel Catkins

At last there was some frog spawn in the garden pond. This year it looks as though most of it is viable. Last year it was all white and not one tadpole appeared. I have moved some to the safety of my 'nursery' pond where there are no fish to give any tadpoles a safe start in life.

Frog Spawn

Last week when I was experimenting with the new lens I forgot to post this photo of a House Sparrow.

House Sparrow

Some mornings there can be up to a dozen corvids massing on the law. The Rooks seem to favour the fat balls which they attack so vigorously that it rains pieces on the birds below, much to their delight at not having to work so hard to find food.

Rook Scattering a Fat Ball

There is a much more varied dawn chorus now. Yesterday I was able to stand and listen to a Dunnock singing not ten feed away.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Great Tits Investigate the Blue Tit Nestbox

It took me by surprise when I checked through the video captures this morning. Having a good look at the Blue Tit nestbox was a pair of Great Tits. Fortunately for the Blue Tits the hole is probably too small for the new visitors.

No sound on this video clip.

A short while later the Blue Tit was back to continue the Spring clean started a couple of days ago.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Common Frogs in the Garden Pond

After the disappearance of the two frogs I saw during the icy weather I had begun to think I would not see any more in the pond this Spring. It was quite a surprise yesterday when I spotted a common frog.

Soaking up the Sun
Common Frog

Common Frog

In reflective mood
Common Frog

After watching for a while I noticed there was another frog. Occasionally the first would make its way across to the other but it was not interested  and moved rapidly away. It was only after wandering round the pond trying to get out of the wind to take some video that I noticed a pair coupled together in a corner.
Common Frog

Who loves you, baby?
Frog Pair

No sign of spawn when I checked at tea time but I am hopeful there may be some in the next couple of days.

A short while ago Shirl (Shirl's Gardenwatch) was wondering what difference a 400mm zoom would make over the 200mm. The picture below shows photos taken from the same place with the lens set at 200mm and then 400mm.

If nothing else it means being able to have larger crops of more distant objects of interest.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Spring Clean, Bowing, Doves, Henry Returns?)

Many thanks again to all those who sent their birthday wishes. As well as enjoying my self bought present it was great to see some frenzied Spring cleaning going on in the Blue Tit box yesterday.   (Soundtrack - Delibes, Pizzicati from Sylvia found on Wikimedia Commons)

 Is Mr. Wood Pigeon bowing to try to please his lady love or is he just mooning at the camera? Either way she seems totally unimpressed.

 Here is the video clip I took earlier in the week when there was a group of five Stock Doves busy picking up the seeds scattered by the Starlings.

Finally another great birthday present - the re-appearance after his Winter hibernation of what appears to be Henry the Hedgehog.   (Soundtrack - Midnight Waltz found on Wikimedia Commons)

That is not a firefly getting in on the act but a spider which will insist on building its web in front of the camera lens.

100 yesterday. No not me, though I sometimes feel like it. I noticed today that my country flag counter had clocked up the 100th different country flag.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Doesn't the time fly by?

Well here I am today, another step nearer the three score and ten years. As I get older the years seem to get shorter. For a while I have been looking in to getting a longer focus lens and two days ago I finally made my mind up to get the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS USM as a birthday present to myself. I ordered it from a camera shop in Cardiff and was pleased when it arrived less than 24hrs later. That gave me a chance to have a play with it yesterday afternoon.

Before the new lens arrived I spotted this Wood Pigeon collecting nesting material.
Clockwise from top left -
Breaking off a twig
Flying off with it.
Resting on the telegraph pole.
Taking the twig into the Leylandii.

Nesting Material

The following were taken with the new lens, usually at 400mm and still needing to be cropped:
Lighting conditions were very variable with one minute sunlight and the next grey cloud. As this lens is a little slower than the 70-200mm I had to increase the ISO to keep the speed up in the dull conditions.All were hand held.

Male Greenfinch singing in the tree top.
Male Greenfinch

Male Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch

Wood Pigeon on the roof.
Wood Pigeon

Collared Dove having a doze.
Do Not Disturb

Wren skulking in the shadows.

It is going to take some time  getting used to the extra weight of the 100-400mm lens. I think I will have to start indulging in some wrist strengthening exercises.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Different Pair of Prospective Settlers?

Yesterday morning there was a pair of Blue Tits giving the outside of the nestbox the once over. Neither of these birds went inside so I am thinking it may be a different pair. No sound with this video clip.

This is a still taken from the video showing both birds investigating the box.

A Pair of Blue Tits Investigating

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Different Rainbow and an Orchid

As we returning from our early morning perambulation I spotted a rainbow. Well, part of what we normally think of as a rainbow as it was only showing on the edge of a cloud. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the Sun wasn't far away from the rainbow, a little lower in the sky and about 20 to 30 degrees to the left. At first the rainbow  appeared to be straight, which was what had caught my attention.


As the Sun continued to rise and the cloud moved the rainbow followed the outline of the cloud.

Rainbow 2

Also to be seen were the trails left behind by all the early morning flights from the various airports in the midlands.

Rainbow 3

Searching through some sites this may well have been what is know as a fiery rainbow which is seen when the sun's rays pass through ice crystals in high cloud.

This is one of the orchids I treated myself to last Sunday. I have always wanted a Cattleya but in the past they have been so very expensive. Also they tend to be more tender that the varieties I usually go for but this time I couldn't resist the temptation of those beautiful three inch flowers.


I will just have to take care to find it a suitable place next winter.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Showering in the Rain

I got up about a quarter of an hour earlier than usual and had a quick peek through the kitchen window. There was a tight group of five Stock Doves feeding on the spillage from the seed feeder near the bottom of the garden. Fortunately they stayed there long enough to get some video which I will save for Friday.

The morning started well at about +5C and with fairly clear skies and plenty of sunshine it climbed to +10.6C in the shade though with a cool breeze it didn't feel all that warm. Mid morning I made a trip to Focus (top up with bird seed) and then on to Wyevale Garden Centre (suet treats, dried mealworms and a couple of orchid plants).

Needless to say the fine weather didn't last all day as once it was near afternoon walkabout time the rain arrived. Fortunately we found a short lull and managed to stay fairly dry. When we returned the rain came down even harder but that didn't put off some hungry birds. For the first time I saw two Stock Doves on the lawn in the afternoon. Normally they only appear early morning and are usually gone soon after 7 a.m..

Stock Doves in the Rain

Their waterproofing must be good as the raid drops stood on top of their feathers. After a short while a Wood Pigeon slowly ambled across the lawn. If I hadn't seen it move normally I would have thought it was injured by what I saw it do next.

Bathing Wood Pigeon

It slowly lifted and stretched first one wing then the other, leaning its body to expose the body feathers under the wings to the rain. It seemed to me it was obviously having a shower. After letting some rain fall on the feathers it would then give them a quick preen.

Bathing in the Rain

I managed a short piece of video through a window which was well and truly rain soaked.

Noises off are the local House Sparrows, rain and Bobby crunching his tea! I can't say I can remember ever seeing a bird take a shower in the rain before today. Even just watching the local wildlife in a back garden brings interesting and surprising behaviour.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Three Finches

Believe it or not I could actually feel the heat from the Sun for a short while this afternoon. A bit of bright light also made some difference to the photos I took. All are quite small crops from the originals.



Male Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch

As you will probably gather I have been taken by the border I have started adding to my photos.It is one of twenty customisable choices in a free plug-in called BorderMania which will work in programs such as Paint Shop Pro and  Photoshop. It can be downloaded from HERE.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday at the Flicks (A Flurry of Activity)

After virtually ignoring the nestbox for three days there was a short flurry of activity yesterday afternoon. Both birds visited the box and several trips were made to take out more of the dried grass stalks. This is a small part of the action.

The entrance hole to this nestbox is quite deep as it goes through two thicknesses of wood. The bird usually deposits the bits of material in the hole as it goes out and then comes back to take them out from the outside. Sounds are of other birds in the vicinity - Blackbirds, Starlings and the occasional Collared Dove.

The garden is almost deserted this morning. Just a couple of Blackbirds where there are normally a dozen or so. I guess the overnight rain has made them think twice about getting up early. No signs of any doves at the moment.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Not One, Not Two, Now there are Six

I looked cautiously through the kitchen window first thing this morning in the hopes the pair of Stock Doves were there. Yes. There they were, but what's this I see. Another .. and another. In the end I counted six of them busily feeding on the lawn. I grabbed the camera and started to photograph them when two in particular caught my attention.

Stock Doves

Stock Doves

Stock Doves

Stock Doves

They spent a couple of minutes performing synchronised movements,  bowing, slow wing stretching and circling round each other before one decided it had had enough and flew away. Love is in the air. Spring is just around the corner.
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