Friday, 30 April 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Hedgehog, Blackbird, Rooks)

Yesterday a friend and I went to the

Wagon and Horses

at South Reston (Lincolnshire) for a meal. The food at the Wagon and Horses is always freshly cooked, well presented and very appetising. I had to mention that if only to be able to show their stained glass window.

On to the business of the day: Most of every day I can hear at least one Blackbird singing at full volume, sometimes as many as four at the same time. Unfortunately they are very adept at hiding from the camera a good deal of the time. When in sunlight they are silent. (Still taken with the 50D)


The only time of day they sit out in the open singing it is getting on towards dusk which only allows a silhouette. This time I thought I would try the effect of combining two videos, one of blackbirds with one of the Moon as a background. This is the 2nd attempt which I think gives a cleaner silhouette.

What amazes me is the speed at which the Moon appears to move across the sky. Of course it is the earth rotating with the camcorder locked pointing in one position.

Every evening for the past ten days I have had the old Hitachi DVD camcorder set up in the kitchen in case a Hedgehog made an early visit - that is, before my bedtime. Last night one finally appeared. I turned up the volume of the outside microphone but the only sounds picked up was that of raindrops. The camcorder was set to night vision so the slow shutter speed makes for blurring of fast movement.

Finally a short hand held clip taken with the Lumix when we visited the Rookery. One particular Rook appeared to become very agitated, cawing and wing flapping for all it was worth.

You don't need a calendar to tell when it is a holiday weekend - just watch the downward change in the weather. I hope it stays dry and sunny where you are so you can enjoy the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Of Tadpoles and Tad Polls

Just a couple of tadpole photos today. They are doing a great job of scraping the algae from the sides of the nursery pond.


What took me by surprise was the almost see through nature of much of the tail when seen side on.


Just recently I have discovered The Garden Pond Blog and found the only bit of light relief I have seen during this prolonged and dreary election of ours. It would appear that it is not only the national newspapers which have opinion polls. For something completely different have a look at The Tad Poll.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rookery Revisited

As it was such a pleasant afternoon I decided that our afternoon walk should again take us close to the rookery. This time I took the Canon 50D with me hoping to take some closer shots. When we arrived the nesting area appeared deserted. Sugar, though I, wrong time of day. Then one bird flew up out of its nest, then another and another until a dozen or so were in the sky. The nests are so large and high up that the nesting birds could not be seen from the ground. They all flew across the field on the far side of the trees but slowly they returned one by one.


They were obviously agitated by our presence cawing and flying in and out of the trees. I had been standing up but decided to sit down to present a smaller profile. While I sat and watched Bobby sprawled out enjoying the sunshine. The Rooks gradually approached their nest, not directly and never on our side of the trees which made taking clear photos impossible.


Often they would get as close as a branch near their nests but sat watching us before taking off again.


The nests are the most ungainly and uncomfortable looking constructions. Much deeper than they appear from a distance. No wonder the birds cannot be seen when incubating, which I think many of these are.


Very slowly some of the braver birds returned to their nests and I decided we had disturbed them for long enough and continued on our walk.


Maybe I will try again in a few weeks time when they may be feeding their youngsters. By then the trees will probably be in full leaf and viewing near impossible.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Night Shift

Just because the Sun has gone down and it is dark outside doesn't mean that all wildlife has gone to sleep. That is when the night shift starts the task of finding food. I have often heard and seen owls around the village but as yet they have eluded the camera. Not so with the hedgehogs. Most nights (when I remember to switch on the recorder) there is video of at least one hog visiting. So far this year they have arrived one at a time so I am not sure how many there are. Horace is easily recognised as he appears to have only one eye:

Occasionaly I see some of the seeds in the dish move as if by magic. Close examination of the recording shows various slugs and beetles which are active at night. Easier to spot is the odd visit from a local mouse:

Eek - get the bucket ready Glo!

There are probably other creatures about, not forgetting the local cats, but so far they have stayed out of range of the cameras.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The end of a Dull Day

Quite a change in the weather yesterday. Saturday had been sunny all day but Sunday started out overcast and continued that way with rain on and off all morning. At least it brightened up a bit for the afternoon walk. As we were returning across the cricket field there was one solitary Pied Wagtail. Though it kept a wary eye on us we were able to get reasonably close to it but it still looked very small to the Lumix, even at 12x zoom.

P1000480 Wagtail

 I was pleasantly surprised how clear small crops from the photographs turned out.

Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail

There is starting to be a profusion of blossom on various bushes and trees now. I am pretty sure this is Blackthorn growing in the field hedgerow.

Hedgerow 1

In one garden hedge the Berberis is opening its tiny flowers.


By 8 o'clock it was pleasant outside and we sat in the garden for a while listening to the birds. I could hear four different Blackbirds, two of them very close while a Dunnock did its best to make its much quieter song heard.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Visit to a Rookery

Taking a walk down a lane I rarely use I was pleasantly surprised how close I could get to one of the village rookeries. It looks as though the Rooks are putting the finishing touches to their nests.

Rookery 2

Rookery 3

Rookery 1

Now I know just how close I can get I will take the DSLR with me the next time I go.

In a small paddock at the bottom of those trees was a single mother and her twins enjoying a beautiful sunny afternoon.


Back home the first spike on one of my Cymbidium orchids has just started to open. This was tonemapped using Photomatrix to give it a bit more contrast.

Cymbidium (tonemapped)

Where ever I go there seem to be dozens of seven spot ladybirds, far more than I remember seeing at their peak last year.In the garden there are more than a few on my blackcurrant bushes.

Ladybirds 1

If you are wondering what ladybirds are finding in the way of food this time of year then have a look at Phil's blog entry Vegetarian Ladybirds.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Lambs, Fruit to Come, Experiments with HDR, a Yellow Dog

All todays efforts were taken with the Lumix TZ7

There are a few short lanes / tracks left in the village where one can pretend there are no buildings. This one leads to the field where we saw the lambs.



Signs of things to come:
The first strawberry flower (growing in the greenhouse)

Strawberry Flower

The flowers on my dwarf plum tree. It only had two flowers last year but this year things look more promising.

Plum Flowers

Having at last found how to set the bracketing on the Lumix I have experimented taking shots at +/- 2/3 EV and decided to see what the result would be if I processed a couple as HDR using  Photomatrix Pro. Considering the photos were taken hand held the program did a great job of matching the three shots which make up each picture.

A Daffodil (not a lot of difference with this subject)

HDR Image1

A succulent with the low sunlight shining through the plant. (A much better subject)

HDR image tonemapped

Somebody was not amused when I burst out laughing. Bobby had decided to push through a miniature weeping tree which is covered in catkins. Maybe he was doing his impression of a Lincolnshire Yellow Belly.

Change of Colour

It's a good job he doesn't suffer with Hay Fever.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Tadpoles, Lambs, Mistle Thrush)

What a difference ten days makes. The tadpoles are growing well with plenty of algae to feed on. I wonder when the back legs will start appearing. (Taken with the Lumix)

Yesterday we took a different route behind the cricket field to get nearer the lambs. That meant crossing one style which Bobby, after a bit of trembling and sizing up, managed to leap. On the way back though he scrambled over it rather than jumping. (Taken with the Lumix, hand held)

Finally the nearest I've got to identifying the bird whose song has been echoing over the village nearly every morning for a month or more. It was a long way away on a high roof top, recorded about 7 in the morning and needed every bit of the 70x zoom on the Panasonic camcorder. I am pretty sure this is a Mistle Thrush.

Here's hoping for a sunny warm weekend so we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the wildlife around us.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

What - No Birds

Yesterday I had to drive over to the vets to renew Bobby's medication. As I had to pass Covenham Reservoir I took Bobby with me so we could have a walk there and see what birds were about. I had both the Lumix and the Canon with me but quite honestly I need hardly have bothered.

The morning had been cold, bright and sunny but things changed the nearer we got to our destination, clouding over and turning quite dull.  Having picked up the hairy monster's medication I made a couple of quick stops to photograph some things which had caught my attention. There was a scarecrow doing a fine job of keeping the crows from a recently sown field.They are a bit of a rarity these days as many farmers prefer to use gas fired 'explosions'. It was a fine example and one of the most elaborate I have seen for years.


Quite a few years ago the owners of one  house had a lovely carving made from a tree stump which I have always admired. It was interesting to get another photo of it now that it has weathered. I should think the sculpture stands 5 to 6 feet tall.

Kingfisher Lodge

On to the reservoir which is mainly above ground lever. Basically it is consists of an earthwork bank lined with concrete. There is a slip road up to the sailing club but the gates were closed and locked so we had to climb the steps which lead to a style. Bobby will not go through the gaps in a style and tries to jump over which is not good for his failing joints but fortunately there was a gap in the wire fence we could both squeeze through. As soon as we got on the footpath we were covered in flies. I have never seen so many. not just hundreds but probably thousands of mosquitoes.


They seemed to cover everything including the pair of us. We continued on as the swarms looked to be thinner further along the path. Not much to see. Choppy water, the occasional Mallard and a couple of Pied Wagtails. I think we made maybe a quarter of a mile but eventually the swarms of flies followed us everywhere and after taking a few photos of the views I decided to beat a hasty retreat.

The above photos were taken with the Lumix and those in this slide show were taken with the Canon. I know we have been without rain for a while but I was surprised how low the water level was.

On the way back I took a slight detour to get a closer look at the wind farm which can be seen from the reservoir and indeed from the village here. Again - taken with the Lumix.

Wind Farm

What did surprise me was the amount of heat haze in spite of the fact that it was not a particularly warm day. Needless to say, soon after we arrived home the clouds cleared and the day ended as sunny as it started.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Change of Layout - Back up to Speed??

A couple of my regular readers have pointed out to me how slow the blog was to load since I changed to one of the new layouts. Although I had no problem with loading speeds a Google search showed this is not an isolated problem so I have gone back to one of the old style layouts. I know what it is like watching paint dry when pushed for time so I hope this has cured things. Please let me know if there are still any problems.

Fussy Magpie (video)

First I should point out that the photo of the Collared Dove I showed yesterday was taken with the Canon 50D a while ago. I was lucky. It sat about 15 feet away from me and stayed where it was even as I moved around to get a view with a plain background.

Yesterday morning when I was looking through the early morning video captures I saw this Magpie which didn't seem to approve of the food choices on top of the dish. It spent some time scattering seed about to get at what it wanted at the bottom of the pile.

Early every morning there are visits from Magpies and Rooks filling their crops with food so I guess there are some broods nearby hungry for breakfast. The Magpies return about once a minute so I think their nest can't be too far away.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Monday, 19 April 2010

Lumix TZ7 - part two

This is the TZ7 next to a tape measure to give an idea of its size. You may have to click on the photo and choose 'all sizes' to see it larger.  The little holes on top of the camera are where the stereo microphones are. To me that seems a good idea as wind is not blowing directly in to them. There are different buttons for taking still and movie. For stills it is the large button in the middle of the zoom lever on top of the body. The one for movie shooting is tiny and on the back of the camera.

Lumix LZ7

To give an idea of the zoom range here are two shots from the same place. First at wide angle and second at maximum zoom. The same tree can be seen in both shots. It is the small one just right of centre in the wide angle view.

Lumix LZ7 wide angle

Lumix LZ7 full zoom

I was hoping to photograph the lambs but there was a cricket match in progress so I took a couple of shots of that. This is a crop and shows the only 'problem' I have found. Brilliant white can get over saturated but the camera has facilities for adjusting exposure and taking bracket shots so it will be a case of learning which adjustments are best. User preferences can be stored as MS1 and MS2 on the dial. Also there is a burst mode which can be useful for those wildlife shots.


Finally, I know some are bursting to see what the photographer looks like so here is a shot of the photographer in action.

The Photographer at Work

Have fun with whatever camera you use.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Lumix TZ7 - First Impressions

There are many times when walking Bobby that I want a camera with me but a hefty DSLR and zoom lens are not the easiest of things to control. Many years ago I bought a Pentax Optio, sturdily built, small enough to go in a shirt pocket, 3X zoom lens, 3.2 M pixels and video facility (very poor). At the time it seemed great but technology has moved on since then and the quality doesn't come up to my expectations any more.

A few days ago I was looking through some blogs and saw a video taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 and was very impressed. A quick search for its specifications showed it has a 12X zoom (the equivalent of 25mm to 300mm on a 35mm camera), 10.1 M pixels  and the ability to take HD video. That did it, along with good independent reviews, I had to have one. Looked on the Argos site - out of stock in every store within 30 mile radius. Looked on the Amazon site - a bit cheaper than Argos and in stock. Opted for overnight delivery and it arrived Friday morning.

It's a bit larger than the Pentax but still pocketable, sturdily built and easy to hold with the main controls within easy reach. As is usual these days there are endless menus which take some getting used to but easy to read on a large clear LCD screen. No viewfinder which is a pity as even a modern bright LCD screen is hard to see in bright sunlight.

First trials were around the garden. With the lens set to wide angle and using the macro facilities it is possible to get as close as 3cm to a subject so I tried it out on various plants. The auto focus and image stabiliser worked well. All of the photos have been cropped to some extent, some more than others.



Red Leaves

Next thing was to take it out and about. A couple of riders were coming down the street so out with the camera, fire it up, point and press.

Horse Riders

To get a photo of this horse in the paddock I had to poke the camera through a gap in the hedge.


Back at home a ladybird co-operated even with the lens about 3 cm from its body.

7 Spot Ladybird

And this unknown bug was so determind to have its portrait taken it landed on my hand.


Of course a photo session would not be complete without a shot of my ever lively Bobby.


 Finally after a couple of visits to the churchyard I managed to capture some video of the Black East India Ducks. The video has been processed to reduce the file size.. The original is 848 x 480 pixels HD. Filmed hand held.

All in all I have been very impressed with the performance of the Lumix TZ7 and its Leica lens. Battery life is a lot shorter than  the Canon DSLR - up to 300 stills or 90 minutes of video are stated in the handbook. The camera has approximately 40 MB of internal memory which can be used for photos or low quality video otherwise you need to buy a SDHC memory card to take full advantage of all its facilities. Photos are stored in jpeg format and videos in AVCHD lite for HD or QuickTime motion jpeg for other video sizes. Software is supplied for handling the HD video format though I found that my copy of Daniusoft Video Converter will convert any of the camera files to WMV or MPG (or many other formats).

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Wood Pigeon Goes for a Swim

At first glance it certainly looks as though this Wood Pigeon went for a swim in the garden pond. These pictures were captured by the ProStalk wildlife camera which sits on a post next to the pond and takes photos whenever it detects any change in heat with its passive IR sensors.

Pigeon in the Garden Pond

The pigeons often stand on the raised edge round the pond drinking and occasionally I have seen one slip and just manage to take off before it landed in the water. From these shots I can't be sure whether it landed on the water by accident or deliberately. Fortunately for the pigeon that part of the pond has masses of oxygenating vegetation which it is resting on. Obviously it managed to take off OK as there has been no sign of a pigeon in the pond.

It has been quite a rarity for the camera to capture any wildlife. Normally when I check the contents of the memory card there are dozens of photos of me or Bobby or just the pond as whatever triggered the camera moved away in the second it takes to start up.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Chaffinch, Dunnock)

It has been difficult recently to get clean audio on taking video outdoors as the wind seems to be ever present. There have been several songsters around recently but I did manage to film a male Chaffinch singing towards the end of the day.

A couple of days ago I watched a Dunnock as it spent several minutes preening.  One thing I noticed on the close up was that when it stretches its wings it wasn't just having a good stretch but it was a way of tucking the wing under the lower layer of feathers so it could preen them. Every now and then the camcorder took a battering from a cross wind.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. I am hoping that the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland will produce some interesting sunsets like the ones we got a few years ago when a certain oil depot went up in flames.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Predictable and the Unpredictable

Since the Hedgehogs came out of their winter hibernation period it is entirely predictable that one, and sometimes two, will visit the garden every night. What is unpredictable about them is the timing as they can be as early as 10 pm or as late as 4 am.

Completely unpredictable is the activity around the Blue Tit nestbox. I had given up on the idea that it would be used this year as it has been over two weeks since the last visit but there they were this morning. One inside the box but the other only went as far as the entrance.

A still snapshot from the video clip.

Blue Tit Nestbox

The video clip. Sometimes it is a pain when the DVR changes the view on playback when a different camera detects movement but this time it was useful to see both birds, one inside and the other at the entrance.

There is still hope they will choose this box to nest in.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tadpoles in the Nursery Pond

I had been a bit worried when the first clump of frog spawn in the nursery pond began to turn white as this usually means it wasn't fertilised. I need not have worried however as quite a few tadpoles have emerged from that batch and dozens from the second batch.

At least they are safe from the fish in the main pond so they should have a good chance of growing to a size where it will be safe to return them..

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Those Black Ducks

Whenever we have walked past the house with a large natural pond there have always been a group of what appeared to be black ducks. Occasionally there have been little glimpses of green and blue but until yesterday the Sun has been facing me making it hard to see much more than a silhouette. Yesterday on our way back from a wander down one of the lanes I decided to nip through the churchyard and there they were, basking in the warmth of the sun. This time the Sun was behind me and their true colours were showing:


We had disturbed their afternoon snooze in the peace and quite of the churchyard and they were slowly making their way back to a hole in the fence.


What beautiful colours. Not at all the dowdy looking black I had seen on previous sightings.


Apart from the duck with so much brown all the others were virtually black with fluorescent green and blue. After much searching on the net I am pretty sure these are Black East Indian Ducks, the oldest breed of Bantam Ducks, not from the East Indies but from the U.S.A.. Another identification problem solved at last.
Related Posts with Thumbnails