Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Beautiful, though exhausting, Weather

There was a time, maybe up to ten years ago, when I couldn't get enough sunny weather and would be outside no matter what the temperature but these days the body doesn't cope as well as it used to. I am so pleased I had the air conditioning unit put in this room. There is somewhere we can both retreat to cool down.

A couple of nights ago we got a lovely sunset. Most of the time dark clouds seem to arrive just in time to spoil the view but late that evening things were just right.

Sunset 01

Sunset 02

Once again I spotted one of the froglets leaping about the garden. It may well be less than an inch long but can leap about eight inches every hop and takes some keeping up with.


I was surprised how well it could climb. As it approached a concrete step it jumped half way up the vertical edge and then crawled its way up the rest. I wonder how many of the scores of tadpoles have made it this far it their development.

My shallow water pond lilies are now coming into their own. Each flower only lasts a short while but there is usually a succession of them to add a bit of colour to the dull water.

Water Lily

Very close to be back door this spider has its web. I have never seen it move from its position in the centre but I assume it does manage to catch some prey from time to time.


It has been a slightly messy start to the week as during the past two days I have had an ugly old stone fireplace surround removed and replaced along with the installation of an inset gas fire. Another 'round tuit' over and done with. That one has only taken thirty years to achieve!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Angel and her Foal

As we walked down one lane I could see the mare and her foal right across the field so I decided we would go round to the other lane and try for some video. As last time, by the time we reached the far side of the field there was not a thing in sight. Part of the field goes behind a house and they were in that section. We stood there for ages waiting patiently for a sighting. Nothing.

Our luck was in though. Trundling past us was Stan who turned out to be the owner of the horses and he lived in that very house. Stan invited us to go in his back garden to get a close look and then I could see the reason why the horses had not come in to sight. The foal was having a rest and Ma was staying close by.

Foal 2

It turned out that the mare's name is Angel but the foal has not been named yet. It was an ideal spot for photography as the horses were only a few feet away. Stan went in the field and the foal got to his feet.

Foal 1

You can hear voices on the video as there was another visitor having a close look.

The foal was very cautious and stayed close to mum but having got used to visitors after a short while he decided the best thing to do on a hot afternoon was to relax and soak up the sun. It had been really great to get a close look at the youngster and manage to capture a bit of video as well as some closer shots.

Foal 3

Afterwards Stan invited me to stay for a cuppa and we had a long chat before wending our way home.

All photos and video were captured with the Lumix TZ7.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Pigeon Face Off, Blackbird, 480 mph Journey)

Many birds arrive for breakfast long before I wake up in the morning. Most of the time they keep out of each others way and get on with eating. There is one particularly bossy Wood Pigeon which does not believe in sharing and often uses its wings to keep others at a distance. I had to smile at this pair as they tried to outstare each other to get at the seed dish.

The Blackbirds are not singing as often as they did a month or so ago and it was unusual to catch one so low down. This time it is Bobby getting in on the act.

Yesterday I went for my usual monthly meal out with an old friend to one of the local hostelries. I had obtained an in car camera which I used to video the journey. Travel time was about 17 minutes so the video has been speeded up by 8 times so here is a very quick view of my area of the country though you may need a travel sickness remedy before you watch it. Speeded up 8 times means that speeds equivalent to 480 mph are achieved.

Hope the weather is as kind to you as it is here. Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Hang on to Your Food if You Can

From time to time birds find food elsewhere and bring it to my garden to eat. Most often it is large lumps of bread. This juvenile Starling had found something but I can't make out whether it is an apple core or a chunk of cake. The young birds can find food but are not yet fully garden wise in the ways of keeping it. Who will end up with a free meal?

Did you guess which bird would end up with it?

I am sure one Hedgehog has learned the sounds which mean it is safe to come for its early night feast. Once Bobby has had his last tour of the garden I bolt the back door and I am sure the squeak the bolts make is one of the signals the hog listens for as it usually arrives a few minutes later.


While I was pottering about down the bottom of the garden I had noticed the occasional bee leaving one compost bin. I kept watch and sure enough there was a constant stream of red tailed bumblebees in and out of the bin which is partly open at the front.

Most of them made a quick detour on the way in to see what I was up to but then carried on with the job in hand. I had always thought of bumblebees as being fairly solitary but apparently there can be up to 200 red tails in a nest.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Juvenile Blue Tit and Sunbathing Starling

It has been great to see a juvenile Blue Tit regularly visit the feeders.

Juvenile Blue Tit

Juvenile Blue Tit

Near the bottom of the garden is an old small metal  unit. I stand the ground feeder on it until all the seed has gone. Then I remove the feeder so the birds can eat the small seeds which have fallen through. It caught me by surprise when I saw a Starling either sunbathing or shading the seeds. It must have been hot on there as the sun had been shining on the metal for hours.

Sunbathing Starling

After a while it stood up panting with the heat. The first time I have seen a Starling with its beak open but no sound!

Hot Starling

After a short while it ate some of the seeds and flew away.

It was very pleasant to have the sun back yesterday after so many gloomy days. I even got the ladder out and cleaned the back gutter which was just as well as it was nearly full of dead lichen from the concrete roof tiles. I should clean it out more often but, even though it is a bungalow, I hate being more than a couple of rungs off the ground.

When I was moving the ladder around I did spot a tiny frog so at least one of this year's tadpoles has made it. I will have to keep an keen eye open when I cut the grass as they are so hard to spot until they move.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Twice a day we go walkies no matter what the weather. Unless it is raining I normally have the TZ7 with me. Here Bobby is enjoying the interesting scents down one of our favourite lanes:

From time to time I find the occasional plant of interest.


Barley ripening in the field.
A beautiful large white rose.
Perennial Sweet Peas
Large ferns in a shaded corner
?? Possibly a geranium ??

I coudn't resist taking a bit of video of the barley even though there were plenty of wild plants in the field entrance which got in on the act.

Once again, not Bobby barking but one of the vicar's noisy brutes.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Mare and Foal Revisited

On our afternoon walk a couple of days ago I lugged the 50D and the 100-400mm lens with us on our afternoon walk. The intention being to get some better photos of the mare and her foal. The field can be seen from two different lanes. Of course when we went down the nearest lane there they were, right across the other side. We slowly ambled round to the other lane and there they were - gone. Nothing in sight. Fortunately they had just walked to a corner which was out of view and soon came back where they could be seen.

Mare and Foal

Mare and Foal

Where are you going Ma? I hadn't finished.

Heron Fights Back
Yesterday evening as I was topping up the seed feeders I could hear a lot of cawing. Looking up I could see a heron being chased by three crows or rooks. The corvids mobbed the heron for quite a while until they disappeared out of sight. Unfortunately I didn't think to fetch a camera as what happened next would have been worth videoing. When they came back into view there was just one corvid and the heron. Next thing I knew the heron had turned round and was facing the corvid. Amazingly they both hung in the same place in the sky, only their wings flapping. I didn't realise that they were able to hover. They must have stayed like that for well over a minute before the corvid beat a hasty retreat,

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Hedgehog Mating Ritual and Damselflies)

It was fascinating the other night watching what slowly dawned on me was a Hedgehog mating ritual. Fortunately I had the camcorder set up in the kitchen. As it was set to night vision some of the faster movement becomes blurred.

The female was first to the feeding area and you can see her stop and listen as she hears the male approaching at his usual top speed followed by the usual pushing and shoving. All through the camcorder clips you can hear the well known snuffling sound.

Over and over the male appeared to be licking the back of the female and then curling up on his side and licking himself. One commenter on my YouTube video pointed out that the male bites the female to test her reaction. If she doesn't object or resist then she is ready to mate.

This ritual can go on for hours with the male constantly circling the female. This time it lasted nearly half an hour before the male suddenly headed in the direction of the Hedgehog House and the female made off towards the bottom of the garden.

 Here is a little piece of the (silent) action captured by the outdoor video camera.

There was another short meeting around midnight and lots of solo visits to tuck in to the dried mealworms, sunflower hearts and crushed unsalted peanuts washed down with a slurp of fresh water.

After watching some Damselflies use the same lily leaves over and over as a landing pad I set up the camcorder and managed to capture some video. There were four Blue-tailed Damselflies and one Common Blue.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife in your locality.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Food Glorious Food

When I think about it most wildlife seems to spend a large part of its time just looking for food. Here are some of those which came looking yesterday.

Blue Tit and Starlings
Blue Tit    Food 05

House Sparrow
Sparrow    Sparrow

Coal Tit
Coal Tit

Bumble Bee
Bumble Bee

Smooth Newt

 Of course, once it had started to get dark, the Hedgehogs arrived. They turned up as I was clearing up in the kitchen and I decided to watch them for a while only to end up being fascinated for the best part of half an hour filming them with the camcorder set to night vision. It would appear that the charging we have seen has more to it than meets the eye at first glance. It seemed to me that what I was watching was part of the mating ritual. I will have to spend some time extracting what I can from the video as the camera was having difficulty focussing and the hogs kept moving where there were obstructions to vision.

All things being equal there should be some video of the Hedgehogs for Friday at the Flicks tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Visiting Goldfinches

Unlike last year I only have a few Goldfinches visiting at the moment. I think a lot were lost, along with many Greenfinches, when we had a bad outbreak of finch disease.


So far I have only seen one youngster. It was by itself walking on the shed roof apparently looking for food.

Young Goldfinch

Last night there was some orange and red in the sky for the first time for a while. As usual it didn't last long but I did manage to get a still photo. The camera focussed on the tree in the foreground but I like the way the out of focus clouds give a softer feel to the sky.

Orange Clouds

Heath Robinson struck again yesterday as I decided to re-build my 'intervalometer' to make it a bit more versatile. One day I will have to set it up on top of one of the local hills and see what a time lapse video will produce from there.

Something you may like to view: Paul (Greenfinch Garden on YouTube) let me know of a marvellous piece of video he had taken of a Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding her chick. Well worth a look. It can be seen HERE.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Time Lapse jpg to video - revisited

In the end I did find a program which will automatically convert a series of jpg stills to a video. VideoMach is a fairly versatile program. It is possible to adjust colour balance, add text and resize or crop amongst other facilities. The program can be run for free. All functions work. The only thing different is that it adds the program name to the bottom of the first second of the final video. Not a great problem. VideoMach produces an Mpeg1 file and YouTube didn't really like that so I used Ulead Video Studio 11+ to re-save it as Mpeg2.

My second attempt was clouds again. I decreased the time interval between photos to about 1 every 11 seconds. It still looks jerky but I think that is partly due to the speed the clouds were travelling across the sky.

I tried another batch later on with 1 shot per 5 seconds and that looked a lot better. Unfortunately the series was not very long as the camera battery ran out. I must remember to turn off the camera LCD screen to save power. I think another problem I have found is in the circuit design. The 555 timer chip is voltage sensitive so the timing will change as the 9V battery runs down. I have a solution for that which I will try later but it involves using a larger 12V gell cell - no so portable!

Monday, 14 June 2010


A couple of days ago while out walkies I spotted a mare with her foal but photo opportunities were difficult as the foal was taking a well earned nap and the camera battery ran out.

Mare and Foal 1

Yesterday when we passed the same spot the foal was up and about and a short wait enabled me to get a good view albeit a distant one.

Mare and Foal 2

I also took a bit of video as I was using the TZ7. This is a still from the widescreen video.

Video Still

I have recently found a program called VideoMach which will automatically combine jpg photos to make a video. Another facility it has is to crop a video. This is what I did with the following clip. I lost some of the surrounding scenery by cropping a 640 x 480 section.

The TZ7 was hand held in one hand (Bobby's lead was in the other) and the full 12x zoom had to be used so the result is a bit on the wobbly side. That is not Bobby barking!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Time Lapse Photography + FireFox Flash Problem

For some time now I have been taking the RSS feed from DIY Photography. A few days ago there was an article explaining how Marco Jetti made an electronic circuit to take time lapse photos with his Canon DSLR. The article may be read HERE. There is a link to the circuit diagram but layout is up to the builder.

This idea took my imagination so I decided to have a go at building the circuit to operate my 350D. I stripped out the old contents from a project box I had been given years ago and set about searching my junk boxes to find the parts I needed. The original used a photo isolator chip to trigger the camera but I don't have one of those so I used a small relay instead. It took me most of yesterday afternoon, my eyesight and soldering skills not being what they used to be. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Eventually I ended up with this:


Not the world's neatest layout but it worked! Controls allow time lapse from 1 photo every 4 seconds to 1 every 48 seconds. The circuit is powered by a small 9V battery and the black wire is from a cable release for the 350D with the push button replaced by the contacts in the orange relay.

After my evening meal I set up the camera in the kitchen, on a sturdy tripod, and set the intervalometer (as people like to call the circuit) to its maximum and left it to it for a couple of hours. The camera was using the M setting which happened to be set to 1/200 at f11. To get the fading daylight it was necessary to use a manual setting. Also as high resolution photos were not needed for the final movie I set the photo size to S.

The next task was to convert the resulting 120+ photos to a video. I had downloaded a free program which was supposed to do this automatically but it failed miserably. Next I tried loading the photos in Windows Movie Maker but it wanted to show each picture for too long and the result was very jerky. In the end I used Ulead Video Studio 11+. A bit better but it needed two goes to get it looking reasonable. The first run through made a video with each frame being shown for one second. The shortest available in the program. When that video was saved I reloaded it and saved it again only this time speeded up 900 pc! This is the result:

Still a bit jerky. Future attempts need to use a shorter time interval between shots, maybe one every ten seconds to give a smoother result. As the resulting set of photos will run into hundreds I need to find a working program which will do the job of making the video automatically. It is no fun pasting each one individually into the time line in Video Studio.

If you don't fancy an exercise in soldering then there is at least one other way of achieving the same result, one of which can be found on the Instructables web site. This method uses a Texas Instruments graphing calculator to do the timing and triggering of the camera. You can read about it HERE. I have not tried this method but understand it should work with the TI-82  TI-83  TI-84 and TI-89.


Last night I got an automatic update for Adobe Flash but since then no flash will work in Firefox. It is fine in Opera and IE. I have tried to download the needed plugin but all attempts have failed. Anybody else with the same problem? Better still does anyone have a solution as I cannot see any movie files in Firefox at the moment.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Hungry Hedgehogs, Hungry Jackdaws)

In spite of the rain a couple of nights ago the juvenile Hedgehogs paid several visits to the feeding area. In this video the captures have been speeded up to show the full night's activity.

As often seems to happen there was one altercation during the night where Hooligan the Hedgehog charges at the other juvenile. The victim curls up in a ball and I can't quite make out whether it carries on eating or whether it is licking an injured foot. Rain on the camera makes the picture somewhat blurred.

 Last night there was a youngster crunching away at the dried mealworms when Bobby and I went out for a last look round the garden. The Hedgehog carried on eating for a short while before making a dash for the shelter of the Hedgehog House, returning to eat once we had gone back indoors.

This clip of Jackdaws was taken some while ago. It always makes me smile watching the one on the right. After it falls off it spends a while trying to puzzle out why the other Jackdaw can reach the food more easily that it can.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife wherever you are.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Make Your Nature Count - Count

Not exactly the weather for nature photography, dull grey skies with periods of rain. While tomorrow's video clips were uploading to YouTube I decided to spend the time making my count for the RSPB Make Your Nature Count event.

During the hour the following birds visited the garden:

1  Great Tit
1   Blue Tit
1   Coal Tit
1   Collared Dove
2   Chaffinches
3   Blackbirds
3   Goldfinches
3   Greenfinches
3   House Sparrows
5   Wood Pigeons
5   Jackdaws
9   Starlings

Also added to my record was the fact that Hedgehogs visit the garden daily.

Amongst the normal visitors which were conspicuous by their absence were Robins, Dunnocks, Rooks, Magpies and Stock Doves.

If you live in the UK and want to take part in the Make Your Nature Count event there is still time. Details can be found HERE on the RSPB site.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Pond Snails (video)

I had spotted a newt in the garden pond and dashed inside to get the TZ7 to take a bit of video. By the time I got back to the pond it had disappeared but in its place was the largest Rams Horn pond snail I have seen. It was a good inch (25mm) in size. Not the best of video clips as it was beginning to get dark and the reflections on the surface of the water were hard to cut out. Next to the Rams Horn Snail were a couple of Great Pond Snails which ended up hitching a lift on the Rams Horn.

The Rams Horn was a rare sighting in my pond. This one must be a fair age by the size of it. All the pond snails are very welcome in the pond as they spend their lives munching away at the algae.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Wanted - Hedgehog ASBO

Talk about an unprovoked attack. I think one youngster needs an ASBO banning it from coming within 2 metres of any other Hedgehog.

I am still keeping an eye on the garden pond for signs of winged life. So far I have only seen two damselflies:

A Blue-tailed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly

A Common Blue Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

 The few really hot days we had recently have also brought out the first of the pond lilies.

Pond Lily

Monday, 7 June 2010

Wet Hedgehogs, Jackdaw Juveniles, Fruit to Come

It was quite surprising to see how much Hedgehog activity there was on Saturday night as it rained on and off for hours, sometimes very heavily. I don't know where they were sheltering but every time the rain eased off there would be one visiting the feeding area.

I don't always check the recorded activity  once it has started to get light but had noticed for a while now that the Jackdaws were very early visitors. On closer examination of the video captures I could see that they were bringing their young ones to feed. It was interested to see how the adults mainly fed from the ground while the juveniles were allowed to feed from the dish of seeds.

I had a look round yesterday to see whether the heavy rain had knocked any fruit from my patio fruit trees. No. My one pear, the first the tree has produced, and several plums were still growing nicely - again the first that tree has produced.

Pear        Plum

There are lots of blackcurrants on the bushes which are swelling nicely and the raspberry flowers were being pollinated by a host of bees.


Just about ready for tasting is the first of my strawberries to ripen in the greenhouse.


Unfortunately the plants haven't produced much fruit but I have no doubt I will enjoy it none the less.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Make Your Nature Count + Hedgehog Visitors

Once again in the UK the RSPB are asking people to count the birds which visit their gardens. The event is called Make Your Nature Count. This time the count is in June. In fact it started yesterday but you can choose any one hour period on any day up to 13 June. Counting will be the same method as used in the Big Garden Birdwatch - the maximum number of each species landing in the garden at any one time during your chosen hour. As well as the bird numbers the RSPB would also like to know which mammals are visiting our gardens.

Full details can be found HERE on the RSPB web site.

As for my regular visiting mammals, hedgehogs continue to visit. As there are several appearances during each night it is impossible to say how many individuals there are. The hedgehog house hasn't been used for quite a while now.

This close up of a hedgehog feeding was taken with a camcorder set on night vision so movement can become blurred with the slow shutter speed used.

This capture was made automatically by a video camera and a DVR which detects motion. I love the way the hedgehog has a drink, walks round the water pot and then paddles through it. Hedgehogs are good swimmers and I suppose it is one way of cooling your toes on a hot night.

Quite a change in the weather. I was kept awake until 1 a.m. by thunder and lightning and was woken at 6 a.m. by more thunder. As it was forecast I had unplugged the computer from the mains and from the telephone line as I know several people who have have had their equipment damaged by nearby lightning strikes, especially through phone lines. At least we have had some rain which is sorely needed by the garden plants and my pond.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

You can get Something for Nothing

What I am talking about is computer programs. Not those from the very big names in the business and not ripped off or otherwise dodgy material. A few months ago I found a web site called Giveaway of the Day where a fully working program is available for download for 24 hours. All sorts of programs have been available, a different one each day. From what I have seen and tried some are excellent others leave much to be desired. What I do is to look each morning to see what is on offer. If the program looks interesting I wait until later in the day and check back to see what others who have tried the program think of it. Just click on the Proceed to Download button. Nothing is downloaded at that stage. It takes you to the download page and also shows comments left by others who have tried the program.

You will notice that, like many sites, right next to the download button is an offer to scan your drive for errors. Personally I always ignore such offers. I like to know what programs are checking my drives and only use trusted programs I have used for years. 

If you are interested in a program then it has to be downloaded and installed before the 24 hour period ends. Just read the text file which is in the zipped download to find out how to activate it. What you do not get is free help or free updates, otherwise the program is normally functioning in the same way as a paid for version and will continue working for as long as you keep it. Also, as the activation is only available for that short period, if you lose the program through a drive crash or change computer then you will have lost the fully working program. All is explained on the web site.

Flowers 1

Yesterday's giveaway was an excellent collage program which I used to make the above picture. This was not the first time Picture Collage Maker had been available so you never know, it may come up again in a few months time.

From what I have seen it would appear there is such a thing as a free lunch! I cannot see any catch in the system, no advertising, no unsolicited emails, no viruses so far, just fully working programs which normally cost money.

If you find the occasional program which looks to be of interest then you have to make the decision yourself as to whether it is suitable for your computer as I can only say what works here. Always check which operating system is recommended as I cannot be held responsible for any problems which may arise on your set up. I have no connection with Giveaway of the Day other than being an interested observer and downloader.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Greenfinch Family, Bathing Starlings, Newt Eating)

The Greenfinch family have visited a couple of times and on the second occasion I was able to take some video of them. Mother and youngster were at the seed feeder while father stayed nearby keeping watch in case the rowdy gang of Starlings returned.

The Starling families are here several times a day. I don't have to see them to know they are about as the sound of hungry juveniles can be deafening. One thing that can be said about Starlings - they keep themselves clean and can be found bathing in any available water, no matter how small the container.

Once I have given the tadpoles their daily ration of Koi floating sticks I sometimes put a few in the main pond for the fish. One day to my surprise I spotted a Smooth Newt helping itself to a piece which had been missed by the fish.

It took about five minutes to devour the whole stick and it was fascinating to see the way it would slowly approach its quarry and then make a lunge.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tiger Crane Fly

This crane fly was on the outside of my kitchen window for hours. From the inside it appeared to be one of the usual drab varieties. It wasn't until I looked at the photo taken from outside that I noticed the yellow and black stripes.

Crane-fly Nephrotoma flavescens

Crane-fly Nephrotoma flavescens

As there are over 4000 different types of crane fly it took a while to be certain of the identification:
Crane-fly Nephrotoma flavescens
which is commonly found in gardens though I have never really noticed this type before now. I was surprised it stayed put when I held the TZ7 really close to get a decent shot, as can be seen by the reflection of the camera in the outside photo.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Greenfinch Family

Since the outbreak of finch trichomonad parasite disease last year it has been a rare treat to see a Greenfinch in the garden. Yesterday it was a pleasant surprise to see a family at the seed feeder. The youngster, bottom left, was already able to feed itself.

Greenfinch Family

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


It is two months since the last of the frog spawn was transferred to the nursery pond to keep any emerging tadpoles safe from the fish in the main pond. They are continuing to grow and now show well developed back legs.

Tadpoles - Back Legs

Even in the small pond they are now difficult to catch as they are more aware and observant, diving down at the slightest sign of movement.
Related Posts with Thumbnails