Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Bird Table Visitors

Yesterday I set up the IR detector next to the bird table with the camera indoors to see how well the setup would work. As the sensor could 'see' through the table it would also respond to other birds at the feeders but did catch quite a few comings and goings. Nothing out of the ordinary but it was great to see  a Greenfinch family visit as their numbers were drastically reduced by finch disease last year.

Greenfinch Family

Greenfinch and House Sparrow

How small the Coal Tit is when seen next to a young House Sparrow

Coal Tit and House Sparrow

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

A slide show  of some of the visitors (came out darker than the original file when YouTube processed it)

It didn't take long for the birds to get used to the detector being close to the table.

IR Detector

As the photos were taken through double glazing the originals were rather grey so  they were batch processed using Paintshop Pro - another first for me.

Monday, 30 August 2010

A Fuzzy Photo

This is just by way of a record shot. A few days ago I spotted Common Darter dragonflies laying eggs in the garden pond. I took a lot of photos but not one in focus! I dashed in to get the camcorder but by the time I got back they had separated. This is the first time I have seen dragons lay eggs in my pond.

Fuzzy Dragonflies

Since the weather changed to cooler wet days the activity at the bird feeders has been frantic. A pair of Goldfinches regularly  bring their three offspring and I spotted at least one juvenile Greenfinch. House Sparrows arrive by the dozen, up to seventeen at a time, as do the Starlings. Blue, Coal and Great Tits are regulars again along with Chaffinches. And yes, the chattering Magpie still visits, often calling another to join it.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Juvenile Goldfinches

It was about five weeks ago I saw a juvenile Goldfinch at the Nyjer seed feeder so I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of juveniles this week. They were with an adult and were obviously new to the idea of using feeders as they first tried the peanuts and then the mixed seed feeder before finding the correct seeds.

Adult at the top and juvenile beneath.
Adult and Juvenile Goldfinches

The juveniles always look plumper than the sleek adults and are missing the red to the top of the head.
Juvenile Goldfinch

I thought to myself they were a bit on the late side producing their offspring but as seed eaters I suppose this is just the right time for them to find plenty of natural seeds from thistles and teasels.

This is more in the way of an experiment. It is the first time I have used Picasa to make a slideshow. This is a batch of the photos taken a couple of days ago with the IR detector setup triggering the 350D monitoring the pond waterfall.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Visitors to the Pond Waterfall 2 (Heath Robinson Strikes Again)

A chance comment from Adrian about having some sort of Infra Red detector to fire a camera got me thinking. First I spent some time searching to see if such a thing was made. Probably there is but I couldn't find one so the Heath Robinson in me had another one of those rare flashes of inspiration. Would a passive IR sensor as used for burglar alarms be any use? I had an old one kicking about so set about working out how to couple it to the camera. To cut the story short I got the IR detector to work a small relay which operates a cheap wireless camera remote control, all operated from a 12V battery.

Now the camera could be one end of the pond and the detector the other end near the pond waterfall.
350D  Passive IR

But - would the IR detector work in Sunlight? Well yes, as long as the Sun doesn't shine directly on the front of it. There are some spurious shots as it detects changes in temperature when the sunlight varies with shadows but it does seem to detect birds moving on the waterfall.

Sparrows, a Starling and a Blue Tit enjoying a bathe.

Birds at the Pond Waterfall 1

Blue Tit having a good soak.

Blue Tit at the Pond Waterfall

Splash it all over

Birds at the Pond Waterfall 3

A Wren came for a drink

Wren at the Pond Waterfall

I'm pretty sure this is the Wren taking off as it was taken soon after the previous photo.

Wren at the Pond Waterfall 2

All in all I am quite pleased with the results. The set up was in place from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The camera was triggered about 300 times, many of which have no bird in sight but about  40 did, usually sparrows. Most of the bathing activity was between 3.30 and 5.30 p.m. so I now know when to watch out for visitors.

This is the detector, before I put the cover back on the IR unit.
IR Detector and Transmitter
Passive IR detector taking up most of the space. Below that the relay circuit board and on the left hand side the radio transmitter. The receiver can be seen on top of the 350D in the first photo.

The system is not perfect. I am sure it misses some activity as it is difficult for the detector to pick out changes in IR heat in sunlight but it does give an opportunity to see some of the activity at the pond waterfall and see which birds make use of it.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Ladybird, Noisy Magpie, Magpie V Collared Dove)

I couldn't resist taking a short piece of video as this 7 spot ladybird scurried about looking for food.

A few days ago a juvenile Magpie was making its mind up whether to visit the suet ball feeder. As usual it was either calling or just chattering away to itself.

Not very sharp as a spider keeps building a web in front of this video camera but it was interesting to watch the actions of a juvenile Magpie and a Collared Dove as they sorted out who was master of the ground feeder.Love to watch the dove puff itself up to look larger. The doves and pigeons are not very good at sharing unlike many other bird species which visit the garden.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Juvenile Magpie

A juvenile Magpie is still a regular visitor on and off during each day. I don't have to see it to know it is there. The harsh cackle it makes most of the time lets me know it is about. A few times I have seen it feeding on the suet ball feeder and this morning was the first time I managed to get a few shots of it before it noticed me.

Magpie 2

Magpie 1

A couple of mornings I have spotted an adult with three juveniles.  Possibly they take it in turns to visit or it may be that one has decided this is its favourite feeding spot.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

This one was spotted last Saturday morning warming itself in the early morning sunshine.

Small Tortoiseshell
 Aglais urticae

Bit of an allsorts day yesterday, weather-wise. At one stage it was pouring with rain but the front garden was bathed in brilliant sunshine while a few miles to the south I could hear a thunderstorm. Here we had about 3/4 inch of rain but looking at the met office maps during the day we were lucky as much heavier rainfall was shown in most of the surrounding areas.

On the Hedgehog front I am puzzled as to what has happened to the locals. Not one has been seen in the feeding area for the past 7 nights. The activity had started to pick up after a short lull and then suddenly stopped.

Monday, 23 August 2010

On a Lily Pad

There were quite a few of the pond skaters resting on the lily pads in the pond. Here one is resting near a female damselfly both making the most of the sunshine after the previous nights tropical downpour.

Pond Skater and Female Damselfly

Although the damselfly occasionally flew to different leaves at one stage it stayed still and allowed me to get the TZ7 within three inches of it for a close up shot.

Female Damselfly

I wondered how the damselflies had managed to find enough shelter as, at one stage, the rain was hitting the roof of the shed and greenhouse so hard it was bouncing up about eighteen inches and looked like steam rising. We both had our waterproofs on for early morning walkies but at the moment it is not too bad

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Visitors to the Bird Table

As it kept raining yesterday I set up the 350D on a tripod in the kitchen and trained it on my bird table. Then I connected the intervalometer and left it to take a photo about once every 16 seconds. The bird table has wire mesh on all sides to keep out the larger birds but the front can be lowered to allow cleaning and topping up the seed. So the camera could get a clear view I left the front section down. For the first hour or more there was nothing caught on camera but towards late afternoon several species paid a visit.

One of the most frequent visitors was the Coal Tit racing in to grab black sunflower seeds and flying off with them to build up its winter stash.

Coal Tit 1

Another frequent visitor was a Great Tit which would collect a sunflower heart to take to a nearby branch to eat.

Great Tit 4

Of course a list of regulars here wouldn't be complete without a Starling

Starling 2

or a visit from some House Sparrows.

Sparrows 1

Recently there has been at least one juvenile Magpie hanging about making an awful din. This one had to visit the table several times before it found the way in.

Magpie 2

Finally managing to get some seed after several attempts to find the entrance.

Magpie 4

I don't think I would have ever got the Magpie photos if I had been in the kitchen as they are very easily scared away.  Another day I can leave the camera to concentrate on one of the seed feeders or the peanut feeder. The borders on the photos were once again added using the plugin Border Mania.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Visitors to the Pond Waterfall

On Thursday I had one of those all too few flashes of inspiration. Why not use the intervalometer that I use for time lapse photography to monitor the pond waterfall. To that end I set up a 350D on a sturdy tripod at the opposite end of the pond and set the electronics to take a photo about once every twenty seconds. Over three hours it took nearly a thousand photos a few of which did manage to capture a few of our feathered friends.

Nothing out of the ordinary as yet. The first was a House Sparrow peeping to see if it was being watched.

House Sparrow
They are very communal birds so there are normally several together.
I wonder how many you can spot here:

How Many Sparrows?

Easier to count this time.

Sparrows at the Pond Waterfall

And finally a male Blackbird with a Wood Pigeon.

At the Pond Waterfall

As I said, nothing out of the ordinary but I have learned a few things. The idea works, just have to be patient. My chosen spot, where I needed to have a telephoto lens with fixed focus, meant a shallow depth of field. The weeds in the way are too far in the pond to reach for pruning. I have sussed a better spot nearer the waterfall where I can get closer and probably use a 50mm lens. Of course it rained most of yesterday and is raining again this morning so I will have to wait for finer weather to have a second go.

The basic set up for time lapse photography can be seen here. In case you are wondering it doesn't take very long to check a thousand photos. I copy them to the hard drive (that takes the longest) and use IrfanView to view them. I just keep hitting the 'next' key and with the view being the same in each photo any changes show immediately. Those with activity I move to a folder and then delete the rest.

I use an old second hand camera as this technique is hard on the shutter / mirror mechanism and can give a years wear in a day. To make the camera battery last the session I turn off the LCD display as that uses a lot of energy in displaying each shot.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Wings over the Garden Pond)

First the Blue-tailed Damselflies. One thing I learned here - don't have the Sun behind you when filming as they reflect so much light back. First a male with its lunch then several views of a female egg laying.

 Next the Common Darter Dragonfly which seems to visit for a short while each day. Here it is resting on a planter. Twice it seems to be about to take off and changes its mind. Fascinating the way its body is pulsating all the time. As always it is constantly on the lookout for danger and food.

Finally the Empid Fly hoovering the lily pad. It seems to use its front legs to feel for and sweep anything edible under that flexible proboscis.

 Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around your patch.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Wings Over the Garden Pond

I don't know why but I am surprised every time I see a bee visit the flowers on the water lilies. So far I haven't managed a good photo of one but there are also plenty of hover flies visiting:

Hoverflies on Pond Lily

A daily visitor at the moment is a Common Darter Dragonfly, at least I assume it is the same one which comes looking for a meal.

Common Darter

Yesterday I thought I was going to manage a photo and possibly some video of the Blue-tailed Damselflies mating. There were a couple which spent a good quarter of an hour gradually getting closer to each other, finally ending up on the same perch. (not the best of photos, sorry)

Blue-tailed Damselflies 1

When they got round to arching their bodies and looked as though the event was about to happen up turns a second female which tried to join in on the act. Unfortunately that was the end of that - for a while anyway.

Blue-tailed Damselflies

All three flew off in different directions and as I had visitors arrive I didn't see the damselflies again.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Carling Star Keeps Growing

Yesterday was the first opportunity to take a photo of Angel and Carling Star for a while. Carling Star (Fred) is growing into a handsome young stallion but still stays very close to mum.

Angel with Carling Star

I still haven't managed to make a time lapse video of a sunset. Last night there was a possibility but the colourful sky lasted less than a quarter of an hour before the clouds went back to a more normal grey.

Sunset 170810

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Speckled Wood Butterfly

It was the first time for many a long day that a butterfly rested long enough to take a photo while we were taking our afternoon bout of exercise. This Speckled Wood was looking a bit the worse for wear.

Speckled Wood

Many thanks to Adrian and The Wessex Reiver who pointed me in the right direction for the identification of yesterday's unidentified fly. It would appear to be one of a large number of flies in the group of Empid flies. Reading about their lifestyle I would guess the vacuuming of the lily pad included catching some of the mites which abounded on the leaf. I have a feeling that those tiny creatures are also partly the reason the Blue-tailed damselflies spend so much time on the lily pads - a constant source of three square meals a day!

Weather has been very changeable and a certain hairy monster gets withdrawal symptoms if he can't spend the day sunbathing on the lawn.


Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time Bobby took me for my afternoon walkies.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Another Unidentified Fly

I was filming a damselfly laying eggs in my pond when I noticed this fly on one of the lily pads.

Unknown Fly 1

What was unusual was the way it was moving its proboscis side to side across the leaf just like a vacuum cleaner.

Unknown Fly 2

I have tried some searches in the hope of finding out what type of fly it is, but so far have found nothing which looks like this one. In size it was about 10 to 12mm in length which might explain why I did not even notice the other bugs on the leaf until I cropped and enlarged the photo. They would appear to be only 1 or 2mm in size.

Unknown Fly 3

With luck there may be some video of it on Friday along with the damselfly.

While I was looking for the above fly on the internet I did find what I think is an identification of the red eyed fly from a while ago.

Red Eyed Fly

I am now pretty sure it was a Flesh Fly from the group Sarcophagidae. I don't think it will take three guesses to work out what its diet is.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Soggy Magpie

A couple of days ago, when the rain was very heavy, I spotted a juvenile Magpie on the peanut feeder. I don't remember seeing one on any of the feeders before. They usually scavenge on the ground picking up the seeds dropped by the smaller birds.

Juvenile Magpie

Unfortunately the lighting conditions were abysmal and very difficult for obtaining any crisp shots. For a while it stood on the edge of the bird bath for, every so often having a good shake to dry off its feathers.

Juvenile Magpie

I tried to take some video but the camcorder insisted on focussing on the raindrops running down the kitchen window.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A Little bit of Tweaking

The only decent view I get of the clouds and sky is looking South from my front garden. In other directions close trees limit the view. This is the view as seen by the Lumix a couple of days ago. To get some contrast in the clouds I let the camera take a 'reading' from the sky before lowering the view to take the shot.


Of course that meant that the foreground was under exposed and it is spoilt by the telephone wires which cross the view.  This seemed a suitable subject for another trial in PaintShop Pro with the Re-dynamizer plugin  First though - get rid of the wires. For that I use  a plugin called Wire Worm. This is one of a small group of plugins which are free. It draws an elongated loop (length and width fully adjustable) to enclose the unwanted part of a picture. This loop is then dragged and nearby pixels are blended in to replace the offending section. The process is better done in short sections.

Next was to let Re-dynamizer do its job. Here I have just used its own suggested settings which have increased the contrast in the clouds and brightened up the foreground. Now we can see 'bee heaven' - the lavender bushes and the Hibiscus that they frequent from dawn to dusk.


As I mentioned a short while ago this plugin is not free but I think well worth the £15 it cost to register, which I have now done. Both pictures have a border which is put on by another free plugin - One from a whole group called Border Mania which includes the gold coloured frame I also use.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Bees and Hedgehogs)

Nothing as out of the ordinary as head banging flies this week.
Just busy bees working hard on slippery Hibiscus flowers as they strive to reach the nectar right at the bottom and becoming covered in pollen in the process...  (Taken with the Lumix TZ7 about three inches from the flowers)

... and a mix of video and stills of the visiting Hedgehogs. For a while visits were down to one hog visiting just once each night but activity is increasing again. No Sumo wrestling seen recently as the hogs arrive at different times.

My grateful thanks to Adrian, Keith, Frank and The Wessex Reiver who all identified my dark coloured damselfly as a female Common Blue. That is quite exciting as I know the Blue-tailed Damselflies are breeding in my pond and it would be great to see a second variety become established.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Damselfly ID Needed

Spotted a very dark coloured damselfly over the garden pond which led me a merry dance trying to photograph it. By the time I had fetched the camera it was nowhere to be seen, I stood by the pond for ages waiting to see if it would appear again. Finally I looked down and there it was resting on the rim of a planter about a foot away from my leg. I would say it is slightly shorter than my resident Blue-tailed Damselflies but with a thicker body.

Unknown Damselfly

Unknown Damselfly

My ID sheet mainly shows damselflies from above so I can't tell which have the dull yellow ochre which this one has underneath.

As for the head banging fly from last Friday. It got mentioned in dispatches - well a poem anyway - along with other creatures in a Poem written by Glo on her blog Porcelain Rose.

Following a suggestion from Matron I have joined the Nature Plus section of the Natural History Museum. There I have put the photo of the red-eyed fly to see if they will come up with an identification.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Wall Butterfly and other wings.

Twice last week I saw a Southern Hawker dragonfly circling the pond. Every now and then it would disappear under the hedge next to the pond so I guess it was hunting for food. Unfortunately so far it hasn't settled for a photo session. While I was waiting, camera in hand, hoping for the dragonfly to land I spotted a butterfly on a flower. It was the first time I had seen any of the brown varieties in the garden so I took several shots before it disappeared.

Wall Butterfly

I had to look up to see what had visited - A Wall Butterfly, Lasiommata megera. A female I think judging by the tiny white spot near the front wing tip.

During our afternoon walk yesterday I was lucky enough to capture a shot of a Common Darter dragonfly as it rested.

Common Darter Dragonfly

There are still plenty of bumble bees in the front garden. They are now spoilt for choice. Not only do they have the lavender plants but also the hibiscus which has come into flower.

Bumble Bee on Hibiscus Flower

Also being attracted are a few of the local wasps.

Wasp on Hibiscus Flower

Visiting bird numbers are well down recently. They are able to find plenty of natural food. At least it means that my seed stock is lasting a decent time.
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