Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Let Me In

A Crane Fly - Daddy Long Legs - waited patiently on the outside of the front door giving plenty of time to set up the 350D with bellows to catch a series of shots of its underside. Nine photos of varying focus points were processed by CombineZP to make one stacked picture.

Crane Fly

There are quite a few Crane Flies appearing at the moment, later in the year than I normally see them though different types do appear at different times of the year.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

First last week's puzzle picture alongside the full view of the object:

rectangle_New-Out99998   P1010619c

Yes Keith - you were correct. It was a close shot of a conker (the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree) which was well dried up having been on my shelf for quite a while. Sorry Glo if I mislead you. All I was hinting at was the 'mellow fruitfulness' in general.

On to today's new puzzle picture.


Clue: Does this really grow in occidental gardens?
Answer next Monday.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Magpies)

Some birds don't let a bit of rain get in the way of eating. This Chaffinch spent most of its time just waiting for a space at the feeders.

As usual at this time of the year the Coal Tits are gathering as many black sunflower seeds as possible to bury as they build up their winter store. (No sound on this one)

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for a secret never to be told

I have removed the general seed feeders for a while and moved the Goldfinch feeders to a different part of the garden. A few days ago I saw what looked like a Greenfinch suffering from finch disease so I want to make sure it doesn't spread quickly through the visiting population. There are still peanut and fat ball feeders as the finches rarely, if ever, visit those.

Have a great weekend watching the antics of the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Adonis Ladybird and Other Insects

A large Ivy bush next to the front gate is swarming with insects at the moment. Among the species noticed were a couple of very small ladybirds. On searching they turned out to be Adonis Ladybirds. They are 4 to 5mm long and quite slim.

Adonis Ladybird

There were plenty of small wasps but I wasn't in a hurry to hold the Lumix camera a couple of inches away from them. Quite a rare sight in my garden was a small number of bees. Normally I only see bumble bees. So far I haven't been able to identify this one.

Bee 3

Sat in the middle of the largest orb web I have ever seen was this Garden Orb Spider, a real Humpty Dumpty of a body with a tiny head. The web was about 20 inches (50cm) across. The spider itself has beautiful markings. Size probably a little less than 20mm.

Garden Orb Spider

I was very pleased that this 40+mm  parasitic wasp was on the outside of the kitchen window.

Ichneumon Wasp

Good job the 'tail' is an ovipositor and not a sting!  I think it is an Ichneumon Wasp.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Shield Bug

A Shield Bug landed on the kitchen window and hung around long enough to get a couple of photos.

Shield Bug 5

Shield Bug 4

I usually see just one a year and so far each one has been different. This at 10 to 12mm body length was the largest that has visited. It appears to be a Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

For yesterday's puzzle picture - think 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

In response to hundreds (three actually, but who's counting) of requests for some puzzle macro or micro photos of objects this is the first. Some, like this one, will be taken with the 350D fitted with bellows to get closer shots. Others will be taken through the microscope with a DCM510 microscope camera. As in one of my favourite bygone radio programmes objects may be animal, vegetable or mineral in origin.

This should be relatively easy to recognise -


The full object will be revealed next Monday along with a new puzzle picture. No prizes for guessing correctly, except an honourable mention next week.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Closer Look

Quite some time ago I bought one of the plastic USB microscopes hoping to get some reasonable micro photos. Unfortunately the results were disappointing not least being the annoying way the program provided with it changed to a low resolution monitor screen and moved all my desktop icons about. Also the plastic would stick and jump when focussing, very frustrating. Oh well, you get what you pay for!

Later I bought a used optical microscope hoping to use the same technique as  Phil for some of his excellent shots on his blog Beyond the Human Eye. That is to use a digital camera in place of the eyepiece of the microscope. No joy here. I just could not get the idea to work.

Finally I bought a USB microscope camera which fits in the top of the microscope in place of the eyepiece. Once again I was disappointed with the results. The 5 megapixel camera worked just fine but the depth of field was extremely limited so I packed everything away.

Can you see where this is leading? Enter the program CombineZP. I decided to try again. Not brilliant photos but a vast improvement on past experience. All I could find on scouring the garden yesterday was a discarded feather so I had a go to see what I could see.

First the setup - microscope with USB camera sticking out of the top.

I used my bright LED lamp as light source. I think the camera works about the same as a 10x optical eyepiece so this first photo is at 40x magnification.
Feather 01

Now at 100x magnification
Feather 02

Finally at what is probably 400x magnification.
Feather 03

Each of the above was made with a pile of nine individual photos each focussed slightly differently and processed using the program CombineZP. To give an idea this is one of the nine taken for the 100x magnification showing how quickly parts of the view go out of focus. No further processing of the photos except cropping to remove a small extra reflected area the program adds to the edge of each.

Now I have to experiment more with the lighting as this is quite critical in obtaining clear photos but at last it is worth persevering with my investment.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Birds at the Feeders

The ground feeder is near the bottom of the garden and is visited by Sparrows, Greenfinches and Chaffinches amongst others.

A rare sight here is a Blue Tit staying in one place long enough to be filmed. Normally they dash in, grab something and rush off to the nearest branch.

A real nip in the air first thing this morning as it was 7.7C when we went for our early morning constitutional. We suddenly seem to be racing towards winter.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

CombineZP - Updated

Another test of CombineZP

Set up the 350D with bellows to get a close look at a strawberry flower.
Lighting from a bright LED lamp.


Took 12 photos varying the focus a little between each.
One of the shots showing how shallow the depth of field was.


Let CombineZP align and then  Stack the photos


A better lens, better lighting and operating the camera with a cable release would make for a crisper result but this certainly shows the possibilities of the program.

It was later that I noticed some aberration at the bottom of the stacked photo and the next try I carried out with a different lens taking 16 shots had distortions on all edges. Possibly a result of the shots differing in subject size as the focus is altered. The centre part of the picture is fine and it is possibly better to make sure the subject doesn't fill the frame.


This is a crop of the main part of my final session for now.
The lens used was an old Super Takumar 55mm f1.2 manually set to f4 as wider apertures gave poor results. The 350D was set to ISO 400 and 1/200sec

For Adrian - CombineZP

Yesterday Adrian was experimenting with a commercial program which combines a set of photos of the same subject but with different focus points. The idea being to make a resultant photo where everything is in focus. Very useful for macro shots where the depth of field is very shallow. See his post HERE. Without Adrian's blog I would never have know that such programs existed.

That caught my imagination so I decided to see what could be done for free! After a hour searching and looking at various options I eventually found a great free (released under the GNU Public License) program - CombineZP - and tried it out. My simple test involved placing five batteries at different distances from the camera and taking five shots each with one of the cells in sharp focus. Point CombineZP at a folder on the PC which contains the five shots, tell it to Align and Balance them and then tell the program to 'Do Stack' - result, all in focus on one photo.


From top to bottom, the first and last of the five individual photos and finally the result of stacking / piling them with CombineZP.  Looks a handy utility to have for still subjects where it is hard or impossible to get everything in focus with one shot.  CombineZP site is HERE.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Something Old, Something New

I was looking through a pile of old family photos when I came across this photograph of a German V2 rocket taken by my father probably sometime in the late 1940's at an air show. It may have been at Farnborough or Biggin Hill. I was there but I don't remember it at all. I know it was fairly soon after the 2nd World War when captured military atifacts were put on show to the general public. It was taken on roll film using a folding Kodak camera.


Something I have been trying to capture for a while is a photo showing Belmont TV tower and the spire of St. James church in Louth on the same view. This is the nearest I have got so far with Belmont on the left and the spire on the right. From where I live only the spire and tower of the church can be seen rising above the valley in which Louth sits.

Belmont and St. James

Needless to say this is an HDR processed mix of three photos which was re-processed in Paintshop Pro to bring out the subjects I wanted as they are easy to spot with the human eye but very difficult for the camera to resolve.

Monday, 13 September 2010


I have a small clump of Sunflowers growing near the Birdy Bistro. They are all self set from the seeds scattered by the birds. I tend to think that all Sunflowers are much the same but here there are four different varieties with vastly different flower sizes ranging from 7 to 26cm in diameter measured across the petals.

Slideshow made using Wondershare DVD Slideshow Builder which was a GiveAway of the Day a few days ago. It is always worth keeping an eye on that site as you never know what will be coming up next. They have legitimate free fully working copies of programs, a different program each day, which have to be installed and registered on the day it is available. Don't expect any really expensive spectaculars but some smaller utilities like this one are well worth trying out. I always wait a while and see what others who have downloaded and tried out the software have to say.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

I Really Enjoy the Rain

No. Not me personally. Every time it rains I can guarantee that some of the local Wood Pigeons will be sat out in the open having a free shower.

Wood Pigeon Soaking up the Rain

Wood Pigeon Soaking up the Rain

Friday, 10 September 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Bathing

First a rather fast slideshow of 100 consecutive photos taken the last time I had the IR sensor monitoring the pond waterfall. It gives a good impression of what the activity can be like,

One morning this week I was just able to watch the waterfall from the corner of the kitchen window so I put the camcorder on a short tripod on the work surface.

Also spotted was a shy juvenile Goldfinch trying to work out when it was safe to get in the water.

The soundtrack is one of the sound files that comes with  Corel Video Studio X3 which I was trying out on that video. Though I have looked from time to time every day since those video clips were taken I have rarely spotted any birds there. As usual - they know when they are being watched.

Have a great weekend observing the behaviour of the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Seed Rage

There is often an item in the news about an incident of road rage but come here to the Birdy Bistro and you will see many examples of seed rage. You would think it was mid winter with the number of birds now visiting the garden for their share of free seed. Do they peacefully wait their turn? Well, a few do like the Blue and Coal Tits which will watch for a gap and dash in to grab a bite to eat. Not so with the Starlings, Sparrows, Goldfinches and now the Greenfinches. I have noticed more birds singing during the day so I guess it is time to start marking out territory again.

The Greenfinches have taken to visiting the ground feeder which is actually stood on a small metal table. One yesterday was determined to keep all the food for itself. First it faced off another Greenfinch.

Greenfinches 1

Then it had a go at a House Sparrow which dared to land.

Greenfinch 2

 The One That Got Away

As I was watching through the kitchen window first thing I saw a Sparrowhawk chasing a small bird across the sky. I have not seen them trying to catch their prey in level flight before today. The small bird was weaving all over the place and could change direction faster than the Sparrowhawk. Though the hunter got close it could not get close enough and gave up in the end. It was obviously built for high speed dive bombing its target and not built for stamina in level flight. One very lucky small bird. They were too far away and too quick to photograph.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Goldies Galore

For the past few days there have been at least ten Goldfinches visiting the garden each day. When they are not at the feeders I can hear them twittering to each other in the nearby bushes and trees.


Yesterday was the first time I have actually seen any hot tempers between the goldies. Normally they sit peacefully eating the Nyjer seeds. This time it is Bobby scaring the birds away as he says hello to one of his girlfriends.

There seem to be a good proportion of juveniles in the group. Here there are three with two adults.


The three juvenile Magpies are still constant visitors though rarely all at the same time.


Today seems so calm after the blustery weather of the day before. Plenty of rain overnight with the rain gauge showing 0.8 of an inch. Last night we had another of what seem to be getting more frequent power cuts. This time the village was without power for two hours.  Thank goodness I hung on to my old metal kettle and have a gas cooker. At least I could make a cup of tea.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A bit of Summer and a bit of Spring

This is the first Sunflower to open in the garden. Yes it is late as it grew from seed dropped by the birds.


The  corkscrew hazel has grown into a lovely bush. Yesterday I spotted the start of next Spring's catkins already showing. They will remain tightly closed through all the cold and damp of the Winter.

Corkscrew Hazel - Next Years Catkins

No Swallows lining up on the telephone wires here but a line of Starlings warming them selves in the early morning Sunshine.


Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Camera Never Lies

That's what they used to say but in this digital world of HDR and airbrushing my reply to that would be humph!

I set the Lumix TZ7 to take three shots of the same scene at -1  0  +1 EV

Three Shots

Then I combined them as an HDR tonemapped image using  Photomatrix so as to make the sky a bit more dramatic at the same time trying not to make the green areas too unrealistic.


Then, being the inveterate twiddler I am, I thought I would further process the HDR image in Paintshop Pro using the ReDynaMix plugin. I also cropped the result.

P1010520_18_19_tonemapped again

Which of these looks like the scene as I saw it? None of them. The digital camera doesn't see the full spectrum range our eyes see or at least cannot process it in the same way our brain does. Which image is most interesting, well that is always subjective.

Finally I decided to convert the last image to greyscale.

P1010520_18_19_tonemapped again BW

There is something about b/w images. Colours don't get in the way of seeing the shapes and textures.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Sparrows, Greenfinch, Goldfinch)

Yesterday morning I was wondering whether there would be a Friday at the Flicks this morning. About 10a.m. my internet connection failed. Phoned Zen and after nearly an hour trying various tests and configurations still no connection though the phone link appeared to be live. The problem was passed on to BT and fortunately by late afternoon things began to work again.

Nothing spectacular today. My usual crowd of House Sparrows which often arrive like a cloud rather than a flock.

It has been great to see the occasional young Greenfinch

The juvenile Goldfinches and their parents are very regular visitors at the moment.

This morning was the first of the 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'  but the Sun soon burned off the thick mist which had enveloped the village first thing.

Have a great weekend observing the antics of the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Beetles and Bathers

A couple of days ago I turned over a piece of wood and found this tiny shiny beetle. The camera couldn't catch just how metallic it looked seeming to change from blue to green depending how the light caught it. Body length about 5mm. I am pretty sure it is a Chrysolina, maybe Chrysolina herbacia.

Chrysolina  Beetle

The same day this beetle had fallen in the water in Bobby's bowl. This one was about 11mm long and appears to belong to the group Xantholinus. What caught my attention was its long thin body and the tiny wings.

Xantholinus Beetle

Yesterday I set up the 350D and home brew IR detector to monitor the pond waterfall. This time it worked very well, triggering hundreds of times during the day with only a tiny number of shots without a bird in sight. In fact it took a long while to sort through all the shots and decide which to keep.

Amongst the visitors were:

Greenfinch at the Pond Waterfall

Goldfinch at the Pond Waterfall

Wood Pigeon
Wood Pigeon at the Pond Waterfall

Starlings at the Pond Waterfall

Clumsy young House Sparrows
Whoops - Clumsy

Whole collections of House Sparrows
Sparrows at the Pond Waterfall 2

There were many times when the waterfall was so full of birds they had to queue to get in
A Busy Pond Waterfall

Not shown today Chaffinch and Coal Tits were also photographed. One thing is certain - a supply of drinking and bathing water is just as important (if not more so) as seed feeders, especially with all the dry days we have been having this year.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

At the Seed Feeder

Yesterday I tried the IR detector about five feet away from a seed feeder. One thing I learned - as the feeder warms up in the sunshine and starts to swing in the breeze it triggers the sensor. Once the feeder was in shadow or the wind clamed down then it worked OK.

Chaffinch coming in to land:

Chaffinch Coming in to Land

Most of the photos were of birds, mainly sparrows, peacefully feeding but the arrival of Starlings usually livens things up a bit.

Are you my Dad?
Are You My Dad

Keep moving pal.
Keep Moving Pal

Go find your own perch.
Go Find Your Own Perch

Where is Air Traffic Control when you need them?
Where was Air Traffic Control

 I wonder how long a camera battery lasts when it needs recharging every day.
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