Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Surviving in the Snow

No matter what the weather the birds have to feed. When the snow was falling heavily there was a bigger rush than ever for food.

Chaffinches in the Snow

Wood Pigeon
Wood Pigeon in the Snow

Goldfinch in the Snow

One problem can be keeping a supply of water for the birds to drink. The bird bath freezes over in no time but fortunately the pump and waterfall on the pond have kept working.

After the first lot of snow had all but melted away we had between two and three inches of fresh snowfall yesterday.  This morning it was very soft and slushy in places as the temperature rose above freezing. On this morning's walk we had to quickly move on to someones drive as a gritting lorry went past with its snow plough on the front scattering slush everywhere.

One of my best investments for snowy and icy weather was a set of spikes which fit on shoes or boots.

Ice Spikes
When I first got them near the end of last Winter (from Amazon UK) I wondered how much use 6 little 4mm bits of tungsten carbide would be. The verdict - fantastic. I have tried to slide my foot on sheet ice and they just stick fast. Body weight is enough for them to get a good grip. Can't creep up on people when wearing these - they really crunch into ice!  Snow, ice or even muddy footpaths - I remain sure footed. They are kept on an old pair of shoes so they are always ready for use.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

For quite a while I thought I was going to get the gold star again this week but with a flash of inspiration Wilma came up trumps when she said it could be pipe tobacco. A well deserved gold star Wilma. My thanks as always to those who were brave enough to put their thoughts in print.

rectangle_New-Out99997   P1010624 tobacco

Now on to this week's puzzle picture:


Clue: It will never make Centre Court.
No prizes for a correct identification - just a bit of fun.

Definitely a 'Winter Wonderland' here today. Previous snow had melted and just when we thought it would stay clear the next batch arrived. By the middle of the afternoon there was a fresh layer about 4cm deep. You should have seen the sudden rush of small birds to the feeders during the heaviest of the snow fall. The wise Great Tit continues to snuggle up in the nestbox every night.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tree Sparrows

Now the cold weather has set in the Tree Sparrows have left the field hedgerows and joined up with the House Sparrows in visiting the feeders. They are easily distinguished by their brown heads and white cheeks with a large black spot.

Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrow 1

Though we have not had it as cold as some areas of the UK it was more than cold enough last night. This is how the outside temperature has declined over the past week.

Temp 2010-11-28_090020

Although yesterday only managed a top temperature of 4C it was enough for most of the snow in the village to melt away. What little was left was well and truly frozen hard this morning when we went walkabout. It was -5C at 7 a.m.. According to the latest forecast this cold snap could be with us for another two weeks.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Blooming Snow

For me one of the strangest sights in my back garden this week has been the dwarf standard rose in full bloom covered with a layer of snow. I don't remember it ever blooming this late in the year in the past.

Blooming in the Snow

Fortunately, so far, we haven't had a lot of snow but I have no doubt there will be more on the way over the next week.

It would appear many of the visiting Starlings have now arrived to join the residents. Certainly the numbers visiting my feeders has suddenly increased. As always they spend more time squabbling than they do eating and the smaller birds have to find a gap when it is safe to fly in for a quick bite to eat.

Starlings 1

Starlings 2

Starlings 3

 There are three male Chaffinches which usually visit at the same time. It is fascinating watching their antics as they try not to invade each others space. Occasionally there will be a short chase but most of the time they manage to avoid contact with each other.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Nestbox Shuffle

Just the one video clip this week.

In the past I have seen Blue Tits perform the 'nestbox shuffle' where they spread their wings and lie flat in the bottom of the box, usually pushing into one corner. This has always been a short while before nesting starts. To my surprise I saw the Great Tit do exactly the same thing even though it is November and a long way to the nesting season.

I am please to say that the Great Tit continues to use the box as a roost every night - must be about three weeks now - and occasionally pops in during the day.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you and if you have snow and ice take care out there. This morning was the first time since last winter I wore my snow spikes. The spikes may only be about 4mm long but it is very reassuring to hear the crunch as they bite in the frozen covering on the local footpaths.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wire Worm to the Rescue

Sometimes modern artefacts just get in the way of a decent picture. Directly opposite me is a telephone pole and wires which can be very annoying when I am photographing cloud formations.

The exposure reading was taken from the brightest part of the sky so the clouds didn't become washed out.


The photo was then imported into PaintShop Pro Photo X2 and the ReDynaMix plugin used to bring out some detail in the shadows. This was followed by the use of a plugin called Wire Worm which can be very effective at sliding and blending nearby material over the unwanted parts.


If you are interested in Wire Worm then have a look HERE at  MV's PLUGINS. It should work with any graphics program which recognises Photoshop type plugins.There are some excellent examples of its use and a short video demonstration of its facilities. The best part is - it's free.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Aha! I get the gold star for last week's puzzle picture as no one managed to identify it.
My thanks to all those who attempted a guess.

It was a very close view of the head of a match.

rectangle_New-Out99993   P1010634

And now for the new close up to identify:


Clue: It could heat up at the same time as last week's object.

No prizes. Just a bit of fun.

I really must catch up on some other blogs today. I spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to make some sense of the C++ programming language. It's many years since I use Sinclair Basic, then BBC Basic and finally Agfa Basic (Atari ST) but now I want to be able to have a play with the modern generation of programmable microprocessors as used in the Arduino kits. I want to build some more versatile methods of controlling the camera for nature photography so I think I will be needing a new bottle of aspirin to cure the headaches when I start banging my head on the wall! 

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Wren, Wood Pigeon, Blackbirds and Apples

Most days I spot the Wren exploring the shady parts of the garden but it rarely stays in sight long enough to get some video clips.The other day I got lucky.

Under the seed feeder I have a large tray to catch any seed which falls. After one night's rain the seed was under water but that didn't put off one Wood Pigeon from having a good breakfast.

The Blackbirds continue to enjoy a piece of apple from time to time. They seem to prefer to wait for the apple to go brown and soft before tucking in.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. For those following the progress of the nestbox - the Great Tit continues to use it as a roost every night.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Great Tit, the Moon and Jupiter

The Great Tit is roosting in the nest box for the tenth night running.

Great Tit by day and by night:
Still plenty of feathers left over after last week's scrap.
Great Tit - Day and Night

Jupiter is quite bright at the moment. Two nights running I have tried to photo Jupiter and its moons. Still photos were a complete failure. The length of exposure needed meant that  the planet moved across the sky by a small fraction of a degree but enough to make the moons appear more like UFOs. In the end I set up the Panasonic SDR-H80 on a sturdy tripod, switched it to night vision and full 70x optical zoom. The resultant video clip is a bit jerky with the slow shutter speed of night vision and the rotation of the Earth.

Jupiter with four moons, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. Three are easy to spot. The fourth is much dimmer and further off to the left of Jupiter and comes into view on and off.

I did manage some still photos of the Moon. Being a lot brighter the exposures were much shorter.


Monday, 15 November 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

As always, the answer to last week's puzzle picture first.

rectangle_New-Out99999C   Moss

It was indeed a close look at one small part of a clump of moss which the birds had removed from my roof.
Gold Stars to Adrian, Glo and Jan who plumped for Moss. Wilma hedged her bets so I think a Silver Star there.

Now for the new puzzle photo.


Clue:  Too hot to handle? It will be later on.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Blackbird and Apple

Knowing from past experience that Blackbirds like to eat apple I chopped a windfall in half and put it out over a week ago. Finally this morning a male Blackbird decided to help itself. Rather grainy photos as it was early, poor light and the 50D was set to ISO 3200 to obtain a reasonable shutter speed.

Blackbird and Apple 2

Blackbird and Apple 1

Blackbird and Apple 3

 Having invested in a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mobile phone which has an 8Mpixel camera these are a couple of the first test shots as taken with no processing.

Are we going walkies or are you going to fiddle with that phone all afternoon?
Are we Going Walkies or What?

Great all round phone but very battery hungry!

The Great Tit has just arrived in the nestbox, and fluffed itself out ready to roost there for the seventh night running.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Great Tit Roosting in the Nestbox

Trying to get video files up to YouTube yesterday was a nightmare. They would upload but processing seemed to have come to a full stop. In the end I remembered I had a Photobucket account so put them there. The only problem I have found is that there doesn't seem to be a way for me to choose the size of the displayed videos unlike YouTube which gives several choices. All these clips are silent.

I get the feeling the Great Tit wanted a bit more ventilation in the nestbox as from time to time it has been pecking at the back wall. Maybe it wants an emergency exit.

A couple of videos from the first night the Great Tit used the nestbox as a roost.
The first shows how it fluffs out its downy feathers to turn itself into a birdy duvet.

The last video shows it stretching its wings in preparation for leaving the box in the morning.

So far the Great Tit has roosted in the nestbox every night since those video clips were made, There don't seem to have been any more intruders but the bottom of the box is still covered in feathers from the scrap a few nights ago.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Battle for Ownership of the Nestbox

I am now wondering how many different Great Tits have been visiting the nestbox. A Great Tit had settled down for the third night running and I went to prepare a meal. Later I glanced at the monitor and saw the most almighty squabble going on in the box. At first I thought maybe a Blue Tit had unwisely gone in but it soon became obvious they were both Great Tits. It was a really vicious winner takes all battle with feathers flying everywhere. After a short while one decided it had no chance of taking possession and managed to escape.

This still was taken from the video a while after the victor had settled down again. What was a bare box is now lined with feathers.

Snapshot 31

I have also uploaded to my Flickr account one still of the birds fighting which can be found by clicking on 'Go to Midmarsh John's photostream' in the Flickr widget near the bottom right of this page.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

As I hoped, last week's puzzle photo was easier. Yes - it was a dog hair - one of the hundreds Bobby deposits on my carpets every day.

rectangle_New-Out99999   P1010632

Gold stars all round to Glo, Adrian, Keith, Emma, Matron and Wilma. Well done all.

Now for this week's puzzle photo. 15 shots taken with the USB microscope camera at about 100x magnification, processed by CombineZP.


Clue: Not part of Mick Jagger's stage makeup.
No prizes for a correct identification, just for fun.

Nestbox News

Not only does the Great Tit continue to visit the nestbox but last night used it as a roost. The nestbox camera caught all the event so I should have some video clips for Friday. It was fascinating to watch how it turned itself into a birdy duvet to stay snug and warm.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Bird Table Visitors

Yesterday I set up my IR passive detector next to the bird table to see what was visiting. The camera was on a tripod in the kitchen. I am always hopeful that it will capture something new - not yet though. Just plenty of the regulars.

IR Detector

Lighting conditions for photography were awful for most of the time and the results grainy so I combined some of the half decent in one collage. The 350D with 70-200mm lens took over 300 shots but most ended up in Dusty Bin..

Bird Table Visitors

I was surprised how often the Robin appeared in the shots as I rarely see it on the table.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Churchyard Chickens, Nestbox Preening

When I saw the chickens in the churchyard a few days ago they were not in the least bothered by our presence and carried on scratching in the deep layer of fallen leaves.

The investigations and inspections of the nestbox continue with the occasional visit from a Blue Tit which hasn't ventured inside as yet and a Great Tit which visits most days. This time it spent several minutes having a good preen in the privicy of the box.

Nothing has used the box as an overnight roost yet but a minimum of around 14C night temperatures has been very mild for the time of year recently.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. If you are celebrating Guy Fawkes night then please spare a thought for all domestic and wildlife as many pets are terrified of loud noises and various animals may be using a bonfire as a shelter. Some good advice can be found on the RSPB site HERE.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Sparrowhawk Tactics

It is a couple of months since I last saw a Sparrowhawk around the garden and the only reasonable photo opportunity was this one last August.

Female Sparrowhawk

Mid afternoon yesterday as I glanced round the garden I noticed there were no birds at the feeders. Suddenly a Sparrowhawk came diving in from the side of the garden, shot across the top of the feeders and climbed as it exited the end of the garden. That wasn't so unusual and I thought to myself, another photo opportunity lost.

That wasn't the end of the matter though. Within a few seconds the Sparrowhawk had circled round and performed exactly the same routine - diving in from the side, down over the feeders and climbing as it left the end of the garden. This time though some of the small birds which had been hiding in a tree broke cover and the hunter rapidly followed them until they were out of sight.

What I was wondering was - had I seen a deliberate tactic where the Sparrowhawk attempts to unnerve and scare the smaller birds into breaking cover?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

More Autumn Colour

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down.

[Lewis Carroll]

Autumn Tree

Autumn hath all the summer's fruitful treasure;
Gone is our sport, fled is poor Croydon's pleasure.
Short days, sharp days, long nights come on apace,
Ah! who shall hide us from the winter's face?
Cold doth increase, the sickness will not cease,
And here we lie, God knows, with little ease.
From winter, plague, and pestilence, good Lord, deliver us!

[Thomas Nashe]

More Autumn Colour


autumn is a clocks changing
and dark evening after school

autumn is shiny conkers
and seeing who finds most

autumn is leaves flikering down
into heaps on the roadsides

autumn is birds flying south
to escape the snow

autumn is football
and our team ready to win

autumn is deed leaves and windy walkes
bonfires and hot sausages

[Mehwish Shakeel]

Churchyard Chicken

 Once again the poems were found on the Poemhunter site - a searchable place with half a million poems, songs and quotations.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

I thought last week's puzzle photo would be difficult. The clue mentioning thinking digitally put some off as I hadn't even thought of fingers. It was electronic digits, ones and zeros I was thinking about. Also the colours sent others in the wrong direction. The object was hard to illuminate as it was so close, maybe 1mm, from the objective lens and tends to reflect all sorts of colours anyway. So - no gold stars last week though the thoughts of a glove or TV type screen were very good possibilities.

To put you out of your misery here it is - a CD. The pattern you can see are the minute pits burned by the laser when making the music track.

mag001    P1010628 CD

On to the new challenge. This should be a lot easier: Magnification about 100X

Clue: It is woofly the correct colour for once.

This one was taken with my new set up. Different microscope which has an adaptor to let me fix the 350D so I can hopefully get clearer photos. Microscope, lenses and camera were all bought s/h on ebay.

Microscope and Camera

No prizes for a correct guess, just a bit of fun to start the week.
Related Posts with Thumbnails