Monday, 31 January 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What + Nest Box Update

No fooling people last Monday with Adrian, Jan, Keith, Frank, Glo and Wilma each deserving a gold star for the correct identification of an apple pip / seed. What surprised me was how hairy it looked close up.

rectangle_New-Out99999  P1020054

Let's see how well you folk get on with this week's puzzle picture.


Clue: No use putting the chip pan on..

No prizes. Just for fun.


The Great Tit continues to use the box as a roost every night. Several visits are made during the day and occasionally her partner joins her inside for very brief periods. Things are definitely looking up for it being a nesting site in the Spring.

A snapshot from the video camera in the roof of the box.
Great Tits in the Nest Box

Saturday, 29 January 2011

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (UK)

This weekend is the time for the annual January RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The idea being to spend an hour observing and counting the birds which visit your garden or local park. Full information HERE on the RSPB web site.

This time I decided to undertake my garden bird count earlier in the day. Usually I count them somewhere between mid morning and mid afternoon. Today I chose a start time of 8.30 a.m. The aim is to count the maximum number of each species which actually land in the garden (ground, feeders, bird table, etc.) at any one time .


Balackbird   18
Starling      6
Chaffinch     5
Rook          3
House Sparrow 2
Wood Pigeon   2
Tree Sparrow  1
Goldfinch     1
Blue Tit      1
Great Tit     1
Dunnock       1
Collared Dove 1
Jackdaw       1
Sparrowhawk   1

Three times while I was watching all the birds vanished in the blink of an eyelid so I guessed there was a raptor about. On the third occasion I saw it swoop low over the lawn and land on the fruit cage - unfortunately it didn't stay long enough to get it in focus with the camcorder. For the first time here it was a male Sparrowhawk. I usually see a female.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Amorous Wood Pigeon, Pair of Stock Doves

There hardly seems to be any time of year when the Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves don't think about breeding.

On cold days recently there has often been a solitary Stock Dove and very occasionally a pair visiting the garden.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you and don't forget that this weekend is  RSPB  Big Garden Birdwatch time in the UK. Can you spare an hour any time over the weekend to count the bird visitors to your garden or other area? If so visit the  RSPB web site for details.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Getting Ready for Spring

With the temperature reaching the heady height of 10.5C yesterday I spent a little time tidying up in the garden and Bobby managed to sprawl out on the grass for an hour or so. At the same time I was on the lookout for things to practice my macro photography.

On checking the fruit cage I could see buds on the blackcurrant bushes were showing signs of life. Actual size about 8mm. 25 photos stacked using CombineZP.

Blackcurrant Bush Bud

Also showing were lots of buds on my large Leylandii tree.
Actual bud size about 7mm. 12 photos stacked using CombineZP.

Buds on Leylandii Tree

By the end of the day we were back to gloomy wet weather and it was no better this morning on our perambulations. It looks as though we are going to be back to frosty weather soon but it was great to have one day of pleasant weather and to breathe in some fresh air.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Congratulations to the four visitors who made a correct identification of last week's puzzle picture.

rectangle_New-Out99999   Moss From the Lawn

Gold stars for Keith, Glo, Matron and Wilma who identified it as moss. Like Matron I have plenty of it growing in my lawn. At least the Blackbirds have cleared it out from round the edges.

Now for the new photo - taken through the microscope. I'll tell you now it is not a coconut.
Strong lighting made it appear brighter than it really is.


Clue: When it's grown up it may help keep the doctor away.

No prizes - just for fun.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Blue Tit Drinking

Just the one video this week. It has been more than a bit on the dull side for much in the way of photography recently. When I first spotted this Blue Tit I wondered whether it had been in a scrap. Then I realised its downy feathers were still fluffed out as it was early morning and it had probably just woken up.

 Sometimes I wish I had a camcorder which could film in very low light levels. As this morning was the first well below freezing for a while there were more Blackbirds milling round the lawn than ever at 7.30 a.m.. I gave up counting at forty. The previous few mornings the numbers had dropped to about a dozen.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Heath Robinson Meets Heather

In general I've been disappointed with the quality of some, many really, of the stacked macro photos I've taken. The main difficulty being changing the focus by minute amounts between shots. Last week I spotted an article on the DIYPhotography web site which explained a system for automatically moving the photographic subject for each shot. I though to myself I could do something like that so I have been in Heath Robinson mode for the past three days and came up with this:

Photographing Stacked Photos

Canon 350D, cheap Chinese bellows, s/h Super Takumar 1:2 55mm lens.
On the piece of wood:
Stripped computer DVD player keeping the stepper motor and laser carrier. (Sprig of Heather mounted in pink Blu Tack) On the right - relay to fire the camera.
Breadboard with Arduino Nano (left) pulsing a stepper motor driver (centre) and the camera relay.
On the right the 5V regulated power supply.

This photo of one heather flower is built from 59 stacked photos processed with CombineZP.

rectangle_New-Out99999 Heather

As I have the Arduino Nano programmed at the moment it moves the subject one step, waits for vibration to settle, fires the camera, waits one second and then repeats the process. This it does 25 or 50 times depending on the position of one of the switches. If more photos are needed I push the reset button to carry the process on again. On my calculation each step is 0.15mm.

This time I am pleased with the result though it takes CombineZP quite a while to process all the shots - worth the wait though.


After thinking about increasing the sharpness of the resulting stacked photo I took a series in RAW. CombineZP doesn't accept RAW so I converted them all to BMP which CombineZP can work with. It was much faster processing the 69 shots in this stack and with a bit of processing in PaintshopPro to add  more contrast this was the result: Full frame with no cropping. I also increased the time from moving the subject to taking the shot to 1.5 seconds to allow vibrations to settle down.

rectangle_New-Out99998x Heather

I think I will be satisfied with that, for now.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Bath Too Far

Spotted this Wood Pigeon a while ago. At first I couldn't work out whether it was soaking wet or had been in a fight.

Wet Pigeon

In the end I decided it was soaking wet. My thought is that it had either been very vigorous  in bathing in the waterfall on the pond or it had fallen in. Looking at it I think it had, as I have often seen, been standing on the raised edge of the pond to drink and lost its balance. Either way it took a couple of days for it to dry out completely.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Missed Photo Opportunity - Rooks Sharing Food

This is something I have read about and now seen with my own eyes for the first time. I often put a slice of bread in one of the fat ball feeders near the bottom of the garden. The Rooks always arrive early in the morning and having the bread to go at keeps them away from the other feeders.

This morning, as usual, they spotted me in the kitchen and flew to a nearby tree. One had a large piece of bread in its beak. Another Rook landed on the same branch and leaned towards the first with wide open beak. After a few attempts at begging it was rewarded. The first Rook gave some of its bread to the second.

They were both adults as would be expected in the Winter. Of course I started up the video camera which is always ready on a short tripod on the work surface near the window but I was spotted and they all flew away. I can but hope that another opportunity arises to film this activity which may be part of the social group bonding or part of the mating ritual as occurs with Robins.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Well, well. I win again. Poor old Bobby was mortified to think that anyone should accuse him of digging up my concrete. lol. Those looking towards our feathered friends were nearly there. The actual culprits - Blackbirds. They dig everywhere looking for anything edible. I have watched them many times pecking into that piece of path and scattering the ballast pebbles all over the place.

P1010983   Blackbird Digging in Concrete

As always my thanks to those who put forward their thoughts..

This week we are back to a macro photo taken with the 350D through bellows fitted with an old Super Takumar 55mm lens. Twelve shots stacked using CombineZP.

Last week's Friday at the Flicks should give you the answer. No prizes for a correct identification - just for fun.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Common Gull, Bathing Blackbird

I often see gulls flying around the village but rarely see one land. This Common Gull rested for a while on top of the telegraph pole just past the end of my garden. Gulls often seem to stand on one leg but I had a feeling by the way this one was standing it may have injured its left leg.

If I lean over the kitchen work surface I can just see the pond waterfall. The other day a Blackbird was having a good old wash and brush up.

Still on the subject of Blackbirds - they spend a lot of their time looking under every stone and searching every crevice to find food. It ends up with moss and gravel being thrown all over the garden.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bird Visitors to My Garden

That was the title I gave to my very first post two years ago. How time flies. It feels like only a few months since I took the plunge and wondered if I would find enough to waffle on about to keep the blog going.

A few days ago I got to wondering just how many different species of birds visit my garden so I sat down and made a list of those which had visited so far this month. I was more than a bit surprised when the total reached twenty different species. Here they are though few of the photographs were taken this month as the lighting conditions have been so dull. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mostly very common garden birds here.

You can click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos, the arrows near the thumbnails will move back and forth through the list. Click on 'close' to get back to the thumbnails. Alternatively click on the first (top left) thumbnail and use the arrows next to the large picture to go through them all. Hovering over a large photo reveals its name.

My thanks to all who have visited Midmarsh Jottings over the past two years and I hope to see many of you again in the coming year. It is very flattering and encouraging to see over 23000 visits from 114 different countries.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

A full house for the end of last year but unfortunately a resounding zero for the start of 2011. The clue: Felix was referring to the cartoon character Felix the cat. Kin is another word for relative - hence it was a close view of a catkin. This one was from my corkscrew hazel bush.

rectangle_New-Out99998 P1010986

Now for something a little different - not a what is it but a who done it.
A few years ago I laid some concrete outside my greenhouse but I got the mixture a bit too sandy. Last winter the ice started to crack it but something else decided to join in the demolition job. Can you guess what?


No prizes - just for fun.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Great Tit, Stock Dove

The Great Tit continues to use the nest box every night, Yesterday morning I managed to get a bit of video from outside the box as it left.

It was quite a surprise yesterday to see a very nervous Stock Dove in the garden. It spent a lot of its time being chased around by the Wood Pigeons but did manage to find a few peaceful moments to eat some of the scattered seed.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A Few Flowers to Brighten up a Dreary Winter Day

The only thing I didn't like about the 3D flash I made yesterday is that the music starts immediately on loading - something I personally dislike when I visit other web sites so I replaced it with a new one without sound.

I liked the program so much I took advantage of the offer to add, for a small remuneration, their classic flash gallery maker. This is made using one of the variety of styles from that set:

A few cheerful flowers taken over the past few years.

You can click on the thumbnails or hover over the large picture and use the arrows to change the choice of photo. The arrows under the thumbnails only work if there are lots more photos in the flash.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

3D Flash Albums - Today's Give Away of the Day

As some of you may remember I keep an eye on the  GiveAway of the Day website for any interesting goodies. Today they have Aneesoft 3D Flash Gallery 2.4 available to download and keep the fully working version for free. This will be available until approximately 8am GMT tomorrow. I assume it is only for PC users.

The program is very simple to use to build you own 3D flash galleries. It needs Adobe Flash Player 10 to be installed on your computer. You can access GOTD site by looking down the right hand side of this blog. Once on their site click on the large yellow button - proceed to download page - and choose the download. It is a zipped file. Read the instructions in the text file contained in the zipped file.

This is just a very quick test flash I made. (They can't touch you for it)
Use the mouse cursor to choose a photo, click on it to enlarge, click on it again to get back to the choices.
There is a sound mute button near the bottom right.

There are 21 different styles of display and music can be added. For use on a blog the main problem might be finding somewhere to store it. I had to use my Pro Photobucket account as it doesn't allow .swf files on a free account. The program can also make executable files and screensavers of your flash galleries.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

What an excellent end to the 2010 season of puzzle pictures. Four people made a guess and all were correct. Gold stars to Glo, Adrian, Keith and Wilma who all worked out that it was a stopwatch.

2   P1010981

Now on to the first puzzle picture for 2011. This is about 40x magnification taken through the microscope built up with 12 shots processed using CombineZP.


Clue: Not really one of Felix's relatives.

Have fun puzzling it out. No prizes, just your name in lights if correctly identified.

Blackbirds: During the few days the temperature was above zero the number of visiting early morning Blackbirds had fallen but this morning there were more than ever. I counted 33 (yes thirty-three) and there could have been a few more in the shadows as it was only just getting light at the time. Makes me wonder just how many there are in the village. My garden seems to have become the village birdy seed kitchen. Also visiting were about six Rooks and a similar number of Jackdaws.
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