Monday, 31 December 2012

Nearly There

Pop Goes the Video

This morning I had a play with the video facilities in the Nikon S9050. Last night I had a browse through the owners manual - all 200 pages of it! For a camera which cost me less than £100 it has a whole host of facilities. As I thought, the colour 'popping' facility works on video as well as stills. There are quite a few choices for video quality and speed. I set it to 720p 16:9 for normal video (it will go better but for YouTube I keep the file sizes down) There is also the facility for high speed video, in effect that is slow motion when watched.

This is normal wide screen 720p starting in full colour and then popped red. Colour cannot be changed while videoing so you have to stop, change and then start again. That only takes a couple of seconds. The camera has a 15x optical zoom. As I was using all of that the camera was fixed on a tripod in the kitchen.

The next video was shot at 4x speed. The higher the frame rate, the smaller the picture. At this speed the video is 640x480. There is an 8x speed with a video size of 320x240.
Although the video subject is clear I was disappointed that it came out very dark and needed a lot of tweaking to see what was going on. For high speed filming the camera only shoots 10 seconds and then automatically reverts to normal speed. No sound is recorded.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Pop Goes the Scenic View

Following on from my earlier post I took the Nikon with us on our mid-day walkies down the lane. There was glorious Sunshine but the wind chill made it feel raw in spite of the outside thermometer showing 7.3C. Hanging on to Penny while taking photos as she tries to join in with a couple of Spaniels which were dashing about a few feet away is quite an art but I got there in the end. Again it was to see how the in camera colour 'popping' would work.

One of the views from the end of the lane:
Cropped but otherwise as taken with the camera:

Nikon Coolpix S9050 - full colour

Nikon Coolpix S9050- blue filter

Nikon Coolpix S9050- green filter

That's got that out of my system - for now!

What Will They Think of Next?

A few days ago a Nikon Coolpix S9050 caught my eye in the Amazon end of year sales. One of the facilities in it took my interest and as the camera seemed to me to be a good price I ordered one.

What was it that caught my interest? The ability to take the equivalent of colour popped photos in the camera. Today I had a little play to see how it worked. Not a lot of colour about at this time of year.  Set the camera to effects, choose special effects then selective colour from the menu. Now you have an on screen choice of full colour or one of twelve colours that can be cycled through with the result seen in real time on the LCD screen.

Here are a few test shots - no added processing apart from cropping:

Penny's Pooh Bear, full colour with the inset photo taken with a red filter choice:

A red filter choice on some remaining rose blossoms:

 For the flowers it would be better to go close in but I needed my wellies to get much closer!

Orange seeds:

Blue sky with one of the blue filter choices:

Blue collar:

Grass with one of the green filter choices:

Woodwork with an orange filter choice:

Popping colour with a program like Photoshop will always pick out the true colour as photographed though it can be quite fiddly to get right up to the edge of the colour you want. The built in choices in the Nikon will often be a compromise but there will be times when it is worth experimenting 'in the field' to see what effects can be made. It gives another 'artistic' ability to the photographer in a nice little camera which fits easily in a shirt pocket. I will probably have more to say about the camera's general abilities at a later date.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Blackcap

Visits from our feathered friends have been quite scarce for a few days. Partly down to the milder weather but partly down to a Sparrowhawk making what looks like daily visits. Yesterday started quietly, literally, as I did not hear a bird all morning but by mid-day some brave and hungry birds began to make lightning visits to the feeders. Most would grab a bite to eat and immediately fly to the nearest bush.

I was watching one small bird eating the apple and initially though a sparrow had taken a liking to it. It wasn't until it flew away that I saw it was a female Blackcap. I set up the cameras in case she came back. Fortunately she did, spending a little while at the suet ball feeder:

In all I saw her three times and hope she will be back again when the lighting is better for still photographs as Blackcaps are rare visitors to my garden.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Christmas Hedgehog


I hope you all had as much fun on Christmas morning as Penny had with her Christmas Hedgehog.

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Moon's a Balloon

Glorious day yesterday, for the time of year. At Sunrise it was 13C, followed by sunshine nearly all day. The temperature only dropped to about 8C by sunset. I even got a bit of tidying up done in the front garden. During our last walk-about of the day I noticed the Moon shining in a totally clear sky. Seeing it reminded me of David Niven's book, The Moon's a Balloon. I used to have a copy which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I have no idea what happened to it but it gave me the urge to read it again.

When we arrived back home I got out the 50D and set it up on a tripod to take a few photos of the Moon. Lighting conditions were ideal for the shadows to show up some of the craters towards the edge.

Canon 50D,  EF IS 100-400mm at 400mm,  cropped

Unfortunately it was too high in the sky to include any foreground but the remaining light in the sky did make it easier to get a reasonable exposure to the shots.

Nice surprise and Christmas present from Flickr. I have a Pro account as it enables me to have lots of folders to keep the photos sorted and on checking the latest upload there was an offer of an extra free three months which could be added to my account. Brilliant.

Later I had a search to see if there was an eBook version of The Moon's a Balloon. I found a few in epub format at a reasonable price but the only two reviews on the iTunes store put me off. Both were pretty scathing about the number of typographical errors.

Back to normal today - it's just started raining!

Thank you to all who suggested names for Penny's lamb. There are so many good ones I still haven't made my mind up. Must go and wrap her Christmas present - a Christmas Hedgehog.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas to All Our Visitors

Christmas week has finally crept up on me so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, dry, peaceful time.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Those LTTs Again

During the week I made another log feeder for the peanut butter. Also I now have two varieties of the butter. A few days ago Shirl (of Shirl's Gardenwatch ) mentioned the variety she uses so I had a look on the net to see if it was available mail order. Not only did I find several places where it could be ordered but it was better value, money wise, than that sold specifically for birds.


On the left is the 330g jar of peanut butter for birds at £2.99

On the right a 1Kg tub of pure unsalted peanut butter at £5.49


The new peanut butter feeder. Made with smalller holes, half inch diameter instead of one inch. It is taking a while for the birds to get used to the new peanut butter but, like most new foods, it is slowly catching on.

A quick capture of a few Long Tailed Tits sampling the new stuff.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Talk about being in the right place at the right time ..... I was literally just positioning the camcorder to video anything of interest attracted by my home made peanut butter feeder when a female Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived. At least, I assume it was a female and not a juvenile. The adult male has a red patch on the back of its neck.

This one stayed for a couple of minutes and was the first bird I have seen see off a Starling which tried to barge in on the act. Just as well as once the Starling brat pack arrives it is difficult for other birds to get a look in.

Audio track was made using the Animoog app on an iPad2
The peanut butter used is specially formulated without salt for feeding to wildlife. Many varieties made for human consumption have added salt which is not good for the birds.
It looks as though I got the length of the log just about right as woodpeckers press their tail feathers against the wood for balance as they cling on.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Macro on Tuesday + Name That Lamb

Yesterday was a bit busy so I didn't get round to showing the answer to last week's Guess What. No one gave the fully correct answer to the puzzle photo:


Most got the idea that it was an insectivorous plant but thought it was a Venus Flytrap. In fact it was a pitcher plant - Sarracenia purpurea.  My plant is looking a bit worse for wear at the moment:


No new Guess What for a while. Many thanks to those who have had a go at guessing the various puzzle pictures I have put up during the year. I will probably start again in the new year.

This week it's name that animal time. Monty the Moose had a short hard life as Penny's favourite toy. She had hurled it around the room so often it eventually fell apart enough for her to remove the stuffing. That has now been replaced with a lamb.



Sixteen squeakers plus an internal bell and definitely her favourite for now but it needs a name so if  you want to make any suggestions I will choose one.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Determined Magpie

Where there's a will there's a way!
If you can't cling on to a vertical surface to get at the peanut butter, use the battering ram technique:

Video processed at half speed.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tits

A few birds have now started to use the peanut butter feeder I bought from CJ Wildlife - Starlings and House Sparrows have to hover as they can't get a grip on the metal. Blue Tits do manage to stand on the lip:

Long Tailed Tits are rare visitors to my garden so I was very lucky to get these shots a few days ago. It was a pity they used the peanut feeder which was hidden behind the log feeder but they can still be see. As usual they move around in groups and are the only birds I have never seen squabble as they cluster together. Yes, that is the first of the snow you can see falling:

Most amusing to watch, but too short to be filmed, have been attempts made by a couple of Magpies trying to get at the log peanut butter feeder. The fly at it and try to snatch a beak full before they fall back down to earth. As the morning started with a temperature of -2.5C and a layer of snow all the feeders were in great demand. The Winter gathering of Blackbirds in the garden has started which is guaranteed to spark of squabbles when one invades another's private space. Spotted yesterday was a Mistle Thrush which was too timid to stay very long.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Blue Tit at the Peanut Butter Feeder

A regular visitor to the home made feeder.
I have also seen them use the commercial feeder as well.

Blue Tit eats Peanut Butter.jpg

Really pleased today when I spotted a whole bunch of Long Tailed Tits descend on a peanut feeder. No photo though there may be some video for Friday.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star
A brilliant week for last Monday's Guess What. All eight guesses were correct. My congratulations and a virtual gold star to Bonnie, Jopan, Adrian, Glo, Wilma, ImaBurdie, TexWisGirl and Shirl. It was indeed a clothes peg / pin:

2012-11-26 11.03.29.jpg

2012-11-26 11.05.09.jpg

I wonder how many will be able to identify this week's puzzle photo.
Guess What:


Clue: Could be bad news if you were a fly.

No prizes. Just for fun. Answer and any guesses will be revealed next Monday.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Great Spotted Woodpecker

The Great Spotted Woodpecker visited later in the day than I expected. So far it doesn't seem to have sampled the peanut butter, just the peanuts. That gave a Blue Tit a chance to visit the log feeder:

So far Blue Tits, Great Tits and Starlings have tried out the log feeder.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Home Made Peanut Butter Feeder

A short while ago I saw a peanut butter feeder made from a thin log. The idea being to attract Woodpeckers. As I recently cut down a small tree which was far from healthy I had some bits of branch to try out. Choosing a reasonable thickness of branch I cut off a length, drilled a hole through near the top to put a wire for hanging, then drilled three large holes which I could fill with peanut butter.

 Peanut Butter Feeder-1.jpg

I am using peanut butter marketed for feeding to birds, it not having the added salt which is found in the varieties for human consumption. At first I wondered whether the butter would be soft enough to manipulate as the jars are meant to be put up horizontally and the peanut butter is fairly solid. As it turned out it was easy to scrape out with a round ended knife and pack in the holes in the log.

After a short trial with the log hanging on a hook I soon found out that Starlings could stand on the top and reach down so I hastily adder a 'roof' to the log. This does not stop them but makes it much harder work as they have to cling to the vertical wood and don't stay very long.

This is a very short first visit (slowed down to half speed) by a Blue Tit so it looks as though the log will attract some visitors.

Here's hoping for a few visits from the Woodpecker which occasionally visits the garden.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Apples, Pheasant

No sign of any Winter visiting thrushes here as yet but the local Starlings and Blackbirds are tucking in to the apples I put out. The apples are fixed on a bolt so they stay in place:

The cock Pheasant seems to have become a regular morning visitor. As I thought, Penny doesn't exactly welcome large birds to her garden but, ungainly as it is, the Pheasant can take off faster than Penny can reach it. Here it is cleaning up the seed scattered from the feeders by the Starlings:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Who Will be the First?

An extra feeder put up yesterday. A new item from CJ Wildlife, my regular bird food supplier. This is a well built hefty metal bracket which holds a jar of peanut butter. These jars are filled with peanut butter which doesn't contain the salt the human variety has. There is a bolt at the top which is gently screwed down on the neck of the jar and stops it from falling out.

Peanut Butter Feeder.jpg

I wonder who will be the first to find,  investigate and try it out.
Although there is a bit of a 'perch' under the jar I think it needs a bit of tinkering as the metal coating is very smooth and slippery. Maybe a felt or rubber pad to give a bit of traction.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

King of the Castle

When I see a bird sitting on the highest place it can find to observe the world it always reminds me of the days when as youngsters we played King of the Castle where we would battle to hold on to the highest place around.

European Starling (Stumus vulgaris)

King of the Castle 1.jpg

King of the Castle 2.jpg

At the moment there are not so many as in previous years and they are visiting less frequently. They are so quarrelsome, greedy and wasteful in the way they scatter food all over the place the smaller birds are able to get their fair share of the seed I put out.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star
Three correct guesses for last week's Guess What. Congratulations and virtual gold stars go to Bonnie, John and Jan for thinking it was part of an apple. It was what was left after several Starlings had had their fill.

2012-11-19 09.47.22.jpg

2012-11-19 09.47.57.jpg  

I sliced off the top of the apple to make it easier for the birds to get started. The Starlings rapidly ate the soft inner and eventually the circle of skin that was left dropped off leaving the core.

A man made object for the new mystery object...
Guess What:

2012-11-26 11.03.29.jpg
iPhone4 with add on macro lens

Clue: It's not getting any use in this weather.
No prizes. Just for fun.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Weird Visitor Statistics

Occasionally I check the HiStats statistics. Today it was showing an unheard of, for me anyway, 597 visitors of which 555 are new. Something strange here. Normally I would only see a handful.


The majority of this large number are shown to have come through goo which appears to be a Google system for shortening URLs and more than a few through gemscool which seems to be connected with an Indonesian games site. All these visits accessed only one page.


Looking at the geolocations shown most appear to have come from Mountain View in the US (nearly 500).


I'm not sure whether HiStats is playing silly beggars or what.
A DoS attack on Blogger?

Jan put me on the right track. Google is located in Mountain View and searching elsewhere showed that Midmarsh Jottings is hosted in Mountain View so I guess it was some internal goings on between the Google search engine and Blogspot. I wonder if anyone else using HiStats has seen a similar occurrance.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Wet Feathers

During last Wednesday's persistent rain a group of Goldfinches came to the Birdy Bistro. Also spotted, first time since last Spring, was a Cock Pheasant which sat on the top of the fruit cage for hours in the pouring rain. I often see Wood Pigeons taking advantage of rain to have a shower. They lean over and lift each wing in turn to have a good wash. The Pheasant just sat there looking thoroughly miserable:

During part of the video you can hear a noisy group of House Sparrows which were sheltering in a nearby evergreen bush.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

So Far So Good

Yesterday was the first proper test of the rain gauge with the rain collector outdoors. 'Twas one of those days where it started raining before daybreak, kept it up constantly through daylight hours and continued after dark until about 6 p.m.. Rainfall was never particularly heavy, just persistent.


While it was light enough I took a few photos of the readout. By tea time it had recorded 17 mm (near three quarters of an inch) of rain which should be about right considering how much of the lawn was slowly turning in to a second pond. (background to the illustration) As if the ground wasn't saturated enough already.

I am pleased to say that the real time clock module is keeping excellent time so it was well worth the extra money.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wings on Wednesday

It is a long time since I last had a Wings on Wednesday entry. Amazingly, for the time of year, there has been a dearth of birds visiting the garden this month. Every now and then there is a rush of House Sparrows or Starlings and the Great Tits and Coal Tits are pretty regular but the numbers are well down so far this Winter.

One fleeting visitor was a Stock Dove. I haven't seen one of those for months so this was a welcome sighting.

IMG_5057 Stock Dove.jpg

Not quite so welcome was an early morning visit from a Sparrowhawk. This one was sat on the back of an old wooden chair right next to the Birdy Bistro. What I particularly noticed was the way it had its darker back facing outwards which made it blend in better with the fence in the background.

IMG_5068 Sparrow Hawk.jpg

As soon as it spotted me it flew away to hunt for breakfast elsewhere.


Rain Gauge:

Only a little further with the rain gauge project. Added the ability to switch off the lCD readout in software. The collector is now outside and the electronics in the conservatory while I see how well it works. 3 mm rain recorded yesterday, 4 mm so far this morning.

The unit uses a 9V wall wart power supply but also automatically changes over to a battery during any power interruption - a far from unknown event in this area.

I have decided to change the Arduino Nano for a Mega as the Mega has internal memory I can use to store the results which looks easier to program than the SD card.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star

Two Gold Stars awarded for last week's Guess What. Adrian for correctly identifying Lichen and Bonnie for saying some sort of fungi and a Lichen is a combination of a fungus and algae (see British Lichens, What are Lichens?). Well done both of you.

2012-11-12 14.14.30x.jpg

P1040270 Lichen.jpg

I wonder how you will get on with this week's Guess What.

2012-11-19 09.47.22.jpg
iPhone4 using Camera+ app and add on macro lens

Clue: Was it Blackbirds or Starlings whot done it?

No prizes, just for fun.


When I am building my electronic projects I usually end up with a rats nest of wiring. I couldn't resist taking this shot of a BT engineer working on the phone line junction box opposite my bungalow. How do they ever work out which wire goes to which building? Makes me wonder how I manage to get up to 7Mbits download through copper wire.

P1040278 BT.jpg

Still - as long as it keeps working!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

An Experiment for Shirl

Shirl (Shirl's Gardenwatch) mentioned to me about the ability to use nature reserve scopes with a mobile phone camera. This morning I experimented with my binoculars and iPhone4. I clamped the binoculars to a tripod to hold them steady, focussed on the bird table down the end of the garden and, using the basic camera app, just held the phone camera tight up to the binoculars. A bit of jiggling about to get the phone lens in the right place. No processing of any sort on these photos, apart from the final crop.

The view as seen by the iPhone through the kitchen window:

2012-11-18 09.02.04.jpg

The shot as taken through the binoculars:

 2012-11-18 09.01.51.jpg

Same thing cropped as the view through the binoculars does not fill the frame:

2012-11-18 09.01.51c.jpg

The phone needs to be as near as possible to the binoculars / scope lens so the rubber eye cup was pushed back as far as it would go. The auto focus on the phone camera did the rest as far as focus and exposure went.

Certainly worth a try if the phone is the only camera you have with you in that sort of situation. Gives a reasonable record shot if nothing else.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Fishy Photos

Well fish-eye photos really. A couple of photos of my pond taken with the iPhone fitted with a clip on fish-eye lens. Not the most brilliantly sharp lens combination I have ever used but worth an experiment or two. Must try it with the turntable one day and see how things look. More about the lens another day.

2012-11-15 14.10.35.jpg
iPhone4 with fish-eye add on lens

2012-11-15 14.10.04.jpg
iPhone4 with fish-eye add on lens.
Even though it has lost most of its leaves my small standard rose is still producing bloom.

As you can gather I am out of new videos this Friday. I was hoping to get some of a visiting woodpecker. I had moved both peanut feeders to the Birdy Bistro near the kitchen when I spotted a woodpecker on the top rail. Unfortunately it spotted me and flew away. Then I moved a feeder back towards the end of the garden next to the camera which monitored the bird table so I am hoping it will capture some video when next it visits.
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