Monday, 30 April 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What + What a Difference

Hard to make my mind up what to award for last week's guesses. No one said exclusively that it was a digital watch though all hedged their bets (lol) - hence the clue 'handy to know when' so I guess it is silver stars all round for Keith, Wilma and Jan.

(slightly different displays as these were taken at different times)
IMG_0260    IMG_0269

I hope this week's puzzle photo, taken today, will be easier
Guess what:
P1030654 copy

I know, I know - there are lots of yellow coloured flowers so....
Clue:A very prickly customer. (clue was revised as I had completely mis-identified the plant!)

No prizes, just for fun.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday was the 13th consecutive wet day with 13 continuous hours of rain though only half an inch was recorded by my weather station.  Enough for my back garden to start disappearing under water...

Fortunately that had already started to recede by this morning.
What a difference today brought.
Wall to wall warm Sunshine and beautiful blue sky all day.

Panorama taken with the iPhone.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Foul Weather but Lovely Sunset

Only a few very short showers on Saturday (the eleventh consecutive wet day) but a cold breeze blowing in from the North Sea was gradually strengthening with dark clouds drifting across the sky. In spite of this, for a brief period there was a lovely Sunset which I just happened to notice when I went through to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Grabbing the TZ7 I fired off a few shots across my fence:



Saturday, 28 April 2012

An LTT in the Garden - at last

It was starting to rain, nothing new there then, and the feeders needed topping up. Once that task was completed various finches and other birds started to arrive. The first visitor to the fat ball feeder was a lone Long Tailed Tit. It must be about two years since the last time I saw any at the Birdy Bistro. Stood well back in the kitchen and managed a few hurried shots before it left.

All these are taken with the 50D at 400mm zoom, cropped and then tweaked in Photoshop Elements 10 using the Guide, Saturated Slide Film Effect.

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Great Tit Nest:
Mrs GT continues to incubate her seven eggs with occasional excursions out of the nest box and Mr GT makes occasional visits with food for her.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Collared Dove + Safe Cage

A while ago some Wood Pigeons found they could scrape through a gap through the wire mesh to feed on the Bird Table so I made the gap smaller. It didn't take the Collared Doves long to work out that the gap was still large enough for them to gain access.

About two years ago I looked at the commercial ground cages which allow smaller birds to feed but keep out the larger ones. I decided to throw together my own version but the birds didn't take to it when it was on the ground. A few days ago I decided to give it another try out. This time it is about a yard above ground and next to bushes.


It took a very short time for a Chaffinch to investigate and it has been constantly visited since.

Next job, if it ever stops raining, (10 continuous days with rain so far) is to rebuild it to fit the size and shape of the plastic tray which should raise the base where the camera can get a better view of the visitors. So far only finch size birds have entered, usually in the side and out through the top. Wood Pigeons have tried to get their heads in but the food is in the middle. At last the small ground feeders can get their share of the food in peace.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Wings on Wednesday (2) - Levitating Chaffinch

Couldn't resist this:

Levitating Chaffinch

Wings on Wednesday - Great Tit Nest + Busy Bees

Mrs Great Tit continues to incubate her seven eggs with brief visits to the outside world. Every so often Mr Great Tit arrives with food for her.

The nest box is in a secluded space in the garden, fixed to the back wall of my shed. It is facing virtually due North and there are high thick bushes nearby.

Nest Box

For the past few days one of my weeping bushes which is full of catkins has been attracting scores of bees. When I walk past it the buzzing is so loud it sounds as though I am walking past a bee hive. They are so busy they take no notice when I put the lens of the Lumix a couple of inches away from them. They all depart with their pollen sacs fully laden.


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

iPhone4 Panorama 2nd Trial + Now We Are Seven

While we were out for our afternoon walk, dodging the showers, I took a 180 degree panorama shot with the iPhone4 using the free app Photosynth. The resultant panorama was tweaked in Photoshop Elements 10 as the ground was very dark on the original. It gives a good view of the cloudy conditions over the Lincolnshire Wolds which are about four miles away. My biggest disappointment is the overall lack of sharpness though that said the iPhone4 cameras are not the best in the world, especially when compared with those used in Sony Ericsson phones. In this day and age 5 Mpixels is a bit on the stingy side and is the thing which put me off buying an iPhone for a long while. (the iPhone4S camera has 8Mpixels which should give better sharpness)

Another 'problem' which shows is the change in brightness which can occur in the individual shots which make up the panorama as the camera is using auto exposure. Interesting to note that the stitching is done at an angle to the vertical. These are particularly noticeable on the left hand side of this panorama.

iPhone Panorama

Clicking on the photo will take you to Flickr where larger views can be seen.

Great Tit Nest

It looks as though the final count is seven eggs this year (six last year, of which only four hatched). Mrs GT has been spending long periods out of the nest leaving the eggs uncovered but incubation seemed to start late yesterday and is continuing today with Mr GT bringing Mrs GT food.

Now we are seven as can be seen in this snapshot from the video feed:

 Seven eggs in the Great Tit Nestbox

Monday, 23 April 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Just two guesses for last week's puzzle photo and both correct so my congratulations and the     gold star    go to Jan and Keith who identified the close view of Blackthorn blossom, which appears in Spring before the leaves. (Taken with the iPhone4)

IMG_0233c    Blackthorn Flowers

An inanimate object for this week's puzzle picture.
(taken with the iPhone4 and the miniature microscope attachment)
Guess What:

Clue: Handy to know when

No prizes, just for fun.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

iPhone Panorama

Free from Microsoft, would you believe, is an app for the iPhone (3GS, 4, 4S with iOS 4.2 or later) called Photosynth. This automatically takes panoramic photos. Well the process is auto though the operator has to turn round. You set up the first view and start the app. As you slowly turn round a real time view is shown on the screen. As this view passes the appropriate point, shown by a moving dotted line on the screen, it automatically takes the next photo. Once a full circle of photos have been saved you click 'finish' and the app stitches the photos together to make the panorama. It is a lot faster doing this than I expected and the result can be saved to the camera roll and / or uploaded to Bing Maps, Facebook or Twitter.

This is a test shot of my unruly back garden:
You can have the raw panorama as stitched in the app:
It looks a bit wavy as I found it difficult to keep the phone level whilst doing a twirl with bright sunlight on the screen.

or automatically cropped in the app:

Clicking on the above photos will take you to Flickr where larger views can be seen.

You don't have to take a full circular view. If it only takes a few photos to get something on 'film' then the stitching process can be started at any time by clicking 'finish'. The app will work in any direction, left to right, up and down and it is possible to build up a photo from a block of 2x2 or 3x3 etc. shots.

 Photosynth can be found as a free download on the iTunes app store. It is also compatible with the iPad 2 and 3.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Now We Are Four

A quick video clip, slowed down to half speed. Mrs GT now has four eggs in her nest:

Now We Are Five:

Mrs GT left the nest for a while and now we can see there are five eggs:

Great Tit Nest with Five Eggs

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Hedgehog Visits

This is one night's recording of Hedgehogs visiting the garden, speeded up. I have taken to scattering their dried mealworms and crushed unsalted peanuts instead of putting them in a dish so there is room for more than one to eat at the same time. On that evening there were a pair - but not for sharing food.

This is the normal speed recording of the meeting. I see the male hasn't improved his chat up line. It is still a question of barging in to make the female aware of his presence. I think he quickly got fed up with getting a face full of spines:

Great Tits:
I could see at least three eggs in the nest box today. Mrs GT is still bringing in soft nesting material to line the nest. During the day she spends long periods out of the nest, usually covering the eggs before she leaves. That makes sure the eggs don't get too warm and start incubating too soon. Full time roosting will start when they are all laid. Last year there were six eggs. She does spend the night in the box.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wings on Wednesday - Magpie

For a couple of days a Magpie has been raiding the bird table. Each time it grabs as much as it can cram in its beak. I guess there is a brood nearby as there is very little time between visits.

Most times it keeps one foot firmly on the entrance so it can make a quick get away.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

What a Day to Start a Family

Woke up as usual at about six this morning to be greeted by rivers of rain running down the outside of the bedroom window. We both put on our waterproofs and went for a short walk. Not just rain, about 70/30 rain with snow mixed in.

Yesterday Mrs Great Tit spent a while on and off in her nest, each time carefully tucking nest material under her as though she was sitting on eggs though I couldn't see any even when she left the nest. Once I spotted the male bring some food for her:

This morning as she moved around the nest I could see one, maybe two, eggs which she covers up when she leaves the nest. This will continue until she had laid her full quota.

I hope the weather will have settled by the time there are hatchlings to feed.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What + A Pleasant Visit

Even later this week. I must admit I am feeling a bit on the 'stale' side at the moment when it comes to blogging and I'm days behind on viewing others.
Anyway on with t' show. Only one correct identification to last week's puzzle picture so my congratulations and the    gold star    go to Keith who sussed out it was the end piece of a windmill sail.

1234    Alford 5 sail windmill

In fact it was part of the five sail windmill in Alford, Lincolnshire. You can read about it on Wikipedia or on the official Alford Windmill site. The official site doesn't work for me in Firefox but does work perfectly in Opera.

On to this week's puzzle picture taken a couple of days ago
Guess What:
Clue: A bit of a thorny subject.

No prizes for a correct guess - just for fun.

A Pleasant Visit

Early last week I had an email from Matron (Down on the Allotment) to let me know she was making one of her visits up to Lincolnshire. It was arranged for her to pop over to say hello over a cuppa. A pleasant meeting and exchange of gifts took place and it was really great to put a face to the blog I have been reading for quite some time.
Matron brought
for us (the first policeman I have seen for over five years) and
for Bobby.

To see what Bobby sent for Matron's dog, Leo, have a look at Down on the Allotment.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Singing Great Tit - Two Hedgehogs

A short while ago a Great Tit stayed in view even when I took the video camera outside to film it singing:

As well as the photo shown yesterday I managed a bit of video of the adult and juvenile Hedgehogs at the feeder.

Have a great time observing the wildlife around you wherever you are.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Two at a Time

It is hard to determine exactly how many different Hedgehogs visit the garden every night since they woke from their Winter hibernation. I have a feeling there are at least three but it is rare at the moment to see more than one at a time as they wander through the garden several times between dusk and dawn.  Just occasionally, like last night, two arrive at the same time. Here an adult and a juvenile arrive for their dried mealworms and crushed unsalted peanuts. The adult was there first and the youngster approached very cautiously, keeping low to the ground. This time the adult allowed the juvenile to join it at the feeder.

Adult and Juvenile Hedgehogs

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Wings on Wednesday

On and off I get visits from a Stock Dove. The past couple of days there have been two. Maybe a nesting pair not too far away.

Stock Dove 4

Another visitor which is seen occasionally is the Goldfinch. Recently it has been rare to spot two on the feeder.

Goldfinches 9

This is only the second time I have seen this particular bird. I guess it may be a female Blackbird though the feathers are grey rather than brown. This one is a lot more timid than the regular Blackbirds. It certainly looks like a member of the Thrush family. Any positive identification will be welcomed.


Mrs Great Tit roosted again in the nest box last night and has made a few visits to add softer material to the nest.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

1st Night Roosting in her Nest

I got quite a surprise last night when I switched on the monitor to set things up for Hedgehog watching / recording - there was Mrs Great Tit roosting in her nest. Definitely the safest and driest place to be with the short, sharp tropical downpours we had during the day.

That was followed by some further nest building this morning.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

I seem to be running late today but anyway here we are again. There were quite a few correct identifications for last week's puzzle picture. Congratulations and a     gold star    go to Shirl, John, Wilma, Linda and Jan who worked out it was a close look at a Snakes Head Fritillary. If I had a silver star it would go to Glo who got part way there.


Snakes Head Fritilliary

This week I have cropped a small section from the print of a photo I took way back when 35mm cameras used film...
Guess What:

Clue: Could be a somewhat corny object.

No prizes, just for fun.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Nest Building GT Style

Mrs Great Tit has been working exceptionally hard these past two days fetching material for her nest. I don't think it will be long before it is completed. This from this morning, several visits with the gaps removed but otherwise at normal speed:  (silent)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Nest Building Continues but gets Interrupted.

Mrs Great Tit worked very hard most of yesterday fetching material to build her nest in the camera nest box. For the first time I experimented with a cheap radio microphone to pick up some of the ambient sounds. The microphone listens through a hole in the back wall of the shed about a foot away from the box.

The furious activity came to an abrupt halt about 3.30p.m. when a Sparrowhawk caught a Starling in the back garden. Mrs GT had just left the nest and for a short while I was worried that she had been caught. Once the Sparrowhawk had caught its prey the surrounding birds kicked up a deafening row with their alarm calls. One photo opportunity I missed was when a brave? / silly? / angry? Blackbird dive bombed the raptor.

Sparrowhawk with Starling

I also have video of much of the event which can be seen HERE. The Starling did its best to fight back and for a while the Sparrowhawk had to be very cautious as the Starling tried to attack with that long sharp beak.

Mrs GT didn't return to the nest box yesterday and I wondered if the event would put her off the site so I was relieved to see her visit the box about 7.30 this morning.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Nest Building, Robin, Tadpoles

Nest building in the camera nest box came to a halt for the best part of two days as heavy rain moved south over the country. We had one inch (about 24mm) in less than 24hrs - a lot for this part of the country. It won't go far towards alleviating the drought conditions though it did top up my pond.. At one stage the female Great Tit settled down in there, tucked her head under a wing and had a well deserved rest. This morning activity has started again and the nest is progressing slowly. This is a capture from this mornings activity. A lot of effort goes in to trying to tame the unruly bits of moss she brings.

One of the regulars at the bird table is a Robin Redbreast. Normally it nips in, grabs a bite to eat and rushes off again but this morning it stayed long enough to get some video.

The little bits of chocolate looking embryos are now recognisable tadpoles able to swim around the nursery pool looking for food.

 Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you wherever you are.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Wings on Wednesday - Nest Building Started

Over the past few days the Great Tits had been making more frequent and longer visits to the camera nest box so I was hoping it would be chosen again this year. Mid afternoon Monday saw the female Great Tit start fetching material to build a nest. This is a cut down version of some of the activity. Sometimes she would spend five minutes pushing the material around the bottom of the box. At one stage the male nearly got dive bombed as he was blocking the entrance to the box when she returned. As the female is the one with new feathers growing on her head it is easy to spot which is which.

This photograph I took last year after the youngsters had flown the nest will give an idea of how much work there is yet to do in making a cosy nest.


Just a quick visit was made by both to the box yesterday but a few rain showers seemed to put an end to nest building for a while. Heavy rain today so it will be a while before suitable nest building material will be available again.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Daffodil, Victorian Style

I spent a while scouring some sites for free illustrated ebooks about plants and gardening, not that I came up with much that was of interest to me. One title did catch my eye .....

IMG_0190   IMG_0189

(right click - open in a new tab - will show a larger view of illustrations)

... so I downloaded a copy to the iPad to see what it was about. I tried both the EPUB and PDF versions. The EPUB version loads pages quickly but is spoilt by short amounts of spurious gibberish text over many of the illustrations. This will be a result of whatever automated process was trying to interpret the fancy lettering. The PDF version is a perfect copy but each page can take a while to appear.

Here are a couple of pages - Daffa-Down-Dilly and Eyebright:

 IMG_0187   IMG_0188

These are typical of what to expect from the rest of the book. I would find it difficult to identify many of the plants mentioned from the illustrations but then it was designed as a fantasy entertainment, not as a botanical reference.

For those who like to look for ebooks on the iPad, especially free ones, a useful app is 'eBook Search', itself a free download from the app store. In the app you can browse or search Project Gutenberg's 33,000 public domain books; Feedbooks (Classics and modern original books); Baen Books (SciFi and Fantasy), Smashwords (books from independent authors) and the Internet Archive's 1.8 million titles. Some sites have a mixture of free and paid books. Once a title is chosen it can be downloaded directly to the iBook reader or many other apps which can handle eBooks. Quality of copies, especially public domain and archived books can vary a lot but with only download time to lose it is worth a look at anything which tickles your fancy.

Of course using an iPad is not the only way to find and read eBooks. There are programs for the Mac and PC which can also do the job.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Once more my congratulations and a   gold star  go to Anon in Minnesota, Adrian, Jan, Keith and Wilma who correctly identified the developing frog spawn in last week's mystery photo.



The photo was taken late in the day and the spawn appeared brown under the low angle of sunlight. With all the warm weather here in the past week many of them are now freely swimming tadpoles.

I wonder what you will make of this week's puzzle photo
Guess What:

If you need a clue: It won't be slithering across the rockery.

No prizes - just for fun.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Exercise For People Over 50


Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.
With a 5-lb  potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.
Each day you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb  potato bags.
Then try 50-lb potato bags, (I'm at this level) and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag. ;>)
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