Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mystery Photo - Revealed

It's a while since I showed this macro photo and asked if you could guess what it was:


Some wider views of the same object:

2012-08-16 15.28.47c.jpg

2012-08-17 11.10.04crop.jpg

As should be obvious now I was looked at the underneath of a fern frond and the yellow blobs are sporangia - where the spores will be produced.

Congratulations to Wilma who deserves a  gold star for spotting they were spores under a fern frond and my thanks to all who had a go and made a guess.

Measuring Rainfall

The other day Adrian asked how rainfall was measured with my weather station. It is easier to explain with a few photos taken with a similar 'gauge' from an old defunct weather station.

To look at the rainfall measurer it is just a plastic cuboid with a hole in the top. The top surface is sloped to allow the rain water to run down to the hole:

2012-08-29 09.47.11.jpg

Inside is basically a sea-saw so designed that the rain water entering the device runs to the 'bucket' which is horizontal. When the weight of rain water reaches a pre-determined amount the sea-saw flips emptying that bucket and stays in that position until the opposite bucket fills.

2012-08-29 09.46.24EX.jpg

The measuring device consists of a reed switch - a switch operated by a magnet - which is on one side of the upright support . The magnet is on the same side as the bucket and swings with the movement of the sea-saw . When the bucket swings one way the magnet closes the switch - the opposite swing opens the switch.

2012-08-29 09.46.45EX.jpg

The reed switch is wired to the electronics board contained elsewhere. This counts the number of times the switch opens and closes and at some pre-determined count registers 0.01 inches of rain and starts counting again.

All the complicated counting and timing is done with the electronic circuitry.
Adrian - a good project for an Arduino based rainfall gauge!!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Tarka Challenge

A while ago I stumbled across a blog called Tarka Challenge. It is about an 8yr old boy, Rudi, whose favourite book is Tarka the Otter. He has set himself the challenge of seeing every creature and plant mentioned in the book. That is quite a challenge and Rudi has been doing well in his quest which is written about in the blog.

I thought it was fantastic that a youngster has got so interested in the natural world of this country and his parents have obviously been great in encouraging him and taking him to places where he can explore for all the things he wants to see.

I mention this as I have a look every now and then at the blog to see how things are going and thought it would be nice if a few more people could have a look and maybe leave a few words of encouragement for Rudi. You never know you may be reading about the future replacement for David Attenborough.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Stormy Day Updated

Adrian asked whether I had recorded the air pressure. Yes sir. See below.
A second storm has passed through bringing this afternoon's rainfall total to 2.5 inches (64mm) so far:

Rain 2012-08-25_164459.jpg

Air temperature dropped both times:

Temp 2012-08-25_164527.jpg

The pressure dropped overnight as some rain clouds passed through the area and there were some noticeable changes as the storms passed through.

Air Pressure 2012-08-25_164425.jpg

With the rate of rainfall gutters just overflowed so my back lawn has begun to turn in to a lake.

 2012-08-25 17.02.51c.jpg

By the looks of the sky there is more to come yet and this is the dry side of the country!

A Wet Dream (Hammock)

Just had one of those exceptional rain storms. Worst I have seen for many a year. Thunder, tropical downpour, hail ..... Water flowing down the lane like a river.

In less than an hour my weather station recorded 1.33 inches (33.8mm) of rain at a rate of over 2 inches per hour:

Rainfall 2012-08-25_141719.jpg

Of interest, to me anyway, was the change in temperature as the storm passed through:
Dropping from 21C to 15C

Temp 2012-08-25_141852.jpg

Lest I forget - the wet Dream Hammock:
2012-08-25 14.48.28.jpg
Though the cushion is said to be waterproof I had put it away after this morning's siesta..

Clouds building up for the next deluge:
Clouds P1040028.jpg

Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday at the Flicks - LTTs

Another brief visit from the Long Tailed Tits this morning. Unfortunately most of the feeders needed topping up and when they settled on the peanut feeder they were soon barged out of the way by a gang of Starlings. I did manage a few photos:

Long Tailed Tits 2.jpg

A few of the LTTs then investigated the ground feeder and gave an opportunity for my first ever short video clip of them though it is so short I slowed it down to half speed:

Soundtrack made with NodeBeat on the iPad.

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

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Taking a Breather

What does the amateur garden wildlife observer do to have a rest. Well, if you are like me you expend energy to save energy in the long run. For a few years I have debated whether to buy one of those garden swing seat arrangements but these days I am not built for sitting upright for very long. Reclining, now that is another matter. I could recline for England with no problem. Whilst looking through various sites for garden seats I came across a more novel idea which appealed to me so there and then, well after finding about the cheapest place with overnight delivery, I e-handed over the readies before the idea ended up on the Round Tuit pile and sat back to wait. For what? A Dream Hammock.

Yesterday it duly arrived, in various pieces for self assembly of course. A browse of the instruction booklet gave a distinct impression it was along the reputed Ikea school of instructions. This was not a job to be undertaken lightly as the completed thing weighs in at around 40Kg. In spite of the instructions, the provided spanners not fitting the nuts and one small bit being missing I had the skeleton erected in about an hour. having found a suitable replacement for the missing part:


Soon followed by the 'seat'. (There is a cushion to go over that)


No time to test it out though as very soon after reaching this stage the heavens opened - nothing new there then.

Once this morning had warmed up a bit I fitted the cushion ready for the test drive to see whether it would live up to its dreamy name. Of course the on site supervisor kept a watchful eye on proceedings:


Not as cantankerous as a true hammock it still takes a little practice to find the best way of getting on and off as the seat section hangs on a single support and can rotate and rock to some extent.;

(Soundtrack created using Loop Twister on the iPad)

Is it dreamy? 100% so. (or if you are a numerically challenged Chancellor of the Exchequer, 110%)  Once in place on the hammock the shape makes for very comfortable reclining and the way it gently rocks and rotates a little in the wind is very soothing. As you can see I still use my old sunshade as the fiddly one on the hammock is of only partial use, depending on the Sun's position in the sky. Bet the weather takes a nose dive now!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Guess What - Revisited

A bit if a clue to go with last Friday's Guess What as no one came near the correct answer. The guesses were good as far as interpreting what could be seen and I would probably have given a similar answer but you need to think vegetable and not animal.

A bit wider view to help you:
2012-08-16 15.28.47c.jpg

Friday, 17 August 2012

Guess What

There seem to have been no opportunities for taking any new video this week so I thought I would have a Guess What for a change. It is quite a while since I used the mini microscope on the iPhone so here is one I took yesterday: Magnification will be about 80-100x.


No clues, not for the moment anyway..... It will be interesting to see what you think this is.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Swallows on the Move

It is not one swalowe that bryngeth in somer. (From the proverbs of Erasmus) but by the looks of things yesterday afternoon the arrival of about twenty or more Swallows hurtling around the sky above my garden it seems as though they are making their way back to the coast. They will soon be leaving for warmer climates. That must mean we are getting near the end of Summer. What Summer I hear you ask. Well we are well past the longest day so there must have been one some time as we are now heading to Autumn. Daylight hours are noticeably shorter.

It was pure chance that I spotted the Swallows as I was washing up after we had enjoyed a basic but tasty stew. Quite a few took a short rest on the telephone wires just past the end of my garden and spent some time preening their flight feathers. Those birds had shorter tail feathers so I assume they were from this years broods.

Swallows 1

Swallows 2

Swallows 3.jpg

This is the first time I have seen so many together. Normally I only see the odd three or four so it was really pleasant standing in the Sunlight watching the speed and agility of these birds as they hunt the insects flying above the trees. They made the rest of the garden birds look like they were flying in slow motion.

 I don't know what is wrong with my computer but uploading anything has been a real pain recently. I have been lucky if one photo would upload to Flickr using either the web based or the stand alone uploaders. Things would hang with lots of router activity but no progress or they would time out. Today I found a Firefox add on which uploads to many different services and that seemed to work just fine. Let's hope it keeps working!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Venus is Working Hard

Nah! Not the goddess of love, beauty, fertility and prosperity. Think of the plant variety, the Venus Fly Trap. Earlier in the year it surprised me by producing flowers which, incidentally appear to be producing seeds. This plant, unlike others of the same variety I have had in the past, has been doing a grand job reducing the number of flies which insist on exploring my property:

Venus Flytrap 1      Venus Flytrap 4

Venus Flytrap 3

Venus Flytrap 2

This has been a bumper year for flies. I have a traditional fly paper hanging in the kitchen window, not pretty to look at but very effective. The past couple of years it had caught something like fifteen flies over each Summer. This year there are over forty already and room for more.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

DoggyCam - First Trials

I mentioned some time ago that I was waiting for a camera which is made to clip on an animal's collar and hang under the chin. It arrived a while ago and has been near the top of the 'Round Tuit' pile for some time. Today I decided it was time to give it a proper test as so far I had only tried it hand held to make sure it was working OK.

2012-08-12 11.36.42

I gave it a short trial in the garden with it attached to Penny's usual house collar. It would not hang on an even keel. As as she tends to mooch around with her head down I got plenty of chin shots! This is a few extracts from that first test: (Probably best to turn the sound right down!)

For the mid-day walk I used a different collar. At first the camera fell off as we got out the front gate but refixing it made it stay in place for the rest of the walk. Also that proved the camera is rugged enough to stand a few knocks.

This is composed from some short sections from the walk. Nothing inspiring as we didn't meet anyone and too much will probably induce motion sickness in the viewer. I am pleased with the colour quality and the picture is reasonable for a standard 640x480 pixel AVI video. This short walk used just over half a gig of the 4gig built in memory. The battery is rated to last for 2.5hrs before it needs recharging and at this rate of memory usage I can see it holding  about 1.5 hrs of video which it records in 30min chunks. Just as well it is in chunks as the transfer rate to the pC is dreadfully slow.

If you don't blink at the beginning you will get a rare glimpse of the author - too much might scare the horses!

The result is fine when Penny is reasonably still but when walking there is too much motion to be comfortable watching. Should be more interesting when we meet some other dogs. What's the betting that we only meet anyone when I don't put the camera on?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Thief - Woodpecker - Clouds

When I checked the overnight recordings a few days ago I saw that the black, bird killer cat was helping itself to the dried mealworms I scatter around for the visiting hedgehogs:

Yesterday the same cat was hunting a grey wagtail which was wandering too close. Penny and I about turned and wandered back. First the bird flew off and then as we got closer the cat beat a hasty retreat.

A couple of days ago the Great Spotted Woodpecker paid another visit to the peanut feeder at the bottom of the garden. This time I managed to take a few bits of video:

My replacement router arrived and to start with uploads to YouTube seemed to work OK but last night I was having real difficulties but even changing to an old router, which usually works well, there were still very long pauses. In the end I gave up and opened an account with Vimeo. My first test upload went smoothly - another cloud timelapse job:

That one was an experiment to find out how many photos the 4GB card would hold. I reduced the quality on the 360D to medium and set it up to take a shot every 5 seconds. After about one and a half hours I changed the battery in the camera as it was running low. Fortunately the tripod I use allows me to get at the battery compartment without disturbing the camera. The set up kept going for 3hr 41min and took 2652 shots. By that time the space left counter on the camera was down to single figures. The video was produced at 15 frames per second which made for a smoother animation.

Have a great weekend observing nature and wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Wings for Wednesday

It was a pleasure to see an adult Greenfinch at the seed feeder:

Adult Greenfinch

Not only that but here are two of the four juveniles which had tagged along:

Juvenile Greenfinches

I do tend to get a bit apprehensive when Greenfinches visit these days as the past three Summers they have brought finch disease to my garden. Let's hope we stay clear this year.

Another juvenile was spotted this week and I hope that this time it really was a juvenile Robin:

Juvenile Robin 2

Juvenile Robin 1

Finally - a bit blurry - a return visit by the Great Spotted Woodpecker:


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Strawberry and a Half

I hasten to say I did not grow this. My crop has been a miserable failure this year. This came in a tub of strawberries delivered by Asda this morning. The pot contained a mixture of what I would call traditional sizes and large sizes. This being the largest of the 'monsters'. About 50mm across at its widest.


I assumed it was a mixture of two different varieties though the pot was only  labelled with one variety name - Portola. I haven't seen such large ones from a British producer before.  They were from Vicarage Nurseries, Worcestershire. All those I have eaten were tasty and well textured, unlike some foreign imports I had earlier in the year which were tasteless and hard enough to hammer in nails.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

A Sun Fly

Dull start to the day but it soon turned out to be sunny with a mix of blue sky and white clouds. For only the fourth time this year I sat out in the garden with my trusty Sony Walkman blasting through headphones to drown out what a friend always calls 'Black and Decker Day'. A time when everyone seems to be mowing lawns and trimming hedges with a variety of mechanical aids.

From time to time I would have a wander across to the pond to see what was about. Quite a few hoverflies and one bobby dazzler in particular:

Sun Fly 1

Can't say I had noticed this type before so had a quick Google ('they can't touch you for it' as Ken Dodd would say) and quickly found its likeness on the microscopy-uk site HERE which has many very clear photos making identification easy. It turned out what had visited the pond was a Sun Fly (Heliophilus pendulas)

Sun Fly 2

The golden yellow is very bright and really stood out in the sunlight.

Friday, 3 August 2012

No Video Today

For ages now I have had real problems uploading to YouTube and Flickr.. After lots of experimentation I have come to the conclusion my new router may be faulty. My internet provider, Zen, has today said they will send a replacement so hopefully all will be back to normal in the near future. It's no fun when it can take up to four hours to upload a 50MB video. if it uploads at all. I can get a reasonable upload speed with my old router but that lacks some facilities I rely on and any way the new one should work just as well if not better. Technology is supposed to improve as time goes on, not deteriorate!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Some Surprises Are Nice .........

Yesterday it was a very pleasant surprise to see for the first time in the garden not one but two juvenile Robins? which seemed quite at home investigating all the places where seeds could be found.

Keith suggested these are juvenile Dunnocks so I had another look round the internet. I only found one site which had photos of a juvenile Dunnock and a juvenile Robin where the differences were clear. Looking at the shape of the beak (the Dunnock's is finer) and the colour of the legs (the Robin's are darker)  it would appear that Keith is correct. A lot of photos on the net seem to be wrongly identified which made things very confusing for me. Also it appears that a lot of people have trouble telling which is which, me among them.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin

Some Surprises I Could Do Without ......

The day before delivered a surprise which was more of a shock than anything. I was busy on the computer and the back door was open to let Penny come and go as she pleased. I noticed her come in the room but couldn't see what she was doing. She kept whining and coming across to me but I took little notice until I had finished with the 'pooter. Looking to see what Penny was up to I saw she had brought in a dead, part eaten Wood Pigeon. I was not best pleased and told her so very firmly. I disposed of it at the back of one of my compost bins which has a narrowish opening at the top of the front. I though no more about it until I saw madam coming across the lawn with the same object in her mouth. She must have leapt up to get in the bin. On my second attempt I disposed of it in a fully enclosed container. It still sends shivers down my spine when I recall the event.

I know Penny chases after the Wood Pigeons but they fly away before she gets near them. I am sure this one was dropped by a passing raptor . It looked well plucked and search as I could I found no feathers around the garden.
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