Monday, 29 October 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star
One outright winner for a correct guess last week. Congratulations and the virtual gold star go to Glo who guessed it was a wasp. I will admit that it was far from easy to say what sort of winged insect it was.


It looks to me to be one of the many varieties of ichneumon wasp.
Amazing the size of the compound eyes compared with the rest of its body.

2012-10-21 13.46.37.jpg
iPhone with mini microscope attachment

My thanks to all who gave it a whirl and had a go.

On to a new Guess What.
Not a micro or macro shot this week but the whole object for a change:

A four second exposure

No prizes. Just for fun. Answer next week. All guesses will be kept hidden until then.

Goodness me how I do rabbit on. I though I was getting somewhere near the 1000 posts mark and a quick count shows the total is now 1013. How quickly four years have flashed by. To think that when I finally got the project off the Round Tuit pile I wondered what I would find to write about and how long the enthusiasm would last. Ah well, me thinks you will have to put up with my ramblings for a lot longer yet. Writing this blog and perusing the many informative and entertaining blogs out there is firmly entrenched as part of my daily, or at least weekly, routine.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Nest Box - Last Rose of Autumn

The Great Tit was roosting in the camera nest box again last night. This bit of video was taken yesterday morning as she (probably) was waking up: (No soundtrack on this one)

Still experimenting with the Turntable, lighting and cameras. I have added to its versatility as it can now be switched between two choices of use. First is continuous rotation to use with video capable cameras. This has also been speeded up a bit so a full rotation now only takes about 35 seconds. Second is like my first turntable where it pauses after each step and fires a still camera. My calculation was wrong regarding the number of steps for a full rotation. I had based that on the published data but in practice the stepper motor takes 512 steps to go through 360 degrees. So with a still camera that will mean 512 photos!

This shows a rose flower cut from my dwarf standard rose. Virtually the last bloom which will be seen on that plant this year. Lighting was two LED lamps, one multi LED above and a single off to the left at rose level to fill in some of the shadows. This was filmed with the Panasonic Lumix TZ7:

This time I made sure it was saved in 720p HD.

Have a great weekend and keep an eye on the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

First Sign of Roosting

Put the nest box camera on last night for the first time for quite a while and was cheered to see a Great Tit using the box as an overnight roost. Staking an early claim?

Great Tit Roosting Overnight

No signs of Hedgehogs last night so they may well be starting their hibernation period. Not in my hedgehog house unfortunately.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What + Turntable / Camera Experiments

Finally got round to it, running a bit on the late side today.

gold starAdrian and ImaBurdie indicated that last week's Guess What was part of the Arduino so deserve the Gold Star this week with an honourable mention for Jan who wasn't able to narrow things down to the right part of my rain gauge project.

 2012-10-15 09.51.37.jpg   IMG_0488.JPG

On to the new Guess What:


Don't expect you to narrow it down to an exact identification, just the general thing.
It was stuck to the outside of my kitchen window for a few days.

No prizes, just for fun.

Turntable / Phone Experiments

Partly running late as I have been trying different cameras with the turntable and waiting for video files to upload to YouTube and even longer for them to process things.

What really surprised me was the iPhone4 could focus so close and produced sharper video than the cameras I had tried so far. It does get hot though when filming for a minute non stop. The iPhone had to be clamped in place, between some soft rubber. The line across the iPhone screen is a reflection not a scratch or crack in the glass.


 No soundtrack on this video:

Also I wasn't expecting the TZ7 to make a such reasonable job of it but once it had picked a focus spot it seemed to stick with it.

I don't know why YouTube didn't recognise it as HD so the full quality doesn't show on their copy. It is a little grainy as I used a single bright white LED light plus what little was coming through the window on a very dell day.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Autumn on the Turntable

After fixing everything for the Arduino / stepper motor driven turntable to a board and tidying up the wiring I experimented taking a few videos. The first batch were again with the Panasonic but although I got it to the best I could with the manual focus I was constantly disappointed with the results. Then I got out the Canon XL2 not really expecting it to be able to focus close up. Was I wrong? I was really surprised just how close I could get to things so I set up a few bits gathered last Autumn. The result being:

Much better and with some more care over lighting and background I could grow to like this form of presenting some items.

Dewy Morning

A very heavy dew this morning so all the spiders' webs were showing up a treat. Interesting to see different styles depending on where they are built. On some trellis nearly every section was filled with an orb web:


Down at grass level the style of web looks much more haphazard. On my lawn this morning I gave up counting the number of small webs just like this one when I reached fifty:


You wouldn't think there was enough insect life about to feed all those spiders every day. Just shows how many tiny creatures live under our noses (or feet) without our noticing.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Heath Robinson Meets Arduino

For a while I have wanted a slow rotating platform to film small objects. The one I built at least a year ago had the disadvantage that the stepper motor made large jumps for each step and was only suitable for taking a series of stills which then had to be put together to make a video.

Recently I spotted  some very cheap 5V stepper motors which are often sold complete with the driver board. These motors are small and have a step angle of only 5.625 degrees. That means it will take 64 steps to rotate a full circle. All it needed was wiring to an Arduino Nano (any model of Arduino will work) and loading the sketch (program instructions) which was freely available on the web.

Here is the setup:
Left to right: 5V power regulator  -  driver board  -  Arduino Nano


Upturned turntable cut from a spare piece of uPVC window ledge showing the stepper motor:


A hastily rigged up Heath Robinson set up to test whether it was any use for making videos:


The first results filmed using a Panasonic SDR-H80. The most difficult part was having to use manual focus which is hard to judge on the small LCD screen.

Now it needs tidying up and mounting in a framework.

As for the other project - rain gauge - I've been giving the latest real time clock a 'soak' test and am pleased to see that it seems to be keeping good time. When I programmed it it was 1 second fast (hard to get it exact as you have to guess how long it takes for the program to compile on the computer and download to the Nano) and it is still only 1 second fast.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Garden Bird Visitors

Video clips taken yesterday when some of the regular garden bird visitors came to the Birdy Bistro.

Anna's Theme
from the Pulse CD
by Positively Dark

 Positively Dark Pulse CD Cover

a free download from

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Raingauge Project:

Very slow progress really. Mainly caused by trying to get accurate timing. As I want to store the previous day's reading and update weekly, monthly and yearly totals at midnight each night good time keeping is needed.

The two different cheap real time clock modules I bought which use the DS1307 chip work but their timekeeping is very lax. One gained 5 seconds a day the other lost 10 seconds a day.

After further research I found one supplied by Love Electronics using the DS3231 chip which has an accuracy of +-2 ppm. (+- 1 second in 23 days) Relatively much more expensive but it works with the same code as the cheap ones and seems to live up to its reputation.

Also I now have an SD card reader and got the code working to read from the card. Next will be testing writing information to it


Monday, 15 October 2012

Macro on Monday

It looks as though the Gold Star goes back in the safe for another week as most opted for the wrong creature, apart from John who hedged his bets. Most latched on to the old rhyme which was alluded to in the clue:

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice.

What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails.

The close up was part of a small slug I caught climbing up a wheelie bin one night.



My thanks to all who gave it a whirl and had a guess.

On to this week's Guess What.
I will admit I was struggling to think of something new:

2012-10-15 09.51.37.jpg

If you have been reading the blog recently then you should be able to guess what this is part of.

No prizes. Just for fun.

Amazing Jump
I wonder how many of you watched Felix Baumgartner jump from 24 miles up above the Earth. I happened across a link to the live broadcast just as the balloon and capsule were about 20 miles up and was transfixed. Fascinating to listen to them go through the series of checks as he prepared to leap. Waiting patiently as the air pressure was released from the capsule to equal the near vacuum outside. See the door open as the pressures equalized. Watch Felix slide his seat to the opening and stand outside. Final checks and then the big leap. The live broadcast was able to watch him all the way down to a safe landing.

Can you imagine travelling at over 800mph without the aid of a vehicle? That special suit had to stand up to a lot to keep Felix safe.

Here is a bit of video from German TV showing the view from an on suit camera on the way down.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Then There Were Two

I only check the night video captures every now and then. A couple of nights ago was the first time for quite a while that the camera captured two Hedgehogs visiting at the same time.

Soundtrack is Dawn by Positively Dark. They have two CDs of electronic and ambient music which is free to download as individual tracks for personal use including use on YouTube videos. The only provision is a mention of their website which I am only happy to do. The music can be found HERE. It looks to be a good way for them to get some free publicity. There are several tracks which seem suitable for my use anyway.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Woe, Woe and Thrice Woe

So said the soothsayer in "Up Pompeii". Most of this week has been spent battling with my Arduino rainfall gauge project. First I had decided I needed a four line LCD display. Once that arrived it took a while to get it addressed properly so that filled a morning before it was fully working

To be able to store past records so as to display daily, weekly and monthly rainfall meant installing a real time clock in the circuit. I had a couple of part built kits bought over a year ago. I chose one and soldered in the resistors and connector, wired it up and spent ages finding and downloading different test sketches. Why do Arduino programmers call their programs sketches?

None of them worked. The display always showed the same gibberish. That had taken up a whole day with just an hour break while I installed a new outdoor LED floodlight which had arrived. The following day I decided to build the second real time clock. It is the same make but the one thing I noticed was that the back up battery holder was soldered in the opposite way round. Not my mistake as these came part built! Once the extra bits were soldered on and the thing plugged in everything soon sprang in to life.


No doubt having the back up battery reversed will have killed the first one. I did try unsoldering the holder and replacing it the correct way round - no joy there.

The only thing I have noticed is that the clock gains about five seconds a day and there is no way that I know of to adjust its internal oscillator to fix that. I have ordered another, different make, to see if it is a common fault.

After much research I found a way to calibrate the mechanical part of the Rain gauge and it turned out that two tips of the sea-saw buckets equated to one mm of rainfall.

Now on order is an SD card module to store the rainfall data. It should be fun getting that to work (not).

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Penny Meets a Hedgehog

Every night Penny's first task on exiting the back door is to search the regular haunts of the Hedgehog. A couple of nights ago I guessed she had found one. I could only see her reflective collar bobbing up and down as she kept putting her nose on a spiky back. I think she was encouraging it to run but it wisely hunched down and stayed put.


Finally the Hedgehog made a dash for a more sheltered spot while Penny tried to work out why it tickled every time she got her nose too close.


Finally she decided to approach from a different angle where she could stand and watch.


It made me smile as I remembered an incident about a week ago. That night I opened the back door but Penny refused to go out. She kept looking closely at the ground just outside the door. What monster was keeping her in? A small frog! Maybe she is wary of the way they leap about in the dark when she gets too close. Whatever the reason she didn't step outside until I tickled the frog to make it move away. It disappeared under a wheelie bin and Penny spent ages trying to track the monster down.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

There were a couple of close guesses for last week's Guess What.

2012-09-30 12.02.38c.jpg

It could well be described as embroidery Adrian. Glo was so very close in thinking it was part of Penny's reflective collar. In fact it was a different collar. I had bought this one as it looked very swish with its gold and purple.

2012-09-30 12.27.29.jpg

Unfortunately having embroidery was not a good choice. I think it was a bit itchy in spite of having a silky lining. Every time she had a good scratch at it her claws caught and pulled the threads. In less that a week it looked really tatty. Lesson learned - for house collars stick to printed materials.

My thanks to those who were brave enough to have a guess.

On to a new Guess What.
Can you work out what this is part of?


Clue; What little boys are made of?

No prizes. Just for fun.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Next Project

A week or so ago the rain gauge on my weather station stopped recording. I wound the mast down and checked things over but couldn't find anything wrong. This is the second time it has happened with my rain recorders. From what I can gather it seems to be a common fault with the cheaper systems.

I had considered buying another one but got to thinking - a dangerous habit which one should try to avoid at all costs. Checking the old rain gauge mechanical bit I found it was still working OK so what about building my own rain gauge? It is a good 18 months since I last had a play with an Arduino micro processor system but that seemed the best route to take as I already had one and other associated bits in the 'junk box'.

Of course in that time the PC software for writing the Arduino programming code had been updated several times so I had to get everything up to date. The idea will be for an Arduino to count the number of times the 'seasaw' buckets in the rain gauge flip and calculate the equivalent rainfall in mm.

2012-08-29 09.46.24EX.jpg

This information needs to be stored and retrievable on an LCD readout. This is a first test just to make sure I can send what is needed to a two line LCD module. The Arduino version I am using is the Nano, one of the smallest available, which can be seen towards the bottom of the photo.


There is a long was to go as my one remaining grey cell soon gets rusty and 18 months gives plenty of time to forget how to program the thing. No doubt there will be lots of cursing along the way but it is more entertaining than the pap they shove out on the idiot lantern these days.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Bath Time - Squirrel

As all of us who have regular visits from Starlings know, they will bathe in any available water. I had to smile the other day when one decided to use a plant pot saucer as a bath while a few others lined up on the edge of the bird bath to wait their turn. Not one used the bird bath.

A fairly regular visitor at the moment is a particularly bold Grey Squirrel. If I see it I go out to shoo it away before Penny notices as she goes wild in her efforts to catch it. This particular squirrel is hard to scare away and will not move until I get very close. Even then it only moves a short distance in the hope I will go away and it can return to its peanut feast.

When I went to get the code for the squirrel video there was a note from YouTube which said it had been detected as possibly being shaky and asking whether I would like them to fix it. My silent response was 'on yer bike' or words to that effect.

The sound tracks for both videos were produced using MIDI files played back through the iPad app Animoog. (A bit of Handle's Water Music and the Minute Waltz)

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Not Hibernating Yet

It can't be very long before the Hedgehogs think about hibernating. Night temperatures are still reasonable at the moment and this one was seen helping itself to dried mealworms just before dawn this morning:

Penny knew it had been about and spent ages at the hole in the fence they use to gain access to the garden.

No sign recently of any activity in the Hedgehog House, not even the mouse.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

European Garden Spider

Spotted a very large orb web in the garden strung between two uprights which are 68 inches (1730mm) apart. It is amazing the effort a spider has to go to in bridging the gap with the first couple of connections before it can start building the web. This usually has to be done every day / night as the web soon becomes damaged by clumsy humans walking through it!

The question that springs to my mind is - when the spider first uses those two uprights and having made its first anchor point on one upright, has it already chosen the second upright or does it come across it accidentally?

Getting the web and spider in focus was problematic as, with such a large span, the slightest breeze was making the whole thing move quite a distance.

This wider view was given a pseudo HDR treatment to make the web strands stand out better.


The owner - a European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)
Probably the most common spider in Europe



This individual was about an inch (24mm) across the outstretched legs.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Can you guess what this is a close up of?

2012-09-30 12.02.38c.jpg
iPhone4 + miniature microscope

No prizes, just for fun.
Any guesses will be kept hidden until next Monday when all will be revealed.

Clue: A Penny for your thoughts
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