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.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Macro on Monday - What's That?

Oh dear. Last week's What's That must have been a lot more difficult than I anticipated so the Gold Star has stayed snugly tucked up in the safe for another week. No one managed to work out that it was a part view of a snail shell....



Obvious now you can see the original shot.

I wonder how you will get on with the new mystery macro shot.
Guess What:

2012-11-12 14.14.30x.jpg
iPhone4 with mini microscope attachment
More of this about than usual with all the dull damp weather.

No prizes, just for fun.


How many people buy the Daily Express I wonder. If so they must be gluttons for bad news. Each day I have a look at the front pages of many UK dailies on the 'frontpagestoday' web site. It appears to me that the Express deserves a gold star for frequently having the gloomiest front page. Today the banner headline is a weather forecast. We are in for temperatures down to -15C by the end of the month with two weeks of "freezing misery". At least I have got my shoe spikes ready. In fact I have had to use then twice already this Autumn and Penny has worn her nice padded waterproof coat.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday at the Flicks - Great Tit Roosting

Stumped once again for anything really new or outstanding this week. It seems that the Great Tit is roosting in the camera nestbox every night and leaves by first light. This was taken last Sunday morning as she (well it was a she which roosted last year) woke and left the box.

Rain Gauge:

Making progress slowly. Last Saturday I decided to start programming the section of code which counts the number of times the seasaw in the rain gauge flips. Most of the time the seasaw is moving the reed switch is closed so I had to devise a way of constantly and rapidly checking when the flip had finished. I thought it would take about an hour experimenting. In the end it took about two and a half hours as initially I just couldn't get the code to do what I expected. Anyway solved it eventually and set it up in the kitchen sink to give it a real test. You can hear the seasaw flip over and the count shows every other flip which relates to 1mm of rainfall.

I searched high and low for a box to put the electronics in but all those I had were too small so I ordered one which arrived yesterday. I had 'fun' cutting a rectangular hole in the plastic front for the LCD readout but got there in the end. First I drilled a few holes as guides for the corners and then used a side cutting bit from a RotoZip in my battery drill to make a rough rectangle and finally filed it to shape.


Still a long way to go to finish all the coding for storing and displaying rainfall records. At least it keeps the remaining grey cell active.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Who Put That There?

Fireworks were much nearer and louder last night. Initially Penny was a bit restless, mainly because she could see the flashes on the monitor. Then she moved to a darker spot and went to sleep so all in all the evening passed well. There have been nowhere near as many noisy rockets this year - another sign that money is tight for many families.

About 9 p.m. she decided it was time to go in the back garden and water the grass. I think we were both surprised to see the remains of a rocket had landed, burying itself nose first in the soggy ground. Usually the morning following a nearby firework display I manage to collect a few of these. They make excellent garden canes for tall flowers.

Who Put That There.jpg
I'm sure that wasn't there at tea time!

The flash from the camera shows how well her reflective collar works. That is often the only piece of her I can see when she wanders round the garden at night.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star
Brilliant, a full house. A Gold Star and my congratulations to Adrian, Roy, Keith, Jan, ImaBurdie and Glo who all correctly identified the blurred photo of a pine / fir cone. I was experimenting with long exposures with a rotating object to see how they would look.


This week I have a close up partial view.
The crop was then modified with one of Harry's Filters in Elements.
The filter set is shareware and a free download from The Plugin Site.

Guess What:


Not a Danish Pastry nor a Curly Wurly.
No prizes, just for fun.

Answer and any guesses will be revealed next Monday.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November ...

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

So the rhyme goes in remembrance of the failed plot by Guido (Guy) Fawkes and his fellow conspirators to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605. Background information can be found on Wikiquote.

With the 5th being a Monday this year those who celebrate with bonfires and fireworks will mainly use the weekend nights. Bobby never bothered about the noise of invisible (to him) explosions and whistles nearby but I wasn't sure how Penny was going to react. She does have a nervous disposition. When we are out she is easily startled by any sudden noises, especially from behind her.

Fortunately last night's displays were not too close nor very loud. At first she kept coming to me for reassurance but in the end decided that she would cover up Freddy the Fox's ears and catch some shuteye herself.


I just hope that tonight runs as smoothly.

Remember folks - if you are having a bonfire then check for any hibernating Hedgehogs as to them it is a nice cosy hibernation spot under piles of wood and leaves.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Crane Fly

Very little of note going on here recently. Not as many birds visiting as I would have expected once the temperature had dropped though there are plenty of sparrows and a group of Goldfinches visiting every day. On top of that the light levels have been abysmal with all the heavy cloud cover.

This morning there was a Crane Fly, Daddy Longlegs, on the outside of the kitchen window which gave me my first photo opportunity for several days.



Taken with the Lumix TZ7 lens touching the inside glass of the double glazed window.
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