Friday, 31 May 2013

Friday at the Flicks - Song Thrush, Grey Squirrel, Nestbox

No apologies for another Song Thrush video. Every day as the light begins to fade a Song Thrush sits at the top of a tree close to my back door and tries to drown out the song from the Blackbirds:

A Grey Squirrel has become a regular early morning visitor trying to find any left over seeds from the previous day:

The remaining four chicks in the Great Tit nestbox continue to thrive and are growing rapily:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Panolapse - Part 2

It is possible to make a video from one still photo with Panolapse. The main thing is that Panolapse requires a series of photos to work on. How to get round that? Make many copies of the same photo - copy the original image to a new folder, click on it, Ctrl-C to copy, hold Ctrl-V to keep making copies. They will be numbered and I found Panolapse seemed to get confused with numbers less than 100 so I made around 600 copies of a panorama image and deleted the first 100 to end up with around 500.

Choosing the sections of the image to start and end with is done in the same way as with time lapse photos.

Original stitched panorama photo:

 Copy (100) of 001

End result using Panolapse (Trial edition) and Image to Video:

BTW - I seem to have cured my uploading problems with YouTube. I now copy the video to a memory stick and use the laptop. Whether it's Windozy 7 which handles things better than XP I don't know. The main thing is it works.

Sorry I had to switch off the streaming video from the nestbox a few times - my processor was struggling with the load while Panolapse was strutting its stuff.


A first test of producing a time lapse moving panorama without moving the camera.

Basically a normal time lapse sequence of images are taken with any camera. Best effect is with a wide angle lens. These are then loaded in Panolapse (available for PC and Mac) and the chosen area of the start and end of the sequence are chosen. The program then produces a new set of still images rendered from the originals. These are then turned into a moving panoramic time lapse using your favourite program, in my case that was the simple PC program Images To Video.

Not the most inspiring of views but it was the only set of time lapse images I could find. Panolapse is not the fastest of programs as it took around 40 minutes to render 788 photos taken with the 350D with a lens set at 50mm. The free version of Panolapse can create high quality renders, up to 1280x720 in the free version.

This is the first of the 788 stills:


The final moving panorama produced using Panolapse and Images to Video.

If interested in downloading and experimenting with Panolapse then go to their web site. On the PC you get a zipped file which needs unzipping in a folder of your choice. No installing needed. It runs straight from that folder. It may well be the same for a Mac.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starNot too many problems with last week's mystery photo. My congratulations along with the virtual gold star goes to TexWisGirl, Adrian, Keith and Ragged Robin for correctly recognising a nettle leaf which was photographed from underneath.



I don't think this week's mystery photo will cause too many problems.
Guess What:
DSCN1031 copy

Clue: It didn't ring in the New Year.

No prizes, just for fun.

Great Tit Nestbox Update

As any of you who have been keeping up with the Great Tit chicks will have notices there are now only four live ones. Sadly one died sometime last Friday night / Saturday morning. The same thing happened last year. The remaining four look to be healthy and I noticed today that at least one has its eyes wide open and is starting to exercise its wings.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Follow the Leader

When we went walkabout round the cricket field at lunch time I could see a small flock of sheep a couple of paddocks away.


All of a sudden one decided to stroll over to the other side of the field. Within a minute all the others lived up to their reputation and followed.




Friday, 24 May 2013

Great Tit Babies

Another short video clip taken yesterday of the five Great Tit babies being fed. Even in black and white it can be seen that they are growing their wing feathers:

Although they are both using the same uplink line, yesterday I tried uploading the video clip from the laptop while the PC kept the live streaming running. If I try both together on the PC I can guarantee the upload to YouTube will stall but yesterday it ran fairly smoothly. Maybe it was a one off and I got lucky.

Double size streaming video available on midmarshnn. It cannot be seen on an iPhone, iPad, etc. as they do not have the right video decoder as yet. If you have problems viewing the streaming video on a PC or Mac have a look at the information on this Camstreams help page.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Woody Returns

It's been one of those days weather wise. A bit of sunshine first thing followed by grey cloud and frequent short, sharp hail showers so it was quite a surprise to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker visit the peanut feeder. The first one I have spotted for weeks:

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Shortly after that I noticed it land on the telephone pole just past the end of the garden. It started low down and gradually crept up the pole exploring any cracks in the woodwork. Finally it reached the top and after a quick look round, flew away:

Great Spotted Woodpecker   Great Spotted Woodpecker

If you are watching the live feed from the Great Tit nestbox you may occasionally see that I have had to pause the feed so I can upload photos or videos. You may have to refresh the page to get the feed started again once I have re-started it.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Great Tit Nestbox

For those who cannot see the streaming video from Camstreams here is a short piece of video I captured this morning:

If you are having problems viewing the Camstreams live video they have a help page here.

Song Thrush

Firstly - sorry if you were trying to take a peek in the Great Tit nest last night. While a video was uploading I had to stop the streaming video. Unfortunately it took ages to get the file up to YouTube.

Recently there has been a Song Thrush belting out its song very close by. Up to yesterday evening I was never able to see where it was but by the volume it must have been close. Finally it decided to choose a place where I could see it from the kitchen window so set up the Hitachi DVD cam to get some of the song. It shows how loud the bird can be when the sound had to go through the conservatory open door through to the kitchen.

A Blackbird can also be heard in the background. That was a very short section of the song which went on for about an hour.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starA brilliant week last week as everyone identified the dandelion seed correctly. Congratulations and virtual gold stars to Adrian, TexWisGirl, ImaBurdie, Matron and Ragged Robin.

IMG_5623 copy


It has been a good, or bad,  year so far for dandelions. They have spread copiously everywhere so your outlook depends whether you are a seed eater or a gardener!

Now for this week's macro photo
Guess What:

Clue: Ouch!      No prizes, just for fun.

For once I was quick enough off the mark. As I was passing the seed feeders on the way  back after photographing a dandelion a male Chaffinch landed on a feeder and stayed there just long enough for me to get one shot. I was only 8 feet or so away and grateful it didn't take flight while I zoomed the Nikon in on it. Following a suggestion from Adrian I now have the Nikon permanently set to -1 exposure. That means I usually have to lighten the finished photo a bit but highlight blow out is lessened and detail seems much crisper.

Male Chaffinch

It seems pretty certain now that just five of the eight eggs have hatched. The ones laid first had to endure some chilly conditions. Those five seem to be coming along just fine and are growing rapidly. Both parents are doing a grand job finding enough small food for them as weather conditions are very variable going from damp, cool overcast to occasional warm, sunny periods. The double size streaming video from the nest box is available on midmarshnn which is a bare-bones blog I set up just for that one thing.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Still Only Five Chicks?

As far as I can tell there are still five chicks in the Great Tit nest. I would think that the remaining three eggs will not hatch now, time will tell. Both parent birds seem to be doing well finding enough small food for tiny, ever hungry beaks.

It would appear the streaming video from the nestbox is reasonably popular with over 1000 'hits' so far this month. The enlarged view on midmarshnn has had over 40 visits since that went live.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Larger Video Available

Now the quality of the streaming video from the Great Tit Nestbox has been improved thanks to Camstreams new uploading software it is possible to watch a larger picture. This is available on the bare bones blog midmarshnn, just follow the on screen instruction. I am still uploading at 320 x 240 pixels, which is what you see above here as doubling the upload size runs my processor at 100% but the quality now looks good enough for a double size video to be watched.

Great Tit Nestbox Feed Updated

I just happened to check the Camstreams site for any news about tablet apps when I saw a notice advising users to upgrade their streaming software to a new version which was released today. So it was duly downloaded, installed and running in very little time. One nice thing, they have doubled the default quality which means my computer has to work a bit harder but hopefully the video picture you see will be somewhat clearer. This update was also needed to work with the tablet apps which are being written for iOS and Android but they won't be ready for a while yet. It was only the software I use to upload the video stream which needed updating.

I may have to re-adjust the contrast / brilliance a bit which means turning off the feed a few times while I try things out as it cannot be adjusted while streaming. I am pleased to see from my experiments that the video does look much clearer with the new software.

One thing I have noticed - when viewing in Firefox the video size is limited to 100% but when I use IE 8 I can right click on the video and choose 200%  Both browsers will allow full screen video but it was too poor to bother, maybe the updated feed may look better.

Both Great Tits have been very dutiful parents today. There are now five ever hungry babies and plenty of food has been brought all through the daylight hours. Time will tell whether the final three eggs hatch.

I spent some time on and off trying to photograph the parents visiting the nest. I have a spot under a large bush about 20 feet away from the nest box. No luck. The parents were being observant and cautious. At one time while I was sat under the bush I looked up and there was the male, grub in beak, flitting from branch to branch just above my head and looking down to see what I was up to. I left them to go about their feeding runs in peace as the little ones need constant feeding while they are so small.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Now There Are Four?

Only one chick in the Great Tit nestbox first thing this morning but when Mrs GT left the nest for a short while just now I think I could see four chicks. Hope the rain soon clears away and the Sun comes out. There is plenty of insect life around when the Sun is shining and the parent birds are soon going to be very busy feeding the kids.

Empty egg shells being taken out and feeding seems to have started well with both adults bringing suitably small food.

First Great Tit Chick Hatched

When Mrs GT nipped out of the nest this morning I could see that the first of the eggs had hatched. Soon there will be lots of hungry beaks to feed.

If you just want to check on the progress in the nest box there is a bare bones blog which just has the streaming video at midmarshnn which runs the same times as here.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Grotty photo for ident - buzzard??

Heard a group of corvids kicking up a racket. Looked up to see a large light coloured bird just gliding high up across the sky. Rushed for the 50D and got a few very hurried snapshots. Should have checked the settings first. Anyway this is best (?) of a very disappointly grotty bunch.


Looking through Collins Complete Guide the only one I could find which matched the markings is the Rough-Legged Buzzard. Whether that is correct or not I would love to find out. If correct then it will be the first Buzzard I have seen and apparently a less common one to boot.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starI had a feeling last week's Guess What might fool some people but none the less Adrian and Jan each gained a virtual gold star for correctly identifying a slug while TexWisGirl should get a silver star as she hedged her bets.



This week's Guess What was a proper macro shot taken with the 350D fitted with bellows. It was also the first time I had used a Giotto tripod I bought in the Amazon new year sales. It has a central column which can be lifted right up and swivelled horizontally. This can give extra reach when the camera need to be pointing downwards.

Giotto Tripod

On to this week's mystery object
Guess What:

IMG_5623 </p><p>copy

Clue: It parachuted in. Actual size of the brown part: 4mm
No prizes, just for fun.

Great Tit Nestbox
I've just been watching the male which has arrived with a juicy grub or caterpillar. The female was out and none of the eggs has hatched yet so he spent ages trying to work out how to feed an egg. He just couldn't understand why there wasn't a mouth to feed.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Nestbox Streaming Video

I have set up another blog which just has the streaming video from the Great Tit Nestbox. If you wish just to have a quick look or follow the box happenings without having to load all the extras which come with this blog then nip over to midmarshnn. I have made it very basic so that there is the minimum amount of loading time. By all means bookmark that blog but don't forget to come back to this one from time to time.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Siskin Surprise

Had just returned from our afternoon walkies and glanced at the feeders. At first glance I thought there was a Greenfinch. Earlier in the week there had been a pair of Greenfinches (male and female) feeding side by side. On closer inspection this was no Greenfinch but a rather handsome Siskin. Possibly only the second time I have seen one visit the garden. The previous visit appears to have been in April 2009. As is often the case when something interesting visits, the Sun hid behind dark clouds so the shots I managed are rather grainy:




At least the surprise visitor made up for this morning's missed opportunity. There were two Robins on the edge of the bird bath. The male was feeding the female, something I have only seen once before. They should be nesting nearby fairly soon.

Not long after that a Grey Squirrel came bounding across the lawn hoping to raid the bird seed feeders. Just as it reached that part of the garden Penny decided to go out. The squirrel was out of view behind the summerhouse so she didn't spot it. Next thing the squirrel was on top of the summerhouse watching Penny for a while before deciding to try for a free meal elsewhere:

Grey Squirrel_5587c

Mrs Great Tit continues to incubate her clutch of eight eggs. Hopefully by the middle of next week there will be some chicks hatching and activity in the nest box will become more interesting.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Heath Robinson and the Hacked Microscope

This morning I tried to install my microscope USB camera on the laptop but Windozy 7 threw a tantrum and would have nothing to do with it. Tried searching for an up to date driver - no joy. Humph! What to do - buy a more up to date model? Nah. Too expensive for a decent quality camera. Think - painful but useful exercise. Last week I bought a couple of cheap USB web cameras. I was hoping to use one to monitor the bird bath while I had the laptop in the summer house. That idea was a complete flop as they are not designed to work in bright lighting conditions and the software I have couldn't make a usable compensation. Complete and absolute over exposure.

But - the USB webcams are focusable and I had already experimented to see just how close they could be made to focus. Almost down to zero - the only limit, leaving enough room between the camera and the object to let light in.

So - how to mount one of the cameras solidly to give it a chance of reasonably clear pictures? Simple - hack an old hefty microscope and mount the camera on that. Both cheap cameras worked well but the clincher was the one which had the cable emerging from the centre of its back. That meant it would be easy to route the cable up through the middle of the focussing tube once all the microscope lenses had been removed.

Final solution:

 DSCN0951 copy


That was followed by a long session playing with the set up to see how it performed.  As I said, the webcam hates bright light which is ideal for this job as it can be pretty dull right under the lens. Here are some of the items I tried:


And here the actual photo grabs made using the free version of  Debut Video Capture Software, warts and all - no cropping or tweaking:

The circular mat
Untitled 52

Bee Legs:
Untitled 33

Untitled 19

Untitled 39

Untitled 84

It was difficult to get full colour shots - too much light could wash out the colour so even in the shade of the summerhouse I sometimes had to add extra shading right next to the microscope. Watch out - I could be finding this set up useful for the Monday Macros.

Instead of £50+ this cost me £4.99 (free p&p) for the webcam from eBay. I was lucky, they are now £5.79 (free p&p) If you are a tinkerer like me and interested the camera I ended up using was

"USB 12.0M Pixels 6 LED Camera Webcam" from ornahouse on eBayUK

Magnification is not high but will do for what I want. It might even be worth trying a bit of focus stacking. BTW the LEDs are of no use for this job - it is too close to the object to illuminate in the right place. I have no connection with the seller, just a happy buyer.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Just about made it. Finally cooling down a bit after two glorious 20C+ days though it was a tad exhausting today when humidity dropped to about 12%.

gold starJust the two guesses last week, both correct so TexWisGirl and Adrian gain the virtual gold star for correctly identifying the cuddly Hedgehog - one of Penny's squeaky toys. To be exact this could more accurately described as a grunty toy by the sound it makes.



On to this weeks 'macro', a small crop from a larger photo
Guess What:

Clue: Not a puppy dog's tail though it might belong with one.

No prizes - just for fun.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Still Nest Building

Mrs GT fetched some more nesting material this morning.
It looks as though there are still 8 eggs in the nest so it seems that laying has now finished. Assuming incubation has started then we should be able to look forward to the first hatching sometime near the 16th May. Better weather should increase the insect population which will be needed for all the food these, and those in other nearby nests, will require.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Incubation Started?

Not sure whether another egg was laid last night. It would appear that Mrs Great Tit has finished laying and has now started incubating her eggs.

Update - it looks as though there are 8 eggs and Mrs GT is still leaving the nest from time to time. If they all hatch (2 out of 7 didn't last year) it is going to be a very busy time feeding all those hungry youngsters.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Seven Eggs

Today it was possible to see there were seven eggs in the Great Tit nestbox:

7 Great Tit Eggs

So far, up to yesterday, the video stream had been accessed 200 times.
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