Thursday, 31 October 2013


Along one side of the village cricket field is a line of Poplar trees. Many places seem to use these as wind breaks. There are several local farms where they have been planted round the dwellings, especially on flat open land where there is nothing else to break up the wind as it howls across the landscape.

I usually photograph the line of Poplars 'face on' but yesterday decided to try 'end on':


and closer views for a change:




Although they grow virtually straight up to a fair old height (50 to 165 feet) they are able to withstand gale force winds as the wood is very flexible. These are a member of the Willow family and like the weeping willow have extensive root systems and are not really suitable as a tree for small gardens.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star Lots of correct guesses for last week's mystery photo. Congratulations and the virtual gold star to TexWisGirl, Sue Garrett, Glo, Ragged Robin, Bonnie and Adrian who worked out it is an owl lurking behind all that distortion. In fact a cast concrete owl:

Guess What1


This week we are back to a closer view of an object.
Guess What:

Clue: I don't think any owls will be amongst its visitors.

No prizes. Just for fun.
Answer will be revealed next Monday along with any guesses left in the comments.

Stormy Weather.
Once again the news media reports very bad weather in the South of England as though all of Britain was deluged and blasted by stormy winds. Then, when did any media let the whole truth get in the way of attracting readers.

Although my part of the country was forecast to have gale force gusts this morning along with heavy rain the highest gust recorded here was around 15mph. Yesterday was worse before the storm reached us. Up to 36mph gusts were recorded. They did get the timing of the rain, if not the quantity, correct. Started about 4 a.m. and cleared soon after 11 a.m. and dumped all of 0.75 inches (19mm) in that time.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Just locking up the shed when this Green Lacewing crash landed next to me:


These are most welcome insects to have around any garden. They lay up to 20 eggs a day in the Spring. Each larvae can eat up to 50 aphids a day. They will also eat other insect pests such as thrips and red spider mite. The adults live on nectar, pollen and honeydew.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Friday at the Flicks - Feeding the Youngster

Several juvenile Wood Pigeons visiting recently - as if there weren't enough of them about already. This morning I spotted an adult feeding a juvenile:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star Last week's close up did resemble a bottle brush but only Sue Garrett came up with the correct identification thus gaining my congratulations and the virtual gold star. Yes, it is a brush with a long handle so that cobwebs can be easily cleared from ceilings. My thanks to all who had a go.

DSCN1920     DSCN1926

On to the new mystery photo. In fact three doctored photos of the same object. Not a macro this time but the full thing.

Guess What:
Guess What1

Clue: Do I want t'woo you?

No prizes. Just for fun.
All answers left in the comments, along with the answer will be revealed next Monday.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Friday at the Flicks - House Sparrows

Once again this year the House Sparrows have had a good breeding season. Plenty make regular visits to the Birdy Bistro and many large gatherings can be heard as they chatter away in some of the hedges around the village.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you, even the common everyday ones.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Observing the Busy Sky

Last month I showed this photo of the aircraft con trails seen early one morning:

2013-09-03 06.42.12

That got me to thinking about where they were all going. There are various sites on the net where aircraft can be tracked in real time but me being me I wanted to be able to do the tracking myself. So, after a bit of research, I built up a list of what was needed:

A radio to receive the data transmitted by each aircraft.
An aerial to pick up the signals
Software to decode the signals and plot the aircraft tracks on screen.

Looking round, one of the cheapest receivers is a dongle which is designed to receive TV and radio broadcasts but which is able to be tuned from the computer. This is the one I ended up with. The Newsky DVD-T Stick RTL2832U / R820T SDR package:


It is small and plugs in a USB port. The main thing is to get one which is guaranteed to tune to the correct frequency for the aircraft data signals. 1090.000 MHz. I chose a supplier in the Channel Isles which lists on eBay and supplies it with a disc of programs and clear instructions to get started. An excellent buy for £16 including p&p.

Once it had arrived (in 24hrs from ordering) I set things up and then tried several aerials to see which worked best. First was a quick trial with one of my ham radio aerials which was already in place. Picked up signals and proved the idea would work but not very well. Next was an old discone:
Better but still a compromise so not good enough to pick up aircraft more than about 30 miles away.

Next was to build one using a length of copper earth wire stripped from some mains cable as detailed by G7RQG:
This one being tuned to the right frequency worked much better and I could receive aircraft to about 70 miles distance.

Then I spotted another design, a collinear made from lengths of satellite coax:
This is my final choice, for now. With that I can pick up aircraft up to 130 miles away in some directions.

For the software there is a special Windows driver to access and tune the receiver.
To grab the signals and interpret them I use the new free Beta version of RTL1090

To plot the aircraft on a map I ended up using the free program adsbScope:

The jagged shape drawn in red shows the maximum distance I have received aircraft. My position is dead centre on the map. How far in each direction depends on many factors. Buildings, large leafy trees, local hills and the altitude of aircraft can all limit the line of sight needed to pick up a clear signal.

A short video of the program working:

Video can be seen in 720p HD full screen. Solid lines are used while the aircraft is in reception range and dotted lines used once out of range to show the predicted route based on the last received information. I have the program set to erase aircraft when they haven't been received for more than 5 minutes. Aircraft can be clicked on to display information, type of aircraft, altitude, rate of ascent / descent. Also there is a split screen mode which shows that information next to the map.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Winged Wednesday

Before the rain arrived a few days ago the exceptionally warm weather had brought out many insects. Most were taking advantage of the Ivy plants which were in full flower. The flowers don't look much to us but bees, wasps, flies and butterflies were swarming around them.




Speckled Wood

Small Tortoiseshell

Common Darter

Always plenty of Crows and Rooks on the Cricket Field

2013 10  46
Great Tit still roosting every night in the nestbox

Monday, 14 October 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star Congratulations and the virtual gold star to Wilma, Bonnie, Ragged Robin and Sue Garratt who all identified the Horse Chestnut seed, conker.


The reference to knotted string and knuckles was to do with the game of conkers played by children of all ages around the world. More information can be found on Conkers, How to Play This Traditional Game and a report on the World Conker Championships on the BBC News site.

More a close view than a macro this week.
Guess What:

Clue: Clean up arachnid traces.

No prizes. Just for fun.
Answers left in the comments, along with the answer, will be revealed next Monday.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Friday at the Flicks - Ever Hopeful Hedgehog

At first glance it looks as though a young Hedgehog is trying to chase an adult away. On reflection it seems to me that the youngster is trying to persuade mother that it should be milk time:

Needless to say it had no luck but it did go in the Hedgehog House and eat some of the food that was there.

I don't know what happened to the video camera as it suddenly refused to play ball and now insists that night time will always be in b/w in spite of the extra illumination. It's too wet, cold and windy to try sorting it out as Autumn had re-arrived and looks to stay for some time.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Some lovely Sunrises recently, though difficult to capture on camera.

2013-10-07 07.19.16x
iPhone 4    Camera+

2013-10-08 07.26.41x
iPhone 4    ToonCamera

2013-10-09 07.05.27x
iPhone 4   Camera+

2013-10-09 07.04.26x
iPhone 4   ToonCamera

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Hedgehog Argy-bargy

It is interesting to watch how Hedgehogs react when they meet up. More often than not it ends up with the Hedgehog version of Sumo wrestling. Early this morning there was one hog feeding when it stopped and listened as there was another approaching out of sight.

Enter the second one and there was bound to be a show of strength to see who had the right to feed there. The usual method being for one to charge and shunt the other out of the way:

No hogs were harmed in the making of this video, just some dented pride.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starCongratulations and the virtual gold star to TexWisGirl, Wilma, Adrian and Ragged Robin for recognising that last week's mystery photo showed part of a dragonfly:



I'm pretty sure it is a female Common Darter. There was a male resting on the same small piece of wood but they were too far apart to get them both in focus at the same time.


On to this week's mystery photo made from ten stacked macro shots.
Guess What:

Clue: Grab the knotted string but mind your knuckles.

No prizes. Just for fun. Any guesses left in the comments will be revealed, along with the answer, next Monday.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Little and Large (Hedgehogs)

Occasionally two Hedgehogs are feeding at the same time. This time a juvenile was eating inside the Hedgehog House when an adult turned up. When the youngster left the house and saw the adult it was very cautious and decided to make for pastures new. It looks as though the adult made sure the little one continued on its away:

Yesterday I had zoomed the outside camera for a bit closer coverage outside the Hedgehog House. Most of the IR LEDs on the camera are covered with electrical tape. There are 5 waterproof 1W lamps just above the slabs which enables the camera to work in colour.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Roosting Great Tit - Video

I was quite surprised yesterday evening when the Great Tit used the nestbox as a roost, mainly as the temperature was 18C so it wasn't for warmth. Must be a case of squatters rights!

Going by past experience this is probably a female Great Tit. Yesterday she spent some time in the box examining it and what looked to be calling for the male to join her. An activity I have seen in the past.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Juvenile Goldfinches

I don't ever remember seeing juvenile Goldfinches this late in the year. I guess they have raised a second clutch of eggs this year. The young one on the right looks to me to have recently fledged:


You can tell the young Goldfinches by the missing or patchy red on top of their heads:


Here a Greenfinch is just launching itself to drop down to another feeder:

A bit of video taken yesterday with the Canon 50D running Magic Lantern.
Towards the end one decided that the queue was too long for the feeder so dropped down to try some dandelion seeds.

The black with white blobs always makes me think they are wearing a tail coat ready for a formal dinner.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Great Tit Roosting in the Nestbox Tonight

Great Tit Roosting in a Nestbox

Mice Like Peanuts Too

The resident mouse which seems to live under the Summerhouse always helps itself to some of the unsalted peanuts I put down for the Hedgehogs:

It makes several forays day and night but so far I haven't seen it meet up with any of the Hedgehogs.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

HDR Art .....

... is an app for the iPhone which works well at 2x size on the iPad.  If you have a dowdy looking photo you want to make look more artistic then HDR Art has plenty of facilities for experimentation. Photos can be taken with the built in camera or loaded from the camera roll. Once in the app there are a whole host of possibilities for changing the look.

2013-10-01 08.16.51    2013-10-01 08.16.35

The first screen (on the left above) shows three of the possible effects. These can be flicked left or right to scroll through the whole range of 63 offered. For each there is a second screen (right above) offering various adjustment to the overall effect.

A few finished examples:

2013-09-19 09.01.27

2013-09-19 08.57.34

2013-09-19 09.14.37

 2013-10-01 08.48.49

Some effects are subtle and some are drastic and gaudy. Something to suit all tastes and scenic moods. How much does this great little app cost? A mere 99c or 69p. Although designed for the iPhone, resolution isn't limited. It will work happily with files I have imported to the iPad which were taken on the Nikon. There are three choices for the saved resolution which can go to the camera roll or be emailed, sent to Twitter and Facebook as well as being printed.

Mediachance, who produced the app, have a good video which shows things better than I can describe them:

I have no connection with Mediachance, just an enthusiastic user.
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