Sunday, 30 March 2014

Springing Into Life

Not a lot different to report on the Great Tit front. Mrs GT is still adding to the nest from time to time and spending her nights roosting in the camera nestbox.

Elsewhere there are signs we are heading towards milder weather. Every time the Sun comes out there are plenty of Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies about. This one landed on the road surface and obliging waited while I got in close for a photo:

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly DSCN2557

In spite of the cool weather recently there are signs that the frog spawn is starting to develop. About half of it has started to change from a black dot to the beginnings of a tadpole:

Frog SpawnDSCN2554

Last night saw the first video capture this year of a visiting Hedgehog:

Sorry about the flickering line at the bottom. It's a problem with the recorder. I used to be able to cover it over but haven't found out how to do that on the mac as yet.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nearly Finished

Another busy day for Mrs GT on Wednesday:

An early start:

The rest of the day speeded up:

Mrs GT is much closer to the camera as she is sleeping on the edge of the nest.


She will move to the middle when she starts laying.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Nest Building This Morning

In real time for once:

Mrs GT works hard in bursts every so often.

Another Busy Day Nest Building

Speeded up again:

Stop Press:
Caught sight of our first spiky visitor for this year.
Unfortunately I was too slow to capture the Hedgehog on video.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Nest Building Starts

Sunday afternoon saw a flurry of activity in the camera nest box.
Mrs Great Tit can be seen here, speeded up:

Unfortunately a local thunderstorm arrived and heavy rain stopped play but at least she has made a good start. Not at all bad for just over 20 minutes hard work.

In spite of this morning dawning cold and frosty Mrs GT started bright and early fetching more moss to continue with the nest building.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spring on Hold

The bit of warm weather was short lived. Plenty of gusty cold wind and temperature back to single figures for much of the time. That didn't stop the frogs which continued to produce their spawn:

Frog Spawn 2529

It looks as though there are about sixteen lots in the garden pond. This should continue to develop when the temperature starts to rise again.

When I was checking through the video clips I took of the newt attacking the first batch of frog spawn I could see there were two of them. A male and a female:

The male with his light coloured belly with black spots can just be see towards the top right of the clip which I have slowed down.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Popped Primula

popped 02

popped 03

Unlike other apps I have used for colour popping, iSplashColors for the mac gives three choices for the background - greyscale, sepia and the cyan tones I used this time. Vignetting can also be added. There is some control over the saturation of the colours.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Sleepy Bee

This morning I noticed this bee sleeping and sheltering in just the right position to escape the worst of yesterday's strong, cold, gusty wind.

DSCN2526    2014-03-21-08.37.56 ZS PMax

Left hand photo - crop from the Nikon S9050
Right hand photo - focus stacked 7 hand help  shots

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Frog He Would A-wooing Go

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

So starts the old nursery rhyme.
It has a rather sad ending but hopefully the local frogs will live to tell the tale:


At least two pair of mating frogs, lots of spawn and a forlorn looking wallflower(*):




That makes at least five lots of frog spawn in my garden pond so far.



It looks like being a bumper year for spawn.


If you don't know, or have forgotten, the nursery rhyme there is a beautifully illustrated old version on the Gutenberg site HERE.  (You may have to dismiss a 'welcome' box and then click on the 'read this book online HTML' choice, unless you want to download a version.)

(*) Wallflower -  a person who stays on the fringes of a dance or party on account of lacking a partner or being shy.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Raynox MSN-202 Super Macro Lens

Yesterday I added the Raynox MSN-202 to my collection of macro conversion lenses. I spotted it available on Amazon about half the price I could find it elsewhere. The DCR-150 has a diopter of 4.8, the DCR-250 a diopter of 8 and the MSN-202 a diopter of 25. These lenses are designed to clip on the front of telephoto lenses.

Obviously I had to have a little play to see what the latest one would produce. I started with a piece cut from my corkscrew hazel bush which had fully opened catkins and the remains of a flower, now fading rapidly.



The MSN-202 has to be closer to the subject, about 32mm and really gets in close. These are the results of a focus stacking session.

Close in on a catkin, un-cropped:
2014-03-17-12.35.42 ZS retouched

Very close view of the flower, again un-cropped:
2014-03-17-12.19.50 ZS retouched

Part of a Muscari flower, un-cropped:
2014-03-17-13.07.33 ZS retouched

As can be seen, especially in the first two stacks, there is a limit to the depth of field as the focus range has limits on the 70-200mm zoom lens I use on the 50D otherwise I am delighted with the results. I don't think this one will be very easy to use hand held, to say the least.

There is a MSN-505 with a diopter of 32 but with its subject distance of 18.5mm I don't think I will be tempted!

Monday, 17 March 2014


I was having a close look at the pond to see whether there was any more frog spawn when I heard loud splashing near me. I looked round and there, not much more than a couple of metres away, was a female Blackbird bathing in the pond waterfall:


We looked at each other for a short while and then I slowly took the Nikon out of my shirt pocket, gently pointed it in the general direction of the bird and manage to get a shot.


Most birds would not have come down to the pond with me standing so close but she was determined it was bath time and once I stopped looking at her she carried on bathing.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spring Jelly Babies Under Attack

I've been checking my pond daily for a while on the look out for the first sign of frog spawn. None this morning but on returning from our afternoon walkies there it was. The first batch this year. I could see movement nearby and what looked like a webbed foot. I though it was a frog and fetched the 70D to take some shots and maybe some video:


Imagine my surprise when I eventually made out the shape of a newt:


After observing the activity for some time it became obvious that the newt was attacking the frog spawn as it probably thought it had found an easy meal:

To me that appears to be a female newt and she looks fairly fat so she may have seen the frog spawn as a rival to any she may be ready to lay. I will have to keep a sharp look out as I have never seen any newt spawn in the pond though there are at least five residents.

It is easy to tell which spawn is which as that from frogs makes a tightly packed clump in shallow water as in the photos above. Toads lay their spawn in strings usually wrapped around vegetation in slightly deeper water and newts lay individual eggs on submerged plant leaves.

I have never noticed this activity in the past though it could well have happened every year. It looks as though the spawn was quite a difficult meal to grab hold of and as the pond usually ends up with several batches of frog spawn there should still be some tadpoles and froglets later in the year.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Night Visitor

No. Not a spiky visitor yet. Just a little furry one having a quick look at the diamond nestbox:

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Nestbox Shuffle

We seem to be near the final stage where the Great Tit will make her mind up whether to use the camera box as a nesting site.  The nestbox shuffle always looks like a test to make sure it is strong enough, or maybe big enough for a brood:

This might happen a few more times before any material is brought in to build a nest.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Waiting Game

For much of the Winter I moved one of the cameras to watch half of the back garden to see whether anything visited at night. I had hoped to glimpse a fox as they do visit nearby. Results - nil, zilch, not a sausage.

As the weather has warmed up a bit I moved the camera back to watch out for any spiky visitors. I would imaging one or two Hedgehogs will have woken up briefly on warmer evenings but so far it is still a waiting game:

The Great Tit is still roosting every night and makes a couple of short visits most days but still no sign as yet of nest building. Yesterday I cleaned out the Hedgehog House and put some fresh straw in. Occasionally I leave some food but the only takers have been a couple of mice. I haven't seen any recent activity near the diamond shaped nest box either.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Day of Flutters

It took a while to get going but today was glorious and lived up to the forecast with my weather station recording a high of 19.7˚C with wall to wall Sunshine:


All the miniature Narcissus were in full bloom.

2014-03-09-14.03.33 ZS retouched

The highlight for me was seeing dozens of butterflies emerging from their Winter shelter spots.

Mainly Small Tortoiseshells:



and Peacocks:


The only other type I saw were five Brimstones but they would not settle anywhere near to be photographed. That is more Brimstones than I saw in the whole of last year. So far it is looking good for a decent year of flutters.

Also emerging from various cracks and cavities were more seven spot Ladybirds.

A different view for a change.



It looks as though today was a one off with temperatures forecast to return near the seasonal average of 7-10˚C in this part of the country.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sun and Spots

Friday started out very overcast with the odd shower. By the afternoon things turned out more cheerful with blue sky, white clouds and plenty of Sunshine. Only a stiff, cool breeze to spoil it a bit. I managed to find a spot where I could set up the tripod and camera out of the wind with the intention of shooting a bit of video of any Sun spots. As it happened there was more cloud than I thought which was moving rapidly across the Sun as can be seen in the middle section of this short video:

Easier to photograph were some spotty creatures I spotted around the garden.
Seven spot Ladybirds enjoying the warmth of the Sun in sheltered locations:

7 spot ladybird DSCN2444

7 spot ladybird DSCN2459

7 spot ladybird IMG_7681

The first two were taken with the Nikon S9050 and the final one with the Canon 50D, 70-100mm zoom with added macro lens.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Friday at the Flicks - Nest Box

The Great Tits are still showing interest in the camera nest box with another visit by both birds on Wednesday morning:

I have taken to using a sepia tint on videos from this camera - seems to look clearer than plain old black and white, to me anyway.  No signs of the nest box shuffle as yet though it is still used as a roost every night.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Why am I ......

stuck in here when the Sun is shining out there?

Last Import - 18

Last Import - 19

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Humpty Dumpty With Feathers

The rotund shape of Long Tailed Tits always makes me think of Humpty Dumpty:

Long Tailed Tit 3

Long Tailed Tit 2

Long Tailed Tit 1

We were just getting ready for our afternoon walk when I spotted a LTT on one of the home made log peanut butter feeders. It flew off before I could get a camera ready but fortunately a few could be seen in the branches of a tree just past the end of my garden. Consequently, even with a 400mm lens, these were small crops. That is only the second time in over 12 months I have seen a LTT sample the peanut butter.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Spidery Baubles

Another morning when the spiders' webs were covered in dew drops:


2014-03-01-08.46.48 ZS retouched2

Each showing an upside down view of the front garden and rays from the morning Sun.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Small but Cheerful

One area of the front garden is now looking much more Spring like with clumps of miniature narcissus in flower:



Their immediate surrounding and resulting micro-climate makes a lot of difference as to how early they flower. These are in a large raised circular bed with earth round the side and deep gravel in the centre. Now the Sun is warming the gravel most days that holds a certain amount of heat over night which minimises the effect of frosty mornings. Other similar bulbs in a narrow raised bed with no gravel are well behind, only showing leaves but not even a bud yet. Both lots receive about the same amount of Sunshine.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

More Great Tit House Hunting

Following the visit to the camera nest box yesterday, this morning saw a Great Tit investigate the diamond shaped box. This is the first time I have seen a bird go inside it. Occasionally you can see a beak poking out of the entrance:

I wonder whether this is the same bird.
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