Saturday, 31 May 2014

Abraxas grossulariata

Spotted next to my side gate yesterday:

DSCN2738_Fotor       DSCN2743_Fotor

Abraxas grossulariata  (Magpie Moth) caterpillar

I took this photo of a Magpie Moth in 2009:

Magpie Moth

This is a Summer daytime flying moth. The caterpillars may be found feeding on Blackthorn and Hawthorn but can also cause widespread damage to the leaves of currant and gooseberry bushes.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday at the Flicks - Bird Table, Hungry Sparrows

Some of the regular visitors to the bird table:

It may have been wet and breezy but the youngsters still needed feeding:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Woody Comes Visiting

A rare visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker:


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Taking Advantage of the Wet Weather.

The blackbirds love it when the back lawn get saturated with so much rain. That drives the worms to the surface so they make easy pickings:


I had to smile as the Blackbird wrestled with this small worm which kept curling round his beak.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

It's Rude to Spit .....

.... unless you're a Frog Hopper producing what is colloquially known as Cuckoo Spit.
This is the way the nymphs protect themselves:


Now, what is this just poking its head out of the spittle?


A cropped closer look:


I do believe it is the head and front legs of a Frog Hopper.

Correction: After Adrian's comment that t might be a spider I checked today. It was in exactly the same place so I fished it out. Then I could see that it was a small spider which had perished in the sticky spittle.

Macro photos taken with Canon 50D + 70-200mm zoom + Raynox macro lens.
1st photo is 2 stacked shots and the 2nd is 4 stacked shots using Zerene Stacker.

A good description of the life of a Frog Hopper can be found on this BBC site.
Link opens in a new tab / window.

Monday, 26 May 2014


In one of the paddocks which used to have sheep I see there are several cattle for a change:

I had taken a couple of photos which almost made a panoramic shot so I downloaded a copy of Hugin and after a couple of attempts it did quite a good job of stitching them together:

DSCN2729 - DSCN2730

A few closer views:





Most of them were laid down enjoying the Sunshine as we approached but, as I have found in the past, cattle like to know who is about so up most of them stood to get a closer look.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Indoor Orchids

How time flies. It's about two months since I mentioned I was returning to growing orchids indoors after a break of over a decade. I bought a vivarium / terrarium to house miniature orchids and built a top to hold the lighting which would be needed:

DSCN2586 Orchid Terrarium

All the lighting is LED which keeps the buying and running cost down and are very cool running so I don't have to worry about overheating. The lid is deep enough that the lamps cannot be seen directly. There is a mesh strip built in the front of the case, just below the glass doors and an added computer fan at the top gives some needed air movement.

DSCN2572 Orchid Lighting

Three large lamps give strong red and blue light needed for growth and flowering. Two small white lamps for evening viewing and the blue strip gives a pleasant moonlight effect at night.

Centre and left are miniature Phalaenopsis which I purchased in flower and on the right a Disa Unifoam which has grown and just started flowering in the terrarium:

DSCN2717 Orchids

DSCN2716 Orchids

DSCN2715 Phalaenopsis     DSCN2713 Disa Unifoam

The fun is now bringing on the other plants to flowering condition. They are sprayed each morning with a fine mist of rain water and the pots watered as needed.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Juvenile Great Tit

A short while ago I spotted a juvenile Great Tit being fed on top of the shed.
Unfortunately it was about 8 p.m. so lighting wasn't very good:



I don't know whether it was one which fledged from the camera nest box though I would have thought those would have been feeding themselves by now.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Weather Station

My old weather station had been failing for several months, first the rain gauge failed, then the anemometer jammed and finally the wireless reception became intermittent. So I finally made my mind up to replace it. My final choice was the Oregon Scientific WRM180. Production of this model seems to have ceased so the selling price of the remaining stock had rocketed down from £199.99 to £99.99 on Amazon UK. The main part arrived Wednesday so I wound the mast over and spent the afternoon dismantling the old one and setting up the new. The final part, a UV monitor, arrived yesterday to complete my set up:

Wireless receiver and display

Wireless USB connection to the computer

Mast mounted anemometer, wind vane, outdoor temperature and humidity
monitors with solar panel to save battery use in daylight

Rain gauge and UV monitor on greenhouse

It is provided with a copy of Virtual Weather Station for Windozy

It took a while to get everything to communicate properly but all seems to be running smoothly at the moment, just in time to test the rain gauge last night as stormy weather passed through kindy providing me with an extra temporary pond in the back garden:


Thursday, 22 May 2014

White Ermine Moth

Any moth species is far from being my favourite find but the startling white of this White Ermine Moth seen on the back door to my garage was worth a couple of close shots with the Nikon:



As long as it stays outside it is welcome to visit.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Kid on the Block

Another juvenile visiting each day is this Collared Dove:



No sign of the parents, at least not at the same time as it is always by itself.

Monday, 19 May 2014

House Sparrow Fledglings

Not just the Brat Pack visiting with hungry youngsters. There are also the local families of House Sparrows arriving at the Birdy Bistro.

Dad with two hungry offspring:





Sunday, 18 May 2014

Indoor Bugs and Conkers to Come

Caught sight of this little bug climbing up my curtains one night:


and this green Shield Bug spotted inside the conservatory door at bedtime:


A sign of conkers to come in the Autumn. These Horse Chestnut Tree flowers are almost at eye level which makes it easier to get the odd snapshot:

Being able to get that close, and still have my feet on the ground, the subtle colouring can be seen.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hedgehog Visit + The New Bratpack

A Hedgehog turned up in the early hours to snack on crushed, unsalted peanuts:

The past few days have been very noisy since the Starlings brought their latest broods to the Birdy Bistro. They hang around all day and never shut up demanding to be fed.




They are their own worst enemy as with such a commotion it can soon come to the attention of a passing Sparrowhawk.

Friday, 16 May 2014


What a change in the weather. Temperature up to 20.4C yesterday so it was a bit on the warm side when I altered the zoom on the Hedgehog camera to get a slightly better close up shot. Needless to say it didn't come last night. Today the temp is already 21.5C out there.

No apologies for yet more Chaffinch video. I spent an hour or so yesterday adjusting colour response of monitor, DVR and EzCap software. In the end I put three objects on the bird table. One red, one blue and one green and used those to get as accurate a balance as was possible.

In this video the first, male Chaffinch, was a recording from the DVR while the female Chaffinch was recorded live. The limit on quality is partly the EzCap software which records a maximum of 640x480.

The colours are more accurate when the table is in shade. Good as the little video camera is it wasn't really designed to use outdoors in glaring Sunshine.

Thursday, 15 May 2014


Last night saw the first visit from a Hedgehog for about a week:

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Wings on Wednesday

Yesterday I moved the bird table camera and angled it a bit to get a better view of visitors.

A Male Chaffinch at 6.45 a.m.:

Starlings don't have a definite song. That is not to say they are silent, far from it. They never seem to shut up. Actually they are very good mimics and can copy the sounds of other birds and environmental noise like burglar alarms though they don't seem to do that very often these days.

Another thing they do can only be described as rapid beak clicking as can be seen in these video clips taken yesterday: (chirping Sparrows in the background)

They can also produce some quite low frequencies, which I failed to video.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Juvenile Blackbird

After tea we spent an hour or so in the back garden enjoying the return of dry weather after days of heavy showers - about 1.5 inches of rain recently. I was trying to video some of the singing birds while Penny sprawled on the grass out and supervised.

During this a juvenile Blackbird arrived, had a drink from one of the pools of rain water and then slowly wandered over the lawn to the Birdy Bistro, passing less than  a couple of metres from me and giving time for some close shots:




On the whole the local Blackbirds are very trusting and one will often come down while I am topping up the feeders.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Highs and Lows

I was altering and checking some of the video feeds in the shed when I hooked up a little monitor to the nest box camera. This year has been a fair disaster as far as the baby Great Tits goes. More had succumbed to whatever the problem has been this year. I did see two remaining healthy chicks leave the nest and saw one of them in a nearby tree a short while later. I'm not sure how many survivors fledged but I doubt it was more than three.

On a happier front a new DVR turned up this morning to replace the old one which is cracking up (all those coloured blocks were rapidly getting worse). I think there is a good improvement in the quality from all the cameras and this one can cope with up to eight.



Video loss showing as nothing is connected to those inputs yet.

I actually have six cameras set up but as the old DVR could only handle four I was constantly having to change things depending what I wanted to keep an eye on. It needs a bit of rewiring to get everything working but that will have to wait for better weather. No way am I re-cabling during tropical type rain and hail showers.

This bit of video was recorded from a live feed through the DVR:
It looks to me to be a juvenile Blackbird which was sheltering from the rain:

Just some more settings to adjust to get better colour balance from each camera. I'm still learning my way round all the menus on the thing!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Going Green Invisibly

No - I haven't joined the Green Party, painted myself or Penny green, or been decorating. Since I got the MacBook and found out that iMovie could work with green screen photos or videos I've wanted to experiment. A few days ago I spotted an excellent 'how to' on the Instructables site and immediately stuck it on Pocket for future reference.

Today I gave it a whirl for the first time. First I took some video of the rain clouds which are plentiful here at the moment. Then I looked for a subject to add to that. In the end I chose a daisy and set up a Heath Robinson 'set' to take the photograph against a sheet of green paper:


The important thing was to try to evenly illuminate the green background so iMovie would have least difficulty in removing the colour.

Not perfect, and I think it might have been better if I masked out the daisy stem. The video wobbles a bit as I had the Lumix resting on a fence trying to hold it still against a blustery wind but the main thing was the idea worked:

For those with Macs and iMovie who want to experiment here is the link to the Instructable.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Now We Are Two (weeks old)

The six surviving Great Tit babies appear to be progressing well. They often spend time preening and flapping their tiny wings.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Kermit's Cousin and a new Bird Table Camera

Having a last look round the back garden last night I spotted a common frog just waiting to have its portrait taken:



Yesterday the new camera arrived for the Bird Table. It is definitely an improvement in quality. The only problem is it is not quite as wide angle as the old one. Looks as though the Round Tuit now has a new entry - build a taller Bird Table to get the camera a bit further away from the birds and angle it to give a part side view.

The video is in two parts
1st  Old Camera - A juvenile Robin stood on the seeds but hoping to be fed.
2nd  New Camera - visiting male Chaffinch:

The camera is not waterproof so I hope the table roof is as it is purposefully precipitating at the moment.

Great Tit Nest Box:  There has been no adult roosting with the babies for three nights. I'm not sure what is going on.  We have lost two of the babies. Maybe a shortfall of food or too much competition from the strongest or possibly got too cold over night. Only six active beaks now when an adult arrives with food. So far the survivors are looking healthy. Not all the hatchlings survived last year.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

12 Day Old GTs + Heath Robinson Strikes Again

I was a tad surprised and a bit alarmed when I saw that Mama didn't sleep in the nest box on Tuesday night. The night before she had spent much of her time trying to sleep on the edge of the nest. I guess she sensed the babies were getting too hot, and maybe a bit too fidgety for sound sleep. Anyway Wednesday started and continued well with the babies being regularly fed. Some visits were so close together that I guess both parents were involved.  Some video from Wednesday, notice that at least some of the chicks now have their eyes open::

For yonks I've contemplated fixing a camera in the bird table so I can get a closer view of just what visits. One of those long outstanding Round Tuits. Tuesday I tried a Mk 1 solution by modifying an old nest box to see how well the idea would work. Good piccies but the camera (a colour board camera bought from Maplins many years ago) was too close in that box. BTW, it took the Starlings less than 15 minutes to find this new feeding station.

Wednesday I set about a Mk 2 version. This time I took off the old rotten roof from the bird table, installed and tested the camera and then put a new roof on made from clear perspex. In retrospect that was a bad decision. The camera doesn't really need any extra daylight and also the flickering Sunlight filtering through nearby bushes keeps triggering the recorder.

Some resulting video from both:
(the scrappy, glitchy bits are from the recorder not the camera)

I think I have to re-focus the camera a bit though I have a better one on the way so I may wait until then. The present one is daylight only, the new one will be colour by day and b/w at night.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Legs, Legs and Yet More Legs

Moved a piece of wood and spotted this magnificent jet black millipede:

Millipede DSCN2640

Millipede DSCN2642

Only managed 8 seconds of video. With all those legs it could move quite fast as it was determined to get back in the shade:

Each segment has two pair of legs.
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