Saturday, 30 January 2016

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - Results

Friday was more than a bit breezy all day. Sunday promises to be wet all day so today (Sunny but with a cold breeze) looked the ideal time to observe and count the birds visiting my garden for an hour. The results were prettty much what I would have expected except the number of Starlings and House Sparrows was low as they spent much time in the nearby bushes and only made occasional raids on the feeders. One nice surprise was the Long Tailed Tits. I had spotted them a couple of days ago and lo and behold a few decided to visit during the count.

Final count results:

4 House Sparrows
3 Long Tailed Tits
3 Blackbirds
3 Wood Pigeons
2 Dunnocks
2 Blue Tits
2 Starlings
1 Great tit
1 Robin
1 Chaffinch
1 Collared Dove

One real surprise occurred at breakfast time when I saw a female Blackbird obviously collecting nesting material.

Unfortunately the RSPB will have to do without my results as their web site is useless. Tried to log in with my details which have worked for years but they weren't recognised and I have no patience with companies which chop and change and mess things up.

Writing of companies which mess things up. Read that Lincolnshire County Council computers were hit with ransomware during the week. A cool £1,000,000 asked for the compromised data to be unscrambled. All because someone appears to have been careless about taking care before clicking on an attachment in an email. Fortunately the attacking virus was noticed and the systems shut down before too much damage was done. They are not paying, hoping to clean the system and then restore from recent backups. It's taking a while as most of their services have been offline for several days.

Sunday: It is now stated that the demand made to LCC was only $500 not the £1M first reported. They hope to have most of their systems up and running again tomorrow, Monday.

Friday, 29 January 2016

New Arduino Project

Today there should have been a nice video of a Blackbird enjoying some apple pieces I had put out but on reviewing the footage today I found the camera had focussed on the background instead of the bird.

Long time readers may remember I built a rain gauge around an Arduino Mega with a digital read out. That has proved to be very reliable so I have decoded to expand on its capabilities. This time instead of using a four line LED display which can only be read from a close distance I intend to rebuild the unit using an Arduino Uno this time and the display will be 10mm tall individual seven segment displays. That has meant learning some new coding to access the display. I bought an eight digit seven segment display which has a MAX7219 chip on board which needs only five wires to access it.

Not only will the display show rainfall but also temperature and humidity. The idea being to use four of the LEDs to show temperature and the other four to show the humidity. Also I have ordered a further two digit seven segment display to show the rainfall.

So far I have got as far as uploading a test routine to make sure I can access all the digits and the decimal points. The latter took me longer to understand the instructions I found on the internet. This is a short video of the test display:

For those who may be interested this is the sketch (program) which is uploaded to the Arduino.
It is my modification of one I found on the internet::

//We always have to include the library
#include "LedControl.h"

 Now we need a LedControl to work with.
 ***** These pin numbers are used on my Uno R3 *****
 pin 12 is connected to the DataIn
 pin 11 is connected to the CLK
 pin 10 is connected to LOAD
 We have only a single MAX72XX.
LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,1);

/* wait a bit between updates of the display */
unsigned long delaytime=350;

void setup() {
   The MAX72XX is in power-saving mode on startup,
   we have to do a wakeup call
  /* Set the brightness to a low value */
  /* and clear the display */

 This will display the characters for the
 word "Arduino" one after the other.
void writeArduinoOn7Segment() {
 // lc.clearDisplay(0);

  This will scroll all the decimal numbers
  and flash the decimal point on LED 0.
void scrollDigits() {
for(int i=0;i<10 br="" i="">    lc.setDigit(0,0,i,false);

void loop() {

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Wordless Wednesday

St. Peter's Church, Humberston, Lincs

Monday, 25 January 2016

Monday Mystery - Guess What



A good start to the new season of mystery photos with Ragged Robin, Adrian and Wilma correctly identifying the photo as a close view of a potato / vegetable peeler. They receive my congratulations and the virtual Midmarsh Gold Star.

This peeler has been in the family for a very long time, well over 40 years:

DSCN5759 DSCN5758

This week's mystery is a bit different.
Here you have a full view but what are the pieces of old branches for?
Guess What:

Just to dispel any doubts it is not my entry for the next Tate Modern exhibition.

Please leave any guesses in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the answer, next Monday.
No prizes, just for fun and maybe a virtual Midmarsh Gold or Silver Star.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Idiot Lantern

Until recently I could go several days without switching on the idiot lantern preferring to listen to the radio. That was until three new free to air channels arrived on Freesat. Two of them, Drama and Yesterday, I find interesting as they broadcast some of the types of television programmes I like to watch - comedy and documentary. It's been great to watch some of the old Open All Hours and Last of the Summer Wine along with nature and history documentaries. As these channels are funded by advertising I record the items which interest me. I don't object to advertising as such but find modern ads so silly, nay stupid and annoying, they put me off more products than attract me.

Last night I watched a programme which was broadcast on BBC Channel 4. For once it kept my attention as I usually find I nod off during long programmes. I have never seen a circus live and found it fascinating watching The Golden Age of Circus. Seventy five minutes of old silent film some of which looked as though it dated back to the late 20s or early 30s. The beauty was there was no soporific voice over, just music. There was a warning before the film that some people might be upset by some of the subjects. This probably alluded to the section which showed many of the performances involving animals. I must admit I skipped a few of those parts myself. While the dogs playing football with a balloon seemed to be having the time of their lives acts like the seven performing Polar Bears and some of the wild cats and monkeys didn't look so contented.

Actually there was more to it than just the traditional circus. Included was some rodeo, high wire acts between skyscrapers or across ravines and outdoor escapologist acts. It seemed to start with some amusing stage acts so I guess it was showing the development of travelling entertainment.

The last five minutes or so concentrated on the audience reactions. I wonder how often young children in the age of XBoxes and Nintendos show such expressions and emotions of wonder, amazement and pure joy or even what opportunities they get to experience such feelings.

Having bored you silly here are a couple of photos of this morniing's Sunrise:


Friday, 22 January 2016



On a few occasions a colourful Sunset appears on the 'wrong' side of the sky. Tonight was one such where the colours were towards the ESE. The direction I am normally photographing Sunrises:

Sunset DSCN5777

Sunset DSCN5779

As usual it lasted a very brief period and there was no colour, apart from blue, towards the West. It made a nice ending to what had been a fairly grotty day with strong wind and endless rain through the middle of the day.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Lovely though short lived Sunrise this morning:



The temperature dropped to -1C last night and everything was white with frost when we went for our early morning walk. I though it would be a good time to photograph some webs but surprisingly I couldn't find one.

On our walk I had a look at each roof as we passed the houses. With them being white over with frost it was easy to spot the places where leaking heat had melted it. I am always surprised how many properties are leaking heat and wasting money heating the outside air.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Monday Mystery - Guess What


First one for this year. There may not be a new one every week. It all depends whether I can find a suitable subject. That gets harder every year.

Guess What:

Please leave any guesses in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the answer, next Monday.
No prizes. Just fir fun and maybe a virtual Midmarsh Gold or Silver Star.

Sunday, 17 January 2016


Not what I was hoping to see on the bird table:


Saturday, 16 January 2016

Being Prepared For ........

 Icy Weather

Definitely hazardous walking down the lane recently. Lots of frozen puddles:



Ice right across the lane in places:


As the lane runs East to West the low Sun this time of year doesn't get a chance to melt it. Keeping upright on two legs used to be a problem until I found a solution a few years ago - ice spikes which I keep fitted to an old pair of shoes:


When I first received them I didn't think just six little tungsten carbide spikes would have the ability to stop my feet slipping. How wrong I was. Even through the spikes are short and blunt my 12 stone is more than enough to make them crunch into the hardest frozen ice.

I now keep a spare set as the spikes are very hard wearing but the rubber which stretches round the bottom and side of the shoe does wear on pavement which is ice free and eventually gets so thin it breaks. The latest ones have been re-designed so maybe they will last longer. I get at least two years use out of the original ones. Obviously that depends how often they have to be used:


I buy these from Amazon for about £9. I tried a different make with much wider rubber, plastic or whatever was used but they were a poor fit even when well stretched and tended to wobble which was no use at all.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Friday at the Flicks - A Seed Dish of Starlings


Winter has arrived at last. By teatime yesterday it started to snow, wet stuff at first which melted as it landed but eventually we ended up with a thin covering and by this morning the pools of water in the lane were frozen over:

DSCN5733    DSCN5736

When we got back from our early morning jaunt I topped up the seed feeders.
I wasn't a bit surprised when the brat pack invaded the seed dish on the bird table:

At last I have managed to be able to record live sound along with the video.
The harsh cackle at the end of the first clip is the sound of a Magpie.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A Splash of Early Yellow

Yesterday afternoon brought bright Sunshine but a cold breeze kept the temperature down. A quick look across the fields showed a clear view of the nodding donkey at an oil well about 2km away:


It was a bit exposed there so we nipped back to have a look in the village churchyard where the Winter Aconite were showing well:



I am usually photographing these in mid February.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Monday, 11 January 2016

How Time Flies

It hardly seems like a year since I had to rush Penny to the vets after she injured herself running full speed into some obstruction in the garden. This was her early last January after her operation:


Fotunately it healed up fairly quickly and the only reminder this January is the scar:


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Determined Blackbird

One Blackbird got fed up waiting for bits to drop from the suet ball feeder:


Most of the time it was having to flap it wings like mad to stay in position:


In the end the effort paid off:



I have frequently seen Blackbirds use the same technique to grab berries from ivy and privet hedges.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Friday at the Flicks - Starlings + Peanut Butter


The last bit of video was so short I slowed it down to about one third speed.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Monday, 4 January 2016

Peanut Butter for Birds

Now we are nearing colder weather I decided to start adding peanut butter to the Birdy Bistro range of feeders so I looked out the log feeders I made a few years ago. One has one inch holes, the other half inch holes, to hold the peanut butter:

P1040322c.jpg    Home Made Peanut Butter Feeder

 Photo form 2012:
Blue Tit eats Peanut Butter.jpg

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing a peanut butter is that most made for human consumption must not be used as they have added salt. Here are two types I use:


The one on the left is specially made for birds and costs up to £2.49 for a 330g jar. On the right is a variety for humans which has no added salt and costs around £5 for a 1Kg tub. The CJ Wildlife contents are finely ground, fairly dry and crumbly whereas the Meridian Foods one is much softer to handle though with larger peanut pieces.

This year I have hung the logs together and put them with the other feeders.
In the past they were hung in a different part of the garden.


It takes a while for the birds to get used to them being there but once the Starlings find the peanut butter it won't last very long. Blue and Great Tits also like it as does the occasional passing Great Spotted Woodpecker. Some people spread the peanut butter in the bark on tree branches for the more timid birds to enjoy a high energy treat.

Less than 24hrs later there was never a doubt about which birds would be first:



It can be a bit of a messy job stuffing the peanut butter in the holes, usually every day, but worth it to help birds through bad weather with an energy boost and for the entertainment value watching the antics of Starlings as they work out the best way to get at the goods.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Blooming Early

My dwarf iris bulbs (Katharine Hodgkin):


These were supposed to be blooming in February.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

All that Shimmers is not Silver

Especially when it's a silvery wingless insect. Lepisma saccharina, commonly known as silverfish after the way their bodies glisten a silvery colour in the right lighting and the way they wriggle like a fish when moving.

I found this dead one .....
Body length 10mm

.... and put it under the microscope.

Head end:

Tail end:

The body is covered in tiny scales which reflect the light:



They are very fast movers on the flat. Too fast for most predators and as they like to stay in dark, damp places they are often too fast to be spotted by us.
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