Monday, 24 April 2017

First Brood of the Year

I've been watching two pair of Blackbirds collecting food recently. One pair nesting high up in a tree and the other in the nearby hedge. From time to time there has been the occasional altercation as they dispute who has the feeding rights in my garden. Yesterday one family took to the wing so the parents have been chasing around feeding them.

Just a couple of snapshots as the light was fading:



As for the Robins and the watering can - I once spotted a Robin staring back at me from inside the can but otherwise I've not really seen much sign of a nest, eggs or brood.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cymbidium Orchid Number Two

It is about four weeks since the first Cymbidium orchid opened its flowers.
They are still in full bloom with no sign of fading as yet:

DSCN7220 Cymbidium

They have now being joined by the first of the flowers to open on the larger plant:

DSCN7218 Cymbidium

As it has just started opening I expect the colour will improve a bit over the following week.

Nearly in May and the BBC weather forecast for this area for Tuesday to Thursday threatens locally heavy Wintry showers! As it covers all the East Midlands I expect (hope) that will apply more to the higher ground in the Derbyshire Peak District but best to be prepared, just in case. It was only yesterday I put away my snow shovel until next Winter.

An amusing sight I wish I could have photographed last week. A Wood pigeon flew across the garden hotly pursued by a House Sparrow which was only six inches behind the pigeon.  I wish they would do that more often.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Just One

It's about five weeks since I planted the seeds which I hoped would become giant strawberry plants. So far just one has shown signs of life:


Now it's a question of nurturing it to full size and waiting for some runners to produce more plants.

I think I mentioned previously that my wooden lean-to shed was rapidly rotting. I had ordered a plastic shed to replace it. That arrived unannounced yesterday morning so I spent the day demolishing the old and erecting the new:


Astounding what can be achieved with a lump hammer and a wrecking bar!
Plenty of clearing and tidying up left to do once the old joints stop aching a bit.

During the demolition process a movement caught my eye:


One of the garden frogs decided it would be safer to move further away from the action.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Song Thrush

Just happened to glance out of the kitchen window at the right time:




and a bit of video from the previous day:

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Greenhouse Flora and Fauna

Over the past couple of years the greenhouse has been more of a junk store than a growing house so the big clear out has started to get it back to the use it was designed for.

Clearing a bench and shelf made room for the 20 strawberry plants which arrived a couple of days ago, 10 earlies and 10 lates, hopefully for a crop of my favourite food next year:

DSCN7209 strawberry

DSCN7208 strawberry

While moving some of the rubbish out I found a mouse nest made from chewed up frost protection fleece and scuttling around a box was this 2 inch (50mm) beauty:

DSCN7207 spider

It looks to me to be a Eratigena atrica, sometimes called a giant house spider

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Unknown Caterpillar

I am in the process of demolishing a lean to wooden shed as the roof is shot through and the wood rotting. That also gives the opportunity to move a couple of water butts. When I lifted the base of one I spotted this caterpillar hiding underneath:


I made a few attempts at identification but so far drawn a blank. Anyway, see previous post, it's not my month for getting identifications correct. Its length was somewhat over an inch, say about 35mm. After a short while it crept off to find another hiding place.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Moth Identification Using Google Images

Not for the first time when trying to identify something I used the Google search where you can upload a photo and Google will try to find similar images.

Use Google search as normal, enter your search words and start the search. Once the results have loaded choose Images and a camera icon appears in the search bar:

 Screenshot (2017-4-10 6.28.59 pm)

Clicking on the camera allows you to upload a photo or give a URL with the photo you are trying to identify. Once loaded scroll down a bit and click on 'Visually similar images'.

 Screenshot (2017-4-10 6.24.56 pm)

If you are lucky you may be able to scroll through those and find what you want. I say 'if you are lucky' as it is far from perfect and has only worked occasionally for me. Also not all images are named.

I was trying to identify this moth I spotted on Sunday:

DSCN7197    DSCN7195

As luck would have it there was one shown which looked very similar so I think there is a good possibility this is a Poplar Grey moth (Subacronicta megacephala)

Not my month for getting identification correct. Many thanks to Ragged Robin of Ragged Robin's Nature Notes  for pointing out this is an Early Grey not a Poplar Grey Moth.

Monday, 10 April 2017

What Are We Looking At?

Sunday was another glorious hot day with the temperature peaking a little under 25C according to my weather station. Before it got too hot we went for a short walkabout. We ended up on the edge of a large field of oil seed rape. From my eye level I could see a sea of yellow stretching into the distance but for a change I thought I would photograph it from somewhere nearer to Penny's viewpoint:


Not so inspiring. I can see why she concentrates on the smells of the countryside while I appreciate the sights and sounds.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Holly Blue Butterfly

Just as we set off for our mid morning walkabout a flash of blue flew past us and landed on the ivy growing on the outside of my fence:

Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue Butterfly

My luck was in as I rarely seem to see these settle long enough to photograph.
My thanks to Conehead54 for correcting my intial mis-identification of Common Blue.
This one is a Holly Blue.

All in all a glorious April day today.
Wall to wall Sunshine:
 Sunshine 8 April 2017

Maximum temperature 19.7C:
Temp 8 April 2017

Sunday promises to be even hotter.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A Greenfinch Comes Visiting

A few years ago I had lots of Greenfinches visiting the bird feeders, that was until the dreaded finch disease reared its ugly head. Then for three years it was the Greenfinches which seemed to bring the disease to my garden. Consequently numbers of Greenfinches and Goldfinches rapidly declined.

Nowadays I watch with some trepidation when one arrives at the feeders.
Fortunately this one seemed to be in good health:




A bit of video:

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Flying T

Spotted resting on the shed door.
A common Plume Moth:


In its usual resting configuration with the wings rolled up.
Not managed to see one with its wings open as yet

Sunday, 2 April 2017

I've Got My Beady Eye On You

About tea time yesterday we were sat outside enjoying some Sunshine and the warmest part of the day when a female Blackbird settled on the roof of the Summerhouse just a few feet away:


Fortunately the camera was within reach as I had just missed a great photo opportunity. I had heard some sounds. Just the occasional single squawk. At the same time the local Wood Pigeons had scattered to the four winds. When I looked out to see what it was I was astonished to see two birds of prey flying round together. Not a sight I get to see more than about once a year, if that. Too high and too far away to identify and even further away by the time I grabbed a camera. It was then I decided to sit outside hoping they might fly back this way but that was not to be.

Also missed this morning, a bit of Robin bonding. Female was on one of the cameras when the male flew up to her and fed her the Sunflower heart he was carrying. I've only seen this happen once before and would love to photo it or even better - grab some video.

More moss was being added to the watering can today.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Would You Adam and Eve It?

Been watching a Robin collecting grass or moss and disappearing in the same direction every time so I went on a nest hunt. Now, there is a perfectly good, safe, dry nest box on the back of the shed set up for any Robin looking for a des res:

DSCN7164    160401_0000

As can be seen from the grab from the video camera inside the box, completely deserted.
Anyway, that wasn't the direction the Robin kept disappearing. That was almost to ground level at the side of the greenhouse. What was there which would be of interest to a Robin?

An abandoned watering can?:

A quick peek inside showed some fresh moss near the back:

A closer view:

Yes, definitely signs of recent activity.
Now, is this going to be a safe place to bring up a family?
Too many cats prowling at all times of day and night so we will have to wait and see what happens.
Maybe I could erect some wire netting to protect the area.

No problem with the can filling with water when it rains.
It was abandoned as there is a large crack in the base so it has good drainage.

Robins are well known for using anything they think suitable as a nesting site from kettles to cardboard boxes in outbuildings.

Friday, 31 March 2017

This and That

Quite a few of the local birds are visiting the feeders in pairs. Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Chaffinches all tend to arrive as a couple. Among the Robins is one which spends a lot of time watching me as I potter round the garden or in the greenhouse:


From time to time bursting into song:


I've also noticed lots of birds gathering nesting material, Robin, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Starling being among them.

I think my first Cymbidium orchid is now in full bloom:

Cymbidium Orchid

Now waiting for the larger one. Always a long waiting game as they seem to be very slow to grow and mature but make up for it by staying in flower for many weeks. A new miniature one arrived today so I potted it on and gave it a good soak and feed. This one is near flowering size so I am hoping to see it bloom next year.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Season's Moving On

Once the rain had stopped I spent some time dead heading over a hundred tete a tete miniature daffodils as most have now finished flowering. A messy job. The wet remains of the flowers kept sticking to my hand. Still a pleasant job though, being outdoors and serenaded by a Blackbird and a Dunnock.

As I worked round one of the flower beds I spied the next set of flowers to appear:


A Fritillaria Meleagris (a snake's head fritillary) with its white cousin in the background.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Grand Opening

No. Not a shop or a pub or visitor centre but the first of my Cymbidium orchids to flower for a couple of years. What a difference a day makes.



This morning:


It may gain a little more colour as it matures but this smaller variety is nearly all green.

The flower spike on the larger Cymbidium continues to progress:


Also I was pleased to spot a bud appearing on the tender Australian Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos) plant. Great to have managed to get this one through its second Winter in the unheated conservatory as they are often treated as (expensive) annuals in this country:


It will be put outside again once we are past any chance of early morning frosts.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What a Lot I've Got

Once I had finished trimming the lawn yesterday I had a quick look to see how the frog spawn in the garden pond was progressing. No frog spawn, now hundreds of tadpoles:




If they all grow up I will have to get a bigger pond, or bigger garden!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Don't Forget the Ground Feeders

With mornings like today - foggy, air frost, just about 2C - our feathered friends appreciate some high energy food to start the day. What better than a fat ball or two? Most times we tend to hang these in nets or specially designed containers. That is fine for the smaller birds who can hang on but often near impossible for ground feeders such as Blackbirds. I have seen them keep flying up, trying to peck off the odd piece before they fall down again.

Recently I have been placing a fat ball or two on the bird table so they can all eat their share:

This female Blackbird was certainly appreciating it.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Seeing Red

One of my favourite views at this time of year can be seen from my back door. A glance across next door's garden to the one beyond and the beginnings of what will become a blaze of red is just starting to show:


If I remember correctly this is a Peony bush,  tall enough for me to admire over the six foot fencing.
My thanks to Rob for identifying the flower as a Camellia.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Mixing Channels - The Making of a B/W Picture

A brilliant Sunlight day with lots of bright blue sky and plenty of clouds, just right for a bit of infra red photography. Pity the wind was so bally cold.  A good job I'm not related to any brass monkeys. I was trying out a new IR filter on the 'full spectrum' 1200D. This one is infinitely adjustable from 530nm  to 720nm.

This photo was taken with it set to 530nm and the camera white balance set to the green grass.

Result as seen and taken by the camera:


The RAW file was adjusted for contrast and black level in Affinity Photo. Then the channel mixer was used to adjust each Red, Green & Blue level independantly on each R G & B channel:


Finally that was changed to B/W (greyscale) with a tad more tweaking:

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