Monday, 28 February 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Virtual gold stars to Jan, Glo and Frank for correctly identifying the tiny flower of the Corkscrew Hazel in last week's puzzle picture. Well done to all.

P1020142c    Corkscrew Hazel

I wonder how people will get on with this:


Clue: compost.

No prizes for a correct guess - just for fun.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Change of Lighting

H has settled down to the old routine and visits the feeding area three or four times each night. The change of lighting seems to have made a difference for the XL2. It doesn't look any brighter to my eyes but the replacement LED lamps give a whiter light.

The four 12 volt lamps are about 45mm in diameter, waterproof and each contains 12 LEDs. Also I mounted them a bit lower down and I think they are now doing just the right job of illuminating Hedgehogs without disturbing them.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Hedgehog Midnight Feast

The night before last I saw the Hedgehog under the Birdy Bistro at bedtime. I had put the camcorder away and by the time I set it up again hedgie had gone. Last night I left everything set up just in case. My luck was in. Just after I had locked up for the night it arrived. The video is grainy as the only light is four small LED lamps about 1.5m above the feeding area so the XL2 had to be used on night vision.

H is enjoying dried raisins and dried mealworms - ignoring the kibbled unsalted peanuts.

If you are going to put out food and drink for hedgehogs remember they only need water to drink - milk is bad for them as their system cannot digest it. Food must be unsalted. Crushed unsalted peanuts, dried mealworms, raisins, cat food but not things like corned beef or spam as they are salty.

This is the setup I used. XL2 fitted with a Canon EF 70-200mm lens. The above was filmed at 70mm but with the adaptor to get the lens to fit the camcorder it acts like a 500mm telephoto lens.

Canon XL2

I spent a while this morning altering the LED lighting to see whether I can improve it a bit.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Nestbox, Ripe Berries, Ladybird

I think the Great Tit had better make its mind up about using the nest box as a nesting site as it is not the only one interested. A few days ago I happened to catch sight of a Blue Tit in there. Luck must have been on its side as a minute after it had left the Great Tit arrived.

I had often wondered why there were so many berries left on plants, especially after a harsh Winter. I can only assume they were not ripe enough. It would appear that they are in just the right condition now as a Female Blackbird and a Wood Pigeon were seen helping themselves.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. The afternoon temperature just topped 14C.
It would seem Spring may not be too far away. Not only have more birds been singing and the local Hedgehog getting up and about but I also spied this seven spot ladybird on the move from its winter shelter. The video is a bit wobbly as it was taken hand held with the Lumix TZ7. Seeing it close up was the first time I had noticed little things like the order it moves its legs when walking.

That's it for another week. Have a great time observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Hedgehog Visit

After many trials and tribulations I managed to set up a temporary recorder to catch any action last night. I put out some crushed unsalted peanuts in case the Hedgehog went walkabout. The recorder managed to capture one reasonable piece of video.

Looks like I had better give the camera a wash and brush up as it has been out in all weathers over the winter. In case you are wondering the clip starts with a still frame from the video. Also I need to re-route the cables so I can use my normal recorder as it is easier to operate.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Was it Henry or Honey

... or something else?  At bedtime three nights ago Bobby was dashing round the garden following a scent he had picked up. Nothing was to be seen and I assumed it had been an unwelcome four legged furry nocturnal visitor. Nothing was noticed the following night. Last night at bedtime Bobby made a dash across the lawn to the ground feeder. At first I couldn't make out anything but as my eyes became accustomed to the torchlight I made out the unmistakable shape of a large Hedgehog. Needless to say I rushed in to grab a camera but by the time I returned it had vanished.

To say the least I was surprised to see a Hedgehog at this time of year, especially as temperatures have been around 3C for nearly a week. They do occasionally wake from hibernation on warm days. I wonder whether Bobby had disturbed it. There have been occasions when I have wondered if something was nesting under one of my hedges as every so often Bobby would gently creep under wagging his tail like mad.

Fortunately I had been putting out some bird food, including kibbled peanut, at night ready for the early birds so I guess that was what hedgie was eating. At least it had access to a reasonable protein diet as there won't be many beetles around for it to eat at this time of year. Also it will be able to get access to water as I have seen Hedgehogs climb up to the pond waterfall in the past.

I had though I had lost all the Hedgehogs when the three regulars stopped visiting somewhere around late August last year. Far too early to have started hibernation. It was great to see I could possibly have a resident.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Oh dear, it looks as though I get to keep my gold stars once again. Jan was getting close with her thought of a bird's nest. What I had photographed was the entrance to a roosting pocket. I have a couple of these hung up but I haven't noticed them being used as a roost though the occasional Sparrow has briefly investigated them. The one I photographed was a spare which had been stored in the shed.

P1020130    Roosting Pocket

Right - I wonder how you will get on with this one. It is a small crop from a photo taken a couple of days ago with the Lumix. The camera is not waterproof so it is not a sea anemone. The red / pink part is, at the most, about 5mm across.


Very hard to think of a clue which doesn't give the game away. Let's just say I had to twist and turn to get a good view of it.

Many thanks as ever to those who tried to guess the last photo and good luck for this week. No prizes for a correct identification. Just for fun.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Corvids, Doves, Goldfinches

Apart from Wednesday which was gloriously sunny most of the day it has been dull and very cloudy - not the best of conditions for photography of any sort. Even more so early mornings when any of the corvid family visit the garden. In fact I have never seen a Carrion Crow actually in the garden and I was surprised to see a couple on the very top of my leylandii tree. I was interested to note the consideration one crow showed as it moved over to make room for another to join it.

Over the past week or so I have spotted a couple of Stock Doves visit daily which makes a change from the regular Collared Doves. It really needs brilliant sunshine to show off the metallic sheen on the Stock Doves' necks.

It doesn't seem that long ago when I could count up to thirty Goldfinches visiting the feeders but this year I am lucky to see three. Usuall there are only a couple.

 Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Checking some aurora sites this morning it would appear the jet of plasma emitted from the Sun slowed down as it approached the earth and didn't produce the effect initially expected. looks to be an interesting site which has, at the moment, a marvellous photo of the Sun's surface activity taken in a UK backyard observatory. Also HERE on the site is a map showing recently uploaded photos from around the world. Click on a pin and then on the thumbnail image to see them larger.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Possible Aurora Tonight

I see from the BBC News site that there is a possibility of an aurora tonight as the Sun sent out a massive solar flare in our direction. Unfortunately the amount of cloud over the UK at the moment could make any sighting impossible.

BBC report is HERE.

17.17 GMT  Aurorawatch have just issued an Amber Alert for possible aurora activity but their site is showing little activity at the moment. The site can be found HERE.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Experimenting With Pictures

One of the things I enjoy when visiting Adrian's blog - Adrian's Images - is to see what he has been doing with Photoshop. One technique which has always intrigued me is colour popping, though I had no idea what it was called until very recently. Adrian put a detailed 'how to' on his other blog - Seeing to Pictures. I don't use Photoshop. I have used Paint Shop Pro since about version 2 so the method was slightly different but I decided to have a go. The picture I chose was taken at least a year ago and a bit grainy but the subject seemed to me to be ideal for the technique of only having colour on the main subject of the photo.

Here is before and after:

Colour Pop1

My thanks to Adrian for his detailed explanation. I very rarely head towards the complication of playing with layers and it turned out to be easier than I had thought.

Talking of layers - the sky was pretty clear towards tea time yesterday and the Moon was fully visible so I plonked the Canon XL2 outside with the Canon 70-200mm L series lens fitted. There is a special adaptor which enables EF lenses to fit the XL. This has its own lens system which gives just over 7x magnification. Thus at 200mm the EF lens acts like a 1400mm. At this magnification the Moon filled quite a large amount of the frame but looked very bare as the rest of the view and sky was bare.

After filming the Moon I moved the camcorder and filmed some nearby tree branches with the lens at the 70mm setting. Using Video Studio Pro X3 the Moon shot was put on the main video track and the tree branches on the overlay track with 68% transparency. The colour temperature of the main video track was altered to give the Moon a slightly blue hue.

Music is an old MIDI file played through a Roland keyboard. The Moon is not moving but the Earth is so to a fixed camera it appears to move across the sky. The movement is in real time, not speeded up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Congratulations to Adrian, Glo, Keith and Jan for deserving a gold star for last week's identification of a cone. Not sure from what tree as I picked it up on our perambulations.

rectangle_New-Out99999psp    P1020119

Let us see how well you get on with the new puzzle picture:
Done in a bit of a rush as I only made my mind up what to use at the last minute.

Clue: Could be a snug hide away.

No prizes for a correct identification. Just for fun.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Blue Tit and Tree Sparrows

It has taken literally hours to upload less than 150MB of video. YouTube kept stalling and even when one eventually uploaded I was informed it had failed because of  'an unexplained error'. Eventually I uploaded them to Photobucket.

A Blue Tit at the peanut feeder:

I think there were three Tree Sparrows visiting the bird table. The wire mesh is to keep the larger birds out and give the smaller ones a chance.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Great Tits, Some of the Regulars

Not a lot different going on at the moment. Both these videos were made to try out various things. The first is a short clip of both Great Tits making a recent visit to the Nest Box. The video was put together using VideoPad.

This longer video was shot using a different camcorder. A s/h Canon XL2 which can take interchangeable lenses. Some was shot using the 20x optical zoom which comes with the camera and some with the Canon 70-200 EF IS L lens. Alternative lenses have to be focussed manually. It was unfortunate that yesterday morning gave dull rainy conditions. The XL2 records in wide screen HD.

There are so many buttons, dials and facilities on the XL2 it is going to take quite a while to learn to drive it and I'm looking forward to some good results once the Sun makes an appearance. 

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Some Colour at Last

It is great to see that we must be getting closer to Spring. On our afternoon walkabouts there are some flowers to be seen. In the churchyard the patch of Winter Aconite is growing each year and always puts on a cheerful show,

Winter Aconite

Nearby in the churchyard are several clumps of Snowdrops. Another welcome sight.


Also to be seen in several gardens are various colours of Crocus. These are growing in one of my plant troughs.


I can see that it wont be too long before Daffodils and Narcissus are in flower as the stalks are about half height now.

The photos were taken with my mobile phone.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Well, I seem to have won the gold star again for last week's puzzle picture. No. It wasn't a spud, tater or potato. Wilma was on the right lines by suggesting it was a rock and Glo did think about dried fish skin. It was no use putting the chip pan on because the fish I had photographed was a fossil from my tiny collection.


Fossil Fish

At 50mm length it wouldn't have made much of a fish and chip supper anyway.
My thanks as always to all who had a go at identifying the photo.

Now for something a lot less ancient for this week's macro puzzle:

Clue:  Evergreen descendants confined here.
No prizes - just for fun.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


A few days ago I got round to clearing up a pile of fallen leaves. I dumped them in the green wheelie bin for collection in March when the service restarts after the Winter break.  The next time I went to use the bin I spotted this group of seven spot ladybirds inside the lid. They had been overwintering in the leaves.

Seven Spot Ladybirds

Yesterday while I was repairing some fence panels I noticed quite a few more seven spots in various nooks and crannies. I hadn't expected to see so many considering temperatures were down to -10C near the end of last year.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Tree Sparrow, Preening Doves, Great Tit Nest Box

When the single Tree Sparrow appeared during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch I was able to take this piece of video:

During the week I spotted this pair of Collared Doves preening each other - won't be long before they are breeding again.

Finally some short clips of occasions when both Great Tits are in the nest box. These visits occur most days and are very brief.

 It ended up a bit on the breezy side last night. It was a good job I checked some of my older fence panels as one was bending alarmingly in the strong gusts and threatening to disintegrate at any time. Fortunately I was able to brace it against the wind and thankfully it is still there this morning though it needs some bodging (repair). Our winds didn't compare with those experienced in parts of Australia recently but still enough to bring some branches down in the village.

The maximum gusts in mph as recorded by my weather centre over the past 24 hours.
Wind 3_4 Feb 2011

It was a pleasant surprise when I saw that the temperature was a very respectable 11C at 7 a.m.. Long may it stay that way.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Heath Robinson and the Chinese Lantern

Oh oh I hear you say. Here we go again. Another technical post. Yep - another flash of inspiration, or something. The seed cases on my Chinese Lantern plant look fascinating now the orange outer coating has rotted away leaving just a skeleton surrounding the seed case. How best to present it?

First I tried a normal photo:

Chinese Lantern Plant Seed Case

I also tried a series of focus stacked photos but the result was awful. While the outer casing was fine the stacking program had great difficulty resolving the red inner seed case. What would be better, to my way of thinking, would be a video but how to set about it. That's when the Heath Robinson in me came up with an idea. Find a way to turn the seed case and take a series of stills and then make them into a video.

I had recently acquired some stepper motors:


Normally a motor keeps going round when you apply a voltage. A stepper motor only turns a small distance each time you apply a voltage. The one I chose takes 48 steps to turn one revolution so I set up an Arduino 'computer' to control the steps and wait while I took each photo.

The seed case is being held on top of the motor with some pink Blu Tack.
Canon EOS 350D  Canon EFS 18-55mm lens
f14 1/20sec ISO 200
Lighting - two 12V LED lamps.


Next - find a program to convert the still shots to a video. I had lost the program I previously used but a quick Google found the freeware program Images to Video HERE which has a simple interface and seems to do a great job. It only works with .jpg files but can make .wmv, .avi, .flv or .mov video files.


Once the video it made had been rotated in Corel Video Studio and repeated a few times the result was:

I think that occasionally it is interesting to be able to show and look right round an object.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Scavenger Hunt January 2011

I was fascinated by something which caught my eye on Glo's blog Porcelain Rose. Glo had found a idea / challenge on Kathy's blog Postcards From the P.P.. It was a photographic scavenger hunt with a list of twelve things to photograph.

They were, in the order they are shown in the video below:

A Stained Glass Window
A Library - our visiting library van
A Goldfish
Something reflective (not a mirror) - my garden pond
Front Door
A Tombstone over 100 years old - this one is dated 1893
Playground Equipment - at the village school
Something out of Place - my pet hate, cars on the public footpath
Nature  - Chinese Lantern Plant seed case
Abandoned Building - in my case this is the old Methodist School

All the subject were found in my own village.
I wonder what will be in the list for February.

Here you can find blogs which have taken part:

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