Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Autumn Mornings


Definitely into Autumn and the season of Mists. This is the view which has greeted us on most mornings recently when going for our early morning walkies:



This morning was a little different. Nice Sunrise. No clouds, just aircraft con trails:


Title created with Art Text 2 using the font Aunt Bertha NF.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Another 'Round Tuit' Off the Pile

Not a bad speed for me - parts purchased near the end of Spring finally assembled last weekend. What was it? Just a controller for the under gravel heating for my Lithops (Living Stones). They live in my unheated conservatory where it can go below freezing in the depths of Winter. Last year I had a simple system which was difficult to set to the temperature I wanted. I found an excellent bit of electronics on eBay which would be versatile and easy to set. This is the front panel I made for the new set up:


On the left is the new electronics showing three temperatures. In the centre, in red, is the actual temperature next to the plants. Either side are the temperatures which can be chosen using the small buttons below each display. At the moment it is set to switch on the under gravel heating pad when the temperature drops to / below 8C and to switch it off when the temperature has been raised to / above 12C. The other display (in blue) just shows the voltage being used by the display.

There is little else inside the box:

Besides the aforementioned displays the block in the centre of the box is a solid state relay. Basically a switch with no  moving parts. With it the low DC voltage from the temperature controller can safely switch the mains voltage which goes to a couple of sockets mounted on top:

No. The displays haven't gone haywire. They are multiplexed, each number is lit in turn but very rapidly so to the the human eye they appear lit all the time. The camera shutter is so fast it only sees the bits that are illuminated at the moment a still photo is taken. How then did I get the first photo? I took a short video. Each frame is taken much more slowly so catches everything. I just grabbed one frame from that.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Monday Mystery - Guess What


I found a new program for distorting / hiding photos of creatures, plants, etc.
It is listed as an artistic type app and has a range of ways of applying triangles and other shapes to a picture. I'll see how this goes for my Monday mystery photos.

Here is the first one which I hope will be an easy start.
Guess What:

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

The Mac app used is called Trimaginator (free at the time of downloading) and is also available for tablets. It has a rather unique layout, meaning strange / different, but once played with for a while it is easy to use.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Vapourer Moth

The Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua) is a small day time flying moth, common in the UK but rarely seen at rest. This specimen caught my attention as it was rapidly twirling round and round in the middle of the lane. At first I thought it was a bee but once it stopped moving I noticed the brilliant white spots on its wings:


At just 3/4 inch (20mm) across I wouldn't have noticed it if it hadn't been moving.
Identification was found on the Butterfly Conservation site.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Blood Moon Coming to a Sky Near You

September 27 / 28 sees a rare total Lunar eclipse of a Super Full Moon. The term Blood Moon is said to have come from the dull reddish colour of the Moon at total eclipse. This particular full Moon can also be known as the Harvest Moon. As the Moon is at its closest point to the Earth at this time it can look larger and brighter than usual.

Whilst I normally loath unsolicited email I was fascinated by the following in an email I received today from a Chinese company which I had used in the past:

"....  tomorrow is the traditional Chinese Moon festival, it's a big holiday in China. .... Here is some introduction about this festival: The August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. 

Chinese legends say that the moon is at its brightest and roundest on this day. For this festival, there is a very famous girl, we call 'Chang Er', she is the Moon FairyLady. The story about the lady took place around 2170 B.C. At that time, the earth had ten suns circling it, each taking its turn to illuminate to the earth. But one day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved by a strong and tyrannical archer named Hou Yi. He succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. 

One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However, his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating and flew all the way to the moon. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he refused to shoot down the moon. 

People believed that the lady was a god who lived in the moon that made the moon shine. Girls who wanted to be a beauty and have a handsome husband should worship the moon. And on this magical occasion, children who make wishes to the Lady on the Moon will find their dreams come true."

In the USA the Lunar eclipse will be seen towards midnight 27/28th and in the UK around 3.45 a.m. on the 28th. All depending on clear skies of course.

Friday, 25 September 2015


We have had a couple of nice Sunny days here though the cool breeze has taken the edge off the temperature. Tonight I took a couple of shots of the Sunset seen from my back garden:

This one taken with the auto setting on the Nikon:

This one with the Sunrise / Sunset setting:

The auto setting is the more natural of the two.
I do like the view in that direction, looking through the delicate branches of a Silver Birch.

I needed some way of stopping me from waffling on while I am talking to other amateur radio enthusiasts when I am using our local repeater. It has a three minute time out and it caught me out a couple of days ago while I was chatting to an amateur in New Zealand.
To that end I spent  yesterday having a think and today finally decided to use the small colour LCD screen I showed many moons ago. It is plugged in an Arduino Uno. The problem came when programming the Arduino. Last time was so long ago I had forgotten how. After a lot of Googling I found the information I needed to make it show a slowly pulsing large green circle which changes to yellow after about two minutes and then to a faster flashing red with about 30 seconds to go. There is a push button to start the thing when I start rabbiting on. Time will tell whether that is enough to curb the flow of hot air.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Another Lithops

The third of my Living Stones (Lithops) has burst into flower.

They spent several days like this (two plants in this pot):


Then, finally, today they opened fully:



I've noticed with all which have flowered so far that they only open fully after they have been in full Sunlight for some hours, usually opening as the Sun goes past. To give an idea of size they are all in 2 inch (50mm) pots. I have quite a few smaller Lithops plants but I think they need to reach a decent size before they begin to flower.

Each plant is in two parts and the flower appears from the join. Those parts will begin to shrivel over the Winter. Then is the time to stop watering until new sections have grown and reached their full size / maturity.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Yesterday there were about two dozen House Sparrows vying for a position on the seed feeder which gave me a good opportunity to try catching them 'on the wing':









I also had some video taken a short while ago but when I used the Canon software to transfer the files to the laptop I didn't notice it hadn't copied the movie files before I deleted everything from the card. 

Serif Affinity Photo was used to crop and lighten the photos. I also used a filter which goes by the title 'Unsharpen Mask' which actually sharpens the photos.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Monday Mystery - Answer.

Once again I am out of ideas for a new Monday Mystery photo so I think it's time to give things a rest for a few weeks while I work out a few more ideas. Here are the results for last week's Guess What.


Firstly well done to Adrian, The Weaver of Grass and Ragged Robin who decided there was a flower hidden behind the blur and are rewarded with the virtual Midmarsh Silver Star.


The virtual Midmarsh Gold Star and a well deserved 'well done' goes to Wilma who worked out correctly that it was a photo of one of my orchids. The only one in flower at the moment.



I haven't done much in the way of nature photography or even observing these past few days. My wrists and back are recovering from two days of wielding a small chain saw, hedge trimmer and branch loppers as I tried to tame my leylandii hedge which was getting out of control. At least I have broken the back of the job even if I feel as though I have tried to break my own as well.

Also, after a break of several years I am once again beginning to enjoy my other main hobby of amateur radio. I bought a new rig (transmitter / receiver) which can handle the newer digital modes of working ......


 ..... and am playing with that as I try to understand the 'basic' instruction book which stretches to some ninety pages. The full manual being just over 350 pages long.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Speckled Wood

There have been quite a few Speckled Wood butterflies recently around the Ivy at the bottom of the garden:





They were the ones which seemed to trying chase the Holly Blue butterflies last week.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Dog Dish Insect

There is always an added meat content in Penny's outside water dish. When I went to fill it a few days ago I saw this beasty thrashing about in what little water remained in the bottom of the dish:


It soon managed to start climbing the dry side of the dish:



I'm not sure what the round dots are near its rear end:


Nor have I any idea what sort of insect it is as yet. Somewhat like an earwig.
Size was about 6 to 8mm long.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lithops Flower

This is only the second of my Living Stones (Lithops) to produce a flower so far.
By way of an experiment I took photos at 1, 3 and 5 days as the flower appeared.
This is an experiment using the Mac app MorphX (free when I downloaded it) to blend the progress over the 5 days. A bit rough as the shots were hand held and I didn't managed to get the same point of view each time. In fact these photos were taken before I installed MorphX. The video was an afterthought.

Not the best looking of flowers but the ability of the app to morph between photos worked reasonably well and is something I will try again in the future, taking more care with the positioning of the camera.

To give an idea of how MorphX works here is a screen shot:

MorphX 2015-09-15 at 09.44.20 pm
Two photos are loaded. Draw lines on the left hand photo for morphing reference points. These are automatically repeated on the right hand photo and need adjusting to the correct places. Then tell the app to make a .mov file. I had three photos so I made two morphed movies. This time it produced 30 frame (1 second) movie files. They were slowed down and cropped in iMovie for the finished video. I also extended some stills to give time to see each stage.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

It's Definitely Working

A while ago I mentioned I now have a system which could detect lightning strikes but until last night there had been no opportunity to see how well it works. All that changed as an area of heavy rain and electrical storms swept through this area.

It counts the strikes and works out how far away they are. It also displays whether they are approaching:


or moving away from me.


I really must get round to finding out why the rain gauge on this system stopped working. Probably some small item lodged in the tipping bucket.

Wow, did the rain come down. My main weather system recorded 20mm (3/4 inch) of rain in 14 minutes - no wonder my lane looked more like a fast flowing river at the time.

As for photographic opportunities. That was a wash out. All I saw was sheet lightning, cloud to cloud above the lowest layer of clouds.  There must have been some cloud to ground strikes as we lost electric power for a short while. Probably a strike on the overhead lines which cross the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The unit used is the Ventus W266 weather station.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Monday Mystery - Guess What



Congratulations and the virtual Midmarsh Gold Star to Wilma, Adrian and Ragged Robin. Yes, last week's mystery mosaic photo was indeed of a dragonfly:



OK. Here we go with this week's mystery mosaic photo.
Guess What:

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

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Other Daddy Longlegs

Another creature which has very long legs compared with the size of its body is the Harvestman. Often called a spider but is in fact a close relative of the spiders. Spiders have two segments to the body but all the sections of a Harvestman are fused into one. Also the Harvestman has no venom glands or silk glands. They do not spin webs.

This beauty was blending in well with the cracks on a wooden door:



With a body just 7mm long the outstretched legs measured a maximum distance of 100mm.
A composite made with six hand held focus stacked photos:

2015-09-13-15.30.00 ZS2 PMax

As always Zerene Stacker was used to produce the finished result.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Two Very Different Youngsters

Unfortunately I didn't manage to grab any new video this week.
Here are a couple of youngsters I saw yesterday.

First a Common Green Shieldbug.
Looks to me to be a 5th instar, one stage away from being an adult:

There is a good set of illustrations showing the different growth stages of British shieldbugs on the BritishBugs site.

This is what it will look like when fully grown:
 Green Shield Bug

The other was a juvenile Goldfinch which is just beginning to get its colours:



Here is an adult in its full colour:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.
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