MY FAVOURITE CARTOON AS A BOY..

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 BG REVIEW.5. FINAL SUMMARY.


Well.
This is it.
Even though BG was born in late January 2007, and didn’t really get going at all until March, I’ll wrap up the first year on the Blog this week, and what a year it has been.


If you read the introduction to BG again, made way back in January, you’ll see that I was not sure what I’d post on, or how frequently – but I’d leave the posts to a paragraph or so, on anything I found interesting. Anything in the world around me, mainly biological I suppose. Apart from that recent, short cartoon of a cat that my Mother sent me, (actually my Sister in Chicago found it, I hear), I kept to my word, but the posts came thick and fast - I soon realised I was genuinely interested in far more than I thought, and limiting posts to a paragraph proved to be almost impossible.


I’ve posted a few times on "Transport" (especially motorbikes, some of which I adore), and once or twice on people that might be worth a mention – my (ex) Polish neighbours for example, and taken a few photographs of things not at all wildlife related – the dual carriageway (at night) near our house and Anna’s flying lesson, to give two examples.
As far as I am (still) concerned, these posts fill out BG with subjects other than nature – and BG is possibly better off for them.


Photography, pretty basic photography became a main feature of BG, in its first year.
I had my Father’s camera when BG was started, and the use of my (soon to be) Father In Law’s camera – both of these were the old style film SLRs, but in March, I became another mobile phone contract holder, and got myself a shiny new Sony Ericsson phone, with what is generally considered to be one of the best, if not the best (still) cameras on a phone - especially for "macro (close-up) shots".
The world of macro, (generally insect) shots was opened up to me then, and a large part of BG was insectoid in nature in 2007.


I started BG in January because I was staggered when I laid eyes on Saturn through our wee spotting scope, and also amazed to find Peregrines not 5 miles from the house – I’d soon see one FROM the garden, and regularly in the middle of Reading, but I had no idea at the time, that these magnificent birds were virtually resident in the area.









The year on Blue Grey.



January and February 2007,
and BG was born.
Highlights of those early months were as I’ve already mentioned – the Peregrine and a wonderful (my first) view of Saturn and her rings.

Incidentally, very soon, Saturn’s rings will not be so apparent to us on little old Earth – they will be "side-on" for some time, so we caught the giant planet at its best this year.


March 2007,
and I foud new employment – in a job I really love.
March also brought a lovely, close-up view of a Short-Eared Owl as we drove to the Ridgeway in Oxon, for a walk with a view, (what a view) and a view to seeing these diurnal Owls.
I also documented the Total Lunar Eclipse in March. We were incredibly fortunate that the skies remained crystal clear for that particular night – giving vast chunks of the UK an unforgettable site of a rust-coloured moon for a time – very humbling stuff.
March also brought the first Brimstone Butterfly of the year. These little yellow/green insects always seem to be the bravest butterflies - ready to chase away winter as soon as they think they can.


The Red Admiral often can be seen hanging on through winter, but it’s the Brimstone that lifts your heart in March, as you start to feel the return of the sun’s lick of warmth.
Of course, March was also the month that I erected our "Des-res" Blue Tit nest box on our kitchen wall, that is to say, the drainpipe from the bathroom. That box was to provide us with months of fascination in the spring.
March was also the month that I spotted the first Sand Martins of the year.
Lets face it. March, is where the year on BG really got under way…



April.
April in 2007 was quite remarkable. It was sunny and warm, (almost hot even) with no appreciable rain AT ALL, for the entire month.
Anna and I went out and bought some garden chairs – and left them outside for the month, give or take. We didn’t realise this at the time, who could have predicted it?, but April was to be the British summer of 2007. It certainly all went down the pan after this month.
April brought BG a lovely view of a pair of Buzzards building a nest in the still very bare trees in the rolling countryside near Shrewsbury.
April also brought BG the first wasps of the year, and the first Red-Tailed Bumblebees that I’d seen in 2007.
I caught my first glimpses of the first Swallows of the year in April, a day before my birthday in mid month,though I’ve often seen Swallows in the UK in very late March - so these were a wee bit late I thought.
Anna and I took a nice drive down the Thames Valley to the edge of the Chilterns where we were treated to the most spectacular display of Bluebells that we’d ever seen, in a wood near Hambleden.
April was also the month that I had my annual "moment of the year" – seeing the return of my Swifts on the 23rd of the month, that meant effectively the globe was obviously still working (as Simon Barnes might say), we still, amazingly, haven’t buggered it up just yet.
Finally, the month that is normally full of showers, brought BG a Roe Buck in the recreation ground behind the house (virtually in the centre of Reading) and the first Hobby I’d seen of the year, flying like a missile over the office, and seen from the 5th floor.



May.

Hmmmm. May was where the globe seemed to break down. May was when the rains came. And came. And didn’t stop properly until summer was well and truly gone. True, there was the odd dry or bright day, but these were few and far between. The wind howled, the rain tore down, and the garden chairs were packed away for most of the summer ahead.
That said, May was the month that our Blue Tit eggs hatched. You can read all about our successful Blue Tits (again) in the archive section of BG, but briefly, for the record, I’m pretty sure our female only laid 5 eggs, (low for this species – maybe they knew they’d struggle finding food in the wet), they all hatched between the 3rd and the 4th of May, and all fledged almost 3 weeks later.
We were certainly very lucky with our family of Blue Tits. The terrible weather played havoc with nests all over the country – it wasn’t just the worst summer weather ever, it was the worst year for many of our songbirds also – there was a massive lack of prey for them, and they suffered terribly as a result.
We fed ours Mealworms and Waxworms (live), and this seemed to do the job – like I say, ALL five of our fledglings flew the nest around the 22nd of the month.
By then I had found a nest of Great Tits in the office courtyard – they were quite wet – the opening to the post, in which they nested (carefully avoiding all the nestboxes put up by the office staff!) was above the nest – but I’m pretty sure they all fledged successfully too.
May was also the month that recently fledged Goldfinches began to discover and regularly use our very posh Egyptian Thistle seed (and soon to be Sunflower Heart) Feeder.
The first of many sitings of the incredibly-coloured Scarlet Tiger Moth was documented on BG in May, (24th).

This wonderful diurnal moth became a daily visitor to the garden, and my walk to work would result in seeing many of them in the air, and even dead on the ground. If I saw a moth in June (or July) it was almost ALWAYS a Scarlet Tiger Moth – a moth that I’d never laid eyes on before!

June.

The wind and rain of May continued with vigour into June, unbelievably enough. If anything, it seemed to get worse, and towns in the north of the UK suffered devastating floods. These weren’t mentioned much of course, in the British media – it was only when the affluent Thames Valley flooded a month later, (with effluent) that news teams really became interested.
June brought Bullfinches to our feeder, which were like a splash of colour against the black skies, as was the wonderfully colourful Jewel Wasp that seemed to like our giant potato plants.

The rains certainly gave our plants lots of height and foliage, (our Maris Pipers grew to almost 6 feet tall!) but the tubers beneath, in the sandy soil, really suffered.
The insects did come in June, but they struggled somewhat. BG documented two species of Chafers (the May Bugs), and a first view (for me) of a Leaf Cutter Bee, which was neatly trimming cut-outs in next door neighbours’ Rose bush, as well as our lanky Jerusalem Artichoke plant leaves.
June also brought out the mating Sawflies and Black Garden Ants - which I watched "milk" their "pet aphids" on the Potato plant stems.


July.
Even wetter than May or June in the south of the UK.
The 13th of the month was dry though, and very humid – and suddenly we had one of the two (normally) , annual "Flying Ant days" where the winged models all erupt from cracks in the concrete.
July 17th brought me my first sitings of one of the Reading Peregrines chasing pigeons low over the recreation ground behind the house – an amazing spectacle, and sound.
July also brought the bold stripes of the Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, feeding on the ubiquitous (around the Thames) bright yellow Ragwort flowers.
The most surprising event in July, as far as I and therefore BG was concerned was a visit to our bird-feeder of a glorious, adult male Emperor Dragonfly. These are very large, very impressive Dragonflies – but are not really reknowned for eating Niger seed or Sunflower Hearts – or any vegetable matter in actual fact!
I spotted a strange green thing on the feeder from inside the house, and managed to sneak up on it with my phone - for a few photographs. I was very lucky indeed to see it firstly, and then have it allow me to get within a foot of it for its mugshot to be taken!
More surprise visitors to the house this time, in July, were a Lesser Stag Beetle, hiding under the remote control in the sitting room (good old Anna - it didn’t shock her at all, and these are FEARSOME-looking beasties – she just popped it in a glass for me, so I could see it when I returned from work), and a Roesel’s Bush Cricket in the Kitchen, which the eco-
fiends (you all know them), will scream is a sign of Global Warming at you. Should you care to listen.
A big, lovely cricket though, and one I’d never seen before.
On July 24th 2007, the floods came to our neck of the woods (river). A day of torrential rain pushed our antiquated British drainage system over the edge, and the Thames Valley was flooded.
I spent the days looking for sandbags for our house, and the nights helping out others as part of my job.
A frantic week was ended when Anna and I flew out to Kephalonia, for our summer holiday, where we heard they were having the hottest summer they had ever experienced, and the whole of the eastern Med was alight with raging bush fires…
Hey ho.



August.
As Anna and I sunned ourselves in Greece, we heard there were three days of hot weather in the UK.
Not that we cared. We were too busy gazing at Sardinian Warblers, Long-Legged Buzzards, Giant Long-Horned Beetles, Alpine Swifts, Beech Martins, Jellyfish, Turkish Wrasse, Shrike, and listening to Scops Owls and Cicadas.
On the 16th of the month, from our appartment’s balcony overlooking the sea, I noticed a small flock of Swifts, moving purposefully south. It was with a heavy heart that I realised that this meant the Swifts in the UK, including a family of birds that had nested in the eaves of the Off Licence, a few doors down from us, had probably set off south as well – bored to tears of the summer in Britain. I have no idea how the Swifts fared in Britain in 2007 – very badly I expect.
August was the first month that reports of an explosion in Mosquito numbers was mentioned in Britain too.
Myxamatosis which is spread by mozzies (as well as the main vector, rabbit fleas) reared its ugly head all over the country again – all due to the incredibly wet summer.
We returned from the Mediterranean, engaged to be married (she had said YES!!), the hot weather in the UK immediately departed, and it started to rain again!



September.

Anna and I (and a cousin of mine) had a lovely evening in the west country in September, peering at Glow Worm Larvae on a wild hill. These were very late – we’ll have to return in the summer proper, if we get one this year!
September was when the spiders seemed to appear in numbers, along with my first real view of the Hedgehog which lives in the office courtyard. I assume, I know in fact, that I started to notice this Hedgehog in September more and more, because of the fallen leaves though which it noisly rustled and snuffled. Hedgehogs are not known for being quiet!
The Swallows and Martins were going – all nearly gone in fact, but the insect life was still going strong…
BG documented the comings and go-ings of Ichneumon wasps, Harlequin Ladybirds and larvae (the only species of Ladybird in the garden at this time of year it seemed), Sawfly larvae and Craneflies.



October.

Early October brought me (and BG) the first sound of Winter Thrushes returning to the UK to gorge on our berries, which unlike a lot of wildlife, had a very good year this year – having been swollen all year by the rains.
Sugar Gliders were reported on Wimbledon Common, and the very sweet Long-Tailed Tits had already formed their close-knit family winter flocks.
Mid October, and the Conkers were dropping, all manner of Fungi had reappeared (after a very strange year for that Kingdom), and like I said, the berries were plentiful and fat.
The evil Harlequin Ladybirds were getting blacker and blacker (better for soaking up the dwindling available light and warmth), and Anna and I took a trip down to our favourite part of England – the New Forest Area.
I’m incredibly fortunate that I have a partner who shares not only my interest in the wild world around us, but doesn’t mind being in it all the time either! As well as that, she has my keen eye, and a wee walk off the beaten path in a very pretty, secret part of the New Forest brought almost 20 species of Fungi – most of which we hadn’t seen before – wonderful stuff.
Another day on the south coast – a very sunny, warm day for October, was spent admiring all the birds on Marshland near Lymington. The winter visitors were gathering in numbers, so we had Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon, Shoveler, Black-Tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Little Egret, and others all in a lovely walk in the sun, right on the coast.
That day was ended with a lovely furry Ruby Tiger Moth Caterpillar, which Anna spotted crawling down the middle of the road, and saved!
Just as the month ended, Comet Holmes appeared in Perseus, in our night sky - a wonderful sight to behold.



November.

The rains seemed to stop somewhat in November! A fantastic fungi foray in the Black Park, organised very well by my eldest sister and husband, and attended by about 100 people brought some amazing success as far as finding fungi was concerned, as allegedly this has been a bad year for fungi, especially edible fungi.
A few trips to the local lakes for me, brought views of Fieldfare, winter ducks such as the Goldeneye (always wonderful to see), more Peregrines and Sparrowhawks chasing Redwing around the berry bushes.
The middle of November brought the first real frosts since early in the year, and I got myself a lovely new (well, new to me) digital camera, from a friend that I met on the WAB site – a friend that shares many views with me - ie looks at nature with artistic, rather than scientific eyes, and does not get all hysterical regarding Global Warming, nor Disney-fy the wildlife around us, like so many British people do.
I took my first tentative shots with this new camera, and bought a macro lens to go with it. Roll on the new light and new season!



December.

Because Anna and I were a little frustrated about having to guess what was happening in our nestbox during the spring (though I should point out here, that my guesses were pretty spot on - many hours watching and noting I guess), what with a contribution from Anna and her family (as a christmas present), I went out and bought a new birdbox complete with camera INSIDE the box! The Tits have been checking it out in a daily fashion, ever since I erected it, and I’m very excited about the possibility of being able not only to photograph any go-ings on inside the box next season, but to VIDEO it as well!
The middle of December brought very hard frosts – a chance to try out the macro function of my new toy ( the results of which (Frosty Nail photo) I was quite chuffed with)!
The Geminid meteor shower showed well in December also, thanks once again, to some remarkably clear nights, which also gave me a good opportunity to marvel at Mars in the night sky - the brightest that planet will be for a long time.
As for the end of the year - well, a Goldfinch has returned to the feeder after months of absence, in fact the bird life in general in the garden, has suddenly blossomed.
We have the odd Redwing or Filedfare in the Lime tree, as well as the odd Goldfinch flock (or charm), and as I’ve said, two (new?) Blue Tits are busy checking out the new box as I write this…










*****************************






That was the year that was (2007).
I’m sure I’ve missed out a whole lot of stuff – but I can’t go into all SIX HUNDRED odd posts right now!
All the highlights I’ve mentioned above can ALL be found in the archive section of the blog.


I do hope you’ve enjoyed visiting BG this year, whether you’re a regular visitor - (there are a few!) or a fleeting rarity (after typing in "Red Underwing Moth" into Google for example).
I’ve (we’ve - Anna and I) have learned an awful lot this year – about subjects we hadn’t even really considered before, like insects and fungi for example, and I hope some of the posts here have been of some interest to you.
I’d just like to quickly mention Anna again here, and really thank her for not only sharing my interests and passions with me, contributing massively to my enjoyment of the wild things around us (everything is better shared, you know, and she has a fine set of peepers – nothing will escape us BOTH!), AND also putting up with me, when I seem to do nothing else but watch a field for example, or gaze up at the sky.
Thankyou honey.


And thanks to you for visiting this site - here’s to next year!






The moon (this morning)






BG in 2008.


What of 2008 then? Will BG still be up and running. Will it evolve?
Yes, and er…. Yes!
Firstly I should say, Anna and I are getting married in August next year, so that may take up a little of our time.


Then there’s the honeymoon, in Sri Lanka by the look of it, complete with leopards, monkeys, bears, giant insects and turtles!
On top of that, my present job will not last forever, its life is ticking away as I write this, so a LARGE proportion of my time will have to be spent networking more and looking at other related avenues… should be (COULD be) exciting. There may even be a move up to Sheffield for Anna and myself, but we’ll know a bit more about anything like that, soon enough.


As for BG, well, with my new camera, and its zoom lens and macro facility, I’d like to get many more shots onto BG – of close up stuff – insects etc… when they reappear, and of more long range stuff, such as mammals.
I’m well aware that there has bean a shortage shall we say, of mammals, on BG this year – and half of those that I did post about, were dead!
I’d like to change that next year. I’d like to take a monthly trip to parts of the countryside that I think Anna and I will be able to find, watch and photograph such animals as my Badgers, the Foxes and Deer. We can certainly do that – should be a lot of fun!
Then of course, I have the camera in the new nestbox. You will NOT get 62 odd posts on any "nesters", like 2007. You may well though, if we are lucky, get the odd update, photograph from inside the box, and very exciting indeed – the odd video – complete with sound!!!
We’ll see how it all pans out, eh?


For now, BG will take a tiny break over Hogmanay. We're off to drink ourselves silly in London for the celebrations...








Happy New Year to all readers of "Blue-Grey".








See you all in 2008, and lets have a better bloody summer next year eh?!



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Thursday, December 27, 2007

FEMALE FENCE-POST JUMPER

Click to enlarge.


Finally - what I really bought my new camera for! Its been unseasonably mild here today - the spiders are out again, as is the odd Queen Bee I hear.


I snuck up on this Fence-Post Jumper, last posted about in April, and snapped it on my old fleece near the birdbox.
Remember. This spider is about the same size as a pea!





Wednesday, December 26, 2007

ROOSTING GREAT TIT


As described here, I saw a Tit disappear into a hole (8' up) in the steel struts of the bike covers at work a couple of days ago - obviously roosting.

I've since (tonight) ascertained it is one of a pair of Great Tits (possibly the ones that nested in the courtyard last spring).


I snuck outside on a break this evening, stood on an upturned bin about 30' from the hole, and took its photo. It does look snug in there, and didn't even notice it had had its photograph taken!

CLASSICAL MUSIC ON "BLUE-GREY" (2)

I was considering dropping the classical music on BG yesterday, after I logged on and Cliff Richard was piped at me through the speakers?! Eh? Well... I guess for some people, a classic Christmas means Cliff.

I feel like I AM learning a little about this type of music though (NOT Cliff), and today BG seems to be playing three of my favourites - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor ("Moonlight Sonata") by Beethoven, Piano Concerto No.1 (in B Flat Minor) by Tchaikovsky, and "Morning" (Suite No.1) from Ibsen's "Peer Gynt" ( by Edvard Grieg).

So the feature has been temporarily (at least) saved....!

Remember though, if YOU don't want Classical Music on BG, scroll down to the bottom of the home page, and stop it.

COLLARED DOVE PHOTO - EDITED




A cropped, edited version of the photograph below, to bring out more detail in the breast feathering, and the colour in the eye. No colour at all in this version, apart from the eye.


Click to enlarge.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

COLLARED DOVE PHOTO

Click to enlarge

ROOSTING COLLARED DOVE

I've been at work today, but managed to pop out of the office to take a photograph of a Collared Dove, roosting in the office courtyard.

This bird is one we take for granted - sometimes to the point of not even liking it, or completely overlooking it.
Its only been a breeding resident in this country for a little over 50 years, (after first breeding here in 1955) and yet, only 17 years later, in 1972, the population was estimated at over 40,000 pairs!
There has been nothing like this bird in terms of rate of breeding success on our islands, and there possibly won't be either - and the population of this species now is pretty well uncountable.

Its call is often mistaken for that of a Cuckoo - though the dove generally gives three notes to its repeated call, unlike the cuckoo's two.

There are a few birds in Britain with red eyes - mainly waterbirds.
Some of our Grebes, the Merganser, the Coot and Moorhen, the Oystercatcher and Pochard spring to mind, but along with the Dartford Warbler, this bird is one of the very few "land-based" birds to exhibit a quite stunning RED eye, albeit quite dark in this species - a "dark crimson" rather than bright red.

Like I said - I popped out of the office briefly this evening, to photograph one on its roost, in the office courtyard.
I had a wee bit of trouble with the focus, as it was in the pitch black, but I think the result isn't too bad... and the flash (which the Dove didn't mind at all), seemed to really make the crimson eye a brighter red.

The bird of the day for me on Christmas day, is NOT a Partridge in a Pear Tree, (or two Turtle Doves) but .....The humble (yet stunningly successful) Collared Dove.

I'll post the photograph above to enable any readers of BG to, you've guessed it, "Click to enlarge".

ANGLE SHADES MOTH CATERPILLAR




Thats the green "model" of Angleshades moth caterpillar above.


NB. About three weeks later (13/01/08) - found the brown "model" of the same species of caterpillar in the garden, crawling up our woodpecker post.

I'd like to say it is quite obviously mad, but to be honest, the woodpecker post is probably the safest place in the garden for it! No woodpecker has gone near it. Yet...


Photographs of this caterpillar below...



A GREEN CHRISTMAS?


Merry christmas to all who have nowt better to do on Christmas Day than visit BG! My excuse is that I'm working...

I found this wee beastie on the exterior kitchen wall this morning. I think its an Angle Shades Moth Caterpillar (again), but am waiting formal ID from an expert entomologist on WAB.
Could be a long wait...
Two close ups of the head of the caterpillar are posted above. Click on all images to enlarge...
NB. Comfirmed as Angle Shades Moth at 8pm.

Monday, December 24, 2007

FIRST NESTCAM VIDEO!!!

video

We had the Blue Tits (both) visiting the box a number of times during the morning.

Unfortunately, I was leaning out of the window trying to attract a Wren that I'd seen, with my Wren Call, so didn't actually manage to record any footage of any bird IN the box.

The only clip I did get was of a flickering shadow inside the box as one of the birds poked its head inside and peeped with its eyes, as well as its voicebox(es).

Turn the music off at the bottom of the home page of BG, and press play (twice) on this first clip. Even if it looks like there is no clip to play (ie a dark space above the play button). If your computer is set up to play clips, play it will, for 4 seconds.

You'll see the shadow, you'll hear the Blue Tit.

Remember, the camera is in the middle of the roof, facing directly down into the inside of the box - the opening hole for the birds is effectively out of shot, at the top of the image.

Our first Blue Tit video. 4 seconds long. Of a Shadow, and a few squeaks. They WILL get better - I promise!

LAST FULL MOON OF 2007

After what seems like an eternity of frost, freezing fog and an easterly wind, a prevailing Atlantic, south-westerly has returned now, making it much warmer, and wetter.

No snow for Christmas day I'm afraid (no surprises there then), very probably a decent amount of rain though.
Boxing Day looks better though - with a little luck, we'll get a nice day then.

Today, however, will give us the last full moon of the year, on christmas eve, this year.

Call it what you like...
Here are some of the names used for it:

The Cold Moon.
The Long Nights Moon.
The Oak Moon.
The Wolf Moon.
The Frost Moon.
The Moon Before Yule. (A bit out this year?)

Or maybe even... make up your own name for it, which is may be more relevant to you than Celtic names for it, Native American names for it, or Pagans names for it for example...

The December full moon always has a high trajectory in the sky, often making it appear relatively small.

I hope its clear enough to see it, though I'm not sure it will be....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

MACRO - FROSTY NAIL



Click to enlarge.


Just an old, rusty nail hammered into our gate, covered in a heavy frost. Amazing how beautiful such a mundane thing can look.
I have a feeling this category will be MUCH harder to choose a winner from next year!

Photo taken at 7am roughly,in December, after a hard frost, with the Lumix and the very good Raynox DCR150 clip on.

LANDSCAPE - BLUEBELL WOOD



Click to enlarge.


Nothing compared to the shots of the Fawley Wood in April, as far as breathtaking landscapes were concerned this year.

Photo taken with Anna's father's Minolta SLR film camera.

OVERSEAS - MYRTOS BEACH



Click to enlarge.


A photograph of the sea off Myrtos Beach in Kephalonia - the beach where I asked Anna to marry me this year.

I should point out here (again) that this photo is not enhanced at all. That WAS the breathtaking colour of the sea.

Photo taken in August with the good old phone.

BIRDS - BLUE TITS



Click to enlarge.


A difficult choice here, I like many of my bird photographs - the Tufted Duck, the Egyptian Goose, the Goldeneye, the pair of Peregrines.

I couldn't ignore "Scargill" though, and the most precocious of his chicks, a day before they fledged.

Photo taken with Anna's father's Minolta SLR film camera.

INSECTS - EMPEROR DRAGONFLY



Click to enlarge.


Only one real contender here - the VERY surprise visitor to our Goldfinch feeder in sodden July.

Photo taken with the phone.

MAMMALS - HEDGEHOG

Click to enlarge


A distinct lack of mammals this year on BG.

I derived great pleasure from this Hedgehog though, in the office courtyard.

Nicknamed "Russell" - the clever thing even climbed a bush during the floods!

Photo taken with the trusty old phone.

MISCELLANEOUS - NIGHT LIGHTS



Click to enlarge


A recent success with my new camera. I got a few strange looks when taking this photo - but I'm used to them!

Photo taken with the Lumix.

FUNGI - HEDGEHOG PUFFBALL



Click to enlarge.


A lovely find by Anna, this, and out of many, many photographs of fungi I've taken this year, including the more striking Fly Agaric or Amethyst Deceiver for example, this one is my favourite.

Photo taken DEEP off the beaten track in a very beautiful, secret part of the New Forest, with the trusty phone.

BLACK & WHITE - GADWALL



Click to enlarge.


A heavily edited (colour removed, contrast increased, cropped) photo taken with the Lumix, at a local lake.

FLOWERS - MARSH WOUNDWORT



Click to enlarge.


A few contenders here, notably the evil Giant Hogweed around the Walthamstow reservoirs or the Field Pansy in the Lower Paddock.

The Marsh Woundwort gets it for me though, growing alongside the Thames, if only for the "cow-pat fly" in the shot too. An impressive, albeit common plant.

Photo taken in July, with the phone.

CAPTIVE WILDLIFE - TAWNY OWL



Click to enlarge.



I considered my portrait of the very photogenic Griffon Vulture for this one, but as the keeper of this Owl deliberately kept the bird in the box long enough for me to get a shot, this Tawny Owl at the Hawk Conservancy centre takes first prize.

Photo taken with Anna's father's Minolta SLR film camera.

2007 BG REVIEW. 4. MY OWN (PERSONAL) FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE YEAR

Thats my favourite (other) blog of the year covered then, as well as my two favourite photographs (that I didn't take) of 2007.
Above are the favourite photographs of the year that I DID take myself, in 11 categories.

These are:
In no particular order:

Mammals, Birds, Insects, Flowers, Miscellaneous, Overseas, Captive Wildlife, Fungi, Black and White, Landscapes and Macro.

I'll not post any more text about the images - all can be found on BG in 2007.
I hope you enjoy them.
WIth my new camera, next year should bring more photographs, and with a little luck, MUCH better photographs.

I'll get to the FINAL 2007 BG REVIEW ( a text-based summary of the year, and plans for next), like I've said, in a day or so, after the last full moon of the year... tomorrow night.

2007 BG REVIEW. 3. NON-MACRO SHOT OF THE YEAR


The Wagtail, Wasp and Wall. (My title)
By Words

Click to enlarge

2007 BG REVIEW.3. NON MACRO SHOT OF THE YEAR.

Before I publish the favourite photographs that I took this year (in various different categories), and on or after christmas publish my review of the year on BG proper, I'd like to draw your attention to one more item (in this case, image) on the web. The winner of my inaugral "Non-Macro shot of the year" (Wildlife based).

I'll write, again, a few words (ho!ho!) about the winning photograph here, and publish the photo itself in the post above, rather like MH's "Zebra Spider", so readers of BG are able to click and enlarge the image.

Again, in this category, there were many, many superb images to choose between.
The image published above won hands down eventually though.

As described in my breakdown of "Blog of the year", I find the composition of this shot stunning.
It tells its own story.
A Pied Wagtail. A Wasp. A Wall.
Wonderful stuff.
A deserved winner.

The photographer? - "Words".
The blog(s) that "Words" runs are very professionally done. A Fox-freak, (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him that), it always gives me great pleasure to visit his site(s) and wonder at his stunning photography skills and sense of humour.
Thanks "Words" for permission to use this photograph.
And well done, like MH, for winning the inaugral BG "Non Macro shot of the year"!

To visit the site(s) of "Words" click on the link in the BG links section.
You'll certainly not regret it!

2007 BG REVIEW. 2. MACRO SHOT OF THE YEAR.



"Zebra Spider" by MH

Click to enlarge.

2007 BG REVIEW. 2. MACRO SHOT OF THE YEAR

As mentioned below, I would like to take this opportunity to publish the two photographs in 2007 that were NOT taken by me, that blew me away this year. Two categories - Macro (this one) and Non-Macro (the next).
I will write a short amount of text on each, and publish the photographs in a separate post above the text (to enable readers of BG to do the normal, and "click to enlarge").

There were many macro shots that I had to choose between for this, my choice of Macro-shot of the year. I narrowed it down to two (both by the same photographer), and fnally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, chose this one (published above).

The Macro photograph was taken by a new friend, a friend who has since sold me the camera he took this photograph with, and helped me immensely with shed-loads of photography advice - something, I'm sure regular readers of BG will know, I'm very new to.

The Zebra Spider. By "MH"
What can I say about this wonderful shot. We all know these jumping, hunting spiders. These spiders are not big at all.
MH suggests they are good subjects. Because, I assume their big telescopically-visioned eyes often look into the lens and they stick around long enough for one to take a few photographs.

I rather think this photograph took some doing though. They move quickly, and more importantly I think, turn round quickly. I own the same model of macro-lens that MH used for this shot - its depth of field is TINY, even with the camera (which I also own now!) set to an aperture of F.8.

I'm rather fond of these inquistive little arachnids, and adore this photograph.
The skill level behind it, the patience involved, and the resulting detail is simply staggering, and those are the reasons why my friend MH has won my "Favourite Macro-Shot of the year, 2007" with his photograph of a Zebra Spider.

Click HERE to take a sense-altering trip to the online photo gallery of MH.
(For the record, my second place in this category was his close up of a pair of Dragonfly's eyes - you'll find that photo, as well as this one, in the Macro section of his online photo album).

MH.
Pal.
Thanks for your old camera.
Thanks for all your advice and friendly banter!
Thanks for inspiring me.
And well done on winning the inaugral "Macro-shot of the year"!

Photo above.

2007 BG REVIEW. 1. WILDLIFE BLOG OF THE YEAR

As part of a "review of 2007" on BG, I thought I'd post all my favourite photographs that I've taken this year (in various categories), my two favourite wildlife-related shots (in two categories) that anyone has taken (in my humble opinion), and my favourite wildlife site or blog, that I've visited over the past year, whilst posting on BG.


I'll deal with the photographs of the year shortly, and then, over christmas (as I am at work then) compile a more thorough, text-based "review of the year 2007". That final review will not appear before Christmas day, but will appear before New Year's Eve.




There were many candidates for my "Site of the year". Most are linked to BG now, on the links section.

The "Words" blog is simply superb, with some stunning imagery on it.

"My Wildlife Friendly Garden" (in Holland) is wonderful also - the author of that site has an obvious, contagious passion for wildlife in a limited garden - rather like our own garden on BG. Its very absorbing stuff.



The winner though, and to tell you the truth, as soon as I found this site, it quickly became my favourite of the year, is the simply SUPERB:






"Urban Extension".







About "Urban Extension" - (taken from the site).



“Urban extension” is the Government’s new description for our “village” of Corfe Mullen.
Corfe Mullen is an ancient Dorset village sitting five miles from the sprawling seaport of Poole, on the south coast of England.
In the eyes of the Government the village has become an “extension” of Poole, and because of that they are proposing to build 700 new houses on the green-belt countryside that surrounds us.
There are so many reasons why this shouldn’t happen, but the one that really makes me mad is the unnecessary destruction of important wildlife habitats.
This diary hopes to introduce you to some of the flora and fauna in my neck of the woods - before it disappears.
Please feel free to comment on any entries that you find interesting (or boring!). I love to hear from EVERYONE who visits the site - any requests"?






I urge all regular readers of BG to visit the relatively fledgling (even younger than BG!) Urban Extension.

I'll tell you why I like it so...

The author is a trained photographer. She wishes she trained in filming motion pictures now, after spending some time videoing wildlife around her.

She doesn't need the training as far as I can can make out.

The television and web (especially) is chock-a-block with razor sharp very detailed, CLOSE UP images and footage of wildlife. Birdwatchers will lug huge telescopes, tripods and digital cameras around to get that amazing cloe up of their quarry. These make for wonderfully detailed pictures, but these aren't the birds or mammals I know, and I like to watch. There is often little context to these images, and little, if any feeling or atmosphere - no real sense of occasion.

UE manages to capture, in her wonderful videos, what it actually FEELS LIKE to go and watch some deer, or foxes, or badgers. The composition, the story, the ATMOSPHERE is all in UE's videos.
This is certainly not to say the videos on UE are of an inferior quality. FAR from it. They are of a superb quality and not at all "set-up" or "disneyfied" or "spot-lit on a set". They are as nature is - and that's so important to me.

I am sometimes told that there "aren't enough mammals" on BG. I agree.

Well, for the time being (at least!), if you want mammals - you want to click on UE. Whether it be a badger in near dark, some fox cubs playing, or wonderful close up footage of inquisitive Roe Deer checking out the person behind the videocamera - UE will fill your soul.

It is the only SITE that has really inspired me this year. Plenty of photographs and images have, but UE is the blog to have really got to me.

I'm lucky to have seen so many of the things on UE, even the mewing Osprey!, watching her videos takes me back to those days. Days / nights / frosty mornings / dewy evenings spent on my own (generally) watching Little Owls or Badgers, Foxes or Deer.

UE has inspired me to get out there and really do it all again, or at least keep doing it. Maybe I'll get a videocamera this year (UE is also good for advice on another forum!), maybe Anna and I will just take my new camera and really set out to experience more wildlife (mammal related certainly) and take more and better photographs of these subjects.

I miss my badgers and foxes.

UE makes me want them back!
Thank you UE, and roll on 2008 so we can get out there again and get stuck in!

Please take a trip to "Urban Extension" and see for yourself, especially by watching her videos.

Click HERE or click on the link in the links section of BG.


USING YOUR EYES...



On the way in to work this afternoon, I noticed a dull Tit alight on one of the bare branches of the birches in the office courtyard. With this thick fog, low light and distance between me and the bird, I couldn't make out exactly which species it was - a dull Great Tit perhaps, a Coal Tit or even a Marsh or Willow Tit.


As I tried to identify it in the few seconds it appeared before me, it looked at me, peeped and then flew straight into a hole at the top of the metal post forming the corner of the office bike shed.


I know the family of Great Tits nested in a small wooden post right behind the bike shed in the spring of this year, but I'm not convinced this was a Great Tit. I am hoping it was a Marsh or Willow Tit (almost impossible to distinguish between these species without hearing them call).
The whole (hole?!) process of me first seeing the bird, to it diappearing into the bike shed post can't have taken more than 3 seconds...

This Office Tit is obviously roosting in the bike shed structure then... a fantastic place to roost!
It gives me hope that the Blue Tit(s) back home will start to roost in the nestcam box before too long.

I'll keep an eye on this hidden Office tit, and see if I can identify it, or see if it it nests in the spring!
You'd never know the bike shed was used in this way. Never, unless you really kept your eyes open!

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NB. 26/12/07. Staked out the area this afternoon in better light - and two (pale) Great Tits seemed to be hanging around in the trees nearby.

Later, I took a wee peep inside the hole (standing on a bin), and yes - about a foot from my nose was a Great Tit - fast asleep! Vey fluffed up and breathing like a little steam engine!

Shame it wasn't a Marsh or Willow Tit (or even a Coal Tit), but it was much more likely to be a Great Tit than anything else ( I only had the worst view of it for a couple of seconds when it darted into the opening, in thick fog t'other day) - especially as they were nesting not 20' away in the spring.

MORE GARDEN BIRDS

We've had some cold, frosty and foggy nights in the last week or so. I hear the weather is set to get warmer and wetter now.
Just in the last three days we've noticed a significant increase and regularity of birds visiting the garden, and feeder(s).

Both Blue Tits are picking sunflower hearts from the posh feeder, as is a very boldly-coloured Great Tit, and at least two pairs of Greenfnches.
A Robin and a Dunnock also - quite unusual for them to feed from a feeder, and the ubiquitous House Sparrows.
The starlings are in their glorious winter plumage now, and the Woodpigeons are still picking up dregs from the feeding of the smaller birds on the feeeder...
The Blackbirds are still "pit-stopping" with us on the way to next doors' berry bush and I've noticed a few Chaffinches occasionally with us too.

Yesterday, we noticed one solitary Goldfinch on the Lime Tree at the end of the garden, but today literally five minutes ago, AT LONG LAST, a Goldfinch took from the feeder.
We've had the odd visit in the last 5 months, but thats been about it - nothing really to speak of regarding Goldfinches since we flew out to Kephalonia at the back end of July!!!

We really hope this is not a one-off fleeting visit - and we get our Goldfinches back to stay. With my new camera, I should be able to get some really nice photographs of them, given time.

Oh. One last point. We've both noted now that the Blue Tits are definitely checking out the new nestcam box. Maybe they've visited the box (externally) every day for the past week or so - hard to tell really.
I'm VERY confident we'll have nesting birds come March or April.
REALLY good news....

I'm sitting here overlooking the garden now - and there are SIX species of birds at present, below me, including one of the Tits on the roof of the nest box.
Something I've not seen in this garden before - six species together! Things ARE finally looking up!
Just waiting for the woodpecker to visit its feeder now...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

THE SOLSTICE

Well....
Last night was the longest of the year...
Here come those warm, sunny summer days!

Friday, December 21, 2007

THE 2 LONERS



I took some photographs of two birds some time ago on BG. A male Tufted Duck, and a Barnacle Goose, by Reading Rowing Club on the Thames, surrounded by Canada / Grey Geese and Mallards.

They're still in situ - these photographs are from yesterday afternoon.

I know they can fly away, to join their own kind.

They don't appear to want to?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

GULLS. GULLS. GULLS.


Eight (not so) Black-Headed Gulls on my walk back from work today...
Click to enlarge, or as Flickr puts it, in the New Warren (my online photo album) EMBIGGEN?

ICE


An hour or so after posting below, on the frozen river, I've managed to get a shot with the phone.

Unfortunately, however, in that time, the ice has almost all broken up and floated off upstream, weirdly enough...?

THE RIVER FROZEN

It was -6c here in Reading last night. (I hear it was colder in some parts of the UK).
This temperature has meant a good part of the lock cutting has completely frozen over - something I've just seen for the first time this morning, a few minutes ago.

The lock cutting is relatively still, at least compared to the main stream, but its still somewhat impressive that it has frozen over with a 1cm thick layer of ice, bank to bank for a good 30m or so.

I'll try and pop outside a little later and get a photo...

Monday, December 17, 2007

FOR ALL CAT LOVERS...

video

Sent to me yesterday, by my ma. I wish I could leave this on the home page, but I think a post with the video embedded in it will have to do for now...

NB. To enjoy it fully, like all the video clips on BG, you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the home page of BG, and turn off the classical music feed. The first time you play it will need 20 seconds to buffer also. Have patience my child.

Enjoy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

GARDEN BIRDS

Just a few notes on the few garden birds we have at present.
Our feeding station is, in my opinion, complete. Four small shop-bought fat balls, a peanut net, the suety, nutty, woodpecker post and the old faithful, the expensive niger and sunflower heart feeder, for the "Fortnum and Mason shoppers" of the avian world.

Not much to report though really.

Still no Goldfinches - I haven't really heard them overhead since the "summer" either - though every time I pop out of the office, I hear and see them. I do hope they'll be back.

The expensive feeder is still attracting fleeting visits from the odd Great Tit, and two Blue Tits (I hope these are the two that will take to roosting and then nesting in the nestbox (with camera) in a few months time.

The Woodpecker post still hasn't fulfilled its raison d'etre. I've taken to sprinkling a few mixed seeds on the gate post adjacent to it, and this has brought in half a dozen plump Woodpigeons, but nowt else yet.

We have two Dunnocks that peck about on the compost heap under the feeders, after something ( a Tit, usually) has pecked at the feeders, but we need those messy feeders, the Goldfinches, to return, to cover the ground in discarded seed bits, to really satisfy those little "Hedge Sparrows".

We are often used as a landing stage for a couple of Blackbirds (mainly the hen) to launch a raid on next doors' berry bush - something we are sorely missing.

I've also noted one Robin recently, not staying long, but appearing with more regularity these days.

The Large Lime tree behind the fence generally has something in it, whether its the regular, dozen-strong winter flock of Long-Tailed Tits, a couple of Carrion Crows, a Pigeon or two, a Mistle Thrush or one of the Tits - but I haven't seen the once-regular Great Spotted Woodpecker in that tree for some time now - or for that matter, heard it either.

Finally, we have the obligatory half a dozen or so House Sparrows that fly in occasionally, for a quick raid, and of course the odd Cormorant, Kite, Black-Headed Gull that flies overhead.

Not great really, but with the addition of a makeshift bird bath ( a tray), and the onset last week, of much colder weather - I'm expecting our feathered visitors to increase substantially over the next month or two.
I write this today, as this morning, we've had pretty well ALL of the above visit - something I haven't seen for some time - so I presume things are looking up?

Oh. One more thing. Since installing the nestcam, no Tit has taken to roosting in the box overnight yet - in fact I haven't even seen one investigate the new box yet. Patience is a virtue you know....

NB. STOP PRESS. 11:00am 16/12/07. We've just seen (witnessed) the first visit to our new nestcam by a pair of Blue Tits!!!! The garden this morning has been very busy in terms of bird activity - a starling or two on the fat balls, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Tits in the garden, and now, finally, the first (that we've witnessed anyway) inspection of the new nestcam box.

One of the pair decided to check out the boiler flue (its off I should point out at this stage), whilst the other perched on the roof of the box, looked inside, flew inside, stayed there for a few seconds, left and perched on the roof again, and then repeated the process.

REALLY good news! I'm MUCH more confident now, that we may have a rooster when the really cold weather sets in, and a nest in the spring - all caught on video! Unfortunately I did NOT manage to capture the visit today on the nestcam - the whole inspection was over in about 8 seconds - too quick for me I'm afraid...

Next time...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CHANGE TO VIDEO (9)

A self-explanatory film (or two), about the extraordinary Snow Leopards.
Easy.....

(Well it is nearly christmas after all).


NB. Turn the classical music OFF at the bottom of the home page of BG before watching the videos!

THE GEMINIDS

I was lucky enough to see two of the relatively slow-moving, yellow, Geminid meteors last night, between 10 and 10:20pm.
If we get another clear night tonight, (no reason why not, looking out of the office window), tonight will be the peak of the shower - we can expect about 1 a minute.

Remember, the apparent radiant is CASTOR in the constellation Gemini - near Mars.
At 9pm Mars is very obvious in the East.
At 7am Mars has travelled across the sky (with Castor and Pollux) and lies in the WNW.

Spend an hour gazing at the darkest sky you can tonight (if you have the inclination, and the time) and you should see dozens of Geminids streaking across the sky.
The meteors appearing closest to the radiant will be much shorter than those appearing in different parts of the sky, but seemingly all originating from the radiant.
Good luck...
Looky here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

NIGHT LIGHTS


Another test shot with the new camera...

As always, click to enlarge.


m

HARD FROST


Click to enlarge



Another clear night, and a hard December frost.
This is just a rusty nail hammered into our back gate - it almost looks quite festive this morning!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SUNNNERRISE. SHE BRING IN DE MORNIN'.


Another very cold, clear night, with a layer of cloud drifting high overhead, early in the wee hours.
I took the opportunity to train the BIG telescope on Saturn, but the thin, high cloud made focusing a little difficult.
I'll try and get a photograph of Saturn to end the year with (as it started, remember) but I know this won't be easy.
That thin, high cloud this morning brought on a spectacular sun rise - photo taken on the walk to work, with the phone...

To quote Rolf:
"Spreadin' all the light all arow ow ow ownd...."

Monday, December 10, 2007

NESTCAM!!!

The new toy arrived today - a nest box complete with mini camera to record any to-ings and fro-ings in the box this year, (should we be that lucky again).

It records in colour during the day, and in black and white (infra red) during the night, so we will always be able to see what our tits are up to. (Again, if they nest in the box).


I'll talk about it in more detail when I get more time, but I'm dead impressed with it! I'll be able to record short movies and stills and publish them here, or on the web.

All that, and it was relatively easy to set up, even with my sausage fingers!


The two shots below are of the exterior of the box (obviously!) and just a quick one ( a test really) of the interior - the wood shavings on the box floor are out of focus as the camera is deliberately focused about 2-3" higher than that, to produce sharper photos / movies of any birds themselves, should, (and I've stressed this twice, so why not thrice) they visit this year...

LARGE WHITE BUTTERFLY CHRYSALIS



Whilst taking down our old nestbox from last year, I noticed a very large, (well, large for a chrysalis anyway, at around 3cm long), chrysalis hidden in my old Scotland fleece which acted as wadding around the old (and new, now) birdbox.
This wonderfully-coloured chrysalis (quite a spectacular example in fairness) belongs to the Large (Cabbage) White Butterfly - the scourge of all gardeners' nasturtiums everywhere!
This butterfly has the rather unusual habit (among butterflies) of attaching its chrysalis to a window sill (or fleece?!) in an upright manner, ie head up, rather than hanging with the head down, as most pupae are formed.
If you look closely at my photographs, you may be able to make out the silken thread, about two thirds along the chrysalis (from tail to head) which enables this unusual behaviour to occur.
Luckily we have no nasturtiums, or cabbages for that matter, nor do we intend to plant any in the future - just potatoes for us this year I think, and maybe one or two courgette plants.
I didn't see many of the adult White Butterflies this summer, in the garden, so I feel quite lucky that we've got a little chrysalis overwintering with us...

In the meantime, its gone back into the fleece, which is now wadding for the new box (see above post).