Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Overdue - Garden Tiger

Time for another overdue species to highlight, though I'm not sure whether this one really is an overdue or more likely 'long gone' from around here.

Garden Tiger is a species I was familiar with long before I started moth recording, so I was pleased but not spectacularly surprised when one turned up on 22/07/2001 - just my second full year of garden light trapping. Never had a sniff of one here since, and whilst I have seen odd ones over the years whilst out of county trapping (notably at the inlaws North Devon garden and at Wicken Fen) I don't think I've seen one in VC55 since 2006. I'm not expecting this one to reappear in the garden trap any time soon.

Garden Tiger, Whetstone 22/07/2001

Monday, 16 February 2015

Garden Moths / Garden Tick

Ran the garden synergetic last night for the first time this year. Four moths, three species - good to start trapping with a catch rather than a blank!

1524  Emmelina monodactyla  1
1926  Pale Brindled Beauty (Phigalia pilosaria)  1
1934  Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)  2

Still haven't got to grips with indoor photography using the bright led ring I bought. I can't seem to get the right white balance set regardless of what I do including using the photographers grey card. Need more practice, but for that I need more moths in the early/late season and more time. Here's a couple of not too bad quick shots in the meantime.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Dotted Border

Forgot to post a note a couple of weeks back about a lucky garden tick. I'd made some pack-up for work and then promptly forgot to take it in the morning so I nipped home at lunch. Whilst peering out of the kitchen window with a sarnie hovering in front of my face, two Cormorants flew over the garden. I've seen a few flyover Cormorants around here over the last couple of years, but these were the first over the garden.

And whilst I'm at it, here's an old photo from the garden that I found whilst sorting out some old files from one back-up drive to another.

Speckled Bush Cricket, 17/08/2006

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Early Moth

Today was one of those days where it looked quite nice out, a bit of sun and dry, but standing on the touchline this afternoon whilst Josh kicked a bag of wind about with the Cosby team it was bloody freezing cold. All the more surprising then that the first garden macro for 2015 appeared to a lit window this evening - and for the third year on the trot it was an Early Moth.

Friday, 2 January 2015


Unbelievable - you go on holiday, have a cracking time in the sunshine relaxing without the kids and all, and next thing you know it's Christmas and New Year. Been absolutely nowhere, done nowt and seen even less since the end of October. I did nip over to Watermead CP on 31st after finishing work, though only briefly as it was cold and far too sunny for decent photography so just a few quick shots grabbed.

Happy New Year - perhaps I'll do, see and post a bit more in 2015 ......

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A few more shots

A few more from yesterday, trying out my new Nikon CoolPix P600 bridge camera. One of the things I was keen to check out as soon as possible was that it worked okay with the Raynox macro conversion lens that I've been using with good results on the Lumix. Almost as soon as I started walking along Kinchley Lane alongside Swithland Reservoir (if you came for the Crag Martin all those years ago, it's the lane where you parked and then got blocked in ...) I found a small spider on the stone wall. An excellent subject to try it out, and all the better when I sussed out that it was new for me.

Textrix denticulata

I took this using exactly same technique as I've been using with the Lumix: autofocus set to macro, aperture priority and aperture wound up as high as possible (f7.6 for this shot), flash forced on, WB set to flash at -1, no exposure compensation, ISO fixed at slowest (100 on this camera) and this shot was 1/60 sec. Snap. Images looked okay on back of camera and I'm pleased with this one.

I then found some leafhoppers on oak whilst checking for galls on the underside of the leaves. Again, same technique, and unbelievably another tick. I can't credit the camera for two ticks in quick succession!

Eurhadina concinna

Had to zoom in a bit more for this one which makes holding the focus whilst hand-held a bit more hit and miss, especially out in the field, but this is okay.

So far so good - camera at least comparable to the Lumix with the Raynox in use using usual technique. One of this things that I don't like though is using the flash all the time. Tends to work okay for most inverts, but not good for lots of flowers. So with the cleaner image at higher ISO than I get from the Lumix I am hoping I can ditch the flash more often, especially for flowers and moths. Here's a couple of shots taken using the Raynox with flash off and WB set to cloudy.

Taleporia tubulosa at ISO 400 with 1/60 sec exposure.

Sycamore Tar Spot at ISO 400 with 1/50 sec exposure

A fly at ISO 400 with 1/200 exposure

I think with compliant subjects in the right conditions, there is more scope for useable shots without flash from this camera than I got with the Lumix.

The last thing I wanted to try out was the in-built macro without the Raynox. With the Lumix, this is only really useable with the macro zoom facility with creates a noisy image unless you are photographing something butterfly sized and bigger. I was lucky enough to find a Grey Shoulder-knot settled on the stone wall, albeit in a pretty shaded spot so I would have to use flash. Moth photos are sometimes rubbish with flash; it does depend on the lighting conditions you are in but it's the reflectivity of the scales on some moths that screw it up.

Grey Shoulder-knot

Not the best moth shot I've ever taken but certainly gives confidence that I should be able to get useable macromoth photos using this camera without the Raynox - something that I can't do with the Lumix.

All in all a good testing session, and obviously more time spent using it will improve the techniques and results.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

New Camera

Most photos posted on this blog over the last four years, and virtually everything over the last two, have been courtesy of the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 14 megapixel bridge camera that I bought in August 2010. When I bought it, it was to replace the second-hand Canon EOS 350D I'd been using with a 90-300mm zoom lens, and also my old Nikon CoolPix 4500 that was about dead and only usable indoors for moth shots. The flexibility of the Lumix was soon put to good use, with 24x optical zoom, HD video and anything from macro to panoramic on consecutive shots. I was a little disappointed with the noisy sensor that meant that anything over ISO 200 was not great, and the in-built macro zoom was also a bit noisy. When I got hold of a Raynox DCR-250 macro conversion lens in May 2012, the quality of the macro shots improved dramatically and since then it's been a brilliant tool out in the field. It still works perfectly with no dead pixels, battery life is brilliant and I'm happy with the macro shots. But it's four years old and things move on.

I've been grappling with the idea of going back to a DSLR for a few months, with the main objectives being to get better image quality at higher ISO and to try and get a few more bird shots. Main reason I haven't gone for it was down the same old problem of needing various lenses to do everything I want to do whilst out in the field - and that means ridiculous cost. I very nearly went for it though, with a Canon EOS 70D the likely target. But I then started thinking about other stuff I'd like to try, like underwater photography/video. So I finally decided that rather than spending the best part of £800 on a DSLR and basic lens (for which I'd then have to spend another couple of grand on proper lenses) I would upgrade my bridge camera and also go for something completely different to play with (I'll come back to that).

So for the bridge. My first decision was that it woudn't be Panasonic. The Lumix is great, but I want a cleaner shot at higher ISO for birds. I considered the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS - it has a 50x optical zoom but is only 12.1 megapixels. Looking at a few other options, I decided to go for the Nikon CoolPix P600 - 16.1 megapixels, 60x optical zoom and given the long happy experience I had with the 4500 it felt right going for another Nikon. I bought it this week - £299.00 - significantly cheaper than a DSLR option and cheaper than the Lumix when it was new.

Been out today having a quick play with it. I've proven it with the Raynox DCR-250 both with and without flash, checked out the in-built macro and had a play about with various different settings. I've got a few shots of bits to post separately, but the main thing I managed to try out was getting a few bird shots. Helps when there is an obliging subject but first impressions are that I am going to get what I wanted from this camera.

This Grey Heron was knocking about along the dam at Swithland Reservoir. The lighting wasn't great but all of these shots were taken with the ISO set to auto 100 - 400, and all shots are either full width or height crops (resized for the blog).

The next three are all at the full 60x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent is a 1440mm lens!).

Pretty pleased with these to say the least, far better than I've ever managed with the Lumix or any previous camera I've owned. I shot a few other birds as well .....




Pied Wagtail

This last one is actually a quite heavy crop from a shot at 60x optical zoom.

I mentioned another camera which I am going to get. I'm going for one of the new GoPro Hero 4 cameras, just trying to decide whether to go for the silver version with built-in LCD or the black edition which will have much higher res video options. Main reason I want to get one of these is that they come with a waterproof housing and I can stick it in rivers and rockpools to try and get some nice video of stuff that is off-limits at the moment. Plus they are quite funky little cameras anyway. I'm away on holiday after next week so would be good to have it available for then. I'll have two excellent cameras for different things, at a total cost of less than the DSLR option which wouldn't do half as much.