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

Monday, 30 January 2012

Digital Deceit?

I take lots of photos, and just about all of the ones that are published on this blog have been processed through Photoshop. I must start by stating that I in no way consider myself to be any sort of Photoshop expert - there are lots of things that can probably be done, or can done a lot more easily, that I have no idea about.

The vast majority of the images that I post on here have minimal intervention other than adjusting contrast/levels if necessary, a little unsharpening, cropping and then I save in the web-optimised format. Here's an example of something straight from the camera - no adjustments or cropping, just resized:

and here's the same image cropped and with minimal tweaking:

This is the typical pre and post Photoshop result that I am comfortable with as being 'normal' for digital photography, and I would in no way consider this to be 'cheating'. But the amount of adjustment and fiddling is basically dependant on how good the original image is, and that in itself is dependant on how good the lighting was etc. Sometimes to get something useable requires a bit more effort, like removing colour casts or changing colour curves.

Here's an example of a completely useless original image of a mobile subject taken in rubbish indoor lighting - no tweaking at all, just resized:

and here's the same image after removing the colour cast, tweaking contrast and levels, unsharpening and cropping - still a rubbish image but a bit more useable than might have been possible without Photoshop:

To my mind, this is still within the bounds of acceptable manipulation - any dissenters?

Even less frequently though, I'll do something a bit more fundamental like completely removing an annoying bit of background or fixing some damage. Here's a before and after comparison:


On the one hand I am quite chuffed at how expertly I have copied part of the right wing, flipped it and pasted it onto the damaged left one such that you wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't told you. However I do feel as though this is the equivalent of airbrushed actresses in their late 40s appearing on magazines without any wrinkles or blemishes and always with just the one chin.

So, where exactly is the boundary between acceptable and deceitful digital manuipulation of images? Is there one? All thoughts and comments welcomed.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Fly / Moss

Trying to sort out a few photos this evening (my digital archive is still absolutely hopeless) including a load still on the card from this January. I noted a couple of mosses that I thought I'd post, and also some mines on Holly that I knew were Dipterous but had forgotten to check. A quick squint at the British Leafminers website made this one of the easiest leaf-mines I've ever looked at - as only one species mines on Holly.

Phytozoma ilicis - tenanted mines

Here's the mosses (feel free to laugh and point out my ID errors if necessary) ..

Grey-cushioned Grimmia

Wall Screw-moss

Friday, 27 January 2012

Whetstone Moth Report 2011

A bit delayed whilst I awaited the gen dets, but I've pulled together another garden mothing report in the same style as last year and uploaded it to Google Docs ...

As before, there is a full species listing, trend analysis, photos and endless mothy waffle. You can either read it in the Google Docs viewer (a little pixelated), or click 'File' + 'Download Original' to get the proper pdf version to read at leisure.

Have a look, and I'd appreciate any comments (and please do point out any glaring errors!).

Friday, 20 January 2012

Listening to - The Smiths

30 years now since The Smiths formed, still sounding brilliant if you ask me.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Bagworms & Bagworth

Yesterday morning was very cold again with a crisp frost, but the skies were slightly clouded over and the light was a bit crappy until later in the day. I headed over to Swithland Res for a quick scout around, mainly so that I could get the 2012 moth yearlist off of zero.

There can't be too many sights and sounds more evocative than whistling Wigeon and Teal on a still early morning reservoir with a chuffing steam train running in the background - click for big and imagine it ...

Other than the usual wildfowl, there was nothing too exciting bird-wise though a Peregrine in the usual tree and a Grey Wagtail along the usual stretch of the dam made it on to the yearlist.

A good search along the Kinchley Lane, dam and causeway walls produced six moths - all in the larval stage safely tucked up inside their cases. Aside from a handful of Coleophora serratella, they were all member of the Psychidae (or bagworms as they are sometimes called).

Taleporia tubulosa

Dahlica triquetrella - slightly bigger and 'grainier' than lichenella

Dahlica lichenella - slightly smaller and more 'licheny' than triquetrella

Psyche casta

Luffia ferchaultella (or lapidella f. ferchaultella depending on which Taxonomist you talk to)

The Dahlica spp. are not generally separable on the cases alone, however I've seen so many of them and reared a few through successfully over the years so I think I have my eye in for them. Sadly I couldn't find a Narycia duplicella otherwise it would have been an (almost) clean sweep on the VC55 Psychidae.

Next I decided to nip over to Bagworth Heath for a very quick look around. I had Siskin and Redpoll in mind but in fact it was very quiet. A crusty lichen on the fisherman's platform triggered a memory of a recent photo on the Leicestershire NatureSpot, which when I later checked was undoubtedly exactly the same patch.

Lecanora muralis

A bit further round the site I found a couple of long-dead logs in damp shade covered in moss and lichen, which on closer inspection were one of the 'pixie-cup' types which I think is Cladonia chlorophaea.

Should be called Shrek's Ear Lichen

Also on the same logs was this fungi, which I think is Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum).

Heading out for a whistle stop business trip tomorrow, though not sure how the travel was planned! It's two flights (Birmingham - Amsterdam - Budapest) followed by a 2-3hr taxi ride to Kosice tomorrow, all day meeting in our plant on Wednesday before heading back to Budapest, and then the return flights very early on Thursday morning. I doubt there will by any time to actually see and enjoy any of the places ........

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Looking at Genitalia

I sent all of the specimens I'd kept in pots over the year, plus a couple from last year, to Jon Clifton recently and on Friday I got all the answers from the genitalia determinations. Of course I had muted possible IDs for most of these and happily a good few were correct (whilst others weren't!).

Significant VC55 Records
First and foremost, two that I had hoped would be firsts for VC55 were confirmed: Depressaria ultimella and Cydia illutana. Also the first confirmed post-VCH record for VC55 of Acleris schalleriana.

Also noteworthy were Sorhagenia lophyrella from Ketton Quarry on 26/06/2010 (one previous VC55 record?), Coleophora discordella from Whetstone on 10/06/2011 (two previous records), Dichrorampha aeratana from Huncote Embankment on 13/06/2011 (two previous records) and Aproaerema anthyllidella from my garden on 02/09/2011 (three previous records).

British Ticks (6 micros)
With the exception of Coleophora discordella and Dichrorampha aeratana, all of the above were British Ticks for me. The following was also a British Tick, Case-bearing Clothes Moth.

Garden Ticks (6 micros, 1 macro)
The following were all Garden Ticks: Case-bearing Clothes Moth, Aproerema anthyllidella, Acleris ferrugana, Acleris schalleriana, Acleris laterana (individuals from 11/07/2011 and 26/07/2011), Flax Tortrix on 15/06/2011 and Rufous Minor.

The Flax Tortrix was just a speculative potted Cnephasia that I held on to, whilst Acleris laterana/comariana is recorded almost every year but I'd never had one detted to confirm laterana.

Aside from the Aproaerema anthyllidella (which I had very optimistically suggested was Eulamprotes immacualtella), the only others where my ID suggestion was not up to scratch were: a putative Scoparia basistrigalis (no confirmed VC55 records) that was just ambigualis, and a hoped-for Oegoconia deauratella that was just quadripuncta.

The Rest
Other dets were: Phycitodes saxicola from Huncote Embankment on 02/07/2010; Coleophora flavipennella, collected as a larval case from Pickworth Great Wood on 01/05/2011; Dichrorampha alpinana from Huncote Embankment on 13/06/2011, and Eucosma hohenwartiana from Loughborough Big Meadow on 14/06/2011. The latter was completely worn and knackered and couldn't be identified as anything but a tortrix on externals.

What does it all mean?
Taking into account the above dets, I've managed to just about sort out my 2011 lists. There is actually just one specimen still awaiting confirmation - the potential VC55 first Acleris logiana from my garden which was passed on for setting and will be gen. detted at some point (hopefully) soon.

So the 2011 Garden List finished at 394 species (+1 pending). This included a superb 23 (+1) new micros and 7 new macros. I can now start on doing my usual garden moth reports for the year.

The overall 2011 Yearlist finished at 633 species (+1 pending). Surprisingly I picked no British Tick macros at all in 2011 - must get out more this year!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Patch Tick

Very crisp, bright, still and cold today - superb. Just the sort of wintery weather that I actually enjoy - or would if I wasn't spending some of it at work. I dropped off Alex at his Karate class and then headed to work via Enderby. This caused me to drive through the Grove Park area within my wider Soar Valley South patch, and happily it meant that I noticed lots of gulls standing on the part-frozen balancing pool. I made a mental note and went back for a proper look after a couple of hours in the office.

With all the white-wingers flooding into the country, I naturally expected to easily pick out an Iceland or Glauc amongst the loitering Lariids, but no such luck. BHG, CG and LBBG were all I could muster. As I scanned through though I noted something else that I couldn't recall ever seeing on the patch before, and given the lack of open water it wasn't a surprise to check and find it was a patch tick. Click on the photos and see if you can work it out (it's not a gull, obviously). First one to comment the correct answer gets a self-congratulatory pat on the back for being the first one to read this post .......

Friday, 13 January 2012


Nipped out to Groby Pool at lunch time. Nothing much doing there, although I picked up Shoveler for the year. One duck I seem to have struggled to point the camera at with any success is Pochard. They always seem to but just a bit further out than anything else, and also drift even further out once they notice the camera pointing at them. Today I managed some shots - certainly not frame-fillers but they cropped down to something passable.

The Gadwall on the other hand were never close enough, or in nice looking water ....

Whilst the Canadas were just too close, but anything looks nice in the right light ....

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Gulls n Owls

Left work early this afternoon to sort a couple of things out, and then managed to spend an hour or two enjoying some birds. Not exactly birding, more turning up and pointing the camera in the right direction.

I headed over to Watermead CP South for another go at some gull shots - maybe the inccessant Gulling propaganda from a well know Seaton-based blogger is starting to rub off. As ever, plenty of bread-wielding wankers ensuring masses of inapproriate food for the wildfowl and plenty of scavenging opportunities for the gulls. The car park area is often awash with Black-headed Gulls, but otherwise usually just a few Common Gulls and most of these are first-winter birds. I was pleased then to find a nice adult Common Gull within reach for a few shots.

Also unexpected was this damned ugly second-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Despite some searching, no sign of anything interesting (ie as usual no Med Gulls, and no sign of any Yellow-legged or Caspians amongst the larger gulls around the island) so I filled up the card with a few more Common Gull shots instead - these are all different individuals.

One thing I will say for gulls is that the variability amongst individuals is more noticeable than in many other bird groups. Have look at this short vidiclip and see how different the size and structure is of the heads on these two first-winter Commons (presume the smaller bird is female).

With time pressing I quickly headed over to Cossington Meadows to check out the wintering Short-eared Owls. I hadn't even got alongside Swan Meadow before I'd picked one up in good late afternoon daylight. After five minutes or so I had four up together, with audible calling and a few jousts and skirmishes between them for good measure - brilliant stuff, but none of which I managed to capture on the camera in any way. I did get some vidiclip footage though, which I implore you to watch. Personally I think the drifting in and out of focus and the intruding Teasel heads make it all the more evocative ......

Monday, 9 January 2012

Liking Lichens

Whilst out and about at Rutland Water yesterday, I distracted myself for half an hour or so looking at Lichens. That is looking at and photographing, not identifiying! I've found a couple of good resources to check through, but for the moment these are just unnamed images of things that it is all too easy to ignore (of course if you recognise anything let me know).

First up, something on smooth barked trees in Hambleton Wood:

The rest are from the old wall running along the fields by the North Arm Marsh:

Sunday, 8 January 2012

More birding - with a Tarts Tick to boot

Headed out this morning to Rutland Water for a long-overdue appointment with an over-wintering Snow Bunting. It has been loitering around the Old Hall area, but that was pretty much all I knew. I haven't been to this area for a while and was surprised at how low the water is - well short of the normal shoreline. This in turn meant a big expanse of 'muddy marsh' for a bunting to get lost in.

I head a bloody good search all along the area east of Old Hall, and bumped into a couple of others doing the same. We all drew a blank and aside from a couple of Pied Wagtails there were no passerines anywhere along the 'marsh'. I did pick up a few other nice yearticks though (nothing photographable): Scaup, Goosander, Goldeneye, Redshank, Egyptian Goose and Marsh Tit included. Eventually I had just about got back to the Old Hall when I heard and saw a couple of Meadow Pipits drop in behind me, but a quick search and nothing else with them. Around the same time I bumped into Matthew Berriman who also hadn't seen the bunting but confirmed it has been using teh area I was searching and that it was cohorting with Meadow Pipits. Whilst we were talking a few more pipits came in and, finally, so did the Snow Bunting. Get in - a county tick for me (albeit a bit tarty these days with a few easily twitchable ones in recent years that I haven't twitched!). Also a Reed Bunting knocking about with the flock.

It was a bit distant though seen very well with optics. Whilst Snow Bunts maybe quite approachable, Meadow Pipts aren't so no chance of getting a good close shot. So I opted for a distant pants vidiclip instead - you won't see a worse effort anywhere else on the net.

After filling my boots, I opted to head over to Eyebrook for a quick look. Again I haven't been for a while, and it looks like someone has pulled the plug out. I have never seen the res so low.

A few more nice birds for the year, including: Smew (drake and redhead), Pintail, Gadwall, Golden Plover and Dunlin. I completely forgot about the regular Green-winged Teal until I was half way around the res, and I was not compelled to work my way back and start looking for it. Maybe another day.

I ended the day on 64 species - hopefully a few calories burned with all the walking as well.