Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Monday 31 March 2014

Still waiting

I can't image anyone possibly expecting a recollection based around my youth-club years and this classic track by Diana Ross. So; if some poor soul has been directed, by Google, to this blog - I can only apologise and state that it isn't my desire to steal Ms. Ross's thunder by choosing this title. It simply sums up, perfectly, what's happening in my little world - aka Newland's Farm and West Dumpton. Still no Wheatear sighting, despite quite intensive searches, so I decided to try my luck at North Foreland after my shift ended today.
I really should know better - not a sniff.
I'm at a loss to know why they're called "Hairy - footed" (NOT!)
I did discover a nice group of male Hairy-footed Flower Bees nectaring on Red Dead Nettle (or something very similar?) along the coastal path and there were decent numbers of Linnet and Pied Wagtails in the area around the lighthouse. A couple of Rock Pipits were foraging amidst the cauliflower stubble and, although not candidates for "littoralis" they did have very prominent, pale, supercilliums, so definitely not local breeding birds?

Far to active for my macro set-up (I need to get too close) these images were captured using the
14mm extension tube with my 170 - 500 mm Sigma lens. I have to admit to being rather pleased.
I was fortunate to watch a female Peregrine, with prey, fly past my cliff-top position and, with the aid of my binoculars watch it land on an outcrop along the chalk cliff. My images were nothing more than a token gesture - but pleasing none the less; it being my first Peregrine sighting of 2014!

Sunday 30 March 2014

Recognizing my limits - and knowing why!

I've recently been involved in a tri-cornered email exchange, questioning the ethics of killing living creatures in order to progress up a meaningless league table. My co-correspondents were both, eloquent and, committed to their opinions, based upon years of experience within their hobbies. It was a genuinely enlightening exchange, I learnt much about our quest for knowledge and the complexities of taxonomic study. The outcome being that I was way out of my depth! There are guys out there who are not just able to see a "Gnat's cock" but can id the species of gnat involved.

Haven't got a clue - I won't be reporting it ,so it doesn't matter.
My non-sensicle drivel, of yesterday, being an acceptance that nothing quite adds up (in my opinion!). I have to bow to the superior experience of my fellow man - those who have devoted a massive amount of their lives to these incredibly specialist areas, so much so that they are now experts. Elitist? No - I don't think that does justice to the true passion which can drive an individual to become such an expert. OK - it's a minority pursuit/interest; doesn't mean that it's not still a complex subject, requiring many years of study to approach anything close to mastery.
A different day, a different insect?
There are so many more important things, going on in my world,
why does the id of this creature matter? - I simply enjoyed the encounter.

I've had my doubts, as to the value of this stuff, but find myself in utter admiration of the skills possessed by certain individuals. They have chosen their fields of expertise and become true craftsmen  - many self taught. I now realise that my pathetic efforts are an insult to their endeavours - so it is quite right that I don't attempt to detract from their essential data gathering by submitting my own sightings (all highly dubious).
It is true that I have half an idea when it comes to capturing the, coarse, fish native to the UK. I'd like to think that I can hold my own within a UK birding context, UK moths, dragonflies and butterflies are also within my comfort zone - anything else and I'm clutching at straws! I'll have a bash, but without any confidence - it is not important to me. It is incredibly important to others, so out of respect I will not submit any records of my sightings and I certainly won't kill an invertebrate purely because it might be something new (to me)!
As I said yesterday; anything related to our relationship with the natural world will produce a very emotive response, as many sides of an unknown fence, seek to impose their opinions. My last venture was enough to demonstrate that I'm better off keeping my gob shut!

Saturday 29 March 2014

Pest or privilege?

We've got Emily and Harry over the weekend, so my activities are rather restricted by the requirements of the kids. Looking out of the kitchen door, whilst making the early morning tea, I saw a 1st year male Sparrowhawk perched on the flight of my aviary. The Java Sparrows don't like this attention, en mass they dive for cover inside the shed, but my male Canary treats such visits as an invitation to torment (if only birds were capable of human emotions?) and flaunts its' invincibility by flying around inside the flight causing the hawk to perform all sorts of attack attempts, the wire mesh providing the impenetrable barrier which thwarts all efforts. The mesh is 1/4 inch square welded, there being no chance of one of my captive birds being grabbed by the extended talons of this opportunist individual - they don't fit through the gap.

Taken through the double-glazed window of our kitchen door
Any sighting of a Sparrowhawk should be treated as a treasured encounter - even if it is sitting on the top of my aviary! These urban accipiters are superbly adept in their role of garden plunderer. That there alternate opinions on this subject is only to be expected.; a predator will be seen as the "bad guy" by anyone who is of a mind to use a human perspective in relation to predator/prey encounters. Just look at the situation within the game shooting fraternity - Common Buzzards are public enemy No. 1, the guys that race pigeons are firmly convinced that Peregrine Falcons are a major problem, If you are involved in the Red Grouse industry (and that is exactly what it is!) Hen Harriers are a genuine problem, because they require the same habitat and eat grouse. Eagles and Red Kites continue to fall foul of illegal poisoning incidents - I am in utter shock at the news that the first Irish bred White-tailed Eagle has been found dead (as a result of shot-gun wounds) in the year 2014. Is there any chance that the human population of the UK will ever sing from the same hymn sheet; in respect of our native raptors?  No I don't think so either - but at least there are laws, however difficult to enforce, in place to protect these species - unlike the legal protection offered to our (rare) invertebrates.(Even in 2014 we don't know that they're rare until their dead - fact! Such is the legacy of our Victorian forebears - the requirement of a token specimen remains the norm in the age of mitochondrial DNA analysis and electron microscopic imagery) This will improve but, at present, we remain firmly entrenched in an era when collecting was the only way by which humanity could catalogue our fellow creatures.

Emily and I drove across to Ash, this morning, where, after a couple of hours in the playground, we went around to visit my Dad. A Brimstone, in his back garden, was my first of 2014, where there were also several Peacocks and a Dotted Bee-fly recorded.
Any subject involving mankinds' relationship with the natural world is bound to be emotive - there being as many different angles as participants in the debate. There will never be a consensus, yet I feel sure that there is an awful lot of common ground that can be covered before total impasse is reached?

Friday 28 March 2014

A patch for a fortnight - how I make the most of our holidays

"One Tree Hill" - the central point of my first visit to Pefkohori (NE Greece)
This mix of rough pasture, scrub and olive groves provided a superb challenge and was
a direct result of the catastrophic forest fires that had occurred a few years previously.
Holidays are a precious commodity - use them wisely! Ever since Bev and I got together, holidays have been an important part of our annual cycle, we attempt to spend a fortnight in the sunshine, somewhere? In the fourteen years, we have traveled to Perpignan (Southern France), The Canary Islands, Menorca & Mallorca, Corfu, Halkadiki (Greece) and Turkey. No great shakes yet, each destination, has provided superb learning opportunities as I've advanced the boundaries of my natural history knowledge. During this same time Bev has pushed "UV abuse" to the limits of human endurance! You see we have very different criteria when it comes to holidays; Bev needs her sunshine, I require somewhere to wander around looking at whatever I can discover. Before Google Earth this could be a bit of a "hit and miss" affair , but not any longer. With the able assistance of computer wizardry we are able to take a virtual tour before we commit to parting with our hard earned dollars.

Have we made a good choice this time?
I love the thrill of flying and the expectancy of discovering new things in new places.
So what is it that I am looking for? Once Bev has decided what country (part of the Mediterranean!) she fancies we look for suitable resorts, hotels, apartments, etc, etc... with good "Trip Adviser" reports to support them. Only once that this has been completed do I then look at Google Earth for the geography of the areas surrounding the short-listed resorts (a mix of coastal plain, woodland and agriculture - hills are nice, but not vital) and together we make our final choice. It is essential that Bev is going to be happy (and safe) whilst I am off doing my thing. A nice pool, sunshine morning til night and a Kindle, fully loaded with books by authors many and various - Bev's well sorted and it's now up to me. Menorca and Mallorca apart, I have never seen another birder on any of my travels. The main reason for this is that we don't visit areas with known track records; our destinations are very unfashionable, in a birding sense and, therefore, of relatively unknown potential. The beauty of this type of holiday birding is that what I don't find I can't miss, purely because I didn't know that it was there - no getting "gripped off" by binocular wielding guys with that gleeful, gloating expression "you should have been here twenty minutes ago"

There can be very few holiday makers who rejoice at the sight of a sewage farm!
This site was one of the most productive, and exciting, places I've discovered on any of my sojourns.
I will usually spend the mornings wandering around the area, returning to our base to spend the afternoon with Bev before going out for an evening meal - all very predictable yet, it suits us! The first couple of mornings are spent exploring the area, as opposed to full on birding, as I seek out the varied habitats and check the potential of the site. My limits are self imposed, I explore whatever habitat that can be found, by walking within the time I have available, maximum of six hours. Just to illustrate how I work - the discovery of a sewage farm is akin to winning the lottery - especially when it has open water and easy access, just as the one I found in Halkadiki. It proved to be a superb venue for birds and other wildlife and I have been well rewarded for the time spent there. So good, in fact, that we returned to the same apartments the following year - second time around the "patch" was already established and I was able to spend the entire fortnight flat out - enjoying the encounters and my discoveries to the full.

African Tiger - Menorca 2007

Monarch - Gran Canaria (Jan 2004)
I would think that the greatest difference between my approach to these holiday breaks and that of the vast majority of birders is that I'm not interested in returning home with a huge list of sightings. My own enjoyment is derived from the discovery of new (lifers) and scarce (on a UK scale) species/races and spending as much time as I can getting to grips with their appearance, habits and behavior. Of course it's not for everyone - it is just my personal preference.

Vagrant Hedgehog - Erinaceus algirus
A photo of a memorable, yet unexpected, encounter whilst I was wandering the Greek hillsides

Owl Fly - simply stunning. I'd seen nothing like it and was completely "blown away"
Greece and Turkey have provided me with immeasurable amounts of pleasure as I've whiled away the hours simply watching dragonflies skimming across open water, gazed at spiraling flocks of Honey Buzzards, sat mesmerized by the frantic activity and wondrous sound of a colony of Bee-eaters - it goes on. I don't, for one minute, think that this is the only way to make the most of holiday encounters with unfamiliar species, but is certainly one way and available to anyone - should they choose. It doesn't require a guide, or exotic destinations, just a desire to go look for yourself. As the Meerkat says - "Simples!"

Black - winged Stilt - Menorca 2007

Eleonora's Falcon - Menorca June 2007

Hoopoe - Gran Canaria (Jan 2004)

Male Rock Sparrow - Pefkohori 2010

Yellow Wagtail - (M.supercillaris) Greece 2010
It's not all about wildlife - Sunrise over Sithonia; Mount Atos on the horizon.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

My favourite walk

It was in May, of 2010, that Bev and I first travelled to Turkey. Before that date the furthest east I'd been was to Pefkohori;  in NE Greece. I'd always had reservations about Turkey due to reading trip reports, by other birders, who'd experienced less than a favourable reception. Constant hassle and even violence, on occasion, didn't bode well for a lone stranger set to wander the countryside equipped with  binoculars and camera gear worth more than half a year's wages to some of the locals. Well, after three visits to Icmeler, I can confidently report that this area of Turkey is 100% birder friendly and a very safe place to explore alone.
Icmeler is just to the south of Marmaris (the two holiday centres being linked by a coastal path - the walk taking around an hour; depending on fitness and/or other distractions - of which there are many!)
The terrain is unlike any I've ever previously experienced. I thought Corfu to be "hilly" - the steep gradients causing muscle fatigue that I'd not felt since my footballing days of the early 1970's! This area of Turkey is a superb mix of coastal plain and steep-sided, coniferous covered, hills (they aren't grandiose enough to warrant "mountain" status, although for a guy from Kent they certainly felt like mountains when I was walking them!) The natural history that this region boasts is, to me, mind blowing. Not so far beyond my knowledge base that I'm completely bamboozled; no, the species are familiar enough to remain comfortable, yet exotic - if that makes any sense?
The route of my favorite walk is the meandering, dotted, line that joins Icmeler with Asparan. A distance of 6.2 Km over
some rather testing terrain. No place for flip-flops, that's for sure, decent walking boots and a supply of water are the minimum requirements should you ever decide to tackle this challenge.
So to my favourite walk. I'm sure that if Icmeler was my home then this route would soon become routine and, therefore, all I found enjoyable would soon wear thin. But it isn't and it hasn't! The walk is from Icmeler to Asparan, via "Market Mountain" (so called because the access is directly besides the market-place). As with all walking on these hills, the fire breaks are the safest way to get around. I quickly discovered, to my cost, attempting to go "off-piste" in this harsh environment will result in pain - my camera still bears the scars; although my bruises have long since healed.

Looking down into the Asparan Valley, the scattered buildings in the distance are the dwellings that make up the the village. 
The steep incline, that leads out of Icmeler has little to recommend it, except that when you make your way back, you finish with a down-hill section. The track is steep and rutted, at several points there are clusters of beehives (nothing to be worried about. The Pine Honey Bees are not aggressive and this local industry is widespread throughout the region) the low level woodland being home to Kruper's Nuthatch and Rock Partridge, amongst other more familiar species. The local races of Jay (atricapilus) and Long-tailed Tit  (tephronotus) are worthy of  a prolonged view whenever the occasion arises - they really are very different to our UK populations. I have spent a total of six weeks (three fortnights - one in May, one in September and one in October) in Icmeler and have probably walked this route around twenty times, often in the company of Robert Chaffe (an ex-pat who now lives in Icmeler, although he hails from Plymouth!).
My memories of the time spent here are as happy as they are varied. The heady aroma of the pine clad hillsides, the Spring air filled with bird song, my first Cretzschmar's Bunting and Ruppel's Warbler being discovered within a couple of days of my arrival on that first trip; hardly surprising that I fell in love with the place?
A singing male Cretzschmar's Bunting - all I'd hoped it would be since first learning of the species from
my early "twitching days"
My Autumn trips have been equally eventful, I have watched huge flocks of un-identifiable passerines passing high overhead, Steppe, Long-legged and Honey Buzzards soaring above the wooded hillsides, discovered Masked, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes around the agricultural areas of the valley floor. Seen Syrian and Middle-spotted Woodpeckers and photographed over 100 species of insects and still feel that I was only scratching the surface.

An Ant-lion - when I saw my first one flying I felt sure that it was the basis
for the woodland fairy legends - they are quite spectacular
The river valley around the village of Asparan has been a particularly productive area. Crested Larks abound, there are Little Owls (race noctua) to be found around the outbuilding of the various small holdings. The mixed races of the Yellow Wagtail complex are awaiting anyone who fancies a challenge whilst butterflies might allow a chance to grab back a few species that we've lost from the UK - Bath White and Black-veined White mix with Dappled White, Mallow and Pygmy Skipper, Southern White Admiral, Clouded Yellow - in several guises and the magnificent Swallowtail. I have also recorded African Ringlet, on two occasions, right next to the market place at the very start of this walk. Ant-lions, Spoon-tailed Lacewings and Eastern Willow Spreadwing are also found in this region with a vast variety of grasshoppers, bush-crickets and locusts.
Eastern Willow Spreadwing in Asparan
And if that's not enough, there are Persian Squirrels and Porcupines around the wooded areas, terrapins, frogs and toads along the river (when it runs) and I have encountered two species of snake and a very impressive scorpion. Chuck in praying mantis, flocks of Spanish Sparrow, Black-eared Wheatear, Goshawk, swirling throngs of Alpine Swifts and European Bee-eaters and I'm very close to heaven. You won't see this on any guided trip to Turkey, but anyone holidaying with their family could well find themselves in a very similar situation and be amazed what can be discovered by simply wandering around the adjacent countryside. Turkey was a revelation, particularly given my preconceived ideas based upon my internet research. Wonderfully friendly locals, one guy came across to see what I was up to. He couldn't speak English and my Turkish is no better. With hand gestures and laughter, we managed to get our messages across - he be delighted that I found enjoyment in the wildlife of his village, although he was amazed that anyone would travel from the UK just to look at birds! Magic memories from a very special place.

Monday 24 March 2014

All rather ordinary

An absolutely glorious day; I was walking around Newland's Farm at 06.00hrs seeking that elusive first Wheatear - it continues to elude! Quite a sharp frost, first thing, but it had gone by 07.30hrs and the early clouds soon burnt off to produce a wonderfully blue sky full of raptor promise.

Sadly; this is where my day started and finished - the promise never delivered, two Sparrowhawks apart (one was a displaying resident - the other suggested migrant behaviour, but I'm not entirely convinced) not a raptor to be seen during my three hours in the garden. Not all time wasted, there was a Fieldfare briefly early on, three Rooks flew SE mid morning and a Cormorant headed S, high overhead, causing momentary excitement prior to the true id being established.

Having my camera close to hand, it was inevitable that anything remotely interesting would be subject to my attentions. A Dunnock and a pair of House Sparrows provided the bulk of my images with a rather intriguing caterpillar discovered on the Ivy, which adorns our decking railings, ensuring that the macro lens got an airing.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Andrenas and an ichneumon

A mid-morning stroll around my patch was rather enjoyable. In spite of a buffeting westerly it was pleasant enough in the sheltered lea of the hedgerows and, with long periods of sunshine, insect activity was very pronounced.

My main interest was focused on the newly emerged Andrena bee species, at least three being seen during the morning. Tawny Mining Bee is a superb little creature and always a sure sign that Spring is well on its' way. The other "Early" mining bees are a little less straight forward, there being a few very similar species. I'm fairly confident that I've id'd A. haemorrhoa correctly, but the others have just been seen and noted as Andrena sp. They are a bugger to photograph, being extremely flighty and constantly moving around the newly opened umbellifers (Alexander ?). I also noted my first two Harlequin Ladybirds of 2014 along with several examples of their Seven Spotted cousins.

A couple of Dark-edged Bee-flies were a nice distraction, as was the first singing Chiffchaff, in the hedge at the end of Vine Close. However, the most striking insect that I recorded today was that beautifully marked ichneumon wasp - Amblyteles armatorius Not rare, or even scarce, but a wonderful creature to behold. I didn't manage to get any images of this particular individual - not that it is a problem, I was just happy to spend a few moments watching it skimming around the low vegetation in a sunny glade behind the concrete reservoir. A Dock-leaf Bug plus Red and Buff-tailed Bumblebees made it into the notebook with good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies also present. Still no sign of the raptor movements that have been witnessed in other parts of Kent, I've only recorded a single Common Buzzard thus far. Plenty of time yet?

Taken a couple of years ago in the garden - Amblyteles armatorius; a fantastic insect

Friday 21 March 2014

Flexibility - always the best option?

"Jack of all trades; Master of none" - a phrase coined at the turn of the 20th century to describe the multi-skilled odd job man. It fitted the bill when UK industry was home to apprenticeships and "master craftsmen" I am a Labour man, til I die, yet am savvy enough to recognise that the ridiculous demands of the unions are, at least, partly responsible for the demise of British manufacturing and have done very little to enhance the lifestyles of the individuals who make up their membership - their leaders are doing rather nicely by the way!

A Dragonfly - Turkey

I believe that this (approx) quote is attributable to Charles Darwin - "It is not the strongest, or the most intelligent species that survive, but the most adaptable". This has been used recently by industry to promote the "lean culture" and maximized efficiency regimes that are capable of sustained growth and profitability. Working for FSIS is certainly a dynamic environment in which these values are promoted and rewarded - and I am very comfortable within the factory environment where, as a process operator, multi-skilling is very much an accepted part of the job description. Yet, I have been thinking about this and realise that even within FSIS, the requirement to be flexible is not spread equally across the workforce. For instance, we don't require our Finance Director to go out and sell a few printers, the HR team to jump on a forklift and load a lorry or two - oh no! They are highly skilled individuals, trained in specific roles, so although they are a vital part of the organisation there is no multi-skilling requirement? However, closer inspection of the skills of our HR department reveal an in-depth knowledge of employment law, Health and Safety legislation, pension funds and umpteen other aspects of work related subjects, thus ensuring our organisation runs as smoothly as possible. Therefore, they are skilled in many aspects of this very specialist area - so experts in their chosen field.

A centipede - in Turkey (I'm assuming the colouration is a warning of an unpleasant taste?)
Us guys (and a very capable girl - Allison) who earn our crust within the factory (manufacturing and packing departments) and warehouse (export and shipping department) are contracted to be a flexible as our skill base allows. We are expected to work wherever the demand is greatest and are trained in as many aspects of the entire operation as it is deemed necessary. As a shift worker, I get to demonstrate this flexibility on a regular basis - be it packing, running our pre-mix and main stirrers, loading and/or unloading lorries or weighing up bulk liquids and powders, or running our filtration units (digital ink is manufactured to an incredibly high level specification). This variety is certainly a good way of avoiding any chance of things becoming mundane/routine which is certainly many outsiders perception of factory life?

Berthelot's Pipit -  Gran Canaria Jan 2004
After a couple of hours perusing the various noises in my "blogland circles" it would appear that my industrial background has a very direct analogy to the various contributors. Pan-listers are the very epitome of that flexible process operator, turn their hand to anything with a certain level of skill, so they are always able to find new interest from their chosen pursuit and boredom/routine is unlikely to be an issue. The twitcher, moth-er, botanist,  match angler, specimen hunter are very much akin to the HR office crew; still flexible but within a far more defined set of parameters. Then there are, however, the top echelon of the specialist tree - within FSIS they are our R&D chemists who are out in a league of their own!. Within a natural history perspective I am in awe of the likes of  Dick Forsman, Hadoram Shirihai, the late Peter Grant, Bernard Skinner, Barry Goater, Dick Walker, Fred Buller; and there are so many others - true "Master Craftsmen" - absolutely the very top of their chosen disciplines. Not for them the dilution of talent by becoming distracted by other interests, just the single minded determination to be the best in their chosen specialized fields? Now while I have complete admiration for anyone with the dedication and passion to remain enthralled by their chosen interests, I don't have the drive, or commitment, to stick with anything should I find it becoming a chore. I am, therefore, extraordinarily fortunate to have a range of interests that compliment each other and a job which has the diversity to remain a challenge - thus enjoyable. So, in spite of my very open dislike of competition and league tables as an indicator of ability - I have to admit that the pan-listing concept is a superb vehicle for avoiding boredom whilst enjoying our outdoor experiences. (And Steve never thought he'd ever hear me say that!)

Male Short-toed Lark

Monday 17 March 2014

Does any of this stuff really matter?

Inside the pages of Atropos "issue No.1" , are the wonderfully descriptive thoughts of David Brown,
as he recalls the events of autumn 1995 - in Cornwall .
This moth, a pyralid, is something to which pays great homage.
Hymenia recurvalis -  I've seen thousands!
I draw my inspiration from many different, and amazingly varied, aspects. There are individual personalities whom I admire, local and national groups who are also powerfully influential, then there are my own interests and the particular slant that they are able to put on my opinions.

One for Seth? - A shield bug from our 2004 Corfu holiday
Important? Now there's a concept which will have a million different answers from a million different individuals - so there is no way my own views are of any more value than any other. I have been looking at the natural world for as long as I can remember. Not the seriously; can't be distracted, obsessive manner that has manifested itself, during a couple of periods, during my life - just the simple enjoyment that is derived from being outdoors. I'd be nothing more than a fool if I denied that those periods of obsessive desire weren't great fun; they were, and times that I am now able to look back on with great fondness. That I now have no aspirations to return to those adrenaline fuelled adventures speaks volumes of the passing of time, and the perspective that experience gives to life's journey. These days, being an old fart, means that I can get away with being a cantankerous git, yet still remain able to offer an opinion that has some credibility (John Hollyer; my great friend and mentor - I'm forever in your debt!)

Shield bug - Turkey 2012
I've had my run ins with many and various. My views on the "Ramsgate Warbler" just the tip of the iceberg - the bird is very interesting but, as a Hume's, I'm still not convinced? (and yes I've spent plenty of time in Ramsgate Cemetery watching it! - it's less than 1/4 mile from our bungalow) What about the Chinese Pond Heron? No better, or worse, than the Margate Cemetery Dusky Thrush - who gives a fuck? Both species being relatively common in captivity, thus escape being far more feasible, than their out of season vagrancy would be statistically likely? How desperate are this generation of disciples? How much does the list rule their heads? Important?  - no, not in the slightest. You pay your money and take your choice! Suing a guy who "hoaxed" a Sussex Savannah Sparrow - there's a medal in it from where I'm now sitting. All of what I've written is purely a personal view and in no way meant to offend. Still; I am well aware that there are individuals out there, in cyberspace, who could find a fight in a crisp packet - please save your venom for something more worthwhile.

Rhinocoris iracundus- Turkey

My recent adventures into the world of "macro" photography are simply an extension to my discovery of the wider world. Cameras have always played a significant part in my world - we needed a photograph of our captures in those early days (working for Kodak was obviously an advantage) - fast forward to early days of digital image capture. Digi-scoping was the entry level - I was there; a 2 mega pixel Nikon CP 775 and my Kowa TSN 823 scope. Technology has developed far more rapidly than my ability - I am now in a very comfortable zone. I have the Canon EOS 400d, a Sigma 170 - 500mm lens, a Canon 18 - 55mm lens, a Sigma 1.4x converter and a set of extension tubes (14mm & 28mm) for macro use. I ain't gonna re-invent the wheel, although every generation feels the need to do just that. I am simply going to enjoy that extra dimension that this digital age allows. I have accompanied this drivel with a selection of images that have captured during the past eleven years - Bev and I were on our honeymoon when I recorded the first!
Does any of this really matter? Not in the slightest!

Lygaeus saxatilis - a Ground Bug (Turkey 2012)

Saturday 15 March 2014

New light through old windows

My sincere apologies to any Chris Rea fans who (having "Googled") end up at this blog - but I can think of no better description of what my dabbling, with macro photography, has delivered. I am now finding myself discovering another aspect to the natural world that scopes and binoculars are unable to deliver. My efforts, today, are a result of nothing special - just a wander around Newland's Farm; looking for the first Spring wheatears and time spent in the back garden awaiting a raptor, or two - time wasted, on both counts, but not without benefit as I was able to play around with the camera gear. Invertebrates provided the salvation, that the day required, and I have to admit to be rather pleased with some of the images that I was able to record.

I play the dullard, with some aplomb! The desire to name everything that crosses my path isn't why I bother looking, I very simply enjoy the experience of being in company of our fellow creatures. The ability to, actually, put a name (thus id) to the subjects of my interest, however, is always able to add something else to the occasion. And so it was today. With the sun shining but, accompanied by a stiff WSW breeze, I was still up against it - the depth of field, when using macro techniques, ensures that any movement is detrimental to decent images - however fast the shutter speed!

I've had a blast! There have been all sorts of creatures discovered in the local area, none of which are particularly rare, yet I very much doubt if many individuals have taken time to actually look at them?

Stigmella aurella - Bramble Leaf-miner
Discovered beside the "Old Rose Garden"
If I've mis-id'd anything please feel free to correct me. Steve Gale has made a very valid observation about the power of the Internet and once a dodgy id has been published (as fact) then this perpetuates further incorrect records being claimed as a consequence.

The critical role that getting the subject in focus (what really?) due to the very shallow depth of field is paramount. I now have an understanding of why this discipline, for the best results, requires subjects that are photographed under optimum conditions - ie bright sun and zero wind (fast shutter speeds and no movement).

Green Shield Bug - a very numerous insect around the patch today
The detail provided by this technique is far superior to anything I've previously managed.

It will not be an end, in itself, but the knowledge that I have this ability/technology at my disposal is a very nice place to be. If I fail to catch a fish, or see a bird, surely I must be able to find a "mini-beast" to provide material for a blog entry?

Mirid Bug - Liocoris tripustulatus in the garden, this afternoon.

Thursday 13 March 2014

This could get addictive?

As a result of yesterday's photographic experiments I have continued to play around with this very basic set-up and uncovered yet another avenue to explore. This ability, to see what the naked eye is unable, has the potential to transport me off on a tangent. It might get boring for those who were expecting tales of big fish and rare birds (although looking back through my recent posts is enough to bore anyone!) - I'm genuinely excited by the prospects offered by this simple technology. As luck would have it, this morning dawned accompanied by a thick shroud of fog. Not ideal for macro subjects to avail themselves - I found just two.

A woodlouse - Oniscus asellus at a guess?
On our extension wall; photographed using the built-in flash

I have absolutely no idea where to start looking for an id of this creature.
Resting on the glass of our conservatory, again using the built-in flash facility of the Canon EOS 400d