A walk in the woods

I just liked the shape of this cute conifer

I just liked the shape of this cute conifer

I think it is true to say that I haven’t got the hang of making regular posts, but when the urge strikes, then I have to respond. So please forgive me for the long break as I get this recent expedition onto ‘paper’

Spring may well be well on the way, but the current trend, around here anyway, for decidedly cool temperatures, does not make one feel springlike. From inside, it looks so inviting to see the azure sky with the sun shining brightly, that one can’t wait to get out and enjoy the day. However, the cold wind that greets you as you emerge from the shelter of suburban living makes you realize that spring is a fickle mistress who can reward and punish at the same time. It’s the beginning of May and ice has formed a hard skin over the bird bath and tender blossom reels from the overnight onslaught.

Apple blossom in May

Apple blossom in May

Ah but the sun is shining; I must get out and about and make the effort to record some sights. The wood at the bottom of Clay Bank (a pass into the plateau of the Cleveland Hills) looked inviting. The best thing about walking through a wood at this time of year is the colours. The greens of Spring are a delight to behold, but trying to capture that essence is not so easy?

Forest track

Forest track

This is the track leading into the wood which is an area of forested land from which the conifers were harvested some years ago. These trees are mainly silver birch with an assortment of other deciduous trees, which have grown recently or were left standing from the felling operations.

Spring green

Spring green

Hence the larger trees standing above the general height.

Mixed woodland

Mixed woodland

The track was climbing slowly higher and soon gave a fine view across to Roseberry Topping, our local landmark hill.

Roseberry Topping above the wood

Roseberry Topping above the wood

Next there was a line of sight down to one of the farms at the foot of the Cleveland Hills which almost surround this woodland.

Farm at the foot of the Cleveland Hills

Farm at the foot of the Cleveland Hills

The track wound around the contours of the land, so was fairly level, if wet in places. All around the green theme was echoing.

A short distance away from the forestry track was a marshy area which contained a patch of bulrushes which shone out like beacons among the surrounding greenery. Care was needed here as I found my foot sinking into the hidden mire, the dried reeds were very deceptive!

There was no circular route round, so I had to retrace my footsteps back to the start. It was in this area that I came across this fine patch of primroses looking upto the sun.

Primroses

Primroses

Ok, this short post has been three days in the making, so onwards and upwards as they say, publish and be damned.

We have more to come, so thank you for all who had a look and hope to be back soon.

 

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Spring term report

The year has progressed further, as you would expect. Despite a sense that nothing is moving and the grey days of winter are everlasting, there has been an inexorable creep towards lighter days and warmer temperatures. The other day I actually went out for a walk without a hat! A new season deserves a new header photo – Roseberry Topping in the Spring.

In Boro Garden (http://www.mycampage.com/borogarden) some colour is emerging and things are growing.There is one bunch of real daffodils down under the willow tree and a drift of ‘tete a tete’ mini daffodils around the bird table. They are out in bloom.

One bunch of Mini daffodils

One bunch of Mini daffodils

Apart from that the soil is parting, in various places, under the thrust of green shoots, some where I was expecting to see them and some that have surprised me. That’s the trouble, you see, I planted new bulbs, last autumn and of course I have forgotten now where some of them went.

I know where most of the alliums are but have no idea where the fritllaria went. The tulips appear to be coming up where expected. I don’t know what this one above left is, I will have to wait and see.

It has been uplifting to see a song thrush return to the garden

Today, I was surprised to see a sparrow, the first for a long time. I have had dunnocks, but no sparrows –

The real problem birds at the moment are the town pigeons that have realised what rich pickings are up for grabs at Boro Garden.

There appears to be a pair of them, most of the time, until they bring some mates along for backup. Some days I spend hours in and out of the door chasing them off. They retire, just out of reach on the roof, wait till I give up and go indoors and they are back down again, laughing all over their fat chops.

The starlings are only a problem when they appear en masse. Mostly it is just one or two that raid the robin mix on the bird table and the mealworms in a hanging feeder. I have shut up the hanging feeder so the gap is what I thought would fit the blue tits, but no, the starling manages to crawl inside as well. The odd starling is not a nuisance –

Starling

Starling on Bird table

But when the flock arrives, all hell lets loose and I would not advise putting your hand in!

Too quick for me, I’m afraid. The greenfinches were behaving and even allowed the goldfinch to play…

The garden has been adopted by a pair of robins, but so far I have not been able to get them both in one shot.

They spend a lot of time living upto their reputation chasing off other small birds such as the dunnock.

That concludes the Spring Term report, except for taking the opportunity of recording the only glimpses I had of yesterday’s eclipse of the sun.

Taken only a few minutes apart close to the maximum cover and just before the sun disappeared altogether behind the ever thickening cloud. Oh well, without the cloud, I wouldn’t have got any pictures.

Thanks for looking in.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend in the UK is when the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place. They encourage everyone to sit and record the type and number of birds that visit their garden during a one hour period on one of the two days. This has been happening each year for the past 30 years and is reckoned to be the largest survey of its kind in the world. The survey provides important information about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in the winter, and helps alert conservationists to species in decline like house sparrows, greenfinches and starlings.

I thought this would be a good reason to post some photos (some good, some bad) of some of the birds that visit my garden. Most of the pictures have been taken over the last couple of weeks with my new camera, but there are a few taken with the old one. My last post was a moan about the new camera changing my settings to get the right exposure at the expense of blurry photos, hence the references to cameras.

The first bird featured is a newcomer to the garden, but seems to have taken a liking as he has returned most days for the last week or so. I was very pleased to welcome a blackcap. He appears to be on his own and stands his own ground when others approach.

This woodpigeon is always about and tries, with all his mates, to eat all the food I put out.

Wood pigeon

Wood Pigeon

Spring is on the way because these next two have started fighting (well perhaps not these exact two) and I mean mid air fighting, real fisticuffs. So there is a female about, territory to be won.

The same thing is happening with the blackbirds. There is a continual chase through the garden, over the fence and back again with some raucous squawking at times.

Blackbird - Canon

Blackbird

Blue tits are probably the most frequent visitors and usually arrive in a flock with great tits, coal tits and the blackbirds. The one on the left was taken with the Canon (down in the shade) and the other the Nikon (up in the light).

This is from last year as I didn’t see the greenfinches or goldfinches today although they appear almost every other day. I had a play with frames as well.

Greenfinch

Greenfinch framed

Here are some goldfinches, taken with the Nikon bridge camera.

The next birds are both types of crow and are rather larger than most birds that visit the garden.

The magpie was taken with the new Canon camera and the jay with the old Nikon. I think the Canon takes better photos, but I struggled last week in the dull overcast weather to get sharp pictures. The magpie is down on the ground where the light is poorest and the jay was up in the air on a brighter day. In the dull weather, whatever mode I used, the camera would insist on turning down the shutter speed.

One bird I was delighted to see in the garden a few times at the beginning of winter was a nuthatch.

Nuthatch

Nuthatch feeding

Of course, it did not show it’s face during this weekend, so will miss out on the counting game. I hope all who took part enjoyed their birdwatch.

Well that’s a selection of the birds that visit Boro Garden (see tab above – The Bird Table) and brings me to the conclusion that for me a bright sunny day is the better requirement for a decent photo. The Nikon has no manual controls so the shutter speed is governed by the light available and can only be influenced by changing the ISO setting or scene mode. The Canon has manual controls in addition to auto, but in poor light I still find the camera sets the shutter speed.

I will persevere.

That’s enough for this post. Thanks for your visit which I hope you enjoy.

Help – No pictures!

I’m getting a bit frustrated now. I bought the new camera because it has manual controls with a high zoom lens. I need the zoom lens to get close to my subject (birds in the garden) because I cannot get physically closer. Having tried it for a couple of weeks, I find that everything about the camera does work faster and more crisply. It starts up quickly, zooms quickly, smoothly and almost silently. It focuses quickly. It’s a small camera with little in the way of thumb and finger grips, so in my big hands, not so easy to handle, but overall, it is a fine compact camera and I am pleased with it.

However, my big problem is that the camera keeps turning down the shutter speed and I end up with a blurred subject. When I try to use the options for controlling the aperture or the speed everything looks good until I depress the shutter button to focus and then the camera decides what speed it will shoot at and I end up with such a slow speed that a clear picture is impossible. If I try in full manual mode, the screen stays dark because I am obviously not getting the right exposure. I have to turn the speed down to below 1/50 just to get minimum exposure. I can set a higher ISO but it doesn’t seem to make much difference to the shutter speed.

The best results are still in Auto mode where I let the camera decide everything, but the shutter speed is still too slow to stop motion blur. The exposure is ok and sometimes the bird stays still but it only has to move it’s head and the body looks fine but the head is blurred.

I have now realised that the problem is compounded by using the zoom lens. As you zoom in on the subject, the aperture gets smaller and the shutter speed is slowed.  The annoying thing is that no matter what I set the controls at, the camera changes them to try and get the exposure right and ignores my moving subject (and my shaky hands lol).

Is it really so dark at this time of year that even at midday, I cannot get a decent shutter speed with a decent exposure?

Have I wasted my time buying a camera with manual controls? Is a compact camera only good in sunny weather?

Am I doing something basically wrong,  or perhaps I am just having a moan when I should be practicing?

I know this isn’t a camera forum, but if anyone has the time or inclination to comment, you may just save my sanity 🙂