At the moment.... mostly about moths

Monday, 30 March 2009

Rove beetle

It's amazing what you can find if you just look. I came across this little creature whilst looking for springtails.

Tachyporus abdominalis

It's only a few mm long and no detail is visible with naked eye. It's most probably a species called Tachyporus abdominalis a rove beetle. According to wikipedia there are 46000 species of rove beetle, they are characterized by the exposed abdomen, not covered by the elytra as it is in most beetles. This is by no means a perfect photo, it was moving too quickly, but it does illustrate the attractive almost metallic colouration of this species?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Meliscaeva auricollis

I found this hoverfly last Saturday, and managed to capture this reasonable image. It's notable for at least one reason in that it was a new species for me and for the garden.

Meliscaeva auricollis

According to Stubbs and Falk, it's a common species in Southern England associated with a variety of shrubs and plants, including umbellifers. Interestingly I found it just above a large patch of Alexanders which I allow to grow in the garden, so perhaps that makes sense.

That was my 15th species of hoverfly for our garden, check out photos of each here:

Not bad!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Kestrel 2

Another lunch time walk and another squally day, although no rain to speak of. The kestrel was there again, but this time on one of the lamp posts. I was almost underneath, but as I looked up he launched, swooped down low, to head height, just 10 yards in front of me, then banked slightly and the chestnuttty brown of his wings caught the light. Magic. Then, with hardly a wing beat he caught the wind and flying up landed on the next lamp down the road. Just great.

Pollen beetle

These pollen beetles are all over our daffodils right now.

Pollen beetle sp

Check deep inside the trumpet, often there will be several clustered around the base of the stamens. There are several similar species, this could be Meligethes aeneus, but I can't be sure. I like this shot, I took it using the MP65mm lens and the MT24-EX flash at about 3:1 and it well illustrates the challenges but also the attraction of using this lens. These insects are tiny, maybe on 1 mm deep, yet the plane of focus is limited to just the eyes and the antenna, the dorsal surface is well out of focus. You'd think I'd have used a tripod, but my current technique is hand hold then fire off maybe 20 shots in rapid succession whilst moving the camera through the plane of focus. It doesn't always work, but often good shots can be found once the pics are downloaded. It's not a very sophisticated method, but with insects that are constantly moving it gives greater flexibility. The reason I like this shot is the diagonal formed by the bright yellow daffodil contrasting with the background.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


I took a lunch time walk today, my usual route, down past the Monks Wall nature reserve near Sandwich in Kent. As I walked along it became windier and windier and I realised I was going to be caught in a squall. The wind increased further and the rain started to lash down. The sky glowered a mean grey that contrasts so well with the landscape - no camera to hand unfortunately. The wind was such that even though I had my iPod on full volume but could hardly hear the Fredcast. Then I noticed a bird, a kestrel, hovering over the field, hunting for prey. It's a regular sighting, often it perches on a street lamp, flying off as I approach. I marveled at it, it was as if there was no weather to speak of, it just carried on about it's business, hovering effortlessly on the wind. After a minute it swooped off south and I walked on and as rapidly as the storm had started it cleared and the sun re-emerged, although the wind continued to blow and I still couldn't hear the iPod. Exhilarating. A typical English spring I guess.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Bumble bee nest

Whilst out in the garden yesterday, I saw a large bumble bee, probably Bombus terrestris, fly over towards our a raised bed and fly straight into the ground. Turns out it was it's burrow, as in picture below. As you can see it's quite big (that's a 20p piece). I'm quite excited about this, I've never had a bumble bee nest in the garden, so I'm going to follow it's progress. Of course I shall have to make sure I don't dig it up by accident - it's right in the pumpkin patch

Bumble bee burrow

Oulema melanopa

I found this small beetle on a hebe leaf yesterday.

Oulema melanoma?

Also called a the cereal leaf beetle, it can cause serious damage to commercial crops. It's common, appearing from April onwards, so this one was quite early.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Whilst these are relative common birds this pair that visited our feeder today were actually a first for the garden. They were very tolerant of my presence and i approached to a few feet. I'm really quite pleased with this shot, I especially like the background pink flowers that provide a nice contrast I think?
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Safari 4 - my experience so far

I've been trying the beta version of Apple's browser Safari 4 now since it came out - maybe a couple of weeks ago. I'm running it on a 2 year old laptop with 2gb memory and running Vista home premium.

I'm not going to review all the new features etc, best way to do that is visit the download site:

The most noticeable new thing you see is the Google Chrome like hot sites that it generates as your home page. Images of your most oft visited web sites sort of curve around the screen to give you quick access to your key sites. When I saw this first, I did think well that's pretty cool actually. It turns out I don't really use that feature much. I'm very used to having all my favourite links up on the links bar and i can't get out of the habit of just clicking on a button. So I'm not sure of the usefullness of this feature, although others may say otherwise. I never use the similar visual functionality on the ipod around album selection, so maybe I'm not that way inclined?

That however is just about the only negative comment I can come up with.. This is a great browser, the best I have ever used. It knocks spots off Chrome, which to do be honest I just couldn't get used to. It's also better than IE and the previous version of safari (which was my browser choice previously). I now use it as my default browser for nearly all tasks (there are some web sites that don't trust the safari browser). I really like the compact way the tabs and bars are arranged at the top - a minimum amount of my screen is wasted, yet it all works well.

It's also fast - which was what got me interested when I saw the specs. Other reviews on the web have made benchmark tests and show it's much faster than most other browsers. I haven't the skill or inclination to do any of that BUT as a normal user I can say that it is much quicker, much more responsive and provides an improved user experience.

Yet again Apple seem to have improved on the competition. It's more usable and it's faster and still only in beta. I'm not sure how my views compare with the consensus out there, but it works for me.

And no I don't work for Apple... I'm starting to wish I did.


Saturday, 21 March 2009

Space station

Just watched the International Space station fly over, managed to capture a few shots - see pic. The shapes at the side that you can see are the main solar panels, which as of recently are now complete. Had to use a 400mm lens at iso 1600 but with only 1/500 sec exposure. On the full size image it just looks like a bright dot, but when you blow it up you see the outline - quite good! It went directly overhead and was as bright as you ever see it. Takes maybe 4 mins to pass across the sky. Quite pleased with capturing this image,even though there's not much detail.
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Orchesella cincta

This was the best photo I managed today, handheld, using the MP65mm macro lens. I found it crawling around in the soil of our raised bed. I particularly like the banding on the antennae. It's reported ( as being one of the commonest species in the UK.
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I came across this little spider on our compost heap, I'm not sure what species yet, but it's presumably an active hunter rather than a web builder. Note the forward facing eyes to provide binocular vision, but also, just visible a number of additional eyes that ring the head providing protection from predators etc
A wider shot of those primulas, what colours
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Our little pot of cultivated primroses are at their peak today in the warm spring sun. I took this picture with a wide angle 14mm lens, I think it creates a good effect. I also found several new species for the garden, not all identified yet, but a couple of very nice springtails and a couple of common plants that weren't on the list yet.

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