new kids on the (fat) blocks

As well as the occasional woodpecker, bullfinch and jackdaw, the bird feeders are buzzing with birds, old and new. A closer look shows the gape of the young blue tits amongst the grown-ups.

As well as the occasional woodpecker, bullfinch and jackdaw, the bird feeders are buzzing with birds, old and new. A closer look shows the gape of the young blue tits amongst the grown-ups.

Suppertime
a mixture of birds, old and new

new kids on the (fat) blocks

As well as the occasional woodpecker, bullfinch and jackdaw, the bird feeders are buzzing with birds, old and new. A closer look shows the gape of the young blue tits amongst the grown-ups.

As well as the occasional woodpecker, bullfinch and jackdaw, the bird feeders are buzzing with birds, old and new. A closer look shows the gape of the young blue tits amongst the grown-ups.

Suppertime
a mixture of birds, old and new

I can feed myself

After last night’s observation of an adult male Greater Spotted feeding a juvenile I decided to set up the Big Camera on the tripod with the remote cable release and wait, hopeful to see the same behaviour again. It’s easy to forget the importance of depth-of-field with a fast shutter speed, and I got literally … Continue reading “I can feed myself”

After last night’s observation of an adult male Greater Spotted feeding a juvenile I decided to set up the Big Camera on the tripod with the remote cable release and wait, hopeful to see the same behaviour again. It’s easy to forget the importance of depth-of-field with a fast shutter speed, and I got literally hundreds of photos of a crystal-sharp-focussed bird feeder, and an ever-so-slightly fuzzy woodpecker.

But amongst the fuzzyness there were a couple of nice sharp shots. Of junior. It looks like he (or she) is quite capable of looking after himself.

father and son (or daughter)

There’s nothing like getting a clear, sharp, vibrant photograph of a dazzling bird like the woodpecker to make your day. Sure enough, this is nothing like it. Lots of my favourite photos, however, lack technical merit. So when I glanced out the kitchen window yesterday and saw an adult male greater spotted woodpecker at the … Continue reading “father and son (or daughter)”

There’s nothing like getting a clear, sharp, vibrant photograph of a dazzling bird like the woodpecker to make your day. Sure enough, this is nothing like it. Lots of my favourite photos, however, lack technical merit.

father and son
father and son (or daughter) at the feeder

So when I glanced out the kitchen window yesterday and saw an adult male greater spotted woodpecker at the fat feeder along with its youngster my heart skipped a beat. It’s a great sight and I crept to the window with the compact camera and shot a couple of photos through the grime.

Here you can see the juvenile woodpecker sitting on the top of the feeder, identifiable by the red crown. This redtop will fade away in the months ahead but for the moment it makes the juvenile birds stand out clearly. The adult, with the red spot on the nape of his neck is an adult male. The female doesn’t have this mark. The presence or absence of these red splodges make the sex of greater spotted woodpecker pretty easy to identify.

Just before they flew of I managed to capture a grainy moment where the adult was feeding the youngster a blob of fat from the feeder. It won’t win any photo competitions but I love it!

Adult male woodpecker feeding youngster
An adult male Greater Spotted Woodpecker feeds a youngster

 

windows / linux filename compatibility

It would be quite nice to be able to backup my photo collection to a USB drive in VFAT format. Unfortunately an indeterminate number of my photos have long filenames, although none have the dreaded microsoft hated colon(:). 250 characters seems to be the Windows7 limit. I could write a script to parse my /jpegs … Continue reading “windows / linux filename compatibility”

It would be quite nice to be able to backup my photo collection to a USB drive in VFAT format. Unfortunately an indeterminate number of my photos have long filenames, although none have the dreaded microsoft hated colon(:). 250 characters seems to be the Windows7 limit. I could write a script to parse my /jpegs directory and report on all filenames >250 characters in length as well as any containing colons. This would give me a report. If it’s not too long it might be easiest just to go through them individually with f-spot and re-tag and rename them.

How to deal with exif stuff in Coolpix images that f-spot doesn’t like

I have a battered and knackered old Nikon Coolpix S600 camera. The zoom no longer works and it can be quite cranky. It’s not surprising as it has a tough time. It often gets carried on fell races and road races in, er, ‘hostile’ conditions. Its compact size and ‘sports’ setting makes it handy for … Continue reading “How to deal with exif stuff in Coolpix images that f-spot doesn’t like”

I have a battered and knackered old Nikon Coolpix S600 camera. The zoom no longer works and it can be quite cranky. It’s not surprising as it has a tough time. It often gets carried on fell races and road races in, er, ‘hostile’ conditions. Its compact size and ‘sports’ setting makes it handy for firing and forgetting. I have a Canon compact that gets similar treatment but on the whole the Canon can’t take the punishment that the Nikon can.

The problem I have with the Nikon is that there seems to be issues with the exif data. Whether it’s the camera, the camera’s firmware, or the software I use on the PC to process images, I don’t know. The upshot is the same, though, I have problems writing exif data back to the jpegs from the photo management software f-spot.

I always start f-spot on the command line in debug mode and save the output to a file. This way I can get a better idea of what’s going on. i.e.

f-spot --debug 2>&1 | tee /home/dougie/f-spot.out

(there’s a wrapper script involved too that takes a backup of the old database first).

Once I have the images in f-spot I start applying tags. I have f-spot configured so that it writes tags to the image file itself as this gives me greater flexibility if I start copying photos around the place or into other packages. This setting is in f-spot under Edit / Preferences. i.e.

write image data to file

So now I have my photos and I’ve applied some tags to them. But if I have a look at the terminal session where I started f-spot, I can see there are problems. The messages will typically look something like this:

[4 Debug 21:39:15.516] open uri = file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5936.JPG
[4 Debug 21:39:15.940] Invalid thumbnail, reloading: file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5934.JPG
[4 Debug 21:39:15.942] open uri = file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5934.JPG
[14 Debug 21:39:15.968] Syncing metadata to file (file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5928.JPG)...
[14 Warn 21:39:15.970] Metadata of file file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5928.JPG may be corrupt, refusing to write to it, falling back to XMP sidecar.
[4 Debug 21:39:16.359] Invalid thumbnail, reloading: file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5931.JPG
[4 Debug 21:39:16.360] open uri = file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5931.JPG
[14 Debug 21:39:16.569] Syncing metadata to file (file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5924.JPG)...
[14 Warn 21:39:16.571] Metadata of file file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5924.JPG may be corrupt, refusing to write to it, falling back to XMP sidecar.
[4 Debug 21:39:16.786] Invalid thumbnail, reloading: file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5928.JPG
[4 Debug 21:39:16.787] open uri = file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5928.JPG
[14 Debug 21:39:17.153] Syncing metadata to file (file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5914.JPG)...
[14 Warn 21:39:17.154] Metadata of file file:///jpegs/2011/06/11/DSCN5914.JPG may be corrupt, refusing to write to it, falling back to XMP sidecar.

The problem for me is two-fold

  1. f-spot has a problem with the metadata in the jpeg.
  2. It’s creating extra .xmp files that I don’t want.

I’ve tried several avenues to resolve this and I thought the following would do the trick:

jhead -purejpg

This uses the Linux utility jhead to rewrite the image header with a standard one. Unfortunately the problem persists. So I took a more brutal approach. I used the linux utility exiftool to obliterate all meta data from the image.

At first I’d copy all the images from the memory card into a directory and then run exiftool on all the files there. i.e.

exiftool -all= *

(Note that syntax; there’s a space between the equal sign and asterix)

This is fine but unfortunately it pretty much destroys any useful or interesting extra information. Most I can live without, except the date and time that the photo was taken. It automatically inherits the file modification time instead.

The solution is to first read the jpegs into f-spot, then, while f-spot is still running, go to the directory where the images have been imported to, then run the exiftool command there. In my setup, I have f-spot configured to copy all imported jpegs to /jpegs where they are automatically arranged in directories according to date and time. So the procedure for me is as follows:

  1. Import jpegs into f-spot
  2. With f-spot running, change to destination directory where jpegs were imported to
  3. Run exiftool -all= *
  4. carry out tagging operations in f-spot

The advantage of this is that despite obliterating the meta data in the files using exiftool, f-spot still knows the data and times of these photos in its own database. So the next time you write to them with f-spot, by adding a tag for instance, they will get the date and time from f-spot. You lose pretty much everything else, which is a shame, but the date and time are what’s most important for me.

Typically what I tend to do is read all the photos from the memory card into a temporary folder, e.g. ~dougie/in, where I can carry out a quick pass using something like geeqie to delete any truly terrible photos. Then I import the photos into f-spot. Once that’s done I change to the destination directory where f-spot has copied the photos and run exifool. e.g.

dougie@phoenix /jpegs/2011/06/11 $ exiftool -all= *
60 image files updated
dougie@phoenix /jpegs/2011/06/11 $

Note the syntax for the exiftool command. That’s a space after the equal sign and before the asterix. It’s a powerful command so it’s best to check the man page first to ensure that you know what it’s going to do.

Serendipity

A few weeks ago, while chasing butterflies at Low Barns, I chanced upon this striking beastie. I was struck by the colours and thought it wouldn’t be difficult to identify what it is, but I had butterflies to chase and other things to do. I added the photo to my library, and tagged it as … Continue reading “Serendipity”

A few weeks ago, while chasing butterflies at Low Barns, I chanced upon this striking beastie. I was struck by the colours and thought it wouldn’t be difficult to identify what it is, but I had butterflies to chase and other things to do. I added the photo to my library, and tagged it as unidentified. Adding it to many other similarly tagged photos that I have queued up to sort out.

 

 

I can’t recall the host tree but the leaf looks cherry-like, although looking at it again that looks like it could be goat willow / pussy willow (Salix caprea).

Here’s a closer view of the creatures.

I didn’t think any more about it and consigned the image to the back-burner of idents-to-investigate, until I read a blog that showed the same creature in the same county around the same time. This is the froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata).

It’s one of the reasons I try to follow local natural history blogs and the news on local natural history sites. Chances are, what is being seen and written about across the country might very well be on my own doorstep.

unknown flower

I can’t help thinking I’m missing something obvious on this one. It looks familiar, has nice straightforward id features, and should be straightforward to key out. But it eludes me. I don’t have a picture of the stems but here’s a close up of the flowers. Lots of glare from the sun so they appear … Continue reading “unknown flower”

I can’t help thinking I’m missing something obvious on this one. It looks familiar, has nice straightforward id features, and should be straightforward to key out. But it eludes me.

I don’t have a picture of the stems but here’s a close up of the flowers. Lots of glare from the sun so they appear more washed out than they really are. Colours are generally pale blues, whites and lilacs:

4 petalled flower

Four separate petals with a noticeable vein along the centre of each one. Note that the petals tips look (to me at least) un-notched. More rounded than notched.

I used a hand-lens to try and examine the stigmas and stamens but they appear to have gone AWOL. In fact, the flowers themselves have been out for a while and are probably past their best, suggesting May as the peak flowering month.

I don’t have a good shot of the stems but this one shows them a little:

It might not be clear from that image that the stems are rounded and slightly hairy. And here’s how they look from a distance …

So far so good, and a visit to Frances Rose Wild Flower Key. I had my hunch and it keyed out as I thought it might fairly well to Broad-Leaved Willowherb (Epilobium montanum). Except it doesn’t quite fit. The petals don’t look right to me (not notched), and the leaves, I didn’t mention the leaves.

The leaves are alternate up the main stem. Alternate and spiralling, like a willow. A Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) if you like. But it is definitely not Rosebay. The leaves are soft and slightly hairy, lanceolate, but not too skinny. They appear to clasp the stem just under the flower stalk but a closer look shows that there is a short petiole. The leaves are not dark and linear like Rosebay.

So I’ve browsed a few flower books and resorted to the time-honoured scientific tradition of thumbing through them aimlessly and looking at the pictures. I’ve had a play with the BSBI questionnaire. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing fits. These spiral leaves are confusing me. Perhaps it thinks it’s a willow.

(Update: 5th June 2011) Thanks to Phil Gates for suggesting that this could be Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Violet (Hesperis matronalis). (Not just that, I’ve just noticed he’s got a blog entry on it!). It definitely ticks all the boxes and I’m sure this is correct. I shall revisit the flower next week and have a closer look.

Leaving Home

Perhaps, perhaps not. After a bit of fun with some parcel tape and a stick I was hopeful that the motion detection software might only detect motion, and not leaves, wind, sunlight or clouds. No such luck. 10,050 images this evening to browse through. That’s a lot of thumbnails. In amongst them though, some interesting … Continue reading “Leaving Home”

Perhaps, perhaps not. After a bit of fun with some parcel tape and a stick I was hopeful that the motion detection software might only detect motion, and not leaves, wind, sunlight or clouds. No such luck. 10,050 images this evening to browse through. That’s a lot of thumbnails. In amongst them though, some interesting behaviour …

I think what we’re seeing there is an adult feeding a very eager youngster who can’t wait to leave home. It was a hot sunny day today and this thin-walled birdbox faces due-south on a sunny wall. (There are plenty of other bird boxes to chose from but the blue tits chose this one, year after year. They don’t know that they’re not meant to.)

And every year on hot days like this I fret a little. Far more than the chicks I suspect.

I’m slightly intrigued by that last picture (above). Is it courtship feeding? Or one adult passing food to another to pass into the nestbox?

Then, (after discarding another few thousand thumbnails), it looks like the bold fledgling decides to see the world outside its window.

Sticky Backed Plastic …

… well, not quite. But a big long bit of wood, a (really) heavy planter (which I usually use to sit on), and some parcel tape. Nothing that the BBC Springwatch tech-crew will feel too threatened by but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. Sometimes thinking about things too much is a bad idea. I … Continue reading “Sticky Backed Plastic …”

… well, not quite. But a big long bit of wood, a (really) heavy planter (which I usually use to sit on), and some parcel tape. Nothing that the BBC Springwatch tech-crew will feel too threatened by but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Sometimes thinking about things too much is a bad idea. I wanted the webcam, away from the building, pointing at the nestbox. And I couldn’t work out how to do it. So I went for a walk. Around the garden, and around the garage. And 10 minutes later …

Looking good but despite tweaking with mask files and experimenting with the configuration for motion I still end up with over 10,000 images at the end of the day.