It definitely feels as though winter is approaching – and there’s a forecast of snow showers for tomorrow. Most of the spiders are staying in hiding, and the number of woodlice has dropped, but harvestmen seem hardier than the rest, and are still hunting on tree trunks. This one was well camouflaged on the silver birch:
Archive for October, 2008
The RSPB mark this time of year with a “Feed the Birds” weekend. I’ve been feeding them all year, but today seems the busiest so far, with visits by green and gold finches, chaffinches, house sparrows, dunnocks, blue, great and coal tits, robins… – and of course a few wood-pigeons and collared doves. Meanwhile the sky was busy too, with rooks, jackdaws, gulls, red kites, starlings and blackbirds. Conditions for photography weren’t too good, but here are a few of the visitors.
On a warm, damp, windy evening, I didn’t expect to find much to photograph in the garden. In fact there were dozens of garden spiders, slugs and harvestmen, plus these: a vine weevil that I guess had been blown off the vines onto a wall, a beautiful walnut orb-weaver spider on the gate – and a hedgehog clearing up the spillage under the bird table. I’ve piled up leaves in a corner of the garden in the hope that hedgehogs will hibernate under them when it gets colder.
Thomas asked how I photograph bugs in the dark. This photo (sorry, taken on my mobile) shows the setup I’m experimenting with. The lamp is a cheap LED headlamp from e-bay, powered by (rechargeable) AA batteries, and pointing roughly where the DCR-150 focuses, about 200mm from the lens. It’s on an improvised bracket attached to the hot shoe, and illuminates the subject without the heat that a torch bulb would generate – and seems to improve the autofocus lock compared with just the a-f assist light. The camera senses the fill and reduces the flash output a bit so I don’t seem to get burnt-out highlights, but I still need a bit of practice to get it right – at the moment I usually have to tweak the exposure afterwards in Paintshop. The advantage is that you don’t need to hold the camera in one hand and a torch in the other!
These beautiful creatures featured recently in a BBC/Open University programme recorded at Wittenham Clumps, only a few miles from here; they are obviously quite common in the area. The programme was concerned with the crickets’ ultrasonic communication, made audible to humans with a bat detector. On 20 September I found a male on bindweed: here’s a female on the trunk of a field maple tree.
Late at night, pitch dark. It’s been raining, and now it’s stopped there are woodlice, small snails and a few slugs around, but not much else going on – except on the trunk of the silver birch, where this magnificent spider has caught a bluebottle nearly as big as itself and is dragging it home for dinner. Bigger view available on Flickr (“view all sizes”) if you’re not squeamish.