Snow on Clematis

Clematis with seeds are called “Old Man’s Beard”, though mine isn’t as fancy. Look how that long “feather” hangs from the seed pod itself.

My wife spotted me putting on a parka and toque over my dressing gown.  The look said “I love you, but you are weird…”.

Here’s why.  And the accompanying coyote concert was amazing, with one soloist on the sand dune to the west (we live on a moraine) and a choir to the north, right under Polaris.

Clematis with seeds are called “Old Man’s Beard”, though mine isn’t as fancy. Look how that long “feather” hangs from the seed pod itself.  I’ll have to try flying some to see how well these work as compared with a dandelion.  Interesting on how two different families of flowering plant came up with the “parachute” idea but one as umbrella and the other as feather.

Snow on clematis 1
Snow on clematis 1

Closer…

Snow on clematis 2
Snow on clematis 2

… and closer.

Snow on clematis 3
Snow on clematis 3

I bought this clematis but it is almost exactly like the wild ones that grow round here for free, except it is more vigorous.  But it’s taking over a whole wall and swamping the wisteria that occasionally gets knocked right back to the ground by a bad winter, so I might remove it.

Practising photography on local birds

Bird photography with simple camera is harder than with a complex one

I got a new point-and-shoot camera when my old one died.  It has 34× optical zoom so thinking of taking it on holiday where I’m hoping to see a lot of migrating birds, instead of taking much heavier equipment.  However, it takes a lot of blurry photos at high zoom because of

  • being too automatic; I can’t set the shutter speed.
  • not having viewfinder; have to use the screen to compose.  Which means I’m holding it out instead of pressed to eye, so less support for the camera and more shake.

So I’ve been practising to see if I can get some OK pictures.  One advantage of the dull, grey weather is that if I can get it right today, it should work for most conditions I’m likely to go out in.  Here are a few shots that turned out OK, while being a wimp and shooting through porch window, since it’s a bit nippy out there and I’m too lazy to put on outdoor clothes.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay
Blue Jay 2
Blue Jay 2
Blue Jay 3
Blue Jay 3
White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

There were about twice as many blurred ones, but I seem to be getting the idea.  And, since all else was failing, I downloaded the manual and apparently I can get a faster shutter speed by manually setting the ISO rating. Why they didn’t give a way to manually set shutter directly is beyond me, since I know what shutter speed gives blur for given subject movement but I don’t know how to get the right effect by tweaking ISO.

Grouse in crab apple tree

OK, not quite the same as ♫A Partridge In A Pear Tree♫, but close enough.  I’ve been seeing a pair of grouse (grice?) foraging under the thorn tree but this morning they were up in one of the crab apples. The second picture shows one clearly eating the apples.

Grouse in crab apple tree
Grouse in crab apple tree
Grouse eating crab apple
Grouse eating crab apple

They’re a fairly heavy bird for those thin branches so a lot of wobbling going on.  Not as bad as last year when the turkeys were in the high-bush cranberry (which unfortunately won’t happen this year because sawfly larvae  ate all the flowers and, since they came back again when the bush had leafed out again, may have killed the bush).

Spiders and Shells

There are several species of arthropods called “Daddy Long Legs”, including crane flies and harvestmen. So I prefer to call the spider version by its alternate name, the cellar spider. I’m always amazed by how they will tackle much bigger prey, like this house fly. The spider is just a young one, they do get quite a bit bigger.  Their legs must be stronger than they look as you’d think they’d get broken by the struggles of their prey.  Unlike the orb spiders, their web isn’t sticky, so it is quite a job to entangle their prey.

Another interesting fact is the way they spin around if you disturb their web, by moving their legs in turn so the body just becomes a circular blur, very hard for a bird to catch it in its beak.

Cellar spider
Cellar spider

A little more attractive to some is this collection of empty snail shells and a ladybug (ladybird in English) trapped by the intake to the filter of my upstairs aquarium.

Snail Shells
Snail Shells