MAGIC!

It’s coming up to that time of year when the blog celebrates it’s third birthday.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who read my posts and pages, cheers guys & gals!  It has also been good this last year to discover even more interesting blogs.  I have recently been doing more posts that are not nature or drag racing themed, so it’s been pleasing so many of you have ‘liked’ and commented on them.  We are sitting out the second big storm to hit us in a week but rest assured when spring gets here normal service will be resumed.

So for this post we go back to last November.  We thought we had sold our property, unfortunately it all fell through more or less at the last minute.  The only good thing to come out of it was we managed to declutter and clear out 30+ years of “oh that might come in handy one day”.  When I was up in the roof loft space I came across a box of old photos, a quick rummage through and I found two packs with ‘ drag racing’ written on them.  I could have cried with joy!  I thought these were lost for ever having searched for them before without success.

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Two well known Comp Altereds line up. The big v8 powered Ford Pop ‘Liquidator’ driven by Tony Merry or Pete Goddard and the Jag engined ‘Paranoia’ of Loten and Thomas

Ah the memories!  Well to be honest I really can’t remember taking most of these pictures.  They date to the early 1980’s and some can be assigned to certain meetings by maybe the car/bike name or colour, those on the ‘UK & European drag racing photo’s’ fb page have been a great help.  I scanned them onto the computer, a couple of things were obvious, 1. My photography skills in those days was somewhat lacking and 2. Some of the old prints had suffered with age and turned red!  So I asked Uncle Google if anything could be done to restore the images “Yes” he said ” You need to download one of them expensive post-processing softwares”  Hmmm, a look through the options and here’s one offering 30 days free trial!  Well it would be rude not to.

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Before and after, not a 100% but very acceptable. Ron Pudney’s ‘ Magician’ a 1968 Mercury Cougar

The magic button was fade correction and this could be altered for more or less reduction.  However the images still needed working on.  Full size on a 16″ laptop screen the 5″x 3.5″ prints were a bit grim.  They looked very ‘noisy’ possibly due to the type of paper so hit the ‘noise control’ button, better but now soft so saved the results and in Nikon View NX which I got with my first camera I cropped and sharpened the images also adding some contrast or highlight protection and straightened one or two.  Now things were looking good.

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Now you see me, now you don’t! Hazze Fromme ‘Ragnarok’ nitro Funny Car

Further investigation into what this software could offer and with a bit of practice I could remove dust spots or scratches and even more impressive a photographer or two!  The images were now good enough to use on my blog in my various drag racing pages.  Some might say it’s cheating and yes it is but it is also a great way to preserve memories, plus I still have the original prints!

So did I purchase the software?  Actually no.  I made full use of the thirty day trial but at the moment all my post-pocessing needs can be taken care of in Nikon NXD.

Winter Heliotrope

Winter can be a dull and depressing time of year, especially for me.  The butterflies, dragonflies and drag racing are only for the warm seasons.  The light is usually too poor to get decent shots of birds so I often sulk around the place feeling gloomy.  This winter has been quite mild only a couple of frosts so far which means February and March will probably be inundated with snow and ice!  Due to the (fairly) clement weather the garden has a touch of colour.  One rose is still in bloom, that’s seven months solid, be a shame to prune it back in a few weeks time.  The winter heathers are starting to flower also primroses!  One plant that has done well this year is the Winter Heliotrope.

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Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans

This plant is the perfect ground cover.  We had a dead area beneath a weeping willow tree alongside a large conifer hedge.  The heliotrope took to it with gusto soon covering the spot with it’s large heart shaped leaves.  The bonus is that in December it sends up these 8in (200mm) spikes of flowers which have the most gorgeous deep scent of vanilla.  I find it strange for it to have it’s flowers now when there are no pollinators about.  If you are thinking of adding this plant to your garden be warned it’s a bit of a thug.  It spreads by rhizomes and can quickly take over.  In the autumn we removed some of the hedge and built a raised bed to fill the spot.  The bed is 8in high but already the heliotrope is appearing!

WOLF MOON

On the 10th of January we had the first full moon of the year which is called the wolf moon it also coincided with a penumbral eclipse.  Thought I would try and get a shot as I’ve never photographed the moon before.  I used my 300mm lens but still had to crop.  The settings were iso 1000, f8, 1/800s using a tripod.  I did have to alter the white balance to get the colour right.

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Bark at the moon

Makes you Think

Had a message request on facebook (only use it as a platform to post images) from a fellow wordpress blogger.  Mudar Salimeh lives in Syria and we all know what’s been happening there!  He is an artist and butterfly fanatic his blog https://syrianbutterflies.wordpress.com/  .  Mudar tells me he knows I follow his blog but cannot see mine or any wordpress blogs he cannot reply to my comments.  That is a sad situation.  So I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if some of you who read my posts pay him a visit, leave a like or comment or better still follow.  Show a bit of friendship to a fellow nature lover.

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Swallowtail, Norfolk
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Silver-washed Fritillary form Valezina, Holt cp Norfolk
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Common Darter (female) Alderfen Broad, Norfolk

So go on folks give him a look.  https://syrianbutterflies.wordpress.com/

And for those who like my dragonflies I’ve put together a new page https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/british-damsel-dragonflies/

Forgotten Frames

When I put posts together they are usually on a certain theme, maybe about a certain species or place I have visited.  As often happens there are shots I take that do not fit in so tend to get overlooked.  Today we have a bit of welcome rain good news, bad news I’m on holiday.  To kill a bit of time I’ve been looking through some files and found images that I quite like that never made the cut.  Thought I would share them.

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Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) in a hot July summer meadow
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Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). At first glance looks just like the butterfly above, it was even taken in the same meadow, can you ‘spot’ the difference?

Been awhile since I featured any photographs of birds and I know someone over in the U.S who will be pleased to see some.  https://wildlifeintrigued.com/?wref=bif

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Back in June I was checking out a small pool for a rare dragonfly when I was joined by this handsome Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea). Quite like the reflections of the reeds in the water and the bubbles
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Last week at Upton Fen I saw this female Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus). It’s not in song but panting in the heat. Not a bad shot as it was taken with the macro lens!

Wildlife in Corfu

My weeks holiday allowed me to experience a small taste (no I didn’t eat it!) of the wildlife on offer in Corfu.  This lovely green and verdant Greek island in the Ionian Sea is awash with wild flowers in spring, though it seemed like every other Corfoit was in possession of a petrol strimmer and was doing their best to blitz it!  Away from the villas and holiday apartments things were much quieter, even so some olive groves were getting the treatment.

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A Dalmation Algyroides on a wall of the old fortress in Kerkira.

Loved the lizards, never see many in the UK but here they liked to sunbathe on the rocks.  They are very wary and scuttle off when approached making photography difficult.  The biggest was a Balkan Green Lizard living in the front garden of our villa, pity he had lost his tail.

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Green Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata) enjoying some nectar.

Those of you who have read Gerald Durrell’s book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ will remember his meetings with the Rose Beetle man.  These beetles or chafers are big, up to an inch (25mm) long and are a glorious metallic gold/green.  Mostly seen flying around tree tops they like to feed on nectar.

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Egyptian Locust (Anacridium aegyptium) is a big beast, nearly 3 inches (75mm) long, and caused me to jump when I disturbed them and they flew to cover!
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A beautiful and large moth the Cream-spot Tiger (Arctia villica) has a wingspan over 2 inches (50mm) long. This one nearly met it’s demise under my foot as I left the front door. Well spotted (and saved) Tina!
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A rather pretty grasshopper Omocestus rufipes, the Woodland Grasshopper.

The birdlife on Corfu was somewhat disappointing, so much so the zoom lens never got bothered.  There was a distinct lack of garden birds and the countryside was pretty quiet too.  I fear the large amount of empty shotgun cartridges and feral cats may be responsible.  The hunting of spring migrants on Mediterranean islands is a big problem, although it is part of the culture it is not big and not clever!  We did see some nice birds though, Scops Owls by our villa at night and the Red-rumped Swallows in the old fort.  A highlight of an evening meal in our favourite taverna the ‘Olive Press’ was the Barn Swallows coming in to roost a few feet above us and the owner welcomed them.

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Another dinosaur! A Greek Algyroides on our terrace wall.

“But wait!” I hear you say “Where are the butterflies?”  Well butterflies were in a great abundance and if you would like to see a few check this out https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/corfu-butterflies/  I decided to put a gallery on my HOME page, enjoy!  For a taster feast your eyes on this beauty!

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Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

 

Tiger, Tiger?

When it has been warm and sunny I have been dropping in on my local heath a couple of miles away.  My main purpose has only been partly successful but with no photos as yet I’m keeping quiet.  The heath is gorgeous at this time of the year.  The soil is very sandy, gorse and heather grow in profusion.  I just love the gorse, the flowers vivid yellow and the heady aroma of it’s coconut like scent.

The insect life is quite prolific and whilst walking the paths in full sun I had been noticing several pale green bugs.  I tried to get close for an image but every time they flew away.  At last one stayed put and I managed to get the macro on it, it turned out it was laying eggs in little burrows it excavated.  I had an idea what these were but made a check on google to confirm, they are Green Tiger Beetles (Cicindela campestris).

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Up close what an amazing looking creature, unless you are another small insect!

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t recall ever seeing a green tiger.  So why the name?  Well it seems as this little critter, only 1/2 an inch (12mm) long, is one of the fiercest and fastest hunters in the bug world.  If you are a spider, ant or caterpillar you better be prepared to run and run fast!  How fast?  Well according to the aforementioned google one of it’s family can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph2.5 m/s), or about 125 body lengths per second!  Scale that up and it’s quicker than a Top Fuel dragster!

Another insect I’d noticed actually did look more like a tiger.

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‘Wonder what’s in this burrow?’

Same size as the beetle this is Goodens Nomad Bee (Nomada goodeniana).  The identity of this confirmed by a facebook group.  It is known as a cuckoo bee or cleptoparasite.  What it does to earn this illustrious title is to lay it’s eggs in the nests of other species of bee of the andrena family that nest in burrows.  The grub then tucks in on the stored food meant for the host grub, similar to the avian cuckoo.

Amazing the world that goes on right under our noses!