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Monday, 26 April 2010

RIP Matty

Matty 2009-2010

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of Matty the Praying Mantis.

Matty, a Peacock Mantis who developed wings after his final molt, reached the age of roughly one year before being found "legs in the air" at the bottom of his enclosure. He lived a humble life, feeding only on fruit flies and crickets, and Cath's fingers too whenever the opportunity arose. Not camera shy, Matty was a responsive and willing model for macro photography. Despite his name, it is widely rumored that Matty was actually a girl.

We will miss you Matty - at least until your replacement arrives. To honor your memory, Catherine will mount you on a piece of cardboard and display you in her entomological cabinet.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Thursley Common

Made visits on Saturday then Sunday to Thursley common. I was hoping to photograph lizards, but on Saturday there were none, as it was very hot all day long (it was sunny long before we arrived) - but this grass snake happened by as we left the car park for the board walk.


Fantastic macro photography is to be had at Thursley, even when there are no Lizards.

We watched this spider-hunting wasp dragging this spider back to it's home, a hole tunneled into a sand bank. It was quite a chunky spider, and the wasp had some trouble fitting it into the tunnel. It had to excavate the entrance just to squeeze it in!

I like the surface tension dimples in this one. These guys are difficult to photography - they don't half move some.

Sunday, the sunny intervals brought out the Lizards, so it was well worth the second trip around the M25. The board walks were crawling with them! If you want to go, the best time is, just after the direct sunlight hits the boards. When this is really depends on the weather though. Today for example, it was cloudy until about 1pm and then the sun came out intermittently. The Lizards appeared within about 10 minutes.


I was surprised how close they let you get. These shots were all taken from a distance of about 1 foot.
Don't make any sudden movements, and they will let you approach fine. I guess they're too cold to leg it!

Still getting used to my Nikkor 200mm f/4 micro lens. The AF on it is painfully slow even for a macro lens. On the upside, the long working distance is proving very useful. It was pretty easy to get close enough for 1:1 (or thereabouts) without spooking these lizards. On a crop sensor, it's a doddle.

I've read all over that this lens cannot be used hand held. I just don't buy it - all the above shots were hand held. Maybe if you want to photograph a fungus (exciting!) on a gloomy day under a forest canopy using 3 second exposures and 50 ISO film then yes, you need a tripod. But with something like a D300 or a D700 in reasonable light, there's really no need.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Driving to Stodmarsh reserve in Kent last weekend, I thought I might be in with a chance of seeing a Marsh Harrier. As it happens, there are plenty, and if you stand still in any given spot for more than about 20 minutes, you're bound to see some. Somebody there mentioned that there are at least 4 breeding pairs. I overheard another person, who I think was heading back to her coach, stating that Marsh Harriers are "now commonplace". She sounded positively disappointed with the place - I hope her trip wasn't entirely wasted.

This shot of a marsh frog was taken from the marsh hide, which is towards the center of the reserve. The guy next to swore blind the branch in the back ground (top right) was a snake. Can't see it myself!

A friendly guy with a big lens directed me to a small bridge in a wooded area, where tree creepers could be seen nesting in a hollow stump. We set up there and sure enough within a few minutes they appeared.

What a fantastic reserve, having spent Saturday and Sunday there I think I only saw a small fraction of it - I'm need to arrange some more trips, there's nothing like it I've seen south of London.