The weather has been pretty gruesome this week. Gales and rain, so things have been quite slow. The major news however was the hatching of the Blue Tit eggs.

They hatched on Thursday and have grown very quickly!

A total of 8 hatched from what I can tell.

The video of the hatching is fascinating, you can clearly see the female eating the eggs, a valuable source of calcium!

This latest video shows how much they have grown

The weather has made it very hard work for the parents but they have done a great job so far.

The hedgehogs are spending most of the night snuffling around the garden. The other night one of the females had a suitor, she didn't seem very impressed!

There have also been a few more raspberry pi experiments. I've been trying to capture some slo-mo, but not totally successful so far

Let's hope this week is a bit kinder with the weather!

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The Power of Pi

I quite like pie, and I quite like raspberries, combine them, add cream and wow! Delete an E or call it 3.14159 and you get something even better – the Raspberry Pi! The Raspberry Pi is a small computer but has an amazing amount of potential. I've been working on a few projects since I got my first one early last year, there's a lot to learn from different programming languages, to running motors and sensors but that's half the fun. It is British made (actually Wales!) and is aimed at education, mainly kids and I can see a huge potential for it in the classroom. Some schools are using them a lot already. It is important for kids to learn programming for the future not just how to use Facebook! It would be exciting to be able work with a school using them. My bent however is how can I use it for wildlife?

The Pi

At first I was wondering about the camera capabilities of the pi. It was fairly easy to get a webcam up and running. This could be used to do timelapses and motion detection. The video streaming rates aren't that good. This is a timelapse of the garden for the month of April taken using a cheap webcam (excuse the camera moving half way thro!)

Then, the pi foundation released it's own camera module. It took me ages to get this working, and then it turned out there was an issue with my pi that meant it didn't work. When I eventually got a new pi this was solved. The pics were fantastic! Timelapse is superb, but the video was a trimmed down version of the sensor, good quality but a bit small. This is what I captured using the video and motion detection.

Then, exciting news, the Raspberry Pi foundation released code for more functionality in the camera module, including full sensor video! All systems go! The blue tits had already started building their nest in the normal box, so getting the camera in was a case of waiting for them to leave and getting it in as quickly as possible. I had to hack the camera first to change the focus, deep breath then in with a scalpel and a microscope! The pi is taped to the side of the box, all very Heath Robinson, but I couldn't risk upsetting the birds. The results however have been superb. I can record on motion detection and stream into the house in HD. I haven't put it on my website yet, I know what to do, it's just that I don't want to take the pi down whilst there is action in the box! Next year the box will be pimped up with a pi, HD streaming, and the pi reading sensors such as temp, humidity, luminosity, it will also log the number of visits. I also plan to get it to control the lights automatically, so turn off at night, on at dusk. So lots of work to do! A cam monitoring the fledging is going to be set up too!

Here it is in situ at the moment. Waterproofing courtesy of a sandwich bag 🙂

The results! I am incredibly pleased with these 🙂

There is also a NoIR camera module for shooting at night. This has obviously lead me to PiTrailCam! The pi is housed in a plastic box, to keep it dry, and I place it near one of the CCTV cameras I already have to utilise the IR from it. The problem is power. I've overcome this by using a portable battery that you use to recharge phones, it provides enough power to record through the night. The next step is to equip the PiTrailCam with it's own IR array. This is it at the mo

Again the videos are excellent quality!

With the better video and stills now available I have set up a new timelapse system. A very long project!

My garden from the pi

One of the things I have wanted to do the most is use it to monitor and record the weather. For years I have kept manual records, writing down max/min and rainfall everyday. With the combination of a maplins usb weather station and a pi it is all now automated and sent to my website every 10 minutes! I've even got it going to my phone so I can see what's been happening, yes I'm a geek 🙂 The Pi reads the data from the unit, produces tables, graphs and publishes to the web. If you check out the Weather Page on my website, you can see the data for the day, week and months and eventually years. There are even graphs! Every page on the website now shows the current weather here at The Lilac Grove 🙂

Pi and Weather Station Base Unit

The unit that does the measuring is set up in the garden

Obviously the pi has limitations, power and waterproofing being some the major obstacles to overcome with it working outside, but the fun in experimenting and getting something to work is great!

I have lots of other projects on the go and planned for the pi over the coming months (and probably years). Here's a few ideas I'm working on, there are more but….. 😉

Hedgehog monitoring – weighing, tracking, install in a hog box for temperature etc

Sound capabilities – recording, streaming and also making music

Automate the Moth Trap – on at dusk off at dawn. Close the lid to save the moths and keep birds out!

PiRoboCam – you could have guessed I would! This is coming along quite well!

Sorry if the post was quite long, but I had a lot to share. If anyone is interested in any of the projects I have done and want anymore info on doing them yourself, drop me a line or a tweet and I will help, I'm going to add a raspberry pi section to the website and write some PiGuides too if people are interested. The Pi is all about experimention, learning and sharing!


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It's Hedgehog Awareness Week

I love hedgehogs! You'd probably already guessed, but it needed saying again! To celebrate the mighty spiky things and to help raise awareness of these fantastic animals and the desperate plight they are in, it's their special week. So why not do something in your garden to help them. Put a gap in your fence, add a hog box, put food out for them or leave some part of the garden scruffy. There are lots of ideas on my website here or visit The British Hedgehog Society or The PTES for more ideas.

Just a reminder too, if your are mowing or strimming, please please please check for hedgehogs first. The injuries are horrendous.

I've up dated the the 2014 hedeghog gallery with some more of this years hedeghogs, still a few more awaiting photos.

They are in the garden now from dusk til dawn and it's so wonderful to see (and hear) them back.

I’m not sure that many people really listen in their gardens at night, so one of my missions this year is to try and capture all the different noises that hedgehogs make. Here’s a starter, can you tell what it’s doing?

I've caught some great footage of them too. All of these are edited, I could watch 45 mins of a hedgehog eating, but I'm not sure most people would (and YouTube may get annoyed!)

Here's a selection from this week

And of course a hedgehog pic 🙂 Heather enjoyed the article in BBC wildlife mag

All the reading made her tired

It's Hedgehog Awareness Week so go out and do something for them. Where possible, if people could open their gardens for them and stopped using slug pellets it would make such a difference! They need our help!

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Dawn Chorus and Late Nights

A lot has been going on this week so I'm going to split this into a few posts this week.

The 4th of May, as well as Star Wars Day, was International Dawn Chorus Day. I set up a digital recorder to capture it right from the start. It starts slowly with a lone robin (listen closely and you can hear a hedgehog eating) and then builds. The noise when the magpies come in it gets quite loud. The there are some great clips of wing flaps and some very interesting sounds too! I counted 10 species recorded, how many can you hear?

The blue tits have been busy incubating the eggs, and these should hatch from about Tuesday.

The hedgehogs have been in and out all week but more on them in the next post. Oh, go on then, here's a hedeghog pic.

The garden has needed a quick bit of 'tidying' but that's mainly putting more wildflowers in.

A few butterflies have flitting about

Green Veined

The first cockchafers (maybugs) have appeared, with 11 in the moth trap the other night

Bees, wasps, hoverflies and flies are out in numbers now

A sting in the tail

Moth numbers are ticking over with some more new ones for the year

Purple Thorn

Spectacle (complete with John Lennon specs)

Shuttle Shaped Dart (2 colour morphs)

Muslin Moth – love the yellow on it's front legs

Has anyone else noticed the air full of fluffy seeds the last few days? There has been a lot more than I've noticed in the past. Dandelions do make lovely photo subjects!


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A Tale of 2 Nests

Things have taking an exciting turn. Not only have the blue tits started incubating, but a blackbird has built a nest and laid 4 eggs so far and is incubating them. I managed to get a cam on the blackbird nest whilst she was building so you can see her on the live cams.

You can see the eggs

This is a compilation video of her building the nest

The blue tit has now laid a total of 11 eggs and is busy incubating them

Some video of her on the nest. Some lovely food passes

The insect houses have been busy when the sun comes out. The bee tubes have been swarming with the mason bees hatching out from last years nest building.

This is a male, you can tell by the moustache. I presume males hatch first so they can wait for the females!

Moth trapping has been a bit inconsistent so far this week. Only 2 new for the year.


Swallow Prominent

Hedeghog numbers are really picking up now, with at least one hedeghog in the garden all through the night. I think there has been at least 10 individuals now.

Hopefully I'll get an extra post out this week too about some stuff I've been working on.

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Everything's Emerging

It's getting busier here now with lots of hedgehogs appearing in the garden. The health checks will have to start now. I've already seen some returnees that I recognise.

The hedgehog takes out a worm at the start of the video, he gets very excited

The blue tit has started laying eggs, this year when she leaves in the morning, she covers them with nesting material. She should finish laying by Thursday and then incubation can resume

There was one worrying moment when a bumblebee entered the nest and stayed for the day

Moth trapping has continued with several new for the years caught

Nut-tree Tussock

Angle Shades

Mullein (complete with Elvis quiff)

Butterflies have also been out


Speckled Wood

The woods behind us are also out in their full bluebell glory. A wonderful sight at this time of year

You may’ve noticed a few extra pages on the website this week (the weather), more on this later in the week, I think this post is long enough already!


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The Sun Came Out!

The weather has changed a bit here, sunny but still chilly at night. This has prompted some changes in the garden at last.

The Blue Tits have been adding dog hair (that we leave out especially) to their nest and are still roosting together. The male has occasionally brought the female food

Hedgehogs have started to appear quite regularly now and I've got some nice footage from my experimental trail cam. Quite a few animals eat the hedgehog food I put out!

The Foxes are still coming regularly and there at least 3. Watch out for the magpies at the end of the video!

Cold nights and clear skies have meant few moths, but still some new for the year

Blossom Underwing

Brindled Beauty

Plume Moth

I spent some time in the garden on Sunday and tried to photo the hoverflies and bees, some successes, some not so!


I'm still to ID these

There were lots of bees around the flowers too. They really are stunning!

Andrena haemorrhoa

Andrena carantonica

Some of these may be the above species but I'm still to ID them!

You may remember I posted a photo last week about the sexton beetle with the mites. These are apparently Poecilochirus carabi

I best get on trying to ID the rest of these then 🙂



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Warning – May Contain Beetles (And Hogs and Blue Tits)

Heather the Hedeghog was released back to the wild this week. I'm always filled with mixed emotions at this time, but it's why I do it, it's great to see them back where they belong.

Heather leaving

We watched her go on the cams

Good luck little one, come back and visit

A few hedgehogs have started appearing in the garden again, that's Jeffrey in the top right corner


The blue tits have been nest building at pace again this week. It won't be long before they lay the first eggs.

Here's a video of some of the nest building, I'm rather pleased with the quality (more on this at a later date)

They've also spent the nights together all week again.


A few more moths have been appearing in the trap this week too

Small Quaker


Knot Grass

Mottled Grey

A few different things have turned up in the moth trap too

22 spot ladybird

The biggest though was this Sexton Beetle, Nicrophorus humator. If you sniff them, they really do whiff! They have amazing orange tipped antenna

They also always seem to have some mites hanging on

Look at the jaws on the beetle!

Fantastic things!

I wonder what the next week will bring?

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2 Blue Tits, Hogs and Earth Hour

The blue tits have started to build their nest in the normal nest box. But, this year something a bit different has happened. They always build in the same one that the female roosts in overnight.

Once they started building something different happened, they were both in there that night. And stayed all night. This has continued all week

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Has anyone else seen this before? I know some birds do, but I've never seen it in Blue Tits.

On Saturday it was Earth Hour and we joined in and turned all the lights out. It was very nice and we intend to make it a regular occurrence.

As everyone is doing selfies at the moment, here's my Earth Hour Selfie

I also monitored the surrounding area, unfortunately not so many people took part

Saturday night did bring some serious excitement though. Finally a hedgehog turned up! Only a brief visit but, 10 days later than last year, one turned up! Phew! You have to look close, but it's in the bottom right 🙂

Some big news on Heather the hedgehog but that will have to wait for another blog post of it's own.

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This week has not brought any new moths, but I did see my first beefly of the year, it was too fast for a photo though, maybe another day 🙂

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In Limbo

Well, spring has ground to a halt here. Cold temperatures over night have put paid to anything really changing here in the last week. Still no sign of any hedgehogs (maybe they knew the cold was coming!) and insect numbers have dropped again. A little wood mouse has taken up residence in one of the hog boxes, it's very entertaining watching him (or her!).

The blue tit is still roosting but no signs of any nest building yet

As far as moth trapping goes it has been very quiet, but, this week did turn up something special! A Pine Beauty! An absolutely stunning moth and a first for the garden

The only other thing of note in the moth trap was this lovely Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum

My other projects are coming along, I will be making a few changes to the website soon to show one of them, hope you like it!

And I leave you with the hope that hedgehogs return this week and a shot of the garden by mothtrap light


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