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tim-f
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Posted: 14 Mar 2009 Topic: Strange behaviour?



Hello all.

I was walking along the side of a shallow (maybe a foot deep) rhyne near Bristol today and saw loads of Common Toads in the water.  Most were on their own, with some mating as pairs.

However, I came across a ball of toads all clinging to each other.  There were about 6 that I could see, with one or more underneath and belly up which I think was/were larger.  It was very hard to see quite what was going on.  There was no obvious movement, until a couple of others on the periphery decided to join in.  There was some jostling for position, then they were still again.  This happened several times as displaced toads vied for position.  Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me.

I assume the ones on top were male and the one(s) underneath were female.  Was this normal mating behaviour?

Thanks,

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 15 Mar 2009 Topic: Strange behaviour?



Hmm, seems toads aren't very discriminating (or bright) when it comes to mating.  I remember as a kid seeing a toad which had clasped onto a goldfish in my parent's pond, and it wasn't letting go.  That poor fish was never the same again.

Going back to Peter's reply - yes I guess that's what it was.  I was just surprised that the toads didn't seem to be actively doing anything, just hanging on.  I do wonder if the female (I guess there must have only been one, but it was a biggy) had actually drowned, as the legs facing upwards didn't seem to move at all.

Happy herping,

Tim.

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 13 Apr 2008 Topic: Adder Pics 2008



Hi all,

I'm not sure if this is the correct place, but I have photos of adders ...

I'd like to say Hi to Paul, Stu and Rob who I met at Charterhouse today.  I looked on the forum for info on a Mendip Group, but with no success.

My photos are okay but generally slightly soft, not focussed on the eyes, badly framed, with stray vegetation etc etc.  I guess I need a more expensive camera ... yeah, that would do it.

Tim.

 

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 13 Apr 2008 Topic: first grass snake pics of 08



Hi Rob,

I'm guessing that you're the Rob I met earlier.

One of my efforts below.

Cheers,

Tim.

 

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 13 Apr 2008 Topic: first grass snake pics of 08



Quite possibly the same individual.  Taken in same place within an hour of Rob's.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 27 Apr 2008 Topic: first grass snake pics of 08



Hi all (and particularly Robert V),

I've just caught up with these posts - I hadn't realized I was part of a conspiracy theory - how exciting!!!

Apologies for confusing things in an earlier post by saying my photo was taken within an hour of Robs'.  As explained by Paul in his post (15 April 10:15am) I assumed (incorrectly) that the photos were those taken earlier that day, not on a previous visit by Rob.

I've been visiting the area on the Mendips where the photos were taken to look for snakes for about 4 or 5 years now.  It's taken time, effort and perseverence, but I now know where to look.  From talking to Paul and Rob (who I only met 2 weeks ago), they put much more effort into finding herps than I do.  From spending a little time with those guys I also know that they're very observant - spotting snakes that I would have overlooked.  I think it's a measure of their effort and skill that people find the quality of their sightings and photos suspicious.

Regards,

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 27 Apr 2008 Topic: Canon EOS lense question.



Hi,

Okay I'm by no means an expert, but maybe my experience may be useful (?).

1.  I use a Nikon D200 with a 200mm macro lens - seems to work okay for me, but is longer than other people's suggestions above.

2.  I do have a 105mm macro lens, but have rarely used it for herps.

3.  Autofocus is unhelpful for macro shots.  Other people may well disagree.

4.  With today's technology a good zoom will give you plenty adequate quality.  The limiting factor in most people's photography is NOT the quality of their equipment!  That's certainly true for me.

5.  Regarding Deano's post - if Boris uses an extension tube with his zoom, he'd need to check compatibility (not sure how well they work with zooms, may lose metering etc) but it seems a reasonable low cost option.

6.  Otherwise, if Boris is planning on getting 2-3 ft away, a 100mm macro lens would seem ideal.  That's pretty close though (Grass Snakes for example).

7.  The main problem I have with photographing herps is that there's always undergrowth in the way, no matter how close you get.  Not sure there's a magic solution to that problem!

8.  Depth of field and shutter speed are an issue with close-up work.  Yesterday I cranked up the ISO to 640 to (typically) get an aperture of f11 and a shutter speed of 1/750.  I believe the smaller aperture and faster speed more than made up for the slight increase in noise.  Not sure how well the Canon performs at higher ISOs, but I'm sure there are all kinds of sites that make comparisons (try Ken Rockwell's site).

Good luck Boris.

Regards,

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 27 Apr 2008 Topic: first grass snake pics of 08



Rob,

Cracking shot!!!

Quite amazing how you froze its head but the tongue's blurred, and great depth of field.

Do you sell your photos?  I'm sure they're good enough.

Cheers,

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 12 May 2008 Topic: Dancing Adders from 2006



Yes yes I know they're a bit old, but I thought the photos might still interest people as this seems to be a rarely experienced sight.  They were taken on 29 April 2006, very close to the car park near the area on the Mendips where several herps can be found, as per several other postings (including those relating to the Great Grass Snake Conspiracy ;-) ).  They're completely wild and the photos uncropped/tweaked etc.

Tim.




tim-f
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Posted: 12 May 2008 Topic: 1st mating ball of 2006



Hey, I wasn't a member of the forum then!

Taken at an undisclosed (but controversial) location somewhere on the Mendips on 29 April 2006.  These photos were taken about 20m (and 2 years) from the recent photos, posted by Rob (Rob's Adders) and me, that caused some discussion about whether the subjects were wild.  These are totally wild.  In fact look at them all - filthy creatures!

Tim.

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 15 May 2008 Topic: Extra costs for reptiles



Rob,

This looks like a relevent web page (maybe you've already seen it)

http://www.swrail.com/news/past_press_releases/scott_wilson_ designs_new_conce.aspx

It doesn't give costs, but maybe of interest or as a point of contact to get costs.

Good old wikipedia has an article ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_crossing

... which indicates a 7-8% increase - but I think that's referring to bridges, rather than simple tunnels.

I'll also ask a friend who may have an idea.

I've heard it said that wildlife tunnels and bridges aren't actually very effective.  Though the source may have been people with a vested interest of course.

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 18 May 2008 Topic: Extra costs for reptiles



The answer I got from my friend was ...

"Person should contact their local planning department, check for Highways Agency planning and developments. HA will need to ascertain the ecological sensitivities of the area, undertake an ecology survey and should protected species be present, a method statement would need to be drawn up before any works start as to the mitigation for the reptiles or protected species. Highways have the benefit of a different perspective as with regards for planning as they have 'permitted development' rights and do not need planning permission as such. However, the local planning department should know of the plans and the ecological issues associated with it. The cost of reptile mitigation piping is completely unknown and will depend on the area, particular species, appropriateness of the mitigation - there are lots of procedures to go through before laying piping as the key method for protecting species."

Not quite the simple answer you were probably hoping for!




tim-f
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Posted: 11 Jul 2009 Topic: Photo request



Tony,

Check out my "Grass Snakes Today" post from April.

Any good?  If so I can supply original high res version.

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 15 Jun 2008 Topic: Adder awareness



Hi,

Just a couple of suggestions...

1.  I think it would a good idea to ensure the photos are from an angle that people might realistically see Adders from, and with a bit of background in. 

2.  Ensure the Adders look non-threatening.  Tony's (Armata) photos are great but look a bit "dramatic", and may send out the wrong message to the ill-informed.

Regards,

Tim.

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 12 Sep 2008 Topic: Photographing animals in ponds at night



Hey Vicar.

Bear in mind, I'm no expert!

I don't know what kit you're using, but suspect a digital compact.

Things counting against you:

  • not enough light - this means that camera is struggling to focus accurately
  • not enough light - camera needs to set wide aperture giving shallow depth of focus
  • not enough light - slow shutter speed --> camera shake
  • if you use on-camera flash, you'll probably just get reflection from acetate sheet
  • acetate sheet will severely degrade image quality (this is why lens makers use expensive glass, not acetate sheet ;-) )
  • torch will give orange colour cast to images - some cameras allow you to adjust "white balance" to prevent this

I suggest:

  • buying a DSLR, a macro lens, waterproof housing and a couple of underwater strobes - should come to about 6k
  • failing that, you can get underwater housings for quite a few digi compacts - maybe 150??  And an underwater torch might cost <20 (eg Underwater Kinetics miniQ40).
  • trying to shoot through the bottom of a bucket/fishtank etc makes things harder to get good results - though if you want to pursue this approach get a sheet of glass to shoot through, and use an assistant to shine a (underwater) torch on the subject - oblique lighting is much better than direct (looks better and less likely to get back-scatter from particles in the water)
  • correct for colour cast - either in-camera or using Photoshop etc.

Hope these ramblings help.  If you want any more info, drop me a PM, as I don't check this site very often.

Good luck,

Tim.

 

 

 

 

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 19 Sep 2008 Topic: Photographing animals in ponds at night



Well that's assumptions for you!

I think the extended lens hood idea sounds much better.  I suspect that you're shooting through the acetate at an angle - this is maybe contributing to the dodgy image quality and colour cast (chromatic aberration?)?

For info, Aquapac do an underwater "housing" for SLRs for about 80 - okay to about 5m apparently.  Not sure what length of lens it will accomodate though.

So why isn't the flash getting through?  If it's above the surface, maybe it's tending to bounce off the surface?  Could you put that in the bin and closer to the subject?

Must be great fun for the neighbours watching you at work!

I look forward to seeing your next attempts.

Tim.




tim-f
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Posted: 06 Dec 2008 Topic: Dead pythons in Staffs



Hi all,

Apologies if this has already been posted somewhere else.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/7768196.stm

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 22 Feb 2009 Topic: First of the year?



Hello all.

A couple of hours on the Mendips this afternoon was pretty productive.  Saw 5 adders, all male I think, but all quite dark.  Didn't see the black one which has been around the last couple of years though.  Much more fun that the DIY I should have been doing.

Tim.

 

 




tim-f
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Posted: 22 Feb 2009 Topic: Flash photography



The excellent Common Lizard photos by "will" reminded of something I've been wondering about for a while.

I'm guessing by the catchlight in the lizard's eye, that he used flash - I could be wrong of course.

Does anyone have experience of how herps react to flashguns going off?  In particular Adders (cos they bite!).

Thanks,

Tim.

 




tim-f
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Posted: 24 Feb 2009 Topic: Flash photography



Thanks for the replies guys.

Last season, on occasions I found lack of depth of field was a bit of a problem, so I'll give flash a try.  Hopefully lighting won't be too harsh - I may experiment with a white hankerchief to diffuse the flash output.

Steve - not sure why you think your Sand Lizard photo looks like a studio shot - except that it's technically very good (which isn't normally considered a bad thing  ).

On Sunday I didn't get very close to any Adders, as it seemed wrong to risk disturbing them so early in the season.  I'm assuming that they need to build themselves up at the start of the season.  Is that a reasonable concern?

Also one individual was right by a hole of its hibernaculum - again I thought it would unduly stress it if I disturbed it so close to "home".

Tim.

 

 




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