Waiting on a dark platform for a train. I wonder if my iPhone (3GS) can take a picture with any merit? Apparently so, assuming you like a grainy, dark blur, which frankly I do! The colour, the grain and the blur really make this picture. I even kind of like the white post in the top-left, as a jarring bit of realism creeping into the otherwise abstract shot.


A Virgin hot air balloon slowly lumbered over our house this evening before nearly landing in the allotments behind our garden. It seemed to come within a few tens of feet of touching down before wisely thinking better of it. There are lots of greenhouses, poly-tunnels, huts, etc. not to mention a row of houses on the other side.

I don't know if the pilot was seriously considering landing there, as it seems like a really poor spot that would have ended in disaster. You might get the basket down safely if you were lucky but the balloon envelope would be a nightmare to deal with amongst the allotments. Perhaps as dusk drew in on a fairly still night the pilot was getting a bit nervous about losing light and further opportunities. Or maybe it was just for fun, buzzing low over the houses. It rose quickly with a big burst of flame and then headed off to the fields just North of St Albans where I think it must have landed.


A cold, grey day walking around the RSPB's reserve at Rye Meads today. I thought that the photo above captured the place well, it being a mix of watery channels amidst reed beds, and massive electricity pylons. In the background is a Coot, of which there are plenty, along with more exotic birds on the larger lakes. See my post about Teal on UKNatureBlog for instance.

I went exploring on Hampstead Heath over lunchtime the other day, looking for wild things to photograph (see UKNatureBlog for the results). From the top of Parliament Hill I took this photograph looking back towards Canary Wharf and my work office in the nearer foreground. Click for bigger version.


I'm afraid that the nature posts are going to dry up here, but never fear for they're all now going to be on UKNatureBlog.com – a new blog specifically for the flora and fauna of the UK and all related things, setup by myself and Mrs C.

Go and have a look, bookmark it, and do please contribute. The cheeky chap below will be over there from now on.


In mainland Europe they have a different brand of crow to the pure black ones we get in England – instead preferring the mostly silvery Hooded Crow. Here's one in Warsaw rather comically stood on a car roof trying to get into a nut. Hopefully I'll have more to post about my recent trip to Poland soon.


I found a medium size moth on the wall a couple of days ago and decided I'd try and figure out exactly what it was. I was already aware that there are many more species of moth as there are butterfly – something like 2,000+ in the UK apparently.

I started off by taking some up-close and personal photos of my moth, which was about 25mm long head to wing tip. Then I pored through my large "Butterflies & Moths in Britain and Europe" book, recently acquired at a charity shop mainly to assist with butterfly identification. The only way to use this book when you have no idea what you're looking at is to flick through from cover to cover looking for a matching photograph. Then do the same again just in case you missed it. I was looking for a relatively dull, mottled brown beast with stripy legs, but I didn't find it.


I turned to the web and quickly found the rather excellent UK Moths website, complete with keyword search. Unfortunately "mottled brown" and "mottled grey" didn't quite do the trick, returning tens of results but none of the quite what I was after. Lots of moths fit this very vague description so it's a tough one to solve with a simple text search. The best match I could find was the Grey Chi, but I wasn't convinced as that's much more silvery and lacks the small orange markings, though I wondered if it could be put down to variability between individuals. So I turned to the site's creator Ian and fired off an image and description to the email address given (only to be used once all other avenues exhausted). He got back to me within a couple of days to reveal that it is in fact a Large Ranunculus – and yes I think he's bang on. This is a man who knows his moths!

We found this rather large beetle on the bedroom floor a few weeks back, which was a bit unexpected. However it seemed to be on its last legs and by the look of it was a bit gunged up with spider web and carpet fibres. I can't make up my mind whether it's a stag beetle or lesser stag beetle, though it's definitely a female. There are some decent pages out there trying to help in making this identification, but it's still not quite clear to me. If I had to put money on it I'd go for lesser stag, because it's very black and seems to have some sort of ridges on its forelegs. I wish I'd paid greater attention to the size at the time!


I was digging the borders in the garden this afternoon, and amidst the stones, buried crazy paving pathway and weeds I found some interesting bugs. First up, a millipede, though I couldn't tell you what sort. My brief research suggests there are at least 50 UK species of millipede and they can be quite hard to tell apart. It was about 30mm long I'd say.

Millipede 2

I got him side on from low down in this second shot, to see the little legs working away underneath in a wave like motion up the body. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body section, easily seen here, whereas centipedes only have one pair per section. As always, click for bigger version. That's a gardening book in the background – we have a lot to learn!

Millipede 1

It's starting to get wet and wild outside as autumn replaces summer and that means it's time for big brown spiders in the bath. Here's one that Mrs C was delighted to find last night. Click for scarier, larger version!

BathSpider (1)

A bit of research suggests this is an example of Tegenaria Duellica – i.e. Common House Spider in UK parlance. There seems to be a bit of confusion out there on the web (ho ho) as to the many close varieties of Tegenaria, but I think consensus is that Duellica and Gigantea are in fact the same thing, with Gigantea being the deprecated nomenclature.

This example is about 6cm across the legs, with perhaps a 16mm body. The long legs and slender body suggest it's a male, which makes sense as it's the males out roaming for a mate at this time of year, which is why we see so many of them all of a sudden.