Dafad yn siarad

Trail cams

Big news! Wednesday's video featured two fawns!

This was a huge surprise for us. We always knew there were two does but we had no idea that both of them had given birth. We know because in one of the recordings, both fawns are in shot at the same time. Otherwise, the two look very similar, at least to me. Besides those two, there are many Leporidae (rabbits and hares), as well as bird life, squirrels, and some great footage of the fox. I'm now pretty convinced the fox can see the camera, looking straight into it but this only leads to better video. You can see lots of the two fawns. They are getting better at walking and there's the occasional shot of them running around (and even one subsequent crashing noise from the camera, or the tree that it's bound to).

Wednesday's camera check was itself a pretty big surprise. Our usual routine after heading to the woods is sometimes to have a look into the still-empty beehives. We left one with frames and the other without. The one without frames contained the surprise. Underneath one of the holes in the crownboard was a queen European hornet. These can get up to 35mm in length and this one was almost as large. She may even have been the same hornet we saw buzzing around the hives that I talked about in last week's blog. We replaced the roof and headed home to suit up, because we'd decided that ideally we didn't want to be hornet-keepers. Dan put on his BBWear Ultra Bee Suit and I put on my significantly less protective suit (a bog-standard Simon the Beekeeper one). Happily, it seems Dan is unlikely to have any anxiety looking after bees because he calmly and confidently managed to remove the crownboard and isolate it into a large plastic box. Along with her was the beginnings of a papery nest, with at most twenty cells, not much bigger than that of a honey bee, hanging downward. Inside each cell was an egg, maybe five times bigger than a bee's egg. Unfortunately for her, fortunately for us and our future bees, she didn't get very far with the nest, but it was fascinating to look inside.

There's also Sunday's video.

Fox fans will also like this one. Usually the fox keeps out of the view of the cameras but there is quite a lot of him here. News of the fawns has travelled quite far and they appear in this one, now running at high speed around and between the branches while the doe watches with the exhaustion of a new parent. They definitely look much nimbler on their feet. The small Campark Mini, for all its problems, does a good job of recording audio most of the time. In this video we get nice clear birdsong. We can also see a squirrel wrestling match and acrobatics.

This second camera check of the week came after a very good Sunday lunch at the Packhorse. The temperature and the huge amount of pollen in the air made it less than the usual pleasure, though Dan bringing ice cream certainly helped. We intended to put up the VespaCatch hornet trap, but after under a minute of bringing it into the woods, Dan noticed a honey bee struggling in the sugary solution. We fished her out, she dried off and a few minutes later flew away. We changed our mind about the VespaCatch, concerned we'd likely kill more bees than trap hornets.


In other news about more domesticated animals, you may remember from last week that one of the neighbouring lambs, now named Bandit, had worked out how to climb the wall between my drive and the woodland in which he and his flock were grazing. During the week two of the ewes had worked it out too, and three of them were happily munching away on the hedge. This was despite there being much more and much lusher vegetation in the woodland. Some of the vegetation was ivy binding the wall together, and as the week continued a line of stones from the wall fell as the sheep jumped over the wall. On Friday morning, a single ewe was bleating outside my bedroom window. Alone, she couldn't work out the sweet spot on the wall at which she could comfortably climb over. The gate between the woods and my place seemed to be pointless at that point, and I removed it entirely.

For days the seven sheep came and went again. They like watching me through the patio door as I work and then when I open it they run away. Still, the garden does look a lot neater. At the weekend they were moved to their own paddock. Dan and I were going to help out with herding the sheep there today, but Helen the farmer had left the gate open in preparation and somehow they'd found their way over a ditch and through a thick wood to get there themselves. They seem to just prefer anywhere new, and being herd animals Bandit's curiosity seem to lead them all kinds of places.


When not in use, the poles of my main antenna dangle from the eaves of the house and from a nearby tree. The ewes had a nibble of the poles of the antenna and now it doesn't work as well. Still, Andreas DJ3EI over in Berlin had emailed the js8call mailing list to arrange a JS8 'QSO party' on Saturday night on 14.078MHz at 19:00 UTC, so I thought I should take a look. Having repaired the antenna, I dropped in around 18:00 UTC, initially being very successful with transmission but not so much with reception. As the sky got darker and the band opened, Andreas had a nice chat going, even though both of us on low power.

There are quite a lot of decent radio toys at around the £200 mark. I had an email from ~ew, who is in the process of getting on the air. He has a Red Pitaya, a 'swiss army knife for engineers' that I haven't heard about before. It's a software and hardware development platform with a ARM Cortex A9+ FPGA which is intended as a highly-configurable bench test and measurement tool. It's intended to be an alternative for expensive lab equipment. It runs on Linux, and is open source apart from the proprietary hardware design. It can be used as a 50MHz oscilloscope, or spectrum analyser, or (with an extension module) and LCR meter which sweeps over a frequency range, and a whole bunch of other stuff, all through a web front end. There is a application store with a wide range of applications, among them allowing FGPA/DSP experimentation and application-building with the Red Pitaya as a software-defined radio block. You can make your own SDR-based HF transciever with the Red Pitaya as its core, in other words. This transceiver can go up to 60MHz and has 14 bits of resolution. With it, you can simultaneously decode data traffic on a range of frequencies, or add your own filters and amplifiers. I'm still reading the Red Pitaya notes to learn more. In the same category of radio toys, I have my eye on a NanoVNA v2. The components are reportedly hard to get right now, but I think it would solve a lot of my antenna woes (those not involving sheep). Then there's the HackRF (together with something like GNU Radio), a wide-band (1MHz to 6GHz, output power 1-30mW depending on the band) SDR transciever that I've heard several radio amateurs rave about. It's also a favourite of the hacking and information security communities, having been used for GPS spoofing and key fob replay attacks and those sort of antics.


I'm cutting down on the caffeine I drink, ideally getting it down to zero (or, at most ε, because I like chocolate). In the past I've had a lot of caffeine each day, but now I'm slowly reducing it. No negative side effects so far, but I am getting deeper and more continuous sleep and some vivid dreams. The elimination half-life of caffeine is about five hours but can vary from person to person. Maybe I wasn't as caffeine-free when I put my head on the pillow as I thought. Maybe counter-intuitively, I now feel less tired throughout the day, or at least I did at the beginning of the week. Sometimes on Thursday or Friday night I have to take a monster nap but feel fine afterwards. The experiment continues.

Also this week

The Folk Horror Film Club watched Saint Maud (2019) this week and were suitably startled, haunted and unsettled; Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light (1979) on Charlie Bones's breakfast show; Euros Childs and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci; Boards of Canada; hearing Heilung's ᚠᚢᚦᚨ (2019) while chilling out in the woods with Dan; a week of early nights dropping off to Irv Teibel recordings and Brian Eno's Reflection (2017).