Archive for June, 2007

Favorite Shots for Friday, June 15, 2007

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

It’s been quite finch-y at the birdcam lately, with lots of House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches, but fewer, it seems to me, of the other birds. Maybe that’s just sampling bias on my part, though; I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I’d like looking through the camera lately.

Anyway, here are my favorite shots from yesterday.

Several of us got shots of this female House Finch. I was interested by the little tufts on top of her head, which led me to believe she’s a recent fledgling. Here’s a shot taken by kryptonkay at 11:41:

Image 16509

I also was very interested by this Mourning Dove. Again, I think we’re looking at a recent fledgling, one that hasn’t had time to grow in that long, beautiful tail that mature Mourning Doves have, and whose feathers have a curious mottled, camouflage appearance. Here are a couple of shots taken by buzzie at 5:11 p.m. and 5:27 p.m.:

Image 16620

Image 16645

Finally, here’s a very interesting pair of shots taken by frodo at 6:59 p.m. The other users on the site classified them as Allen’s Hummingbird, which I can see if I squint a little, though I bet it was much more clear if you saw the video in real-time than it is from these shots:

Image 16664

Image 16665

If you’re having a hard time seeing where the hummingbird is in that shot, here’s a shot taken after he left:

Image 16667

I think it’s neat that you get an actual shot at the iridescent throat, or gorget, of this male hummer; so far I’d never seen a good shot of that with the birdcam. Since the camera mainly faces southeast, and since the sun in the northern hemisphere tends to track across the southern sky, it’s hard for us to get a good view with the sun at our backs, which is pretty much what you need to get the full effect of a male hummingbird’s gorget. But in this case it was late in the day, with the sun low in the west, and the hummingbird apparently was far enough to the left in the camera’s field of view to give us a favorable angle. The result: A very nice pair of shots.

If that whets your appetite for some better views, check out these amazing shots by Doug Morgan: Hummingbird gorget displays. The last two, of a Rufous Hummingbird, are especially interesting to compare to these shots of frodo’s, but some of the earlier ones of the Calliope Hummingbird will really knock your socks off.

Site Speed Up!

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

I didn’t make note of it at the time (I’ve been pretty busy this week), but it looks like Bryce Lee’s efforts to speed up things like the loading of the My Gallery page, and the deletion of rejected images, have really paid off; the site is much faster at those operations now, leading to a dramatic overall improvement in usability.

Repeating my earlier testing, in which I loaded up 10 copies of the My Gallery page in quick succession and timed how long it took to finish loading each page, it took only 29 seconds to finish loading the last page. That’s less than half the time it was taking before, even under the best of circumstances. Even better, I think the response time now is less sensitive to activity on the system by other users.

Thanks, Bryce! 🙂

Favorite Shots for Monday, June 11, 2007

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

My favorite shots from yesterday were these three interesting close-ups:

spurdin got this beautiful shot of the Western Scrub-Jay at 12:37:

Image 15700

Crows and jays are supposed to be among the most intelligent of birds, and this shot certainly conveys that; the bird could be posing for a Rodin sculpture, seated atop the Gates of Hell contemplating the fate of birdkind.

widget got this shot at 1:30. I love that even though it’s completely out of focus, there’s no doubt at all about what bird it shows. I added the comment, “Warning: Objects in birdcam may be larger than they appear!”

Image 15705

Finally, there was a series of really nice close-ups of the Mourning Dove; here’s my favorite, taken by buzzie at 6:32 p.m.:

Image 15777

noho_bird_club Back on Top

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

The seesaw battle for the top of the leaderboard continues, with noho_bird_club taking the top spot back from fingerlakes. Here are the standings as of a few minutes ago:

Congratulations, noho_bird_club!

Favorite Shots for Sunday, June 10, 2007

Monday, June 11th, 2007

There were no new species yesterday, but it seemed like every time I glanced at the birdcam there was something interesting going on.

My favorite shot of the day was this one, taken at 1:39 p.m. by spurdin. It shows a female House Sparrow feeding a fledgling:

Image 15464

Here’s another view of what I assume was the same fledgling, taken by sunbird two minutes later:

Image 15468

What I assume to be the same fledgling (or maybe its brother or sister; I don’t know my immature House Sparrow gender differences) showed up later in the day by the birdbath; I got these two shots at 3:52:

Image 15495

Image 15497

There was also a nice, bright male Lesser Goldfinch that put in an appearance at one point. A few users voted for American Goldfinch, and I can understand the sentiment, but no; between the darkish beak, the extent of black on the head, and the dark back he’s pretty clearly a Lesser. We totally could get an American at the feeders someday, and it’s worth checking out all the goldfinches just in case, but no luck this time.

Anyway, I got this shot of him at 4:00:

Image 15499

And this one at 4:11:

Image 15501

rookie got this nice shot of him at 4:12:

Image 15504

Finally, while no one got four species in one shot like noho_bird_club did yesterday, there were a couple of threes, and one almost-three. First was this fuzzy shot, which, if you take the time to study it, reveals a male House Sparrow, a female House Finch, and down low, in the back, a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. It was taken by vireo at 2:56:

Image 15477

There was also this picture, which I took at 3:40. Something about the way the American Robin was bathing looked absolutely irresistible to the two House Finches watching. After the robin left they jumped in and took their turns.

Image 15491

There actually was also a Pygmy Nuthatch that flitted in and landed on the left side of the birdbath a couple of times while these others were there. I tried to get a shot each time it did so, but I was always too late; it only stayed a second or two each time. If I could have got that shot it would have made my day. Maybe next time.

Finally, I got this shot at 4:35. It’s only three species, but it’s a lot of individual birds. There’s a Mourning Dove on the left end of the T-bar, four House Finches (I think) on the sunflower seed feeder, and a male House Sparrow and (maybe?) another House Finch in the ball:

Image 15510

All in all, another fine day of birdcamming. 🙂

The Case of the Missing Sock Feeder

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

I’d been meaning to mention this, and paging back through the last weeks’ worth of images reminded me of it.

We’ve lost the sock feeder.

It disappeared sometime around noon, or shortly thereafter, on Saturday, June 2. The last shot we have that shows it still there was this one, taken by tedr at 11:58 a.m.:

Image 13861

Sometime between that shot and this one, taken by kiddo at 1:28 p.m., it disappeared:

Image 13870

Suspicion, as usual, falls immediately on Roscoe. Earlier that morning he was seen making use of the sock to reach the sunflower seeds; check out this shot taken at 8:31 by woodsong:

Image 13826

And this acrobatic maneuver at 9:31, captured by glenlivet18:

Image 13832

True, Roscoe isn’t actually touching the sock in that shot, but he clearly was spending a lot of time climbing on and around it on the morning in question.

A few months ago I had one of these sock feeders fall off the corner of my house where I’d hung it; my investigation in that case showed that the problem was the knot, which had basically untied itself under the weight and jostling of an endless progression of Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches. The CONE SF sock feeder hasn’t had the same level of finch attention, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a single active squirrel could do as much to tug a knot loose as any number of finches.

Focusing on the knot, we have a close-up from the day the sock vanished, taken by niskiel at 8:13 a.m.:

Image 13824

Unfortunately, it’s somewhat out of focus, making it hard to see much about the state of the knot. Interestingly, though, the following shot taken a couple of weeks earlier by berkteach, at 6:18 p.m. on May 15, shows what looks to me like an extra bit of “tail”, a little extra loose line above the knot, that was no longer there on the day the sock disappeared:

Image 9845

Here’s a zoomed-in comparison, magnified 5X, of that May 15 image by berkteach, and the one from the day the sock disappeared where Roscoe had his guilty paw on the sock. The two shots are roughly comparable in terms of the camera’s orientation and zoom, though one should bear in mind that the lighting is different, given the different time of day when the two shots were taken:

It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on with the knot in those two photos, but it looks to me like the second one shows less “tail” than the first. Could it be that with the help of Roscoe’s tugging it finally gave way?

If that’s true, then it seems possible that the sock has spent the last week lying on the ground at the base of the pole, down at ground level under Craig’s bottlebrush. That is, unless a certain nefarious rodent, having tugged it free of its moorings, has since made off with it.

Craig apparently has been in New York this past week (see this item from blogger Donna Bogatin, for example: Craigslist’s Craig Newmark: ‘My life is a sitcom’), which could explain why the sock hasn’t been restored. Hopefully someone can take a look around for it soon, though. As you all know, I have a real soft spot for it. 🙂

Congratulations, fingerlakes!

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

I spoke over-broadly about noho_bird_club kicking all our butts in scoring. He’s kicking all our butts except one: fingerlakes’. Because fingerlakes, as of this evening, is the new top-scoring user in the system:

Congratulations, fingerlakes!

Four in One!

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Besides kicking the rest of our butts in scoring, and posting awesome shots to the blog of his own backyard birds, noho_bird_club got this fun shot earlier today:

Image 15311

It looks fairly ho-hum at first, but when you give it a careful look you realize that he’s got no fewer than four identifiable species in one shot! Going from left to right, there’s a female Lesser Goldfinch upstairs on the thistle feeder, a male House Finch downstairs, a Chestnut-backed Chickadee at the bottom of the sunflower feeder, and a male House Sparrow in the ball.

I know there are lots of two-species shots, and there probably are a bunch of threes, but four is very impressive. Can anyone find any previous shot in the system with four different species in it? Could there even be a five?

Sounds like a fun project for an evening when the camera is dark. 🙂

In the meantime, congratulations noho_bird_club!

Update: I went back through the past week, and at least going back to Saturday, June 2 (which required paging through 68 screens of thumbnails, at 16 images each, for a total of 1081 images), I couldn’t find any shots containing more than two species. We’re all so obsessed with zooming in for tight close-ups lately, we don’t often pull back for the wide shots that could show a bunch of different birds at the same time.

Then, taking a hint from kryptonkay, I tried looking through all the disputed shots. Though there were a lot with two species, I couldn’t find any with three. But that reminded me of the great shots we got of the Lazuli Bunting back on May 9, and I checked those out to find this shot of kryptonkay’s, with the bunting, a male House Sparrow on the lower left, and then a female Black-headed Grosbeaks on the top and a male (I think) on the lower right:

Image 7745

So there’s at least one with three species in it. Still haven’t been able to find another one with four.

Stray Feathers

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

I got a couple of shots today that had interesting (well, to me) variations in bird appearance due to some unusual feathers.

First was this shot of the Western Scrub-Jay that I got at 6:11 a.m. I like it because it’s a pretty shot, but I also like that odd little light-colored streak along the edge of his (or her) wing. I guess that’s just a feather out of place?

Image 15180

Then, at 4:04 p.m., I got this shot of a male Lesser Goldfinch hanging around on the thistle feeder:

Image 15305

That’s a really interesting effect he’s got of a light eye stripe, or a thick dark eye line, extending behind the eye. I don’t remember seeing anything like that before on a Lesser Goldfinch; it just seems to be an odd individual variation, one that I’m guessing is only going to be temporary, as feathers come and go.

Birds at MY feeder

Friday, June 8th, 2007

One of the reasons I love the Sutro Birdcam is because a lot of the birds that go to the feeders are ones I never get to see (since I live on the East Coast). Western Scrub Jay, Steller’s Jay, Pygmy Nuthatch, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Allen’s Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole, Golden-crowned Sparrow and Lesser Goldfinch are ones that I never get to see. But with the cam, I feel like I know them as well as the birds at my feeders.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my photos of the birds that come to my feeders. I’m not going to tell you what they are – isn’t part of the fun of bird watching trying to identify birds?






Blue Jay


red bellied