So, I have a confession to make: A little over a week ago, in response to near-constant pestering, the good people at the CONE project invited me to participate in the alpha test they were doing of the new camera. They asked me to keep it quiet for the time being, so I haven’t been talking about it here (which was kind of hard for me to do, as you can probably imagine).
But this evening I got official word from Bryce Lee that the public beta test is now open! Yay! It’s finally here!
The following notice appears now on the beta site:
CONE-Welder: Beta Testing, 28 April – 5 May, 2008
CONE-Welder is now open for beta testing.
Please email email@example.com with problems/suggestions/etc. (please note which browser version and operating system you are using)
After this pre-release we will clean the data and zero points so that everyone starts at the same point on the launch date.
Bryce told me it was okay for me to let the other players know, so I’m officially letting you know: The system is open for beta testing. You can reach it by visiting the following URL:
You’ll need to sign up for an account, and verify your email address using the instructions that will be mailed to you. And then you’ll be in!
What will you find? Well, there’s a very cool new interface. The camera and pointing work pretty much like CONE SF did, only it’s a little more intuitive. There’s an in-game chat feature that I love. And there’s the ability to define “zones” within an image, and enter zone-specific comments and IDs. No more need to coordinate as to which bird you want people to identify — you can identify them all. And there are a lot of new scoring features, with exploding pie charts and line graphs and the ability to compete both on a daily basis and overall.
All of which isn’t the most important part. What you really want to know, probably, is what can you see with the thing? What does the camera show? And what about the birds?
Well, there’s a lot to see. The Welder folks have put up a bunch of feeders of many different types, an elevated birdbath, and a sunken pool. There’s a grassy expanse in the foreground, and a fringe of brush and trees around the perimeter. You can browse back through the photos that the alpha testers have been taking over the past week or so, including:
- Non-birds: A squirrel that is the spitting image of Roscoe, a raccoon I caught pulling the stopper out of a hummingbird feeder so he (she?) could drink the nectar, and a large assortment of pigs (at least two species, I think) in various sizes. And Bryce got a very cool image of a spider hanging out right in front of the camera.
- Icterids: There are a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds, a fair number of Brown-headed Cowbirds, and some big grackles that I’m calling Great-tailed, though I suppose they could be Boat-tailed. I’m interested in what some of you other obsessives think about that question.
- There have been a few Inca Doves walking around in the grass.
- One of the most exciting birds for me, since I don’t get to see them normally where I live and they’re just so gorgeous, are the Northern Cardinals. There are a bunch of them.
- Of the species of interest mentioned in the pieces I’ve read about John Rappole’s work, there have been a few Green Jays, and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds (pretty sure, though it’s hard to get a good shot of them; I need kryptonkay’s legendary patience and closeup ability to get some better shots). There are also some other hummingbirds that I’m calling Ruby-throated, though again I’m not positive.
Here are a few shots to whet your appetite, but don’t wait around here; get yourself over there and get in the game! See you there!