Archive for January, 2009

A Special ‘Mystery Bird of the Day’

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my other obsessions besides CONE Welder is the “Mystery Bird of the Day” at grrlscientist’s Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) blog. It has the virtue that one can indulge the addiction in a relatively small amount of time each day, unlike certain other all-consuming addictions that shall remain nameless.

Yesterday’s mystery bird was different: Just a bunch of feathers that someone found during a recent Christmas Bird Count in the Canadian Rockies.


When she posted it, grrlscientist mentioned that we probably wouldn’t be able to identify it. Of course, that was like waving a red flag at a bull. My own contribution was a small one, and most of my speculation was wrong, but by the time we got the curator of the LA Natural History Museum’s bird collection to chime in, that bird didn’t have a chance. πŸ™‚

Field Sparrow!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

It was quite the day at CONE Welder yesterday. Lots of birds noticed that the feeders were restocked (thanks, Welder people!), including lots of those icterids I used to take for granted, and then missed when the food went away: Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle were all in evidence yesterday.

And then there was this little guy (or gal), who showed up at 11:39 a.m.:

Image 130473

Hooray for the game’s first Field Sparrow! The above shot, my favorite of the five that were taken, was by rafa, who also got the honors of the first shot. (The other lucky players who got a shot of the Field Sparrow were peinkeyworth and lynch.)

I wasn’t around when the excitement was happening (my job keeps me off the birdcam during peak hours these days, mostly), but there was some very interesting discussion surrounding the ID, with idbirds being the first to commit to Field Sparrow, and cimperialis providing some useful guidance, as someone who has firsthand experience with the bird.

An excerpt from the chat follows (with non-Field Sparrow chatter edited out). Congratulations to everyone who got a shot of this fun new bird!

[11:40:16] vanilla: Swamp sparrow?
[11:47:29] rafa: I don’t think it’s Swamp Sparrow
[11:47:57] rafa: did anyone see the breast?
[11:48:27] vanilla: What do you think it might be? I am not good with sparrows.
[11:52:12] rafa: I don’t know. but those wingbars and eyering doesn’t match with the swamp in my guide.
[11:53:43] rafa: what about Field or American Tree S.?
[11:54:00] vanilla: Okay…thanks, rafa. You 3 got some nice shots….nice and clear
[11:54:28] vanilla: Let me check my FG
[11:55:19] rafa: Idbirds are you there? heeeelp!
[11:55:37] rafa: πŸ™‚
[11:55:51] vanilla: I was thinking the same!
[11:56:10] vanilla: Or robin….or loughman….
[11:56:18] vanilla: LOL!
[11:58:59] idbirds: I’m here …
[11:59:19] idbirds: Let me look at the pics… hold on
[11:59:43] vanilla: Yay!
[12:01:30] rafa: CIF
[12:02:29] rafa: Lynch, did you see the front of the Sparrow?
[12:07:00] idbirds: Interesting … has an eyering … so possibly Field Sparrow (?)
[12:07:42] vanilla: Thanks for your input, id.
[12:08:17] idbirds: does it have a pink bill?
[12:09:21] idbirds: Field sparrow has pink bill; am tree sparrow has dark bill above, and yellow below
[12:09:54] idbirds: the field guides show that am tree sparrow not in texas at any time
[12:09:59] rafa: yes, looks more bi-colored to me but it’s not the range of the American Tree Sparrow
[12:12:43] lynch: Hi all was frozen out for the last 20 min, just zoned my sparrow shot, but keep getting spinning clock
[12:13:26] idbirds: classsed as what, lynch?
[12:17:05] lynch: havent clasifed it yet
[12:17:48] lynch: Have you considered chipping sparrow?
[12:19:17] idbirds: chipping sparrow has a black eyeline both behind and in front of the eye. this bird doesn’t
[12:19:36] rafa: I agree
[12:25:44] vanilla: Sparrows are tough! Nothing in my FGs seem to fit the descriptions.
[12:27:03] vanilla: ….descriptions = the photos.
[12:52:26] vanilla: id….what do you make of the sparrow?
[12:53:20] idbirds: I think field sparrow, at least according to field guide. I’ve never seen one.
[12:53:35] vanilla: Nor I…
[12:56:07] idbirds: my real question is-Can I put it on the list of birds I’ve seen?
[12:56:27] vanilla: πŸ™‚
[12:57:11] vanilla: Several people are keeping separate lists now….actual and virtual
[13:29:57] cimperialis: who got the Field Sparrow?
[13:30:40] vanilla: Firdt phot is rafa
[13:30:57] vanilla: But he hasn’t ID’d yet.
[13:31:12] vanilla: *First photo
[13:31:35] cimperialis: ah and that’s a first one right?
[13:32:06] vanilla: Yes
[13:34:33] idbirds: you have experience with this species cimperialis?
[13:37:32] cimperialis: oh yeah
[13:37:40] cimperialis: they’re super common here in OH
[13:37:52] vanilla: Ya done good, id!!!
[13:37:58] cimperialis: just got that titmouse BTW
[13:38:06] vanilla: Perfect!
[13:38:54] cimperialis: why is there question in the ID?
[13:39:41] idbirds: we didn’t have experience with it… used the field guides
[13:39:52] cimperialis: ah ok
[13:40:07] cimperialis: are you all west coasters?
[13:40:52] idbirds: I am
[13:41:07] vanilla: Yes….and recently located in UT
[13:41:59] idbirds: what is it that tells you its field sparrow, cimperialis?
[13:42:15] cimperialis: almost blank-looking face
[13:42:18] cimperialis: eyering
[13:42:44] cimperialis: it’s got that chipping sparrow-type back/wing pattern
[13:42:47] cimperialis: with the wingbar
[13:43:07] cimperialis: pink bill too
[13:44:16] idbirds: ok
[13:45:19] vanilla: Thanks…both if you.
[14:25:19] rafa: hi. i’ve just zoned and ided the sparrows as FISP.
[14:26:14] idbirds: ok. did you read cimperialis’ comments on field sparrows?
[14:26:43] rafa: yeah
[14:28:08] rafa: The bird matched the FISP to me too. But I’ve never seen anyone.
[14:28:44] rafa: Good to have somebody who know the bird ‘in person’
[14:29:31] idbirds: definitely!

A Bandit

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I was checking Welder this evening and found a raccoon up on the end of the long tray feeder. Β With no other users logged in and no pics left for the day, I took a few screen grabs. Β Enjoy, idbirds!

Swamp Sparrow!

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

We’re still waiting to get back to a regular schedule of feeder filling, but in the meantime, look what showed up today: The game’s first Swamp Sparrow. loughman1 got the honors of the first shot:

Image 129052

There were a bunch of other shots, of which my favorite is this one, I think, taken by vanilla:

Image 129067

Congratulations to everyone who got these great shots of a great bird!

What’s That on the Pole?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

With most of the feeders empty, there have been pretty slim pickins, bird-wise, the last few days. But on Wednesday, January 14, several users got some interesting shots of what looks like the shadow of a large bird perched on top of the camera pole. These are by leacox, birdbrain, and lynch, respectively:

Image 127053

Image 127057

Image 127058

My guess is that that’s a Red-shouldered Hawk. The size and posture look right (especially in the middle shot; that looks like a Red-shouldered hunch to me), and perching on a pole to watch for prey is a standard Red-shouldered hunting strategy. There certainly are other possibilities (an up-past-its-bedtime Barred Owl?), but that’s my favorite.

What do you think?

Update: User lynch wondered in chat if we might get the Welder people to put a mirror in the field of view, aimed to allow us to see the top of the pole. I don’t imagine that that’s going to happen (and if it did, we’d then be constantly complaining that the mirror needed cleaning), but it’s a really neat idea.

And then, maybe a second mirror angled to give us a view up the full length of the bare tree in the middle distance, the top of which we can’t see currently, but where we know (from Chris’s forwarded photo) that the Red-shouldered Hawk likes to perch, too. Or maybe a mirror with a servo actuator, so we can adjust it in realtime to point where we want! Or maybe we should put the camera on a Mars-rover-style ROV, so we can drive it around and go visit the river! Or…

Hm. Or not. πŸ™‚

CONE Welder Is on the Air

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

loughman1 emailed to say that the camera was back online ahead of schedule. Here’s a photo vanilla took a few minutes ago of a pretty American Goldfinch:

Image 126976

A number of the feeders appear to need filling at the moment, and there’s an interesting change to the system’s behavior, in that photos taken by users are immediately visible (and, I assume, immediately zoneable and ID-able) to other users, rather than being subject to the 1-hour embargo they used to have. I’m not sure if that change is intentional, or if it’s a temporary glitch that will be corrected shortly.

In any event, hooray! The camera is back! πŸ™‚

Update: And now the embargo is back, apparently.

The Latest from Craig’s Deck

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Only a few days until the return of the CONE Welder camera, hopefully. In the meantime, here’s the latest image from the camera’s former location on Craig Newmark’s deck:

As I keep joking, we didn’t actually lose the CONE Sutro Forest camera. We just got a dramatic upgrade in the intelligence of its command-and-control subsystem. πŸ™‚

CONE Welder Down Until January 15, Now

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

loughman1 emailed me, and probably most of you, with the following update today:

An e-mail message from Dez Song this morning says that due to scheduling issues, the camera at CONE Welder will be back online on January 15 (instead of Jan. 10).

Miss you all, but admit that I’m getting a lot more done in the rest of my life!

See you in ten days.


So, there you go: A little longer to wait. But not too long. In the meantime, I agree about the value of getting out in the real world; I’ve been having some really fun bird-watching experiences lately. (Not that I was being very obsessive on CONE lately; I’ve had other obsessions taking up my time.)

Anyway: See you on or around January 15.