Archive for the ‘Breeding-Range Changes’ Category

7/11 Mystery Bird #2

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Here are some shots from today of what looks like a new bird for the game, at least if we can figure out what it is. These four shots were all by txbird; either no one else was on the system at the time, no one else was paying attention, or no one else had any shots left:

It’s clearly a flycatcher, and the overall color pattern says Myiarchus to me. If I were seeing this bird around my Southern California home, I wouldn’t even wonder; I’d call it an Ash-throated Flycatcher and be done with it (which I realize is a little bit bogus; rarities happen, after all). But in the south-central Texas environs of CONE Welder things are more complicated.

Sibley shows three species of Myiarchus flycatchers near CONE Welder in the summertime: Ash-throated, Brown-crested (which is a species of interest in the shifting-breeding-range study), and (maybe) Great Crested. The Welder checklist gives the following:

  S S F W
Ash-throated Flycatcher R U  
Great Crested Flycatcher O O
Brown-crested Flycatcher R U  

The three species are quite similar-looking, and even though we’ve got a number of excellent shots here, I can’t say that I’m confident based on appearance which one of the three birds to call it. But overall I guess if I had to pick something I’d pick Ash-throated Flycatcher: It looks as much like that to me as it does either of the others, and the Sibley range map and the Welder checklist both agree that it’s unambiguously there in summer. But I really don’t know.

I’d definitely be interested in whether Dr. Glasscock has any opinion about this bird’s ID. And of course, it goes without saying that I’ll be watching closely to see if we can get any more shots of this very interesting bird. Thanks, txbird, for doing such a great job on the camera!

Great Kiskadee!

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I think of the Great Kiskadee as something of a “grail bird” for the CONE Welder installation; I stared at pictures of it a lot while waiting for the camera to go live. I confess I’d started to think we were never going to get one. But look what txbird found perched in the bare tree on June 10:

It must not have stayed there for very long, because no one else got a better shot. But there’s no doubt about the ID. What a great bird! Congratulations, txbird.

White-tipped Dove?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

So far we’ve definitely seen Inca Doves in the game, and a few Mourning Doves. These shots from yesterday around 10:50 a.m. show what I’m thinking might a third species: the White-tipped Dove. These were taken by idbirds, rafa, and jamesflowers, respectively:

The checklist of Welder birds forwarded to me by Dr. Selma Glasscock doesn’t list White-tipped Dove at all, though the Sibley range map shows them as being at least close to Welder, and the articles I’ve read on John Rappole’s work refer to them as one of the species suspected of expanding their breeding range into this part of Texas. I’m curious what the rest of you think. In the meantime, check those doves! They aren’t all Incas.

Update: Dr. Selma Glasscock chimes in in the comments: This isn’t a White-tipped (she thinks Mourning Dove, probably), but White-tipped are at the refuge. So keep checking those doves.

Later update: Based on some later images (see More shots of the ‘mystery dove’), Dr. Glasscock has changed her mind, and says she now thinks these shots do show a White-tipped Dove. Yay!

John Rappole Speaks!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

John Rappole, the scientist whose work on shifting bird breeding ranges forms the basis for the scientific goals of the CONE Welder installation, sent a few comments to an email thread with Ken Goldberg (the robotics researcher who is one of the main people behind the CONE project). I was lucky enough to be included on that thread, and John Rappole said it would be okay if I reposted his comments to the blog, so here they are:


I checked out the blog. They got just the kind of shots that we had hoped for the Green Jay. Silver left, Green right and Silver left, Black right were both part of a group of six birds that were captured on 30 April at 0700h near the feeders. All six are probably non-breeders (unknown sex and age with no brood patch or cloacal protuberance), probably young of the year from last year. Time will tell. I am hoping that Solon Morse, who is on-site working on rapid range change documentation at Welder for me, will be able to catch one or more of the breeding jays in the vicinity.

It looks like the bloggers are having fun on their own, and their guesses are on target so far – Baltimore Oriole, Painted Bunting, Louisiana Waterthrush, Barn Swallow, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Indigo Bunting, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and European Starling are all correct. The only one I would question is the photo shown above the Indigo Bunting entry, which I think is probably a robin rather than a starling – but it doesn’t really matter. I think I will just keep out of the blog, and let them do what they want to do. Responding to their questions could become a full time job!



So there you go. It sounds like what we’re doing is definitely proving useful, especially with the identification of banded birds. With that in mind, here are a few banded-bird shots from the last few days.

First is this shot that txbird took on May 5, showing a rain-soaked Green Jay with a silver band on each leg:

And here’s what I believe is probably a female Brown-headed Cowbird photographed by txbird on May 6, showing a silver band on the right leg (left leg not visible):

Keep those banded-bird shots coming!

Matching Bracelets

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

I got a couple of good shots of two different Green Jays this morning, showing their leg bands. Both jays have a silver band on the left leg. One of them has a black band on the right leg, while the other has a green band on the right leg:

I assume it’s worth our keeping track of the banded birds we see, especially for species of interest in the shifting-breeding-range study (like the Green Jay).

Update: Dr. John Rappole commented as follows in a later email:

Silver left, Green right and Silver left, Black right were both part of a group of six birds that were captured on 30 April at 0700h near the feeders. All six are probably non-breeders (unknown sex and age with no brood patch or cloacal protuberance), probably young of the year from last year.

More from his email in John Rappole speaks!

Great Hummingbird Shots

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

I was really blown away when I saw the quality of the hummingbird shots people were getting today. Especially when the feeders are moving around in the wind, it can be really challenging to get a zoomed-in shot that is in sharp focus.

Here’s a shot of a male that vireo got:

Here’s a female by avatar99:

And another shot of a female by rafa:

I entered an ID of Ruby-throated Hummingbird on these, though I’m not very confident of that ID; going just by the images these could easily be Black-chinned. I’m really curious if we can get more information about when and in what numbers the two species occur at Welder.

No problems on IDing these next two shots, both by vireo: They’re Buff-bellied all the way. Gorgeous!

A CONE Welder Reader

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

The CONE Welder birdcam isn’t live yet, but it’s never to soon to start obsessing, right? Here are some interesting items I’ve come across lately:

Okay. I’m ready. I’m more than ready. 🙂