Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Band-injured Green Jay

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Loughman to Rappole and Glasscock – 9/25/08: A week ago several of the CONE observers noticed a color-banded Green Jay where the band appeared to be causing a problem with the foot. We’ve seen this bird again today, and can see that the bird is in trouble. Please see the attached pictures.  [Click on picture to see CONE observer’s comments]

At least two of us are banders, and agree we would want to know if a band was harming the bird. We urge you to attempt to re-capture the bird and remove the band. As I hope you can imagine, it’s upsetting to all observers to see a creature whose suffering appears due to the hand of man. Thank you.

Rappole to Loughman and Glasscock – 9/26/08: Thank you for bringing this problem to our attention. We will do our best to correct it, but please understand that capture of Green Jays is not easy. It took me a month to capture and band the six young birds that visit the feeder now. Also, as you know from your own banding experience, recapture of birds once captured is generally more difficult than original capture.

Green Jays, as you may know, are very hard on bands. They work at them with their powerful bills, and the most likely scenario in this case is that this bird will fully remove the band itself. We will hope for that outcome, and, in the meantime, take what action we can to try and correct it ourselves.

Loughman to Rappole and Glasscock – 9/26/08: Thank you for your note. Having banded Western Scrub-Jays, I am indeed aware of the challenges! Whatever you can do will be appreciated.

Rappole to Loughman and Glasscock – 9/27/08: Thanks, Kay. Please feel free to point out any similar situations that you or other participants may encounter. When it comes to the actual proper operation of the program, we want to know of any problems immediately so that they can be corrected.


Updated pictures:






Playing the CONE-Welder game: guidelines

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Several of us have been active participants in CONE Welder for many  months. We’ve developed a few guidelines that help us get along with each other, and allow everyone to take good pictures.

Be aware that there is only one camera, and it is shared by everyone who is currently logged in (left side of Chat screen). If several people try to drive the camera at the same time, no one gets a decent picture, and everyone gets frustrated.

The first guideline is: Only one camera driver at a time.

How do you know if someone is driving? If the camera lens (on the right side of your screen) is moving over the landscape, or around some feeder, then someone else is driving. If it is not moving, then the current driver may be waiting for the camera to move (sluggish internet connection), may be waiting for the return of something that just jumped off-screen, or may wish someone else would take over.

What if you want to drive the camera? Keep the Chat window open – you don’t have to participate in conversations unless you want to. If you want to drive the camera, on the Chat screen ask: “May I take the camera?” Abbreviated to MITC? Then wait 30 seconds. Someone will let you know if they really need to continue. Otherwise, you are free to take the camera.

The second guideline is: Ask first; don’t just grab the camera.

When you are finished driving the camera: Use the Chat function to announce “Camera is free.” Abbreviated to CIF.

So now you’ve taken a picture, what next? For those pictures worth keeping, try to zone your pictures promptly. If the picture contains images that are so small or fuzzy that they cannot readily be identified by others, it may be appropriate to delete the picture. It you keep such a picture, it’s considerate to add a note to the comment section indicating the classification you have assigned. Otherwise the picture may languish forever in the Unclassified files. If you are unsure about the correct identification, use the Chat function to ask others for assistance. If you have two or more species in one picture, zone each species separately. If you have two or more of the same species in one picture, you may zone them together or separately. [If you zone them separately, you get more points – a boon to the more competitive among us, and an annoyance to everyone else!] Zone separately any bird that has a band or other unique characteristic. The system gives you an hour from the time you take the picture until the picture appears on the “public” screen. It is best to get your picture zoned before it becomes public.

There are unzoned pictures on the public screen. Should I zone them? No. Sometimes photographers keep several pictures for a while – trying to decide which to delete. If you put a zone, comment, or star on that picture, the picture can no longer be deleted. When looking at those pictures, try to keep your hands off the keyboard! It’s okay, though, to use the Chat function to remind the photographer that s/he has unzoned pictures.

The third guideline is: Don’t put zones, comments, or stars on someone else’s unzoned picture.

Can I take a picture of anything? Pretty much, yes. Keep in mind that the Welder study is concerned with range expansion for several traditionally subtropical bird species (see the link for the list on the About page). So it’s good to get pictures of those species when you can. Birds, insects, mammals, reptiles – are all fair game. Occasionally you may also see people. But – just like at home – don’t take pictures of people without their permission: it’s an invasion of their privacy.

Other questions? Use the Chat function to ask. Among the people logged in, there is likely to be someone who will be glad to answer or refer you to a place where you can get an answer.

A Sad Event… and Turkey Vultures

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Back on June 29 one of the CONE Welder users emailed me to report that a White-tailed Deer fawn had died, and players had been photographing its body with the camera. In her email she sounded upset, and wanted to know if I knew anyone’s phone number at Welder so they could be alerted to the situation.

I forwarded her email to Dr. Selma Glasscock. She replied shortly thereafter saying she would check it out, and mentioning that she doesn’t monitor the camera regularly. She also wrote the following:

One thing that ‘watchers’ should be aware of is that this is not a ‘park’ where animals are protected against nature. It is a wildlife refuge where nature happens. I wish there was some way to educate the public about the realities of nature.

I know I’m as guilty as the next person of anthropomorphizing the cute little “Bambis” that have been wandering around the camera the last month or so, and I’m sad to see that this one died. But I think Dr. Glasscock has a point, and I’m not sure it’s wrong of people to have photographed the dead fawn.

I didn’t see any of the images of this until after the fact, when I noticed that we had a new ID in the game: Turkey Vulture. Here are some of the images users took. I’ve taken the unusual (for me) step of putting some of these images (ones that include the dead fawn) “after the break” below; you’ll need to click through to see those images, if you want to. That way users who would prefer not to see them can avoid doing so.

Oh, but first, I wanted to post the following images that were taken this morning by vanilla:

So life at CONE Welder goes on, and while it’s certainly sad to be confronted by the reality of death, I remind myself that it’s part of the natural cycle that includes us all.

Anyway, here are some shots of the Turkey Vultures. The first is by avatar99, the second is by rafa:

Additional photos (including the dead fawn) after the jump, below.


Phantom Bobwhite

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I got an email from robin54 today that included the following news:

Today we had bobwhite on the cam. Unfortunately, there was too much wrestling for control and no one got a shot! The users at the time talked about how sometime it seems deliberate and at others we’re all just so excited we forget when we try to drive, the camera goes to the last place we were. So we decided among ourselves to let whoever found the bird drive from then on. We hoped something could go on the blog about camera ethics.

So, there you go: there are bobwhites out there, so keep your eyes open. Also, try not to get too excited and jerk the camera away from the action when there’s something good on-screen. (I’ve done that myself, and I always feel really dumb afterward. Remember: if you use the arrow or zoom controls, rather than drawing a box on the panorama, the system interprets your action as being relative to wherever you last told the camera to go, even if it’s not where the camera is currently pointed.)

Update: And now, as pointed out by robin54 in the comments, peteinkeyworth and birdbrain each got shots of a pair of Bobwhites this morning (Saturday, May 24). Yay!

The Ethics of People-Watching

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I agree with a commenter on one of the snapshots taken of the bearded guy who likes to walk his dog along the road: Taking clandestine photos of someone and posting them on the Internet is creepy. If I were standing on Craig’s deck with my binoculars birdwatching, and that guy was walking his dog down the road, I wouldn’t feel right surveilling him, and if he looked up and saw me staring at him through binoculars he’d have a right to feel mildly pissed off. I know I’d feel mildly pissed off if the situation were reversed.

I confess that I tracked that guy with the camera the first time I saw him. It’s human nature, I guess, to be curious about others, and to see what the possibilities of this new technology are. But it’s also in the nature of humans to think about situations like that after the fact, and examine how we feel. And for me, that examination has led me to the following idea, which I now propose as a norm of Sutro Forest birdcam use that I encourage others to think about, and, if they agree with me, to adopt:

I will not use the camera for surveillance of people who are not aware of its presence.

I could have stopped at the word “people,” and just made a blanket prohibition on watching humans with the camera, but in the case of people who know the camera is there and seem okay with being photographed by it, I don’t see an ethical problem. As a general rule, I assume that anyone on Craig’s deck is aware that the camera is there, and that anyone not on his desk is not aware that it’s there. But then there’s that case of the guy who was on the deck making a cellphone call, hunching away from the house and visibly trying to get a little privacy; I don’t think I’d have considered him fair game if I’d been watching the camera at the time (which I wasn’t). So I think it ends up being a case-by-case kind of thing.

I don’t think it was wrong for me to shoot the infamous Bald Eagle image (though I do worry a bit that Craig might view the joke ID as insulting, and I hope he doesn’t take it that way).

And I think the photos of the camera crew and reporter on the deck on April 23 are cool, including these shots taken by laura, finch, wayne, splait, and the last one by cnewmark himself:

But these days I don’t follow people with the camera as they walk along the road, and in one case a few days ago I actively fought for control of the camera with someone who wanted to do so, repeatedly pointing the camera at the birdbath until the guy walking down the road was out of camera range. If you agree with my views on this, I encourage you to do the same when someone is trying to use the camera for surveillance: continuously draw a tight rectangle on the birdbath. As I understand the camera’s pointing algorithm, if enough of us do that we can out-vote the people trying to watch the human.

Watching birds is fine; birds don’t mind. But as the site’s FAQ mentions in talking about the annoying automatic zoom-out functionality in the upper lefthand corner of the panorama, the camera isn’t intended for people-watching, and in the interest of protecting people’s privacy we really shouldn’t be using it for that.