Archive for the ‘Interesting Behavior’ Category

Birds of Prey

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

All birds are fun to look at, but like most birdwatchers, I get a special thrill out of birds of prey. Lately there have been some very cool shots of raptors with the birdcam, and I wanted to show a few of them here.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is the most-commonly seen diurnal raptor with CONE Welder, and any time it shows up is a special occasion. I don’t think I previously posted any shots from this very cool appearance it made back on October 9, 2009. Here’s a gorgeous shot by txbird:

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Here’s a pensive shot, also taken by txbird, this time from a little over a week ago, January 29, 2010:

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usabirder got this great shot on February 2:

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Earlier today (February 7, 2010), tinyang got this fantastic shot of the Red-shouldered Hawk “mantling”. I wonder if there was a prey animal under there:

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Less-commonly seen with the camera, and hence more exciting (especially if you’re a small songbird), is the Cooper’s Hawk. Here’s a shot tinyang took on February 25, 2009:

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Here’s another shot that rafa took on the same day:

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This shot was taken on January 31, 2010, by achadamaia:

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This interesting closeup was taken 11 seconds later, also by achadamaia:

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Finally, no CONE Welder bird of prey roundup would be complete without a shot of Hooty, the Barred Owl, the first bird of prey photographed with the camera. Here’s a neat shot taken by amaranth on the evening of January 27, 2010:

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Bath-time on Craig’s Deck

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

I know I’ve been remiss lately about posting new items; my apologies for that. I’ll try to get some new CONE Welder content up on the blog soon.

In the meantime, check out this cool video from Craig’s deck: Everyone into the pool!

Favorite Shots from the Last Few Days

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

It’s been fun for me to get back into CONE Welder lately. I’ve been on vacation, so I’ve had more time for it, and maybe it’s the time of year and the drought bringing all this interesting stuff past the camera, or maybe it’s just always this interesting and I’ve been guilty of not noticing, but there really seems to be a lot happening at Welder lately. Anyway, here are some of my favorite shots from the last few days.

I didn’t previously post this amazing photo that txbird got of the alligator snapping up something along the edge of the pond:

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txbird’s shot is currently the top-rated photo of the alligator. It’s also in a six-way tie for the 14th-most-popular image since the game began (though I think it might place higher in the all-time rankings if people were using the ratings as much now as they used to).

I think this shot by judy10 also deserves a mention:

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This is the last shot we got of the alligator, at 8:24 p.m. CONE time on that one very exciting Day of the Alligator.

There have been a number of other shots lately that, while they aren’t necessarily the clearest shots, are interesting as records of species that are rarities, at least in the game. Take this shot by birdbrain, taken August 5 at 5:20 p.m.:

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It’s one of a series of four shots of a bird that was ID’d as house finch (at least it was in the other three shots, though not in this one, ironically, even though I think this might be the clearest shot of the four). A house finch isn’t much to get excited about in my backyard, or probably in most birders’ backyards; I believe it is the most commonly seen feeder bird in the country. But believe it or not, house finch is one of the rarest birds in CONE Welder; this is only the third date on which one has been photographed with the system.

A similarly rare bird, at least in CONE Welder terms, was the blue-gray gnatcatcher that user lynch was lucky enough to get two shots of back on August 9 at 5:15 a.m.:

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Gnatcatchers have been photographed on only four occasions since the game began, and this is actually one of the best shots of the twitchy little species we’ve managed to get with the birdcam.

This shot of the common grackle that I got on August 10 is interesting to me not because the species is especially rare in CONE Welder, but because it’s rare at this time of year. Although we got lots of photos of this bird last winter, we’ve had few shots at any other time, as you can see if you look at the chart on the bottom of the bird’s species page in the Dashboard.

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Besides rarities, some shots are interesting to me because of the behavior they depict. I liked this closeup I got of a white-tailed deer foraging for spilled feed (I assume) near the white feed-storage box on August 10:

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Dr. Glasscock has talked about what a rough time deer are having during the current drought, and I felt for this deer as it struggled to find something to eat.

On a more-cheerful note, I really liked this shot eyes23blue got of two common ground-doves mating:

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Common ground-doves are also something of a rarity in CONE Welder, making this action photo doubly impressive.

Rarities and interesting behaviors are fun, but really gorgeous shots hold a special place in my heart. This shot of the male painted bunting that rafa took on August 9 is a good example:

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I also loved this shot of the scissor-tailed flycatcher’s beautiful salmon underwing that loughman1 took on August 10:

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This shot by birdbrain of the female orchard oriole catching the rays of the setting sun on August 10 was my favorite of a whole series of shots that really took my breath away:

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Finally, I want to thank the people who devote so much of their time and energy to making CONE Welder the fascinating window on nature that it is. I include in that category the people at the CONE project and at Welder who created the system, and the other users on the system who bring it to life. But I want especially to thank the people who make the journey out to the site to fill the feeders, clean the water features, mow the grass, and climb the ladder to give the camera housing a much-needed cleaning:

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You guys (and gals) are my heroes.

Favorite Recent Photos

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I’ve been out of town for a while, and was being kind of neglectful of the blog before that while I focused on the dashboard, so a lot of interesting photos have stacked up without my mentioning them here. I thought I’d do a quick roundup of some of the highlights from the last few weeks.

The Red-winged Blackbirds have been hanging around in their big winter flocks; it makes for a quick emptying of the feeders. As loughman1 and Dr. Glasscock’s correspondence indicates, the lack of personnel at Welder has meant that feeders sometimes take a while to be refilled.

This shot, taken by idbirds early on February 17, doesn’t have as many blackbirds in it as some shots I’ve seen, but it’s a really neat action photo:

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On February 21, Zhang Yan was doing some work on the camera in connection with the conetester robot, in the course of which we temporarily got some views that we’re normally prevented from seeing by the game’s limits on movement. You can click through to the dashboard page to see some more (I’m now linking to the dashboard from the photos I post here), but here are a few interesting ones.

This shot of the area beyond the storage bin was taken by ottavia:

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This closeup of the pole the camera is mounted on was also taken by ottavia:

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Later on February 21, rafa got this shot of a bag of sunflower seeds:

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The Blue Jay on the package was potentially identifiable in the game’s species list, and I added an ID for it, but apparently too many users were of a less-whimsical frame of mind, so “No Classifiable Species” won out in the ID. It made me chuckle, though, and reminded me of the Bald Eagle ID we temporarily had with CONE Sutro.

The following amazing sequence of a Cooper’s Hawk was photographed on February 23 by vanilla, vanilla, and robin54 (respectively):

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This cool shot of a ladybird beetle on the camera’s housing was taken by rafa on February 24:

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With all the Red-winged Blackbirds we’ve had lately, users have been getting really neat shots of the males flashing their epaulettes at each other. Here’s a shot that achadamaia took on February 25:

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This pensive shot by rafa of a male Brown-headed Cowbird has a certain classical composition that I really like. The site’s users apparently agreed; it got 36 favorites points, making it the top shot of the day for February 28:

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rafa’s cowbird shot got just one favorite point more than this shot by budgieface, one of several that showed not one, but two Great Kiskadees on the fountain. Given CONE Welder’s focus on documenting breeding-range changes by species like the kiskadee, it’s pretty exciting to see these shots. Is this pair of birds an actual pair? I’m looking forward to seeing if they show up together again in the future.

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Overall, a really great batch of photos. Congratulations to everyone who took them!

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.  With no other users logged in and no pics left for the day, I took a few screen grabs.  Enjoy, idbirds!

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:

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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. 🙂

Some Noteworthy Recent Shots

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Here are some of my favorite shots from the last few days:

birdbrain got this great shot of a snake (a diamondback rattlesnake, maybe? any herpetology experts want to chime in?) back on July 30:

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After a long dry spell, several users have taken photos of Wild Turkeys lately, including this shot with two turkeys by kryptonkay on July 31:

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Today (actually, yesterday now; August 1), tinyang got this shot of a bird that’s a real mystery for me. I’m really not sure what to make of it. An Inca Dove in an unusual body position, maybe? Are those white feathers on the tail?

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Several photos were taken yesterday of a female Cardinal feeding a begging Bronzed Cowbird, including this great shot by rafa:

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I didn’t realize that Bronzed Cowbirds were nest parasites, just like Brown-headed Cowbirds, but according to Wikipedia, all cowbirds are nest parasites. So it looks like this is a shot of a fledgling begging for food from its adoptive mother.

Interesting Shots from the Last Few Days

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

So, I apologize (again) for being lax about posting updates lately.

Here are some interesting shots from the last few days. avatar99 got this great shot of a male Bronzed Cowbird doing his “fluff up and look menacing” behavior back on June 30:

There have been several appearances by the Great Kiskadee (which I still haven’t seen myself; I’ve gotta spend more time on the camera), including one that produced this very nice shot from loughman1 on June 30:

idbirds got this cool shot of a dragonfly on July 1:

redheadedwp got this really interesting (and a little bit off-putting) photo of a bunch of insects and a spider (I think?) on July 2:

I think what’s going on there is that we got one of those rare shots where the camera focuses extremely close, and we get to see what’s crawling around on the camera housing itself.

Finally, in case any of you were wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been spending most of my available after-work time working on my daughter’s and my entry in the Weepies’ “Hideaway” video contest. It’s not really relevant to CONE Welder, but it does have three different bird species in it. 🙂

Hideaway – John and Julia Callender

Favorite Shots from the Last Few Days

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A couple of noteworthy shots of the past few days:

After all the late-night hours we’ve put in in hopes of getting another shot of the Barred Owl that showed up on the first night after the camera’s public unveiling, vanilla finally got lucky. Check out this shot, one of several that she got in the wee hours of June 10:

I also really liked this shot bugchik got on the morning of June 11:

Know Your Icterids, Part Three: Brown-headed Cowbird

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

After Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds are probably the most commonly seen birds in the birdcam; they’re pretty much always around. As with other icterids, the males and females are quite different. Males are black with a distinctive brown head, while females, which are similar in shape but just a tad smaller, are tan with few distinct markings.

I took these three cowbird shots this morning because I thought it was interesting how the male toward the top of the frame was posturing; he did this several times. (The male at the bottom of the frame shows a more-typical cowbird posture.) The female, too, seemed to be acting unusual, crouching down the way you see in these images. I wondered if this was courtship behavior, but no actual mating took place that I noticed.

Brown-headed Cowbirds are nest parasites, as most readers of this blog probably already know. They don’t build a nest or rear their own young; instead, the female lays an egg in the nest of some other perching bird. I’ve read that as it matures, the young cowbird will often grow larger and faster than its nestmates, pushing them out of the nest to monopolize the attentions of its foster parents.

The Wikipedia article on the Brown-headed Cowbird currently includes the following photo, taken by Frankie Rose, showing a Brown-headed Cowbird egg in the nest of an Eastern Phoebe:

According to that Wikipedia article, the cowbird’s nest parasitism evolved as an adaptation to the bird’s traditional lifestyle following the North American bison herds. With the arrival of European settlers and their livestock, they found themselves admirably adapted to the new conditions, and have continued quite successfully (in the eyes of some, a little too successfully) to this day.