Archive for the ‘Records and Rarities’ Category

Favorite Shots from the Last Few Days

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

There have been a lot of great birds, and great shots, lately. Here are some of my favorites.

I confess I’m getting rather blasé about buntings. Yes, the males are gorgeous, and I’ll always watch them if a get a chance, but human nature being what it is, after looking at 100 photos of them over the span of a few days I start to think, hm, I wonder if there are any blackbirds to look at… Still, even a cynic like me has to sit up and take notice when there are two spectacular bunting males, painted and indigo, feeding together. Here’s a shot loughman1 got early on the morning of April 16; rafa, vanilla, and budgieface were all lucky enough to get shots of the same pairing:

Image 148128

User lynch got this neat shot of the white-winged dove showing off its field marks later on the morning of April 16:

Image 148215

The rose-breasted grosbeak has put in a few appearances lately; here’s a shot taken the morning of April 17 by idbirds:

Image 148718

User raven was one of several to get shots of this snake (which idbirds ID’d as a western diamondback in chat) hanging out under the feeders on the afternoon of April 17:

Image 148852

achadamaia got this spectacular shot of a male red-winged blackbird flashing his epaulets the afternoon of April 17:

Image 148881

rafa got this serenely beautiful shot of the male painted bunting on the morning of April 19:

Image 149284

Several users got amazing shots of the red-shouldered hawk on April 19. Here’s one by budgieface:

Image 149342

Here’s a neat closeup of the same bird’s bands (as well as the business end of its talons) by rafa:

Image 149347

txbird got this cool, if slightly out of focus, shot of the hawk looking right at the camera:

Image 149350

It was oriole day yesterday, April 20. Here’s a shot by birderbf of two male orioles (orchard on the left; Baltimore on the right) on the feeder at the same time:

Image 150213

Here’s a nice shot of the orchard oriole; this was taken by eyes23blue:

Image 150258

annelizabeth got this beautiful shot of the Baltimore oriole:

Image 149656

krypotonkay got this shot in which the Baltimore oriole shows off the orange corners of his tail:

Image 150057

All in all, I’d say it has been some of the most exciting times on the birdcam in a long time. Thanks to everyone who’s been taking the time to watch and get these fantastic photos!

Blue Birds of Happiness!

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Wow! What an amazing day on the birdcam. Mourning doves, chipping sparrows, great-tailed grackle, bronzed cowbird… and all of them upstaged by not one, but two gorgeous blue birds, with one of them being a new species for the game.

vanilla got the fun started with this shot of the indigo bunting at 10:45 a.m.:

Image 147749

She also got this lovely shot at 10:48:

Image 147754

Notice, by the way, that indigo bunting field mark: the blue is darker on the head than on the rest of the body. That’s going to be important later on.

At 11:04, rafa got this shot of a blue bird feeding on the ground. Another shot of that gorgeous indigo bunting, right? Or is it?

Image 147763

Here’s another shot by rafa 10 seconds later:

Image 147767

We’ve zoomed in some, and have a better view of the head, which certainly seems to be a lighter, rather than a darker, shade than the rest of the body. And what about that beak? It’s on the large size for a bunting, don’t you think?

Now check out this shot taken by rafa five seconds later. That sure looks like a chestnut stripe on the bird’s wing:

Image 147769

Finally, check out this shot, also by rafa:

Image 147775

That’s no bunting beak. Ladies and gentleman, we have blue grosbeak!

The fun wasn’t over. Between 12:04 and 12:35, loughman1 and rafa got a great series of shots of a whole flock of indigo buntings feeding in the grass. Here’s a shot by loughman1:

Image 147808

I love the way the bunting in the lower right is craning his neck to reach a tasty seed. Notice that we’ve got a female bunting on the righthand edge of the shot, too.

Here’s another cool shot by loughman1:

Image 147811

I almost think that could be a grosbeak, rather than a bunting, at the upper left. It certainly looks like a different shade of blue than the male bunting hanging out next to that female at the bottom. But after examining it closely, I’m really not sure.

This shot, taken by budgieface at 12:53, is currently identified as blue grosbeak. I think the ID is probably wrong, though, and that this is actually an indigo bunting:

Image 147817

Finally, I really love this shot of what I believe is the grosbeak, taken by rafa at 2:45:

Image 147857

Does it look to you like it has something in its beak (besides its ginormous beak, I mean)? Nesting material, maybe?

Congratulations to everyone who participated, and congratulations to CONE Welder itself for getting its 75th species.

Update: Oops. I now realize that some shots were taken yesterday, April 14, of the blue grosbeak. So it wasn’t new today; it was new yesterday.

Cam Is Up and Down — With Indigo Bunting!

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

It was kind of an emotional roller coaster for CONE Welder users yesterday. loughman1 emailed in the morning that the camera was back up, if somewhat slow. A bunch of users got in and snapped some photos, until about 10:20 a.m. (PDT), when it stopped working again. Which wouldn’t have been very newsworthy, except that one of the species they got photos of was the Indigo Bunting, a bird that previously had been photographed only twice in the history of the game.

Here’s a shot taken by loughman1:

Image 145928

Here’s a slightly later shot taken by txbird:

Image 145933

Very cool! Now that we know the Indigo Bunting is around, let’s get that camera fully functional again, so we can get some more shots, maybe even one to rival this one, taken by rafa way back on May 3, 2008, and currently ranked #4 in the game’s all-time list of favorite photos:

Image 1678

It occurs to me that we’re coming up on CONE Welder’s one-year anniversary. The earliest shot in the game was taken on April 18, 2008. Here it is:

Image 2

If you click through to that image in the dashboard, and start working your way forward in time, you can get a preview of the spring birds we can hope to see when the camera comes back fully, including this snazzy fellow:

Image 362

We took 43 photos of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in April, 2008, another 27 in May, 2008, and not a single one since then. I think it’s high time we got another. Don’t you?

Craig Has Waxwings

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Since the newfangled telerobotic camera at CONE Welder is still down, it’s a good time to check in with the old-fashioned Newmark-powered camera on Craig’s deck. And look what we have here: A new (for his deck) species: Cedar Waxwing.


Third Time’s the Charm

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

The American Robin has showed up on the camera only twice since the beginning of CONE Welder, each time in a distant, tiny shot of the bird perching in the bare tree. Until yesterday, that is, when an American Robin showed up to take a drink at the fountain and gave us some really great shots. My favorite (and yours, judging by the assigned favorites points) was this one, taken at 6:24 a.m. by idbirds:

Image 144699

There were a number of other shots, including several even tighter close-ups; click through to the dashboard to check them out. Congratulations to everyone who got a shot of this very special bird.

Red-shouldered Hawk!

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Always exciting when the Red-shouldered Hawk puts in an appearance! Congratulations to rafa and blether, who combined for 10 shots of this beautiful bird today. It looks like it may have caught a small rodent, though you can’t see the prey.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

Image 137094

Image 137097

Image 137104

And here’s an animated GIF I stitched together from all 10 frames:

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: 🙂
[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: 🙂
[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!

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!

Bronzed Cowbird in Winter

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I thought this was interesting: the Bronzed Cowbird is on the edge of its winter range, more or less, so its prevalence at Welder might conceivably be affected by warming. I wonder what the Christmas counts in Texas will show for the bird.

This shot was taken by eyes23blue at 6:27 am on December 15:

Image 125926

Update: Here’s a graph from CONE Welder (much of which still works, making this a good time to probe through the data and images for interesting nuggets) showing classifications of Bronzed Cowbird by day since the camera went live. We’ve had at least one individual hanging around since early August, but I don’t know how unusual that is for Welder.

Accipiter! (and now, Cooper’s Hawk — see update)

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I know it disturbs some bird-lovers, but I get a kick out of it when birds of prey are attracted to all the tasty little snacks at the bird feeder. And today rafa and txbird got a series of shots of a fantastic bird that I have to believe was looking to have lunch with some of our smaller feathered friends. Check out these pictures (all of which were taken by txbird, though there were some good shots taken by rafa as well):

Image 122420

Image 122421

Image 122426

Image 122429

I love the look the bird has in that last shot. Did it hear the camera moving? It’s certainly looking right at us.

Here are a couple of videos made by rafa. They let you see that the bird actually stared at the camera for a good long time:

So, what species are we talking about? I feel pretty comfortable that this is either a Sharp-shinned or a Cooper’s, but I’m not very sure beyond that. The head does look relatively large, though, and as idbirds pointed out in chat, it has more of the flat-topped Cooper’s look than the rounded Sharp-shinned appearance.

I guess on balance I’d probably favor Cooper’s for the ID. In any event, great camera work from txbird and rafa. Thanks!

Update: loughman1 talked to some folks she knows at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, who provided a detailed explanation of why this bird is a Cooper’s Hawk. And now folks in the game have ID’d it, so it’s official. Yay!

Here’s a chat transcript:

[10:57:57] txbird: take camera?
[10:59:02] rafa: !!!!
[10:59:25] txbird: do you want cam?
[11:00:17] rafa: no, go ahead
[11:01:26] txbird: i need to delete! CIF
[11:05:24] rafa: cif
[11:13:19] rafa: amazing!
[11:13:40] rafa: mitc?
[11:13:41] txbird: where did it go?
[11:13:46] txbird: yes
[11:14:17] rafa: sure it’s on the top of cam pole
[11:15:59] rafa: cif
[11:16:21] rafa: did you find it there at the brush pile?
[11:18:04] txbird: yes. on the ground.
[11:18:53] rafa: hehe, the rwbl. all gone.
[11:19:29] txbird: …and all other birds too.
[11:20:32] txbird: sq is gone
[11:22:38] rafa: cif
[11:24:21] rafa: did you id it?
[11:24:49] rafa: new sp. for cone
[11:25:37] txbird: not yet. i want to look in the sibley first. ok, thanks for the clue!
[11:27:04] rafa: i’m not sure of the id. first time for me too. but i’d say genus Accipiter.
[11:29:18] txbird: when i saw it crouch and saw those eyes, i had to in. that might have been time to zoom out, but it seemed to just disappear. it was so fast i don’t think we could have captured the departure.
[11:29:44] rafa: yeah
[11:29:45] txbird: *had to zoom in
[11:31:16] rafa: it just changed position a little and the disappeared
[11:32:41] txbird: it didn’t move on the ground for the complete 20 minutes either.
[11:35:15] rafa: could ypu please show me the place where it was?
[11:36:11] rafa: oh, yes. thanks!
[11:41:12] elanus: oops. my bad.
[11:41:18] rafa: Hi, elanus!
[11:41:23] elanus: hi.
[11:41:32] rafa: are you good with Accipiters?
[11:41:36] elanus: accidentally clicked on the panorama.
[11:41:46] elanus: heh. no, but I’m willing to learn. 🙂
[11:42:04] elanus: I bought that “hawks in flight” book, and it’s been helping me.
[11:42:22] rafa: check the last shots, please
[11:42:45] elanus: whoa!
[11:46:47] rafa: txbird, i’d say it ws perched on a branch of the brushpile, not in the ground.
[11:48:10] elanus: I’d have a really hard time distinguishing between cooper’s and sharp-shinned, based on those photos.
[11:48:50] rafa: yeah, i agree. both are listed as “U” on Welder checklist
[11:49:35] txbird: yes, the branch is there.
[11:50:25] elanus: about all I can see to go on is head size (cooper’s head should be bigger). but the only way I know of measuring that is by looking at how much the head projects forward of the wings in flight. and we don’t have that view to look at here.
[11:51:26] rafa: my impression is that was small enough to be a Sharp-shinned but we all know how difficult is to see the size there.
[11:51:31] elanus: I don’t suppose anyone got video?
[11:52:04] rafa: yes, i got a few. but there isn’t much more.
[11:52:43] rafa: a little of preening and a little more of looking around
[11:53:07] elanus: if you post it to youtube I’ll embed it in the blog item I’m working on.
[11:53:34] rafa: ok
[11:55:25] elanus: I love that last shot (122429)
[11:58:22] idbirds: nice accipiter you guys caught, rafa and tx
[11:59:05] idbirds: has the stance of a penguin… LOL
[11:59:35] txbird: i had that same thought.
[12:00:05] rafa: elanus, they are uploading. in a few minutes go to and choose the one you want.
[12:02:05] txbird: CIF
[12:02:26] idbirds: I would say Cooper’s, since sharpies don’t have a flat=looking head
[12:08:33] rafa: idbirds, txbird caught it. i went into CONE sithe and there it was when i turned cam on.
[12:10:13] idbirds: wonderful find, tx!!