Favorite Shots from the Last Few Days

August 11th, 2009 by elanus

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:

Image 190963

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:

Image 191239

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.:

Image 190387

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.:

Image 191268

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.

Image 191993

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:

Image 191987

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:

Image 191479

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:

Image 191548

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

Image 191938

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:

Image 192019

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:

Image 191956

Image 190443

Image 190448

You guys (and gals) are my heroes.

Here, Kitty Kitty…

August 9th, 2009 by elanus

Dr. Glasscock was talking in chat the other day about how the drought at Welder is putting lots of animals under stress, and forcing them to move to places they otherwise wouldn’t. The feeding station in front of the camera is apparently one of the few good sources of food and water on the refuge. As a result, we might see some animals we’re not used to seeing. This was discussed as a possible explanation for the arrival of the American alligator yesterday (which was not there today, apparently; he or she must have moved on in the night).

Then tonight I logged in, and idbirds said a coyote had just walked across under the deer feeder, heading right to left. A frozen camera prevented her from getting a shot, sadly. We looked around for a few minutes, but didn’t find anything. Then idbirds logged out, and… about five minutes later look what walked through the same area:

Image 191567

I’m pretty sure that’s the game’s first (photographed) bobcat. (A few users have believed they’ve seen one before, but they’ve never managed to get a photo.)

I’m curious how well idbirds saw the coyote. If it was just a passing glimpse, I could imagine that it might actually have been this bobcat that she saw. But if she got a good look, then we just had two previously unphotographed mammals cross in front of the camera within minutes of each other.

Now that’s what I call an exciting few minutes on the birdcam. 🙂

Update: No official ID for the shot yet, which is partly my own fault; I was one of the people who ID’d it as “Other Mammal”, and now that “Bobcat” has been added as a possible ID, all the people who did what I did have to be out-voted 2-to-1 to get the ID. *sigh*

American Alligator! No, Really.

August 8th, 2009 by elanus

I was lounging in bed on my vacation in the mountains this morning, and thought I’d check my email with my phone. And there was a message from CONE user vanilla:

Subject: American Alligator

Is on CONE right now

And I thought, really? So I ran and got on my computer to see, and sure enough, we have alligator!

Image 191218

It looks like rafa got the first shot, but the little guy (or gal) has been real cooperative all day, such that everyone’s been able to get good shots of it. The shot above, which is probably my favorite so far, was taken by idbirds.

Dr. Glasscock said in chat that it appears to be about three feet long, and she guesses it’s about two years old.

rafa posted this cool video of it at birdcammers.net:

Clearly, I need to spend more time on the CONE Welder camera. Exciting things are happening!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

August 5th, 2009 by elanus

I apologize for neglecting the blog (and the cam) lately. Fortunately, others have been more zealous than I have, and as a result we have these shots of an amazing bird to look at: The game’s first (official) scissor-tailed flycatcher!

These first three shots were taken yesterday (Tuesday, August 4, 2009), right around noon (Pacific) time by birdbrain:

Image 190001

Image 190002

Image 190003

The bird showed up again today, right around the same time (and from the look of the shots, right around the same place); this time it was txbird, birdbrain, and budgieface who were lucky enough to get some shots. Here’s my favorite from today’s batch, by txbird:

Image 190346

Congratulations to everyone on getting these great shots of a beautiful bird!

Scheduled Camera Maintenance Today

July 1st, 2009 by elanus

I received the following via email last night from Siamak Faridani, who I believe is one of the people who works on CONE:

Tomorrow, Wednesday, around 2pm central time we are going to take CONE down for a couple of hours, can you please post a post on your blog and let other people know please?

Consider yourself informed. 🙂

Black-bellied Whistling Duck!

May 28th, 2009 by elanus

I missed it at the time, but loughman1 brought it to my attention in email: The game’s first waterfowl ever — a beautiful black-bellied whistling duck — was seen foraging under the feeders back on the evening of May 23. Three users (annelizabeth, txbird, and loughman1) got shots; here’s the one by txbird:

Image 164579

Congratulations to everyone who got to see this very special bird!

Favorite Shots from the Last Few Days

April 21st, 2009 by elanus

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!

April 15th, 2009 by elanus

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.

Back in Business

April 11th, 2009 by elanus

The following was posted to the game’s login page on Thursday:

9 April, 2009: We’re pleased to announce that the wireless equipment problem at Welder has been resolved and the camera is back. We’d like to thanks Dezhen Song and his students for fixing the problem. We’d also like to thank all CONE Welder players for your patience and for your interest.

The system seems a little sluggish, but I’ll definitely take it. Thanks, Dr. Song and students!

Here’s a shot that budgieface took yesterday morning, showing the newly returned Buff-bellied Hummingbird:

Image 146168

Woo! It’s Spring!

Cam Is Up and Down — With Indigo Bunting!

April 5th, 2009 by elanus

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?