Archive for May, 2008

White-winged Dove!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I haven’t had much time to spend in CONE Welder the last week or so, but I’ve been trying to skim over the images that have been taken when I get a chance. But I overlooked this shot that was taken on May 18 at 12:48 p.m. by birderbf until rafa pointed it out to me in an email today:

Check out that dove in the lower right. I’m pretty sure that’s a White-winged Dove, which would be a new species for the game. Currently the image doesn’t have enough IDs to be classified as such. But take a look, and if you agree that that’s what it is, go vote so we can get it officially classified.

In the meantime, congratulations birderbf on a great shot, and thanks, rafa, for pointing it out to me.

Update: And now it’s classified as a White-winged Dove. Hooray!

Golden-fronted Woodpecker ID’d

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the “unique classifications” count on the CONE Welder landing page you probably noticed that we ticked up from 28 species to 29 species a few days ago. That wasn’t because we got a new photograph of a new species, though; it was because we finally got an ID of this photo taken back on May 4 by avatar99:

That shot has now earned enough votes to qualify as a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, an ID I’m happy with, even if this shot isn’t very clear. John Rappole indicated in that email to Ken Goldberg that I previously posted that he agreed we’d taken a photo of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and good enough for John Rappole is good enough for me.

I assume he was actually referring to this second (or rather, first) photo of what looks like the same woodpecker, taken two days earlier, on May 2, on the same tree by txbird:

That’s a clearer shot, but it currently doesn’t have an ID. I’m guessing that the later shot does have an ID, even though it’s not as clear a shot, because I spilled the beans in the comments accompanying it, leading to more ID’s for Golden-fronted being entered. Unlike the CONE SF installation, though, we don’t get to see what votes have been cast once we’ve voted ourselves, so it’s hard to know how many votes away from an ID that txbird image is.

vanilla’s Mystery Pair

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Here’s a shot I’ve been wondering about for a few days now. vanilla took it at 9:00 a.m. on May 15:

She posted in an accompanying comment, “Bird on left zipped in and out before I could close in.” So, what might those birds be?

Based on the posture, and what you can see of the markings, I’m leaning toward the bird on the left being either a swallow or some kind of flycatcher. Looking through the checklist of Welder birds, there are several possibilities for each. To my mind, the question ends up turning largely on scale: If that bird on the left is relatively small, then I’d have to think it’s a swallow. If it’s somewhat larger, then I’d have to think it’s a flycatcher of some kind. And that means that the bird on the right ends up being an important clue. If we could identify it, we’d have a much better idea of the size of the bird on the left.

Unfortunately, I’m not getting any strong feeling at all from that bird on the right. Color-wise I could see it being an Inca Dove, but the tail (to the extent you can see it) seems too short, and the legs seem too long. I could also imagine it being a female Red-winged Blackbird or a female Brown-headed Cowbird; if I had to pick something, that might be where I’d go. In any of those cases, that would make the bird on the left swallow-sized rather than flycatcher-sized.

I’d like to find a shot of a known bird in that same tree so I could answer that scale question; maybe I’ll see if I can do that during the day tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing what you all think about this shot.

Update: Here’s a shot I took a few minutes ago. It is lower down in the same tree, and I believe it is at pretty much the same zoom setting, and hence the same scale, as the shot above. That’s a male Great-tailed Grackle, which I would think puts my two mystery birds at swallow-and-female-Brown-headed-Cowbird size, rather than at flycatcher-and-larger-mystery-bird size.

Non-bird Shots

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Here are some of my favorite non-bird shots taken in the last few days.

rafa got this shot of a mama Javelina and what looks like a fairly young piglet:

achadamaia was one of several users to get a shot of this cute little rodent (not sure about the species; it doesn’t appear to be a choice in the available IDs):

Finally, user califas got this very cool close-up of an unidentified insect:

Any bug experts on the blog want to help with an ID?

Know Your Icterids, Part One: Red-winged Blackbird

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Blackbirds and grackles feature prominently in the birds we see in the CONE Welder camera. They’re pretty straightforward from an identification standpoint, but it’s important to realize that the males and females look quite different from each other. There are four icterid species that we see a lot of in the game currently, but to a casual observer they can look like eight different kinds of birds (at least).

Some of us were chatting in the game the other day about how few of the female Red-winged Blackbirds were being successfully identified. I remember how, when I was twelve and visiting Florida for the first time, I spent days wondering what those “sparrows” were that were always hanging around with the Red-winged Blackbirds. It wasn’t until I looked at my grandmother’s field guide that I realized they were actually female blackbirds.

Here are some shots of female Red-winged Blackbirds taken in the last few days. These are by users rafa, achadamaia, and avatar99, respectively:

They’re superficially sparrow-like in terms of color and markings, but that long blackbird beak is a dead giveaway.

Even the male Red-winged Blackbirds can be confusing at times. When they flash their epaulettes they’re easy, of course, as in this beautiful shot by txbird that I posted the other day:

But they can hide and reveal those shoulder patches. When they cover up there’s often only a narrow strip to help identify them, as in this shot by whereismyrobot:

There’s still another look that Red-winged Blackbirds can have; check out this shot of an immature male taken by widget:

Don’t look down your nose at those Red-winged Blackbirds just because they’re always around. They’re more interesting to look at than you might think. 🙂

Camera Issues Again?

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I can log into the CONE Welder site, but clicking the power button on the camera never turns it on. I also can’t see any users (including myself) showing up in the left pane of the chat window. My guess is that this means we’ve got a problem at or near the camera, or at least something toward the lowest, “camera” layer of the stack of components that makes up the system.

The last image in the gallery was timestamped 12:31 a.m. So the problem apparently occurred some time after that.

Update: Bryce sent me the following via email a few minutes ago:

Hi John,

I just saw your blog post. There were thunderstorms around the camera site last night and we believe something happened to the camera connection there. We are looking into it as I write this and I’ll keep you updated. Thanks!


Later update: Bryce emails again to say the camera is back up again.

Interesting Hummingbird Shots

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Check out these two hummingbird shots taken yesterday around 8:15 a.m. by rafa and bryce, respectively:

They’re not great shots, and the lighting may be playing tricks on me, but they certainly give the impression of a white belly and buffy flanks. I could see that being a female Rufous Hummingbird (which the Welder checklist lists as “rare” in the spring), or a female Broad-tailed (which the Welder checklist doesn’t mention at all, but which seems like a possibility based on the Sibley range map). I’m not sure enough from these images to advocate for any particular ID, but I thought the shots were interesting. Keep checking out those hummers!

Gobble Gobble!

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

There were some great shots of the Wild Turkey today. Here are my favorites, by vanilla and kryptonkay, respectively:

Orchard Oriole

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

We’ve got a new ID in the game today: Orchard Oriole.

This image of what I think is a first-year male was taken by rafa on May 10 (yesterday) at 11:36 a.m. There were several others, some of which showed a second bird that I’m assuming is a sibling of this one. This is the clearest shot in terms of showing this bird’s two distinct wingbars, which I’m thinking (based on Sibley) are the field mark that best helps distinguish him from a first-year male Hooded Oriole.

Congratulations, rafa!

Nice Grackle Display Sequence

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

I really like these two shots txbird got this morning of a male Great-tailed Grackle showing off: