Archive for August, 2008

Eurasian Collared-Dove!

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

It apparently is something of a newcomer to Welder, since it isn’t listed at all in the checklist, but I’m pretty sure these shots that were taken this afternoon are of a Eurasian Collared-Dove. We have a lot of them in my neighborhood, and these shots show the distinguishing field marks (like the dark primaries) really well.

Here’s a shot by avatar99:

Image 42995

This one is by ss:

Image 42996

This one is by vanilla:

Image 42997

I know it’s an exotic (we don’t get to count them “officially” in the local Santa Barbara County list, even though they’re all over the place), but it’s still a new species for the birdcam, which makes me happy. 🙂

Thank you!!

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Special Thanks to Alyssa Taylor (user aktaylor) and Chris McLean (sprucebuddhas) for volunteering their valuable time to maintaining the feeding station!


birdbrain: “What a great job you are doing. We sure appreciate it!!! Be careful… We saw large diamondback climbing the tree near the white storage unit…. so they are in the vicinity.”

vanilla: “Isn’t that something? I was wondering what it would be like to see a person in the middle of the nite on the site! Such dedication!” 🙂

kryptonkay: “I thought I was the only one that worked late”

kryptonkay: “He worked very hard to get this place clean and ready for the birds. I thank -you so much sprucebuddhas and hope you didn’t mind me watching you ” 🙂

Eastern Phoebe ID’d! (or not?)

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

There’s still some disagreement about what the earlier images showed (see the excellent summary of Texas birder comments posted by Rafa in the comments to the earlier item), but we now have a number of images that have achieved the standard for a consensus ID of Eastern Phoebe. Yay!

Here are a couple of shots that I think are among the best so far. Here’s one taken by loughman1 at 9:03 this morning:

Image 42818

Here’s another taken by rafa at 10:37:

Image 42894

Not the greatest shots in the world, but I think I’m leaning in the direction of the consensus ID. Congratulations on a new bird for the game!

Update: On further reflection, and considering birderbf’s comment and some more-recent shots of what looks like the same bird, I think I’m now leaning the other way: That this is actually an Eastern Wood-Peewee, rather than an Eastern Phoebe.

Couch’s (?) Kingbird!

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Shortly after the possible Eastern Phoebe photographed on the morning of 8/27, several shots were taken of what I’m pretty sure is a Kingbird. Unfortunately, I’m not sure which kingbird it is.

Here’s one of the best shots. This one was taken by idbirds:

Image 41738

In the chat there was some discussion about whether this was a Tropical or a Couch’s Kingbird. I can’t say I’m confident either way, but apparently enough users were confident enough for it to be successfully ID’d as Couch’s. In any event, it’s a great shot of a really attractive bird.

Things are definitely heating up on the birdcam. 🙂

Eastern Phoebe?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Some very interesting shots were taken early on 8/27. Here’s the one that I think shows the bird best, taken by txbird:

Image 41719

In the chat log (yay! I love the chat log!), rafa speculated about it being an Empidonax or Cantopus flycatcher (presumably an Eastern Wood Peewee in the latter case). But idbirds responded that it looked more like an Eastern Phoebe, and I think I agree. I’m not seeing the wingbars I’d expect to see otherwise.

What do you think?

Mystery Oriole 8/16

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Livening up a dull afternoon on August 16, a yellow bird appeared briefly on a wire in view of our Welder camera. What species? Tanager or oriole?

Three people saw the bird, and two were fast enough with the camera button to give us a total of three pictures, all taken within eight seconds of each other. And then the bird was gone, and has not been seen since.

Examination of the photos allowed us to eliminate tanager and focus on oriole – but which species? For the record here, the Welder Checklist lists both Orchard and Baltimore Oriole as Uncommon in summer, Orchard as Uncommon in fall, and Hooded, Audubon’s, and Bullocks as Accidental.

The pictures were taken at a distance, and the camera resolution is not high. The pictures show the back and side of the bird, but do not show the size and shape of the beak, or the colors of the breast and belly.

And despite it being the same bird, the colors on the back seem greenish yellow in one picture (37736 – kryptonkay), but orangish yellow in another (37740 – txbird). How big is the bird, what is the relative length of the tail, is the dark color of the tail significant, can the wing bar pattern tell us anything, why is the light area over the eye visible in one picture not visible in the others, how does this bird compare with other orioles seen at Welder, how does it compare with pictures we can find in field guides or on the web? Various of us consulted Sibley, National Geographic, the new Peterson, Birds of Texas, the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, and online All About Birds, and Birds of North America. We all rued the lack of photographs showing immature birds.

Initial impressions suggested Orchard Oriole; but within a couple of hours Baltimore Oriole was added to the possibilities. Late in the evening, Bullock’s Oriole was suggested. As it became clear that none of us could provide a definitive identification, rafa posted the pictures on two listserves: “birdforum” and “texbirds,” requesting comments. Several apparently authoritative responses were received – supporting either Orchard or Baltimore. One of the more intriguing came from someone who said Orchard, and added “The plant in front looks like croton, and I’m comparing the bird’s size to the leaves.” Loughman cropped the pictures, and enhanced both the resolution and size (below) to make it easier to examine the birds. It’s easier, but not enough for confident identification.

The mystery oriole remains a mystery.

Thanks to Ken Burton and Rita Colwell for their kind help with this identification.

Lamont Brown, Katherine Miller and Keith Arnold from Texbirds list were so great to help us too with the Id. Thanks a lot!!

jbm33206 and steveo from BirdForum  also contributed comments. We are most appreciative.


For anyone interested in further reading about identification of Texas Orioles, check the following links:


Q and A

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Kay Loughman (user loughman1 in CONE) has been doing some really great work lately posing questions to various experts (as her post on the banded Buff-bellied Hummingbird shows). She and I recently put together a list of questions for the people running the show at CONE Welder, and we’ve now received answers that I want to share with you all. (Dr. Selma Glasscock at Welder indicated that she was going to be out of the office until the second half of August, but indicated she would be happy to forward some responses as well when she gets back.)

Dr. Glasscock (and others),

You had previously indicated it would be okay for users of the CONE Welder system to periodically forward you a list of questions and suggestions we had about the system. Attached is a summary of some of the questions users have submitted lately. Any responses you can pass our way would be great; I’ll post them on the blog I maintain.


John Callender (aka “elanus”)


1. Do you have a checklist of Welder’s non-bird wildlife that you could forward to us? Many of us are interested in wildlife beyond birds. A complete list would help us to know more about the area. And in our lax time, we could speculate about the identities of generic frogs, snakes, etc. (loughman1)

John Rappole writes: Selma can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that there is a checklist on non-bird wildlife.

2. Beyond the information in the Welder bird checklist regarding the abundance of different species in each seasons, do you have any information you can forward us about what bird species we can expect to start seeing migrating through, and when we might see them? (loughman1)

John Rappole writes: That is a book-length request. Over 300 species of migrants occur in the Texas Coastal Bend region, of which Welder is a part. Over 200 of them have been recorded at Welder. The best source for detailed information on the birds would be a copy of Rappole and Blacklock, 1985, “Birds of the Texas Coastal Bend”, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, Texas or Rappole and Blacklock, 1994, “Birds of Texas”, Texas A&M University Press.

3. The Welder checklist shows Mourning Dove as Common all year. In California they frequent seed feeders, so we’d expect to see them regularly in our area at Welder. But we’ve seen hardly any. Are they elsewhere at the refuge, or simply not as common as we might expect? (loughman1)

John Rappole writes: Mourning Doves are common at Welder all year, as are many other seed-eating species that are not visible regularly at the feeders. Why each of these is or is not at the feeders at any given moment is a study in itself.

4. Do you have any information you can forward us about what bird species have been banded with what colors at the refuge? It is often difficult to determine the band colors. Other than indicating “Banded” in the comments accompanying an image, is there anything else we could do to help identify banded birds? (birdbrain)

John Rappole writes: The only birds that I have banded to date are six Green Jays and a few Inca Doves. Selma and her assistant have banded others, but not in the vicinity of the feeders – and therefore very unlikely to be seen there.

5. Would it be possible for us to know specifically where at Welder the camera is located? We’d like to know more about the habitat beyond the camera’s field of view.

John Rappole writes: The camera is located about 100 meters WNW of the headquarters building, which should be readily visible on Google Earth. The habitat is live oak-mesquite chaparral with some elements of riparian forest. An ox bow lake (Encino Lake) of the Aransas River is about 400 meters north of the site, and the river itself another 500-600 meters beyond that.

6. We very much appreciate the efforts that have been made to immobilize the feeders to minimize movements in the wind. It definitely helps. Even better would be an arrangement of _three_ guy wires running down from each feeder, arranged so that the three wires are in separate planes. By having two guy wires running down from the feeder, diverging to different points on one horizontal wire, and then having a third wire running down from the feeder to a different horizontal wire off to one side, and tensioning all of the wires, you could create a rigid pyramid configuration that would keep the feeder motionless even on windy days. That would be very helpful for aiming and focusing the camera for close-up shots.

John Rappole writes: We have had many suggestions concerning how to improve the feeding site, all of which cost money and time that we do not have a lot of at presesnt. If this project gets solid funding, we will consider what measures need to be taken to best achieve the goals of the research.


7. Would it be possible to add Black-crested Titmouse to the CONE drop-down menu? Although once a subspecies of Tufted Titmouse, Black-crested has been a separate species for some time now, and that is what we believe we are seeing at Welder at least half the time. (loughman1)

John Rappole writes: Although the small hybrid zone for these two forms begins just north of Welder (along the Mission River), and Tufted Titmouse range begins at the San Antonio River, only the Black-crested Titmouse is to be expected at Welder.

Yan Zhang (a member of the CONE team at UC Berkeley) writes: Black-crested Titmouse has been added as a new species.

8. Can the panorama picture be updated to reflect what the site looks like currently? The vegetation and feeder arrangement have changed since the site went live, and it would make navigating the camera easier if the panorama matched the field of view. (loughman1)

Yan Zhang writes: Concerning the panorama, may I request a new panorama image from your side, Dez? Thanks! [Addressed to Prof. Dezhen Song of the Dept. of Computer Science at Texas A&M University, co-developer of CONE.]


9. We would very much like it if logs of the in-game chat were accessible to users, preferably with date and time stamps. (tinyang)

Yan Zhang writes: We’ll figure out a way to log the chats and make it accessible.

[elanus again] So, there you have it: Some really great responses from some of the people connected with CONE Welder. Thanks to Kay Loughman for putting together the list of questions, and thanks to Dr. Rappole and Yan Zhang for their great answers (and pre-emptive thanks to Dr. Glasscock for her answers when she returns to the refuge).

Banded Hummingbird at Welder

Monday, August 11th, 2008

On Sunday afternoon, August 10, CONE players at Welder found a banded Buff-bellied Hummingbird – first observed and photographed by birdbrain. We know that the protocol for the project indicates hummingbirds will be banded, but we had not seen a banded hummer before yesterday. I wrote to John Rappole to inquire:

Loughman: Can you tell us whether your group has actually banded hummingbirds at Welder Wildlife Refuge? This afternoon there have been a large number of hummingbird visits to at least one of the feeders at Welder. We have taken pictures of Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated hummers. In the last hour, we have seen at least one Buff-bellied Hummingbird with a band on the right leg, and possibly one on the left as well. Is this likely to be one of yours? Your comments appreciated.

Rappole: We have not yet banded any hummingbirds at Welder.

I sent a similar message to Brent Ortego, whom I have met at hummingbird banding conferences, and who lives in Victoria, TX – about 40 miles from Welder:

Loughman: I’m monitoring a remote camera at Welder Wildlife Refuge – I think it is not far from Victoria, TX. This afternoon we saw a banded Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and I immediately thought of you. Is this likely to be one of your birds? The protocol for the project at Welder (P.I. is John Rappole) says that they would band BCHU and BUFH, but we haven’t seen any evidence before today. If you are actually the one doing the banding there, I’d be glad to know anything you can tell me about the program – and I’d pass it on to the 30 or so others who are also monitoring the camera, none of whom are even close to Texas.

Ortego: I have not banded hummingbirds on Welder Wildlife. However, I have banded hundreds of Buff-bellies near Victoria and Rockport. I have heard there was a MAPS banding program at Welder, but those do not normally band hummers. Buff-bellies are starting to leave their breeding grounds in search of areas of very high food concentrations to undergo body molt. The bird you observed might not be a resident of the area. Did you save a video clip of the banded bird and is there possibility of reading the band?

Loughman: Thanks for your prompt response. Unfortunately, the camera resolution is nowhere near good enough to read bands – even on much larger birds. I’m attaching a picture (no.35046) so you can see one of the best! It’s hard to confirm, but there may actually be a band on each leg. I’ve sent an inquiry to Dr. Rappole, but have not yet received a response. If you are interested in learning more about the project, you can read all about it at:

 Ortego: I was not able to determine if there were two bands. There definitely appears to be one. I am not familiar with anybody banding on both legs. I have two adult males (which this bird is) which carry a 2nd band because the first band is so old that the numbers have faded away. One bird is a 12-year-old BUFH. He is due to arrive back at my banding station in September.

Based on our pictures and our “live” observations, I believe this bird (am assuming it was one individual) is banded on both legs (see nos. 35075 and 35076).

Mystery Bird: Summer Tanager? Clay-colored Robin?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

A number of users got shots of the following bird this morning. Forty-five minutes of chat discussion ensued (that I missed; we really need a chat log feature). Folks seem to be leaning toward Summer Tanager (which is what I voted for, before hearing about the discussion), but at least one user is suggesting that we consider Clay-colored Robin.

Check out the images. These were taken by txbird, loughman1, txbird, vanilla, and ohiobirder, respectively.

Image 32939

Image 32940

Image 32948

Image 32952

Image 32953

Here’s a shot of a Clay-colored Robin that txbird found on the Web for comparison:

There’s a grayish color to this bird’s head that is really interesting to me, and that I can’t really reconcile with Sibley’s illustration of either of the birds we’re considering.

I think on balance I prefer Summer Tanager for this bird’s ID, which is a shame, since Clay-colored Robin would be a new bird for CONE. But it’s not on the Welder checklist, nor is it mentioned in the list of neotropical “species of interest” in the CONE Welder study. And really, looking at these images, it looks more like a Summer Tanager than either the web photo or the Sibley illustration of the Clay-colored Robin (a bird I’ve never seen in real life).

But either way, it’s a really interesting series of shots.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher!

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Woohoo, another new species. None of the shots taken yesterday of this bird were especially great shots, but you can see enough of it for the ID: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Here are shots by txbird and loughlan1, respectively:

Image 31838

Image 31839

I wonder if the people watching the camera live got to see the bird doing its characteristic sideways tail-flicking. In any event, congratulations!