Archive for August, 2009

Eastern cottontail!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

My son and I are currently working our way through Watership Down for bedtime reading, so I especially enjoyed seeing this shot that birdbrain got in the wee hours this morning: The game’s first-ever eastern cottontail!

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Congratulations, birdbrain!

Little Tyrants

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

There were a bunch of interesting birds photographed yesterday, including the following little guy (or gal) who hung around for a nice series of shots:

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The shot above by txbird is my favorite, I think, but click through and browse the whole sequence. I’m comfortable calling that an Empidonax flycatcher, but beyond that I don’t even want to guess. Judging by the range maps in Sibley, I could see that being any of Acadian, Yellow-bellied, Willow, Alder, or Least. Any experts want to weigh in? It would be the game’s first Empidonax, but unless they give us an “Empidonax (spp.)” ID, I don’t think it’s ever going to be counted.

Right after that a kingbird gave us some nice views. Here are shots by leacox, txbird, and leacox (respectively):

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A few of them were ID’d as Western Kingbird, which I certainly have no objection to. It almost looks to me like there are white outer tail feathers in that first shot, which would help with that ID, though it bothers me that they don’t show up in any of the other shots.

Anyway, congratulations to everyone who got shots of these great, if tantalizing, birds.

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.

Here, Kitty Kitty…

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

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:

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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.

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

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!

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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

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

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

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:

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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:

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