Archive for the ‘Favorite Shots’ Category

On the Air Again!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Well ahead of the April 2 ETA, CONE Welder appears to be back on the air. I’m not sure if it’s going to stay up, or if this is just teasing us with some temporary fun that’s going to go away again, but I’ll take it.

abirch got the first shots, including this excellent one of the Barred Owl:

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Yay! Texas birds again!

Update: Hm. Yeah, it still seems to be fairly flaky. I’ve had it go up and down on me during my two attempts to use it this morning. So maybe we’re still waiting on replacement hardware.

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:

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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.

Favorite Recent Photos

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I’ve been out of town for a while, and was being kind of neglectful of the blog before that while I focused on the dashboard, so a lot of interesting photos have stacked up without my mentioning them here. I thought I’d do a quick roundup of some of the highlights from the last few weeks.

The Red-winged Blackbirds have been hanging around in their big winter flocks; it makes for a quick emptying of the feeders. As loughman1 and Dr. Glasscock’s correspondence indicates, the lack of personnel at Welder has meant that feeders sometimes take a while to be refilled.

This shot, taken by idbirds early on February 17, doesn’t have as many blackbirds in it as some shots I’ve seen, but it’s a really neat action photo:

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On February 21, Zhang Yan was doing some work on the camera in connection with the conetester robot, in the course of which we temporarily got some views that we’re normally prevented from seeing by the game’s limits on movement. You can click through to the dashboard page to see some more (I’m now linking to the dashboard from the photos I post here), but here are a few interesting ones.

This shot of the area beyond the storage bin was taken by ottavia:

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This closeup of the pole the camera is mounted on was also taken by ottavia:

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Later on February 21, rafa got this shot of a bag of sunflower seeds:

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The Blue Jay on the package was potentially identifiable in the game’s species list, and I added an ID for it, but apparently too many users were of a less-whimsical frame of mind, so “No Classifiable Species” won out in the ID. It made me chuckle, though, and reminded me of the Bald Eagle ID we temporarily had with CONE Sutro.

The following amazing sequence of a Cooper’s Hawk was photographed on February 23 by vanilla, vanilla, and robin54 (respectively):

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This cool shot of a ladybird beetle on the camera’s housing was taken by rafa on February 24:

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With all the Red-winged Blackbirds we’ve had lately, users have been getting really neat shots of the males flashing their epaulettes at each other. Here’s a shot that achadamaia took on February 25:

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This pensive shot by rafa of a male Brown-headed Cowbird has a certain classical composition that I really like. The site’s users apparently agreed; it got 36 favorites points, making it the top shot of the day for February 28:

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rafa’s cowbird shot got just one favorite point more than this shot by budgieface, one of several that showed not one, but two Great Kiskadees on the fountain. Given CONE Welder’s focus on documenting breeding-range changes by species like the kiskadee, it’s pretty exciting to see these shots. Is this pair of birds an actual pair? I’m looking forward to seeing if they show up together again in the future.

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Overall, a really great batch of photos. Congratulations to everyone who took them!

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:

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

A Bandit

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I was checking Welder this evening and found a raccoon up on the end of the long tray feeder.  With no other users logged in and no pics left for the day, I took a few screen grabs.  Enjoy, idbirds!

The Latest from Craig’s Deck

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Only a few days until the return of the CONE Welder camera, hopefully. In the meantime, here’s the latest image from the camera’s former location on Craig Newmark’s deck:

As I keep joking, we didn’t actually lose the CONE Sutro Forest camera. We just got a dramatic upgrade in the intelligence of its command-and-control subsystem. 🙂

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:

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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.

Cooper’s Hawk

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

In response to Loughman’s request for identification assistance, she received this message from Jill Harley at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory:

What a funny posture you caught this bird in! This is an adult Cooper’s Hawk – as you guys noted it has it’s hackles raised so the head looks flat, which Sharpies rarely do. Also, that darker cap on the top of the head, with the distinct line at about eye-level above which it’s darker is typical of Coops – Sharpie’s caps will appear to be all one color.

I agree that the darkness under the chin appears odd, but I think most of that is just because we are looking at stills where the bird’s head is turned, so that the gray on the side of the face appears to stretch down to the chin. There’s a few seconds in that top movie, right when the bird turns to face forward and looks up, and you can see that there is streaking under the chin, that it’s not all gray. And in that second photo down, the head is not quite as turned, and when you look closely you can see streaking under the chin. Though I agree there is usually a more distinct line between gray cheek and streaked upper breast! It is probably a combination of the bird being heavily streaked all the way up to the chin, along with the weird posture and resolution of the photo.

Accipiters can be very difficult to tell apart! And there is individual variation in the amount of barring and streaking they can have. I get a lot of emails asking for ID help, I’m going to paste in below some of the most reliable field marks I tell people to look for. But working with pictures is often difficult – in this case the head is giving the only clues. Ideally you will be able to use a combination of field marks instead of relying on one or two.

Overall, Sharpies are smaller, but since female hawks are larger than males, the male Cooper’s Hawks just barely overlap in size with the female Sharp-shins. There are a few good ways to tell them apart, especially if you have a picture – Cooper’s Hawks tend to have a fiercer-looking face – their eyes are set farther forward, and they often raise their hackles (feathers at the back of their neck), giving them a more square-headed appearance. Sharpies have a smaller, rounder head with the eye more in the middle of the head, giving them a wide-eyed, surprised look.

Of course, normally you would not be able to see that in flight very well. Cooper’s hawks tend to have more stable flight with a straight front edge to their wing (in a soar) and a larger head. Sharp-shinned Hawks tend to flap a bit more, and be a bit more unsteady (especially fighting the wind), and often soar with their wings hunched forward a bit, which makes it difficult to see their smaller head. The tail can be a good clue as well – Sharpie tail feathers are all about the same length, so their tails look square, where the outer tail feathers on a Cooper’s Hawk are shorter than the inner ones, make their tail look rounded at the end (this can be hard to judge depending on how they are holding their tail…).

The juveniles have the brown upperparts and streaks on the underparts. Adults of both species have gray upperparts (can appear fairly brown in some lighting though) and have orange barring on the underparts All have the bands on the tail – Coopers tend to have more white at the tip of their tail than Sharpies but again that is variable…

Thanks for the email Kay! Good luck with the webcam. We are working on updating our website (long overdue!) so be sure to check back, we’ll have much more useful ID help on there soon.

You may also want to post these links to ID tips for Accipiters – the top two are white papers by Rich Stallcup, a naturalist and research associate with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. The other two are ID tips from the USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter for Sharpies and Coops.

Take care,

Jill Harley
Research Assistant/Office Manager
Golden Gate Raptor Observatory

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):

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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!!

Craig’s Leucistic Blackbird

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Craig posted some cool shots on his blog today of what I believe is a leucistic male Brewer’s Blackbird:

He took the photo today outside the Craigslist offices, which I believe are in San Francisco. I did a quick googling for “leucistic Brewer’s Blackbird”, and it turned up this really interesting image uploaded by Flickr user Robinsegg on September 28:

I don’t know where or when that second photo was taken, but it looks similar-enough to Craig’s bird to make me wonder: could these actually be the same bird? The pattern of white feathers is not exactly the same; Craig’s bird has some white feathers on the upper back that the Robinsegg bird doesn’t. But it seems just possible to me that that could be the result of the bird undergoing a partial molt during the time between the two photos being taken. And there are a couple of really striking similarities: both birds have a patch of brown feathers toward the back of the crown, and both have what looks like a large white feather in the flight feathers of the left wing. On the Robinsegg bird, it looks like it’s one of the left tertials (or maybe a secondary?), while on Craig’s bird it looks more like a primary. Though I suppose it’s possible that it’s actually a new primary, just growing in, in the Robinsegg photo.

In truth, I think they’re probably different birds that just happen to look similar. But wouldn’t it be cool if they really were the same individual?