Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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:

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.

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker video

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Tinyang was driving the camera today while I managed to record this video of the male Gold-Fronted Woodpecker.

She took this wonderful shot too. Congratulations, tinyang!

CONE Welder Videos at YouTube

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I was in the game for a little bit this morning (something I haven’t been doing enough of lately; shame on me), and had the fun of meeting a new user, amy0321. She (I’m assuming she’s a she, based on the username) mentioned that she’s a graduate student doing research on the technology of wild bird observation, and that she’s located in Beijing. She also mentioned that she’d seen some videos on YouTube about Professor Goldberg and CONE Welder, which led me to check them out. They’re pretty cool!

Here’s one I’d seen before, though not on YouTube: It’s a demo of how to use the site, with narration by (I believe) Bryce Lee:

Here’s a short (53 second) video of Prof. Goldberg talking about CONE Welder to (I believe) a classroom of younger children:

Here’s a longer (1h 26m) video of Prof. Goldberg talking about various projects he’s worked on, including CONE, in a presentation at Stanford University:

Finally, here’s Prof. Goldberg in an hourlong interview from the series “Conversations with History”, talking about “his dual careers as an industrial engineer who designs robots and an artist whose creations use robots to stimulate understanding of technology’s impact.”

Like I said, really cool stuff! Thanks, amy0321!

Red-shouldered Hawk!

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Thanks to Chris McLean (sprucebuddhas), we have a new view of the Welder bird feeding area, and of a Red-shouldered Hawk watching for breakfast.

sprucebuddhas: “Wondering how birding was before 9:30 cdt this a.m. caught this culprit but unfortunately not the h-bird that was sitting on the branch next to him. He flew off while being photographed. Shy I guess.

It is probably one of the pair that is nested ~100m away and defied several attempts to capture to be fitted with a radio transmitter last year by one of the Welder fellows. He tried to capture with mice in a wire cage as well as a live barred owl on loan from a rehabber through Texas Tech.”

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 ” 🙂

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).

Craig’s Black-headed Grosbeaks Are Back

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

The latest post on Craig Newmark’s personal blog: My black-headed grosbeaks are back!

kryptonkay also pointed out this item he posted the other day: Butterball the hawk is back!

We don’t get as many shots from Craig’s deck these days, but the ones we get are really nice. In a way, it’s like we never really lost CONE Sutro Forest. We just got a dramatic upgrade in the camera’s command-and-control subsystem. 🙂

noho_bird_club’s Big Little Big Day

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Several times I tried to get 10 distinct identified species in my 10 shots in a day; it was always a lot of fun, even when I didn’t quite make it. Now that I can play with the metadata, here’s the record of the top “Little Big Days” on the system, ranked (first) by the number of species identified, and (second) by the time of the last shot of the day. That is, if two users both got the same number of species, the “winner” was the user who got their last shot earlier in the day.

Anyway, here’s the top 20 performances on the system judged by those criteria:

| user           | begin               | end                 | count |
| noho_bird_club | 2007-05-18 05:51:10 | 2007-05-18 12:06:25 |    10 | 
| elanus         | 2007-05-12 05:53:19 | 2007-05-12 16:06:32 |    10 | 
| elanus         | 2007-05-05 06:03:41 | 2007-05-05 16:55:51 |    10 | 
| kitcat         | 2007-08-27 08:09:52 | 2007-08-27 17:00:01 |    10 | 
| vireo          | 2007-10-19 09:12:31 | 2007-10-19 17:43:39 |    10 | 
| elanus         | 2007-08-12 09:11:08 | 2007-08-12 19:32:43 |    10 | 
| noho_bird_club | 2007-05-25 06:23:56 | 2007-05-25 12:18:10 |     9 | 
| robin54        | 2007-10-26 07:18:31 | 2007-10-26 13:15:46 |     9 | 
| elanus         | 2007-10-19 07:38:19 | 2007-10-19 16:08:34 |     9 | 
| vireo          | 2007-10-26 16:25:52 | 2007-10-26 17:14:26 |     9 | 
| kitcat         | 2007-10-21 11:54:49 | 2007-10-21 17:52:17 |     9 | 
| vireo          | 2007-10-17 13:26:50 | 2007-10-17 18:16:40 |     9 | 
| noho_bird_club | 2007-05-15 06:38:32 | 2007-05-15 19:27:54 |     9 | 
| elanus         | 2007-10-17 07:35:23 | 2007-10-17 08:46:13 |     8 | 
| noho_bird_club | 2007-06-01 05:51:48 | 2007-06-01 11:20:14 |     8 | 
| spurdin        | 2007-06-12 08:59:27 | 2007-06-12 15:11:12 |     8 | 
| elanus         | 2007-11-07 13:35:32 | 2007-11-07 16:07:46 |     8 | 
| robin54        | 2007-10-20 07:58:33 | 2007-10-20 16:35:22 |     8 | 
| birdbrain      | 2007-10-11 09:41:26 | 2007-10-11 18:03:16 |     8 | 
| birdbrain      | 2007-08-10 13:44:09 | 2007-08-10 18:45:09 |     8 | 
20 rows in set (0.22 sec)

As you can see, there were 6 times that a user went 10 for 10; I’m proud that 3 of those were mine. (It probably helped that I was the only person trying to do this 10-for-10 thing most of the time.)

But noho_bird_club is the champion, hands down, in terms of earliest completion of a perfect-10 day: On May 18 he got his 10th shot of a distinct species at 12:06:25 p.m., more than 4 hours earlier in the day than my next-place finish.

Here are the 10 shots he got that day, in order:

American Robin at 5:51:

Image 10419

House Finch at 6:29:

Image 10420

House Sparrow at 7:35:

Image 10437

Pygmy Nuthatch at 8:36:

Image 10444

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (small, but clearly identifiable) at 8:43:

Image 10449

Western Scrub-Jay at 8:48:

Image 10457

Anna’s Hummingbird (a little fuzzy, but again, definitely identifiable) at 8:52:

Image 10461

Mourning Dove, shyly preening but no doubt on the ID, at 10:56:

Image 10517

Several Rock Pigeons on the distant roofline; probably the sketchiest photo of the bunch, but again, for birdcam regulars there’s no question that’s what they are, at 11:42:

Image 10526

And finally, this cute shot of the Dark-eyed Junco looking at us in its reflection in the thistle-seed feeder:

Image 10530

Congratulations, noho_bird_club!

Bragging Rights for kryptonkay!

Friday, November 30th, 2007

So, who do you think had the most identified species in the game?

(Drumroll, please…)

| user           | species |
| kryptonkay     |      26 | 
| kitcat         |      22 | 
| annelizabeth   |      21 | 
| birdbrain      |      21 | 
| robin54        |      21 | 
| killeshin      |      20 | 
| elanus         |      19 | 
| vanilla        |      19 | 
| vireo          |      18 | 
| avatar99       |      18 | 
| fingerlakes    |      17 | 
| lal            |      17 | 
| spurdin        |      17 | 
| achadamaia     |      16 | 
| rookie         |      15 | 
| teixeira       |      15 | 
| noho_bird_club |      15 | 
| idbirds        |      15 | 
| sunbird        |      14 | 
| xav            |      14 | 
20 rows in set (0.36 sec)

Here’s kryptonkay’s count of ID’s per species:

| bird                      | count |
| White-crowned Sparrow     |     1 | 
| Hooded Oriole             |     1 | 
| Lazuli Bunting            |     2 | 
| Wilson's Warbler          |     2 | 
| Song Sparrow              |     2 | 
| California Towhee         |     3 | 
| Townsend's Warbler        |     4 | 
| Ring-necked Pheasant      |     4 | 
| American Crow             |     5 | 
| Red-tailed Hawk           |     9 | 
| Golden-crowned Sparrow    |    16 | 
| Downy Woodpecker          |    47 | 
| Anna's Hummingbird        |    51 | 
| Rock Pigeon               |    55 | 
| Allen's Hummingbird       |    56 | 
| Lesser Goldfinch          |    64 | 
| Steller's Jay             |    68 | 
| Chestnut-backed Chickadee |    71 | 
| Pygmy Nuthatch            |    77 | 
| Black-headed Grosbeak     |    77 | 
| Mourning Dove             |    81 | 
| American Robin            |   118 | 
| Dark-eyed Junco           |   123 | 
| House Sparrow             |   145 | 
| Western Scrub-Jay         |   164 | 
| House Finch               |   297 | 
26 rows in set (0.17 sec)

It’s impressive that she was on-hand for so many of the game’s rarities: the Ring-necked Pheasant, the American Crow, the Red-tailed Hawk, Hooded Oriole, Lazuli Bunting; if there was a rare bird spotted, it’s a good bet that she got a shot of it.

Congratulations, kryptonkay! 🙂

Emotional Goodbyes

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I got a little choked up reading all the nice comments people were leaving at this photo taken today by robin54. (And check out the ghostly image of “Casper” left of the T-bar.)

Image 44077

I’m planning to post some retrospective items over the next few days, and I’m certainly planning on reviving posting when the camera goes back up in Texas in March. In the meantime, thanks to everyone for making the CONE Sutro Forest birdcam so much fun.