Archive for the ‘The Birds’ Category

Band-injured Green Jay

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Loughman to Rappole and Glasscock – 9/25/08: A week ago several of the CONE observers noticed a color-banded Green Jay where the band appeared to be causing a problem with the foot. We’ve seen this bird again today, and can see that the bird is in trouble. Please see the attached pictures.  [Click on picture to see CONE observer’s comments]

At least two of us are banders, and agree we would want to know if a band was harming the bird. We urge you to attempt to re-capture the bird and remove the band. As I hope you can imagine, it’s upsetting to all observers to see a creature whose suffering appears due to the hand of man. Thank you.

Rappole to Loughman and Glasscock – 9/26/08: Thank you for bringing this problem to our attention. We will do our best to correct it, but please understand that capture of Green Jays is not easy. It took me a month to capture and band the six young birds that visit the feeder now. Also, as you know from your own banding experience, recapture of birds once captured is generally more difficult than original capture.

Green Jays, as you may know, are very hard on bands. They work at them with their powerful bills, and the most likely scenario in this case is that this bird will fully remove the band itself. We will hope for that outcome, and, in the meantime, take what action we can to try and correct it ourselves.

Loughman to Rappole and Glasscock – 9/26/08: Thank you for your note. Having banded Western Scrub-Jays, I am indeed aware of the challenges! Whatever you can do will be appreciated.

Rappole to Loughman and Glasscock – 9/27/08: Thanks, Kay. Please feel free to point out any similar situations that you or other participants may encounter. When it comes to the actual proper operation of the program, we want to know of any problems immediately so that they can be corrected.


Updated pictures:






White-throated Sparrow!

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

They weren’t great shots, but apparently the view was better for those watching the live video, since judging by the chat there wasn’t much doubt about the ID. And the best shot, which was taken by abirch, was clear enough to remove any doubt from my mind: The game’s first White-throated Sparrow, as viewed in the bare tree at around 3:40 p.m. yesterday:

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Contgratulations, abirch (and also blether, who also got a shot good enough for an ID)!

From the chat transcript:

[15:39:27] idbirds: white-throated sparrow!
[15:40:32] cimperialis: i did not know they get those in southern TX
[15:41:37] idbirds: yes; did anyone get a decent pic?
[15:41:51] blether: out of focus
[15:42:27] cimperialis: nope, i’m over the limit
[15:42:31] abirch: I got two – one very distant and one OK
[15:43:08] ottavia: I think that our new players are bringing us luck… a new species, two days in a row
[15:43:19] ottavia: !
[15:43:23] blether: i tried with the camera, but it was too slow
[15:44:41] blether: too intense, need a rest
[15:44:53] idbirds: abirch – I think your #462 may be good enough for a classification!
[15:46:44] ottavia: loughman, we have a new species!
[15:47:06] blether: i was lucky on the camera today, everywhere I went it was birds
[15:52:29] loughman1: Hi folks. So please tell me what is the new species? When I looked at Search all I saw was a zillion cardinals!
[15:52:47] blether: it was a white throated sparrow
[15:53:46] loughman1: That’s cool. Pic #?
[15:55:15] idbirds: pic #462
[15:57:02] loughman1: Great!
[15:57:42] txbird: someone is still looking for another picture, loughman
[15:58:13] vanilla: Congrats on the new bird!

Juvenile Swan at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

This isn’t CONE Welder content, but I wanted to post some images I took with my phone when my son and I came across an unexpected bird at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Reserve this afternoon. I’m pretty sure this is an immature Mute Swan:

The bird seemed fairly tame; it swam under the Franklin Creek footbridge while my son and I stood above, then hung around for the ten minutes we stayed to watch it, dipping for what looked like aquatic plants.

Red-shouldered Hawk for Real!

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

We knew it was around, based on that picture that Chris McLean took on-site and forwarded to us (see Red-shouldered Hawk!, posted back on September 1). But until now we’d never obtained a picture with the birdcam.

I was chatting in CONE Welder the other day about how sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Well, give new user abirch credit for a nice helping of beginner’s luck, because this afternoon at 4:43 p.m. he or she got the first official shot in the game of the Red-shouldered Hawk:

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Two seconds later, loughman1 got this shot, which shows the bird’s eye a little better:

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I think what we’re seeing here is a Red-shouldered Hawk that has dropped from a hunting perch, probably onto one of those rodents that like to hang out under the feeders. It looks like the bird is on the ground, facing toward our right, with its wings spread out.

Congratulations abirch and loughman1 on these really cool shots of a really spectacular bird! Now we just need to get a shot that shows the whole bird. 🙂

White-crowned Sparrow!

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Look what loughman1 just found over on the tray feeder: The game’s first White-crowned Sparrow!

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Congratulations, loughman1!

Update: Here’s a nice close-up that she got a few minutes later:

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

I’m a sucker for a crisp closeup. But blurry can be okay, too, if it’s part of a great action photo. Like these: My favorite action photos from the past few weeks.

Inca Doves are looked down on by some birders; “trash birds”, I’ve heard them called. Maybe I’d feel that way if they lived in my neighborhood, but they’re still kind of exotic to me. Anyway, I make it a point to try not to look down on any bird. Why, I’ve even managed to make myself be interested in starlings, if you can believe it. But however you feel about Inca Doves, you have to admit that if you catch them at the right moment, their wing linings are pretty.

Like in this shot that eyes23blue took back on October 15:

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And this shot that tinyang took a few minutes later:

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If you want pretty, check out this beautiful shot of a Summer Tanager that rafa took on October 17:

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blether (a fairly new user, I think? at least, one I haven’t noticed much before now, but maybe that’s because I’ve only recently been spending more time on the camera after a period of neglect) got this amazing photo of two male Northern Cardinals going mano a mano on October 21. I think this might be my favorite action photo ever:

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Finally, it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on in this one, but if you squint just right at this shot by avatar99 from October 22 you can make out the Barred Owl launching off the end of the T-bar. Look out below, mousies! 🙂

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Congratulations to everyone who caught these amazing moments.

Update: I overlooked this neat shot of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker. It was taken by avatar99 on October 23:

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Later update: txbird got this great shot of the Northern Mockingbird on October 25:

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A Discovery

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

My wife Linda and I took a walk to the beach and back with Toby, our yellow lab, today. It was a nice walk, with an unexpected surprise: As we were on our way back, we found a dead bird next to the sidewalk. I snapped a few photos with my phone; I’m going to put them below the fold in case people don’t want to see pictures of a dead bird.


LBJ of Mystery!

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

With txbird driving, a little brown job was photographed in the bare tree beyond and to the right of the pond at 7:27 this morning (oops; yesterday morning, now). I’m pretty sure it’s a new species for the game, though it’s not immediately obvious what species it is. Photos were taken by annelizabeth, loughman1, rafa, txbird, and vanilla, though it looks like vanilla must have subsequently deleted hers. But rafa was clever enough to save all 14 of the original images, and nice enough to forward them to me, so I can display them all in this posting.

There were a number of duplicates (that is, images that were snapped at the same moment by two different players). When I consolidated those, I ended up with 10 images total. I stitched them together into a couple of GIF animations, which allowed me to get a better sense of the bird’s movements (and coincidentally, to shift the frames to compensate for the camera’s pan during the sequence of shots, so the bird stays relatively stationary in the animation).

Here’s my first try at an animation. In this one, each frame takes 1 second:

Here’s a second animation. In this one, I made the pauses between the frames match the (longer) pauses between the actual times when the original shots were taken. In other words, the timing of this animation matches the realtime movements of the bird:

In each case, the shot where the bird is facing mostly toward the camera is the first frame. The shot where the bird has hunched down and looks like it’s about to exit, stage left, is the last frame (though I just made the animation loop continuously). Note also that in the third frame in the sequence, the bird’s tail is partly cut off by the edge of the original image (the camera had been panned to the left). It doesn’t look like that in the animation, because I “cheated” by including the background from one of the other frames, but if you look closely you can see it. I only mention it because I don’t want people scratching their heads over the odd-looking shape of the tail in that one frame.

So, after all that, what do we have here? Speculation in chat covered quite a range, from female Indigo Bunting to Dark-eyed Junco to Ovenbird to Hermit Thrush. Speaking for myself, the first thing I thought was “wren”, and as I scanned through the images I kept hoping to see a light eye stripe that would say “Bewick’s” or “Carolina”. There wasn’t any such eye stripe, as it turned out, but in terms of the overall coloring, posture, and general proportions I really like House Wren. I noticed that birderbf thought the same thing, based on a comment on this image. There are a few shots where I feel like I can see a wren-like beak. At the same time, there’s no apparent barring on the tail, which I’d like to see for a House Wren, though maybe it’s just not visible because of the quality of the image.

loughman1 was leaning toward Hermit Thrush in the chat, and I have to admit that this bird’s coloration and posture both seem pretty good for Hermit Thrush. In looking at the realtime version of the animation, the bird’s sluggishness reminds me more of a thrush than a wren. There’s also that hint of mottling on the throat in the first image — could that be a low-resolution version of a Hermit Thrush’s spots?

One thing that would settle this is size: a House Wren would be noticeably smaller than a Hermit Thrush. My subjective sense of the scale of the image (based on my vague recollection of other birds of known size in that tree) is that this bird looks more wren-sized than thrush-sized, but I’d like to see some comparison shots of known birds in the same location at a similar zoom to be sure. Does anyone know of any such shots?

I guess I’m going to sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning before committing to an ID. In any event, thanks to txbird for finding this great bird, to all the players who got photos of it, and to rafa for saving and forwarding the full set of pre-deletion images. Mystery birds are fun!

Update: ottavia suggested I check out the following YouTube video of a House Wren. She thinks it looks like the mystery bird. What do you think?

Fountain Fun

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

The first view I ever had of CONE Welder was the following zoomed-out panorama:

I wrote at the time:

And then there’s that complicated-looking circular object near the center of the field of view. What is that thing? A feeder station? I really want to zoom in on it to get a better idea.

As we all now know, that thing was actually the fountain, with its inverted-cone squirrel guards (I guess?) around the support legs.

For a long time I mostly neglected the fountain; there didn’t seem to be much happening there. I was much more interested in the feeders, and the pond, and that bare-limbed tree beyond the pond to the right. But lately there have been a lot of good birds being photographed at the fountain. Here are some of my favorite shots from the last few days:

The Eastern Bluebird seems to show up here regularly. Here’s a really nice view (of a male, maybe? not sure), taken by txbird at 1:17 p.m. on October 20:

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Here’s a two-fer: A Green Jay on the left, and an Audubon’s Oriole in the middle. We’ve only seen Audubon’s Oriole a few times with the camera, so this was definitely an exciting appearance. This shot was taken at 6:49 a.m. on October 21, also by txbird:

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Next up are several shots of the Northern Mockingbird, a bird we’ve seen off and on for a while, but have seen a lot of lately at the fountain. The following shots are by, in order, rafa, idbirds, vanilla and tinyang. If you check out the inner toe on the bird’s left foot in each shot, you’ll see that there are at least two mockingirds visiting the fountain: One who is missing that toe, and one who isn’t.

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Finally, here are a bunch of my favorite shots of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a bird we’ve seen only a few times before its recent run of fountain visits. These are by idbirds, txbird, vanilla, txbird, rafa, and txbird, respectively:

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I was chatting recently about all the great fountain shots lately, and wondering if there really are more good birds at the fountain these days, and if so, what caused the change. Or is it that there have always been these good birds there, and we’ve just never bothered to look? I could see an argument being made either way. Birds change their habits in response to seasonal movements and shifting food and water sources and any number of other factors. We’ve certainly seen dramatic changes in the birds visiting the feeders over a similar span of time. So I could easily believe that this recent run of interesting birds at the fountain really is a new phenomenon.

On the other hand, I’ve always been suspicious of the unavoidable tunnel vision imposed by the CONE system. With no peripheral vision and no audio cues, and with the constricted field of view when the camera is zoomed in, birdwatching with CONE Welder is a little like a deaf person birding with his or her eyes constantly looking through binoculars (or rather, a spotting scope, and a spotting scope restricted to sweeping through a fairly limited arc in terms of side-to-side motion, and an even more limited arc in terms of up and down). When I try to imagine what it would be like to bird in that fashion, I’m struck by the realization that there could be all kinds of interesting birdy activity going on just outside the frame, and I would simply never be aware of it.

Something I thought about several times with the old CONE SF system, and that I think about now with CONE Welder, is that I’d love to actually be there with my binoculars and a network-equipped laptop, birding the area conventionally, and comparing what I see and hear to what is being found and seen via the camera. As with that shot Chris forwarded to us of the Red-shouldered Hawk perched high in the bare tree (who even knew that there was a top portion of that bare tree?), I suspect I’d find that there is a lot going on that is being missed by the camera.

I think there’s a larger philosophical lesson there. Something I’ve definitely learned from birding is how the process of becoming a better birder is not just about becoming more knowledgeable. It’s about becoming more aware. For all that I really love the CONE system, it’s important to be aware of its limitations, and one of its biggest limitations, I think, is that tunnel vision it imposes.

But constrained as it is, it still offers an amazing view into the birds at a place that I otherwise would not be able to see at all. And these latest shots from the fountain are a great example of that. Thanks to everyone who made them possible!

Chipping Sparrow!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Look what showed up today: The game’s first images of what I’m pretty sure are a duo of Chipping Sparrows. Here are three shots, all taken by eyes23blue (txbird also got one shot):

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Congratulations, eyes23blue!