Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Maintenance at Welder

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Earlier this month I contacted Selma Glasscock at Welder. The correspondence follows.

Date: 2/09/2009 9:24am PST
From: Kay Loughman
To: Selma Glasscock
Cc: John Rappole
Subject: Welder Feeder contact person?

Hello Selma (and John),

Is there a way the CONE Welder observers can contact directly the person who is now taking care of the feeders for the project? I am asking because

1. sometime after 4pm yesterday, the green metal hopper feeder was “vandalized,” possibly by people, more likely by squirrels or raccoons. So the seed ports are now totally closed. That feeder was the only “hope” for the birds when the other feeders were not being filled.

2. the orange plastic feeder has come adrift from its mooring and appears to be banging against the fountain

3. the seed tray is empty, thanks to the attentions of a zillion Red-winged Blackbirds.

I know you are busy, so I hate to bother you. But if we could e-mail directly or even telephone the person doing the work, we wouldn’t have to disturb you with these little maintenance issues.


Kay Loughman


Date: 2/24/2009 6:41am PST
From: Selma Glasscock
To: Kay Loughman
Cc: John Rappole
Subject: Welder Feeder contact person?


I know such things are frustrating for CONE viewers, so you must ask them to be patient. It is important for all of you to understand that we (the Welder Foundation) DOES NOT have any staff person directly responsible for this project and WWF DOES NOT get paid to do this project. We are already over-burdened with our job responsibilities because of downsizing of staff over the past year. I know the CONE tasks may seem minimal to you, but they take valuable time out of our responsibilities to the Foundation and jobs during the workday and work week. My work day often begins about 5:30 a.m. and does not end usually until 7 p.m. – this may be 6-7 days a week.

We will do our best to keep them up and I am trying to find volunteers to assist, but since we are approximately 15 miles from the nearest community it is difficult. As a matter of fact, most of our volunteers live approximately 1 hour from the refuge. The CONE folks have found some funding to help us pay travel costs for volunteers, but that does not mean they will want to travel this far multiple days a week.

We will do the best we can to keep the project going.

Selma Glasscock, Ph.D., C.W.B.
Assistant Director, Welder Wildlife Foundation
P.O. Box 1400
Sinton, Texas 78387


Date: 2/25/2009 8:38am PST
From: Kay Loughman
To: Selma Glasscock
Cc: John Rappole
Subject: Welder Feeder contact person?

Dear Selma,

Thank you for your message, which was informative if disheartening.

I hope you will understand the CONE viewers are all volunteers. We are not privy to detailed information (grants, memos of understanding, or protocols) about how the whole project works. So, although we read that the project is “collaborative,” we do not know the levels of committment or investment by each of the collaborators. We may not need to know those details; but our lack of knowledge could partly explain our concern when one part of the program doesn’t seem to be working. When the birds are not coming in because the feeders are empty or the fountain dirty, we cannot take photographs for John Rappole’s part of the project. [Of course, we do not know any more about Dr. Rappole’s investment in the project than we know about yours!]

From your note I infer that this project has become something of a hardship for Welder. If that is the case, your continuing efforts to support the project with bird food, volunteers, maintenance and oversight are an enormous contribution.

I sure all the CONE viewers join me in wishing you well,


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Please click on the link above for my holiday greeting to CONE Welder users.  Hope you enjoy it!



Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Thanks to Kay Loughman (aka loughman1), we now have a list of a dozen common butterfly species that may be seen at Welder. How many of them can we identify in photos taken with the camera?

Chris McLean’s CONE Welder Audio!

Monday, September 8th, 2008

loughman1 just sent me a link to the following awesome audio recording of the natural sounds of CONE Welder:

CONE_Vol_I_1.mp3 (18 MB mp3 file)

She wrote:

John: Chris McLean did some sound recording at Welder yesterday morning. He has loaded it onto a website, and hopes you will put the link in your blog. There will likely be more, so if you don’t think it’s appropriate – say so now!

Um, no, I can categorically state that this is not only appropriate, it’s the fulfillment of a wish I’ve had since I first started using the CONE SF system on Craig’s deck. Huge thanks to Chris (sprucebuddhas in CONE Welder).

I’m listening to the recording for the first time now. I’m hearing crickets or cicadas or something as a steady background, what I think is a Bobwhite singing in the distance… A lot of hummingbird chatter, and a distant singer that I don’t know, but which I’m sure someone more familiar with Welder birds will.

This is totally awesome. When I’ve had a chance to listen some more I’ll post a timeline with tentative IDs, and I encourage anyone else who’s interested in doing so to do the same.

Ooh. Is that some kind of flycatcher I just heard? A Great Kiskadee, maybe?

Hey! I’m pretty sure that’s a Red-shouldered Hawk in the distance! This is so much fun. 🙂

Questions and Answers about Welder

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Questions from Kay Loughman with answers from Welder’s Selma Glasscock.

1. Who is running the banding operation, and what is it’s goal?

John Rappole is in charge of the banding operation. It’s goal is to band birds of the target species, i.e., those found occurring north of the breeding range as reported by Oberholser (1974) (candidates listed in Table 1 – see attached). Birds will be captured using mist nets placed at intervals near the attraction station. These nets will be 12 m in length x 2.6 m in height, and of variable mesh size according to the species targeted (24 mm for hummingbirds, 30 mm for warblers, buntings, and vireos, 36 mm for orioles, 61 mm for jays, and 121 mm for doves). Each captive will be weighed, sexed, aged, checked for molt and subcutaneous fat, checked for brood patch and cloacal protuberance, banded with a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service aluminum band, and given an individually-unique color-band sequence. This process of capture and banding of extra-limital species will be done throughout the Welder Wildlife Refuge as well as at selected sites beyond the refuge borders.

2. What species are being color-banded, and what do the color bands mean?

Any bird from a target species will be color banded. The color bands simply allow us to tell one individual from another.

3. How old is the Welder species checklist? Will our observations help them to update it?

The Welder checklist is revised as necessary. Yes, birders in the CONE project may help to update the list if they capture a species that has never been recorded on the refuge – or if they are capturing birds in seasons other than those in which it is listed. As far as the abundance indices on the checklist, there is less of a chance that their observations can affect change there because bird populations and abundances may vary dramaticallyfrom year to year.

4. Why is Welder still putting red food coloring in the hummer feeders? That practice went out with hummingbird research people decades ago!

Here is Dr. Rappole’s response to this question:
“The reasons that I have chosen to use red dye in the hummingbird feeders are as follows:
1. There are two species of hummingbirds that may occur at Welder as breeders that were not present as breeders 30 years ago: Black-chinned Hummingbird and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
2. I wish to document their presence and seasonal persistence at Welder.
3. Red dye is highly attractive to hummingbirds, and I want any new birds to find the feeders as quickly as possible. As you say, once the birds know where the feed is, no dye is necessary. However, we do not know whether members of these species are present for days, weeks, or months at Welder, or if they are, whether or not they represent the same individuals.
4. There are no data to indicate that the red dye that is currently marketed is harmful to birds or any other vertebrate, including humans.”

5. When there’s a “mystery bird” at Welder, is there a local birder we can contact to check it out?

If John Callender wants to send me a photo of the bird directly, then I can take a quick look to see if it is identifiable from the photo. I really do not have time to go to the website and search for the images.

6. And by the same token, are there things the local folks might want us to watch for?

There may be from time to time and I can let John Callender know about these so he can post them.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo!

Friday, July 11th, 2008

rafa got a single shot early this morning of what has been ID’d as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Check it out:

Apparently the bird was moving around too fast for rafa to get a closer shot. Here’s a magnified version of the one shot we have:

Zoomed in like that, and checking the field guide (which I have to do, since it’s a bird I don’t know personally), I’d say there’s no question. I can barely make out the bird’s beak, extending to the left, and the dark marking around the bird’s left eye. The markings on the tail, and the overall shape and coloration, are perfect: It’s an adult Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Fits the Welder checklist and the Sibley range maps, too.

Great bird! Thanks for being alert on the dawn patrol, rafa!

Online Checklist of Welder Birds

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I’ve made an HTML version of the checklist Dr. Glasscock forwarded to me. You can view it here: Checklist of Welder Birds.

John Rappole Speaks!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

John Rappole, the scientist whose work on shifting bird breeding ranges forms the basis for the scientific goals of the CONE Welder installation, sent a few comments to an email thread with Ken Goldberg (the robotics researcher who is one of the main people behind the CONE project). I was lucky enough to be included on that thread, and John Rappole said it would be okay if I reposted his comments to the blog, so here they are:


I checked out the blog. They got just the kind of shots that we had hoped for the Green Jay. Silver left, Green right and Silver left, Black right were both part of a group of six birds that were captured on 30 April at 0700h near the feeders. All six are probably non-breeders (unknown sex and age with no brood patch or cloacal protuberance), probably young of the year from last year. Time will tell. I am hoping that Solon Morse, who is on-site working on rapid range change documentation at Welder for me, will be able to catch one or more of the breeding jays in the vicinity.

It looks like the bloggers are having fun on their own, and their guesses are on target so far – Baltimore Oriole, Painted Bunting, Louisiana Waterthrush, Barn Swallow, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Indigo Bunting, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and European Starling are all correct. The only one I would question is the photo shown above the Indigo Bunting entry, which I think is probably a robin rather than a starling – but it doesn’t really matter. I think I will just keep out of the blog, and let them do what they want to do. Responding to their questions could become a full time job!



So there you go. It sounds like what we’re doing is definitely proving useful, especially with the identification of banded birds. With that in mind, here are a few banded-bird shots from the last few days.

First is this shot that txbird took on May 5, showing a rain-soaked Green Jay with a silver band on each leg:

And here’s what I believe is probably a female Brown-headed Cowbird photographed by txbird on May 6, showing a silver band on the right leg (left leg not visible):

Keep those banded-bird shots coming!

Early Birds and Night Owls, Revisited

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

I posted previously about my interest in the earliest and latest shots (in terms of time of day) successfully ID’d in the system. Now that the game has ended, there’s a final winner in each of those categories.

The earliest shot ID’d was this one, taken by kiddo on June 7 at 5:31:12 a.m.:

Image 14770

The American Robin showed up frequently in the crack-of-dawn photos, as you can see from this list of the 10 days with the earliest identified shots:

| user                  | time                | id    | bird             |
| kiddo                 | 2007-06-07 05:31:12 | 14770 | American Robin   | 
| elanus                | 2007-05-21 05:31:40 | 11253 | American Robin   | 
| elanus                | 2007-06-06 05:33:35 | 14565 | Mourning Dove    | 
| noho_bird_club        | 2007-06-14 05:34:35 | 16229 | American Robin   | 
| lal                   | 2007-06-12 05:38:34 | 15804 | Mourning Dove    | 
| elanus                | 2007-05-06 05:38:57 |  6585 | American Robin   | 
| kiddo                 | 2007-05-26 05:40:59 | 12404 | American Robin   | 
| lal                   | 2007-06-13 05:41:13 | 16006 | House Finch      | 
| lal                   | 2007-06-21 05:44:36 | 17955 | House Finch      | 
| tom kellie in beijing | 2007-06-24 05:48:04 | 18576 | Lesser Goldfinch | 

The winner for latest identified photo was this one, taken by killeshin at 8:46:20 p.m. on June 30:

Image 20009

If the American Robin was the champion early riser, the Mourning Dove was the king of late night, as you can see from this list of the days with the latest identified photos:

| user         | time                | id    | bird           |
| killeshin    | 2007-06-30 20:46:20 | 20009 | Mourning Dove  | 
| qmodo        | 2007-06-29 20:42:47 | 19850 | Mourning Dove  | 
| oxomoxo      | 2007-06-28 20:42:15 | 19620 | Mourning Dove  | 
| rookie       | 2007-06-25 20:40:24 | 19038 | Mourning Dove  | 
| rookie       | 2007-06-24 20:37:39 | 18810 | Mourning Dove  | 
| killeshin    | 2007-07-01 20:36:20 | 20228 | Mourning Dove  | 
| rookie       | 2007-06-05 20:34:10 | 14564 | Mourning Dove  | 
| killeshin    | 2007-07-18 20:33:37 | 23446 | Mourning Dove  | 
| rookie       | 2007-06-27 20:32:11 | 19400 | Mourning Dove  | 
| ttinin       | 2007-05-21 20:30:23 | 11506 | American Robin | 

Anyway, congratulations to kiddo and killeshin!

Where Were All the Birds?

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

One thing I noticed this afternoon was that there sure weren’t a lot of birds to be seen on the camera. And it wasn’t that we weren’t trying — there were lots of users on the system. Just not many birds. I wonder if there was some kind of noisy construction going on that was keeping them away.

In fact, the following shot of the Western Scrub-Jay taken by robin54 at 1:15 p.m. turned out to be the last bird photo taken today:

Image 44069

If the camera isn’t running tomorrow morning, that could end up being the last bird shot taken from Craig’s deck. I guess that would make me happy; it’s a beautiful shot.

It would have been pretty ironic if the bird shot taken before that one (also by robin54, at 1:04 p.m.) had turned out to be the last one:

Image 44065

I say “ironic”, because (as you probably remember), some 44,000 shots ago a Golden-crowned Sparrow was also the first bird recorded in the game, back on April 20. patti got that image:

Image 1

Nice pair of bookends, eh? I wonder if it’s the same bird.