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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: February 2009
Mitch Wagner at Information Week just published a piece called Where Does Apple Go From Here in which I’m quoted. That’s created a few more requests for interviews or emails with questions, which is nice.
Having just gone to work for someone who is going to be in direct competition with a part of Apple, I need to be careful here. The only reason I agreed to talk to Mitch (a few weeks back while I was still at Laszlo…) was that he and I go way back, and I know and trust him to quote accurately and use what I said reasonably, and at that, we talked at some length about what i wouldn’t go near, and how we’d disclaim the conflict before we agreed to move forward. And at that, I was still a bit uncomfortable doing it.
So for the time being, I’m going to be quite — discrete — on what I say about Apple, to avoid the possible conflicts that might arise. I’ll explicitly avoid going into things where there’s going to be direct competition. That’s the only safe and sane approach, not because I”m worried about what my new employer might say (“I’m not!”) but beacuse I know it’s inevitable that sooner or later, some of the fanboy press I love so dearly will take something out of context or blow something out of perspective, and then bad things happen, and I don’t particularly want to make it easy to paint that target on my chest again.
This also goes for talking to the “professional” press. Just too many chances for misinterpretation and yes, I have been badly misquoted in the past, thank you, and that’s no fun, either. So unless I know you and your writing and trust you, the answer is “not right now” and will be for the forseeable future. And even if I know you and trust you, it might still be.
We’ll see how things go as this all moves forward and adjust this policy as it makes sense, but right now, I’m trying to focus on looking forward more than rehashing the past (and at least two of the interview requests I got were little more than asking me the same questions Mitch asked, evidnetly in hope of getting the same answer without having to credit his publication for the quote. Hmm…)
Hope you all understand, but even I’ve finally learned that if you come across a door that says “free floggings inside”, it’s probably smarter to stay outside where they actually have to chase you down to flog you…And the potential conflicts (real or perceived here) are just an endless series of doors waiting to be opened to show the flogging gear or rabid weasels inside.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to talk about, no?
Those of you looking for pearls of wisdom about the new gig, be aware. I’m imposing a strict firewall between the “work me” and the “me me”, partly because it’s the only way to keep things sane and remotely tidy, and partly because I’ve learned the hard way that too many folks have trouble understanding the difference between “the guy who blogs and happens to work for foo” and “the foo blogger”. Since I’m now going to be both, the only way to avoid some inevitable and painful commentaries is to not go there.
Which doesn’t mean we aren’t going to be talking about that stuff. Just not while “off duty”. Which if you understand these things at all, you’ll know makes endless sense. Not that common sense was ever a strong point for me…
So if you’re interested in the work stuff, you need to head over here:
We’re working feverishly to start delivering new and interesting content and “other stuff”, and when it’s ready, that’s where it’ll show up. And I’m trying to pull together the other things we want to help build the developer community and give t what it needs to thrive and make us all rich and happy.
I’ll meet you over there. I’ll be the one in the red carnation.
Posting has been sparse. The new gig has been a huge grin to start, but I’ve waded in and just been really busy trying to do things like find the bathroom and set things up while taking on a number of projects and doing some planning for things moving forward, and stuffing all that information into my brain as fast as I can has left me feeling a bit worn out in the evening, and wanting more to sit and think things through instead of write.
That first burst of activty is starting to settle down a bit and I’m feeling more comfortable about life, and that’s made doing a bit of writing interesting.
With the weather being what it’s been around here (needed rain!), not a lot of outdoor activity recently. I have wandered the new neighborhood a bit, and the office is in a nice place — lots of mature oak pine and eucalyptus, along with some flowering plums and pears, all larger, older trees without that heavily manicured “campus” look. The trees are currently full of yellow-rumped warblers and dark-eyes juncos, most mornings I’m hearing well over a dozen of the butter-butts. It gives me hope there are other, more unusual birds in the neighborhood, but I haven’t taken the time to go walking and exploring too much.
Another nice aspect of the office is that it’s close to a bunch of good birding areas; about ten minutes to Don Edwards EEC and the Sunnyvale WPCP on Carribean, and probably 10-15 minutes to Shoreline and Baylands. Given I’m no longer putting in hour-long commutes, I can actually back off a bit and go out and do a little lunch birding and get some walking in.
I did that today, deciding I had a bit of slack time and wanted a walk, so I hustled out to EEC for a quick visit. I finally saw one of the burrowing owls near Jubilee, so I can now state that they do in fact exist and don’t hate me… (later visitors noted four)
I couldn’t see anything in the owl box today, but they sometimes hide in the corners. (later word from someone at EEC noted that one of the barn owls has been seen, but no partner yet)
Highlight birds on the path down to the pond and on the pond:
Female Yellow Warbler in the willows just past the last of the big trees along the path next to the slough. Someone I talked to there said she’d been there about a week that he knew.
A Western Grebe had arrived shortly before I did. It had a very yellow bill and pointed bill, but solid black on the back of the neck and black over the eyes. A bird to make you look twice, but even so, that seems to be unusual for the area. Also a couple of eared grebes fishing.
One Glaucous-Winged gull out on the island in the pond with all of the others (not found by me), as well as a Western in among the gulls. I admit the gulls just aren’t my first choice for spending time trying to tell the difference between a 2nd cycle western and a third cycle ring-billed, but I saw a later report of a total of eight species being seen there today, including Mew and a continuing Glaucous gull.
Lots of chattering marsh wrens and a couple of singing song sparrows.I didn’t see, but someone else reported, a savannah sparrow and a small flock of white-crowned.
But for me, it was just nice to get out and walk a bit…but taht yellow warbler looks to be very photogenic and accessible. Maybe this weekend…
—— Forwarded Message
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 16:37:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: eBird Report – Don Edwards NWR (Santa Clara Co.) , 2/24/09
Location: Don Edwards NWR (Santa Clara Co.)
Observation date: 2/24/09
Number of species: 24
Canada Goose 6
American Wigeon X
Northern Shoveler X
Ruddy Duck X
Eared Grebe 2
Western Grebe 1
American White Pelican 15
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Snowy Egret 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot X
Western Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1
gull sp. X
Burrowing Owl 1
American Crow X
Marsh Wren X
Yellow Warbler 1
Song Sparrow 2
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
As if I didn’t feel sore enough already after my beer-league game last night, this sobering news from San Jose (hat tip to AOL’s NHL FanHouse) got my attention. Two adult recreational players died Sunday night in separate incidents during their games at Sharks Ice.
Brian Kobata, 38. and Kelly Calabro (memorial at team’s website), 41, both collapsed on the ice just a few hours apart and rescue attempts failed to revive them.
Ow. Damn. My sympathies go out to the families and friends of both of them, and the folks down at Sharks Ice.
This just hitting the wires —for his hit on Patrick Marleau. , and I agree with him. Fair suspension for a cheap hit, the kind we want removed from the game.
We really enjoyed the Sharks/Kings game. The Kings played well — and hard — and clearly felt they needed to rattle the Sharks cage to have a chance to beat them. Emotions got strong, but the Sharks didn’t back down, which was a great response and encouraging to see.
In a bit, we’ll head to the tank where the Thrashers come into town. It’ll be interesting to see what plays down, but the Sharks are seeing some of the hurt players coming back; Marcel Goc and Torrey Mitchell continue to be out, but the rest are coming back. Perhaps this “slump” is starting to end, the team’s gameplay is getting back towards what we saw early in the season.
Mark Emmon’s did a nice piece on Cheechoo and his struggles today. My feeling on Cheechoo, pretty much the only player not living up to expectations this year, is that he really needs to be both healthy and confident to play well — his skating is marginal enough that if he isn’t working at it every shift he struggles to play at the NHL level, so when he’s banged up, or when he’s not confident about his health, his production fades.
He’s trying, working hard. I have no complaints with his work this year, but we have to remember that his talent level is a lot closer to Jeff Odgers than it is Joe Thornton — and Jeff Odgers stayed in the league as long as he did not through raw talent, but by skating his butt off every night and getting his nose dirty, not by scoring lots of goals. Cheechoo has hands Odgers could only dream of, but the core of his game has to be the same: skate hard, work hard, play in the hard areas, and find the seams where his shot can get through.
As long as he keeps working at it, you’ll get no complaints from me. The Sharks have enough depth there’s no need to worry about this much.
We were talking at the last game about trade deadline deals, and Cheechoo’s name came up. He’s basically the only roster player I could see moving from the Sharks, and it’s not a priority to me that it happen (but I wouldn’t be shocked if it did). There was some feeling that Cheechoo would be perfect on the wing with Sydney Crosby. If that happens, I’d love it for Cheechoo’s sake, and it’d probably be fun to watch, because ultimately Cheechoo is Brett Hull’s hands on Jeff Odger’s baby brother’s body. I’m not convinced he’d return to his Rocket production in that situation, but having a setup guy like Crosby couldn’t hurt.
Me, I think I’d just leave this team alone. Hard to argue it needs much fixing.
Last night during the Sharks/Kings game I was checking headlines during a break in action, and ran across.
It got my attention, because it seemed to be a lot more than “gee, this kid likes to party”. Looking at the quotes from the French press, like Jaques Demers ” I swear to you, I thought about Mr. Beliveau tonight … and I just hope I’m dreaming.” or Michel Bergeron’s “it looks like the foundation is going to be shaken. Not just for the Quebecois but for anyone who wears the Canadiens sweater around the country” had me wondering just what was going down. (if you haven’t seen the details, Mirtle’s got a good overview, including how the information flowed out into the public eye, so you can get a sense of how this evolved over time).
My first speculation, honestly, was some kind of legal problem involving claims of non-consensual activities between the players and some “friends”. Maybe it’s unfair of me, but honestly, with the rumors of the partying and the history of complaints against pro athletes about unwanted companionship — whether it’s the players from Duke or Kobe Bryant or any number of quietly handled incidenents — it’s always something I worry is going to end up in the press.
Then word started to come out that a mobster was involved and the police were meeting the team at the airport. Invovled with drugs? Were the players playing mule with their gear bags? Oh, the mind wanders after a couple of coffee-and-Bailey’s… But I was expecting the worst here.
Silly me. I should have remembered that this was the Montreal French Press and stopped worrying. For all Quebec professes to love it’s Canadiens, there are far too many there who aren’t afraid to use them to grandstand and use as a target for their public rants (thereby making sure the journalists get plenty of attention, which they seem to crave). The press isn’t alone here — the police have been known to grandstand and time things to maximize the pain of the team, and let’s not forget the politicians that have been happy to jump on the Canadiens and hockey players when people aren’t paying enough attention to them (just ask).
So I guess I should have really expected that the real problem, the one that caused Bob Hartley to claim he was going back to Atlanta (he was kidding, but that’s the level of rhetoric here, folks) was that a couple of the Canadiens players liked to party and liked girls.
Oh, and one of their party pals happens to have organized crime connections, but there are no connections known by the police beyond partying, girls, and some bootleg vodka the guy brought in for them.
Oh, the horrors.
Yes, the French Press is at it again. We can all stand down and stop paying attention for now. Next time, we should maybe be smart enough to not pay attention to begin with.
Does anyone still wonder why the Canadiens have so much trouble keeping free agents or attracting them to the team? Who other than Saku Koivu is insane enough to want to play in a city with newspapers this hostile? And better, they’re hostile because they love the team. Ah, the irony. the bullshit, the insanity.
Now, am I saying that this is not an issue at all? No — there are some significant issues here. The players are associating with someone they should know better than be around. This kind of “not thinking clearly” seems endemic in Montreal — remember Jose Theodore? There’s a problem with players enjoying the joys of the city of Montreal a bit too much there.
That’s a tough nut to crack; you can only talk and lecture so much. Ultimately it comes down to knowing the personality of the players and only bringing in those that know how to handle the situation appropriately. Montreal has to find a way to help players learn to avoid these problems, but ultimately, this is up to the individual players themselves.
Especially in a town like Montreal, where the players not only live in a fishbowl, but one wher ethe fishbowl has a 24×7 webcam and paparazzi waiting for an unprotected moment, and writers and broadcasters who seem to want to make their names by putting these people up on pedestals and then using them for target practice.
In reality? There’s a whole lot of “nothing to see here”, other than a bunch of press and broadcasters taking a molehill and turning it into a ski resort. Here’s hoping that it stays a molehill and there aren’t more and dirtier details to be found out at the investigation continues, but right now, it seems like this whole “foundation is going to be shaken” disaster scenario is a figment of the overactive imaginations of the French Press (again) insisting on proving there’s nothing they can’t turn into front page headlines.
No wonder nobody wants to play in Montreal. With “friends” like these, would you want to?
Canon Europe this morning announced the new TS-E 17mm ƒ/4L tilt-shift lens, the widest-angle TS lens ever offered by anybody. There’s also a new “II” version of the TS-E 24mm.
The major new feature is that the new lenses allow users to rotate the direction of the tilt and shift functions independently of each other. (They were always operable separately, just not independently rotatable.)
No word on price yet, but let’s just say if you don’t routinely depreciate new lenses, you’re not in the target demographic.
this looks to be an awesome new lens. Definitely in the “if you aren’t doing a Schedule C, you can’t afford it” realm. tilt-shift is most commonly used in architectural photography, but my first reaction is that the 17mm would be a killer landscape lens with its ability to adjust depth of field and focal blur.
drool. but not any time soon.
I had a comment posted on one of my photos, and I’ve been meaning to follow up on it. With the weather outside, it’s a good day to do some catching up.
This photo is incredible! I have a 40D and shoot a lot but don’t think I could have gotten this kind of sharpness and the highlighting on the subject, especially considering that it was moving and you presumably couldn’t get that close to it.
What kind of lens were you using? Tripod? Photoshop techniques?
This photo was shot handheld with my D30 and the 100-400 IS, my standard setup for wandering around.
Down at Morro Bay harbor, there’s a fish cleaning station. As you might imagine, when the fishermen are cleaning, this can attract a number of gulls, but there’s also a group of pelicans that have figured out that this is free-meal city.
The result for photographers is that you have really good, close access to these birds because they are habituated to humans. I was generally no more than 8-10 feet away, and these shots were taken at betweeo 100-150mm at F5.6 in aperture mode.
It’s not really a good situation for the birds, because this level of habituations isn’t healthy. Beyond the problems of becoming dependent on humans for food, this lack of wariness for the birds can lead to everything from dog attacks to being hit by cars, because without some fear of humans, the brids simply don’t think to stay out of harms way. Their aggressiveness — literally coming within a foot or two of the fisherman, sometimes inches — is risky, too. The fishermen we were watching used a hose to discourage the pelicans, but stories of more drastic action (including cleaning knives) appeared when I discussed this with the Morro Bay photogs. There aren’t many good answers here, but perhaps cleaning stations like this need canopies or some other covering to restrict access to these begging birds.
This isn’t necessarily a good situation for the fisherman, either. As you can see from, the Brown Pelican foot is webbed, but still has some pretty significant claws as well. Not something I want landing on my shoulder…
The repeated attempts by the birds to snag lunch and the fisherman to make them leave is what set up this shot. I realized the pelicans were flying away, circling around and coming back in for another try. That gave me the ability to set up anticipating that flight. I had a choice between good light or a clean background, and I decided to shoot for the light and blur out the background as well as I could. Looking at the results, that was the right choice, the texture in the features is very good and the pelican stands out from the background well.
Post-processing? Very little. This shot basically made itself. I might have darkened the background a bit, but that’s pretty much what I started with.
Pelicants are one of the birds that first attracted me to birding — I remember a trip back in the mid-90′s where we were in Arcata near the harbor watching the Pelicans fish and thinking what awesome birds they were. Many years later when I started birding Pelicans were an early interest, and I still photograph them at any opportunity.
That led to this series of photos, which I’ve set up as a slideshow. At Shoreline lake one morning, there were some brown pelicans fishing. When I watch birds, one of the things I enjoy is studying their actions and behavior. With these birds, it was fun to watch their fishing and flying habits. When a pelican takes off from the water, they start by flapping the wings, but they also push off with their webbed feet. Two or three of these “hops” happen before they have enough speed to leave the water, and then the landing gear come up.
When they’re fishing, they’ll take the hops, and if they see a fish or something in the water, suddenly abort the takeoff, pull in the wings and flip foward into the water beak first. If they don’t see anything after a few hops, they’ll stop. This is a lower-energy fishing style than they’ll use other times when they’ll take off and fly across the water about 15 feet up looking for prey, then tuck the wings and dive in beak first after it.
Way back in the late 1980’s, well before the Internet was known as the Internet, I wrote my first game recap of a Los Angeles Kings game.
That was a little over twenty years ago and it was nothing close to a solid piece of journalism. The “story” was written and posted on the long-defunct GEnie online service, once owned and operated by General Electric, back in the days of electronic bulletin boards and 2400 baud dial-up modems (thankfully, I never had to use a 300 baud modem).
Back then, just for fun, I was writing up my observations of each game along with detailed descriptions of each scoring play. My game reports had a fairly decent following and eventually found their way onto the National VideoTex Network online service (also defunct long ago).
About the same time, Kings fan Stan Willis, who was in Long Beach, California at the time, was running an e-mail list (often, but inaccurately, referred to as a “listserve”) devoted to the Kings and in between all the messages from subscribers discussing the team, just as you would find today on message boards on the World Wide Web, Willis posted detailed statistics that were hard to find in those days.
An interesting look back by Gann Matsuda, who’s been at this hockey blogging thing longer than anybody, seems to be the first of us to have been credentialed and the first to join the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and all of that kind of lost in the noise because (unlike some of us) he never really was interested in publicity or self-promotion, just hockey and writing. and he’s still at it, still a hell of a writer, and still a really neat guy.
And deserves a lot more credit for opening doors for bloggers than he’ll ever get. Congrats, Gann, and keep up the good work!
I guess it’s official, the sharks are in a slump.
Of course, when we talk about slump, we’re talking about 5-1-4 in their last ten, or a mere (ahem) 14 points out of a possible 20.
Okay, in the playoffs, there are no shootouts, so should we really count those four shoot-out-loss points? Well, is it better or worse for the Sharks to continue overtime until someone scores? I’m betting that the Sharks are a better team if they go to sudden-death overtime, look at the third period onslaught tonight against buffalo. Sharks clearly would have momentum going in, last-minute goal by Buffalo or no.
So the worst possible case for the Sharks? 5-5. Best case? 9-1. split the difference? 7-3. heck, if 5-5 is a slump, I’ll be thrilled.
this is with Blake with the sore jaw, Boyle with his “upper body” injury (a wrist, I think, because he’s had little strength behind his shot, although it’s coming around). Tonight, both Boyle and Clowe were playing with the flu, also. And lukowich is out, Goc is out…
And a little glitch in the schedule is good, because it’l force them to focus and bear down on their play. If they continue with this into mid-March? I might worry. For now? this is just the dog days…
Okay, I knew that he still played in the league, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him score a goal, but every time he lights the lamp, I’m reminded of this talented player, who has been around the league since, well, it seems time immortal.
In reality, Whitney has been in the NHL since the San Jose Sharks took him in the second round of the 1991 Entry Draft. Their first selection had been Pat Falloon, and the two young guns were held up as the future of the young Sharks.
Pat Falloon — great prospect, tore up his shoulder and was never quite the same after. Part of that was that the development environment within the Sharks wasn’t the best early on, part of it was that Falloon rode his talent instead of worked to improve it.
Whitney always had to work his butt off to succeed and never stopped. Even after the Sharks dumped him into the IHL after Al Sims declared him not an NHL player (and we all know how Al Sims was the key to the Sharks success!), he kept at it. After the NHL changed the rules to make smaller skill players more effective in the league, Whitney didn’t just survive in the NHL, he thrived.
Whitney was always one of my favorite early Sharks. And he has one quet thing he can be proud of: he is the last first-year Shark to still be playing in the NHL Long after everyone else who started out in San Jose and played in the Cow Palace years, he’s still proving himself a key cog in the NHL. congrats, Ray.
Who was the second to last first-year Shark to play in the NHL? it was Sandis Ozolinsh, which when he was drafted probably wouldn’t have surprised anyone, but he had his struggles as his career went on and some off-ice challenges, but he ended up with a long, successful career. We got to meet Sandis a couple of times, and he is an amazingly nice, shy, intelligent person.
But here’s a bit of trivia I doubt anyone will get. After Ray Whitney and Sandis, who was the next first-season Shark to be left standing in the NHL? you could possibly guess Whitney, and maybe ozolinsh, but #3 is off the charts and will be hard to figure out. it’s not an obvious one on the face of it.
It’s — Wade Flaherty — former Sharks goalie and a guy who made a long and successful career as a team’s 3rd goalie and usually found a way to be brought up for a few games every year. Flaherty finally hung them up and in 2008 worked with the Sharks on their Shanghai china sharks team, and this year was named by the Blackhawks ot be their goaltending coach. Well done, and it shows you that longevity in the league isn’t necessarily about talent, but about attitude and work ethic. (jeff jilson, take note. Oh, wait. sorry, too late).
Several Sabres players live in Clarence Center, the suburban-rural area where the commuter flight from Newark crashed and they talked about the experience. Defenseman Teppo Numminen heard both the sound of the plane coming down and the noise from the impact. He and his wife opened the shade on the bedroom window and could see the flames and the red sky. Goalie Patrick Lalime lived even closer. Former Shark Craig Rivet lived nearby, but far enough away that he and his family weren’t aware of the 10:20 p.m. crash until they woke up this morning.
Some of the Sharks, too, reflected on their own flight difficulties in getting out of Pittsburgh, but they expressed confidence in their charter pilot, stating that the plane would not have taken off if conditions were a serious threat. The landing in Buffalo, while buffeted a little bit by high winds and with limited visibility, wasn’t that rough — though it came less than five hours ahead of the plane that crashed.
There’s a subset of fans that like to think that NHL players should be robots, simply because they get paid a lot of money. You know the time: “With the money they make, they better show up every night!” — which is nice in theory, but given these are humans (well paid or no) with human limitations and frailties, it’s going to happen.
and then once in a while something happens that reminds you how human they are. My thoughts go out to all of the Sabres players and staff and the communities they live in for what they’re going through now. The show does go on, and should — but I’ll bet it’s going to be a tough night for some of them.
If you lived close enough t the crash to realize than 10 seconds difference in how the plane came down could have landed it on your house, how would YOU feel at work the next few days?
Remember that the next time some thoughtless fan rips a player for not playing 82 “A” games because they don’t care that the guy is playing through a case of flu that’d have most of us in the hospital for a week….
According to Tampa Tribune beat writer Erik Erlendsson, San Jose’s John Ferguson has been scouting the Lightning for a few games and there is a rumored Sharks interest in center Jeff Halpern. The 9-year veteran and former Washington Capitals captain has 3 goals and 5 assists in 25 games played for Tampa Bay this season.
If this is true, and in ways it makes sense, it probably means that Torrey Mitchell’s setback is more serious than the sharks have admitted. Given that Mitchell hasn’t been skating since he tweaked things during his stint in Worcester, I’ve been expecting to hear he’s done for the year. this might be the indication that’s true.
An interesting piece on the science behind researching birds and bird strikes on airplanes. They have proven it was a flock of Canada Geese that took down the US Airways jet.
We all suspected that Canada Geese were the unlucky birds struck by the US Airways jet that came down in the Hudson River last month, and yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed it.
Now researchers are trying to determine if the birds were migratory geese, which weigh 6-11 pounds, or residents, which are typically fatter. Fat or lean, says an article in the New York Times, Canada Geese are too much for a plane’s engines to ingest.
This one’s been kicking around birders for a while, but here’s some background on the study about the decline of red knots along the east coast; it’s due to over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs for use as bait.
Declining numbers of a shorebird called the red knot have been linked to bait use of horseshoe crabs.
Long-term surveys of red knots showed that the average weight of red knots when they leave Delaware Bay has declined significantly since their primary food source, eggs of horseshoe crabs, has been reduced. The study also revealed that red knot survivorship is related to departure weight, and that the population size of red knots has declined by more than 75 percent.
“We concluded that the increased harvest of horseshoe crabs led to a reduction in the food supply for red knots at a critical period in their annual cycle, and this led to a dramatic decline in population size,” said USGS scientist, Jon Bart, one of the authors of the study.
Here’s one that shocked scientists: we know that birds migrate long distances, but what they’re just finding out is that some of them are flying much faster than previously expected.What’s really fascinating here is how they’ve miniaturized the tracking tools so that even a small songbird like a Purple Martin can be fitted with them without impacting their ability to survive. It’s known that some species like Bar-tailed Godwit travel literally tens of thousands of miles, but now we’re seeing that even smaller birds are doing astounding things during migration.
Migrating Purple Martins can fly up to 358 miles (577 km) per day, and Wood Thrushes can cover 168 miles (271 km) per day, according to groundbreaking new research published today in the journal Science. Previous studies estimated songbirds could fly at roughly 93 miles (150 km) per day.
Finally, while some can argue about global warming or climate change until we’re all blue in the face, we have a 40 year tracking of birdwatching data that shows significant changes to the ranges species live in and the timing of their migrations; spring is arriving days earlier than it used to, and birds are shifting their ranges northward, a clear indication things are getting warmer.
this is one of the things that attracts me to birding as a hobby: it’s one of those disciplines where the “citizen scientist” or even the interested amateur can make a difference and help move a scientific discipline forward — even merely tracking what birds shows up to a feeder over time can help us better understand what’s going on in the larger world around us.
Perhaps you’ve already heard news of a National Audubon Society report about climate change’s effects on North American birds. Audubon announced on Tuesday that some 177 species of North American birds have shifted their range northward over the last 40 years, during the same period that average January temperatures rose by 5 degrees Fahrenheit across the continent.
The Audubon scientists found the pattern in data collected by volunteer birders on yearly Christmas Bird Counts. The consistent northward shift in so many different species – among them forest birds, feeder birds, ducks, and seabirds – points to a single, powerful cause: our warming planet.
Audubon describes their findings as part of the “grim reality” of global climate change, pointing out that more local or species-specific explanations simply wouldn’t be evident in so many species or so much of the continent. But the really frightening part is that this evidence is nowhere near the first of its kind.
Peterson’s famous Field Guide to Backyard Birds [App Store link] has come to the iPhone/iPod touch, and in many ways it is a natural fit with the iPhone multimedia features. The field guide, which is a 92 MB download (!), contains hundreds of bird species, as well as the sounds of their calls, and of course illustrations and information about each bird.
I gave the app a try in my Arizona backyard. First, you enter the first two digits of your zip code, then you are provided a list of birds that should be local to your area. The quail that were sitting on my back wall were on the list, as well as the pesky road runner that peeks in the window every so often. I also learned that the roadrunner is part of the cuckoo family. Who knew?
The app is $2.99US. Birders will also want to take a look at iBird Explorer Plus [App Store link]. It is pricey at $19.99US but it has a far more expansive catalog of birds, and does allow for searches.
I’ve been experimenting with both of these for a few days. Not mentioned here is that the iBird guides have regional versions taht are cheaper than the $20 everything. Neither one is going to make me leave my Sibley’s field guide at home, to be honest, and neither one will convince me to retire Birdjam, which I use for song identification and for playing song tapes in the field.
The Peterson guide is okay, but I much prefer the iBird; the illustrations are better for field identification, and it includes a picture of the bird as well as the drawings, although the quality of many of the pictures doesn’t impress me. They’re okay, nothing more. The iBird range charts are much superior, they include better descriptive text, and they cross-index to similar species, all nice touches. It makes it useful for a field guide, even if I’m not ready to say it replaces the need to carry a printed one. I’ll have to work with it more before I’m willing to do that.
Some of the Peterson features have issues. I found the quizzes to be almost insultingly simple — useless for anyone who’s birded for any length of time (Which bird is this? “Dark-Eyed Junco”, “Gambel’s Quail”, “Pileated Woodpecker”, “Great Egret” — I might ask that question of a 10 year old at a beginner’s birding walk…); the search by zip is funky. I live in 95xxx zip code, but according to their map, 95xxx is somewhere around Lake Shasta. I found navigation twitchy and button’s either too senstive or ignoring my finger pushing. Nice, but missing the fit and finish I’d expect to see. It feels like a quick hack.
Not true of the iBird stuff. Very polished and professional. It’s based on the workdone for WhatBird for Windows Mobile and Palm, and they’ve done a nice job of doing a version for the iPhone.
My recommendation: grab the regional version of iBird and see how you like it. I’d give Peterson’s guide a miss. It’s less expensive, but no bargain in comparison.