Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: October 2009
For all you really old Sharks fans out there, a quick where are they now — Ed Courtenay.
Ed’s still playing hockey, and playing in Britain.
Courtenay is teh subject of one of my favorite all time radio “moments” in Sharks history:
Dan Rusanowsky: It’s a breakaway!
Dennis Hull: No, it’s Courtenay.
Dennis Hull was right. Never the fleetist of feet in the NHL, Courtenay still was one of those guys who brought the effort every night in the early (really sucky!) days of San Jose Sharks history….
I can only think of one thing to say about tonight’s game against the Capitals:
LOOK! A PUPPY!
(seriously, Sharks didn’t look terrible; a step slow, and they couldn’t handle Ovechkin tonight. Well done game by the Caps, the two quick goals took the fight out of team teal tonight)
So instead, some quick ramblings about the Sharks Hall of Fame. They were talking about team hall of fames on XM this morning, which got me thinking: if I were running the Sharks Hall of Fame, who would be in it? My list. Feel free to add your own, or complain about mine:
- Kelly Kisio: Kisio is one player that gets forgotten in the early years of the Sharks — perhaps he wants to forget the pain, I dunno. But the reality is, while Doug Wilson was the first captain and the goal was for him to lead the sharks out of expansion hell, injuries prevented his being much of an impact on the ice, and it was Kisio that really held the early years of the team together. Some nights, he was the only player that seemed to be fighting the good fight, and if there was a real “first captain” that set the tone of what the Sharks wanted to be, it was Kelly Kisio. He’d be the first player I induct into the the Sharks hall of fame.
- Arturs Irbe: was the player that kept the Sharks competitive night after night. He was nevera “pretty” goalie, more of the squeal-and-lunge school of goaltending, but it worked. He made the Sharks a lot better than they were, and deserves to be one of the initial inductees into the Hall of Fame.
- Jeff Odgers: Odgers more than any other players defined the lunchpail ethic of the Sharks and was the guy who brought his heart and work ethic to the game every night. Not the most talented guy in the game — but his stint as captain really helped create the shark’s team identity.
- Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Johan Garpenlov: I don’t know that these three players are Sharks hall of famers individually (even though Larionov and Makarov are hall of famers for their contributions to hockey overall) — but this was the first true “identity line” that played together for a significant time and really showed magic on the ice to the fans. So they go in as a line, as they played on the team.
- Owen Nolan: Another player who defined “what it takes to be a Shark” and the Sharks first true All Star.
- Brian Marchment: Okay, okay. Just kidding.
- Mike Rathje: who doesn’t get the credit he deserves for what he did, because the fans could only see what they thought he ought to be.
- Tony Granato: for taking what Jeff Odgers started and helping it mature.
- Jeff Friesen: who had a better career as a Shark as many (including myself) gave him credit for, because he never quite lived up to his draft position.
- Mike Vernon: just isn’t quite enough of a Shark in my eyes.
- Mike Ricci: ditto, but it came down to Odgers or Ricci (but not both) in my eyes, and Odgers won.
- Jamie Baker: most dramatic goal in franchise history, great player for the Sharks — but not quite the team hall of fame to me.
Future inductees: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Evgeny Nabokov. (maybe Dan Boyle, depending on how long he stays…)
- George Gund: let’s not forget how much time and energy (and money) he put into making this team successful
- Dan Rusanowsky: The voice of the Sharks. Always will be.
- Frank Albin: who really has defined how the Sharks look on TV and made them very entertaining and accessible.
- Dean Lombardi: for how far he took this team, even if it wasn’t the final prize. Don’t underestimate how much of the team’s recent success is built on his shoulders.
- Tricia Sullivan: because I know who really keeps this franchise functioning.
- Joe Will and Tim Burke: the two people who make the draft work and understand which players in the system are expendable (and which aren’t). They’re the core of the foundation of the young players that the Sharks keep bringing into the team, and you simply can’t succeed unless you develop your own stars.
- Doug Wilson? — probably as a builder, but he still has some unfinished business before he gets nominated.
Honorable mentions: Roy Sommer, Mike Aldritch, Ken Arnold, Tom “Woody” Woodcock, Bob Friedlander, Dieter Ruehle, Warren Strelow.
(or — I did a dumb thing again, and we’re gonna talk about it….)
I’ve only been birding “seriously” for a couple of years, where seriously is defined as “for the sake of birding, as opposed to trying to photograph birds” — and it’s only been the last year or so where I’ve started to feel like I somewhat know what I’m doing. Mostly. I still have my share of ‘teachable moments’, and I had one this weekend I figured was worth sharing.
I ran into the bird down in Coyote Valley at a location where I’d previously found a large family of California Quail (which factors into my thinking later…) and I was seeing if I could find the family again (no) — but I suddenly see this bird walking away from me.
And in these cases, especially with a bird you don’t recognize, you suddenly go into “what the HELL is that?” mode. I snapped off a couple of photos immediately in case I lost the bird and tried to both watch it and get into a position for a better set of photos. The bird, bless it, watched me for a short bit, then swaggered off into the weeds and disappeared. Such is the life of birders, except many times, all you get is that first glance.
At this point, the brain starts wandering through your mental rolodex of birds. Quail? No (too large, wrong shape); Roadrunner? (body shape close, but head and beak all wrong), Pheasant? (too small, tail all wrong)… once THAT fails, you open up the field guide and use it to help you think through options. Since it’s living in the same habitat as the Quail, you start in the part of the guide where the Quail are and look for other species with similar habits.
I don’t realize it until later, but I’ve already made a key mistake in identification — and I’m about to compound it. Quail are game birds. Their primary function in life is, well, lunch. This is good habitat for that kind of bird. The other common game bird here in the bay area is the Ring-Necked Pheasant, but I’ve already evaluated that and decided it’s not a pheasant because of the size and the tail.
I defer further evaluation until I can get a photo onto a monitor and take a closer look. When I do, I’ve already started thinking down the road that this bird is a weird one, something unusual. That is a mistake (more on that in a second). It’s obviously a game bird, so what is it? I finally decide I don’t know (always a safe option), but that it’s most likely an adult female grouse. One problem: they don’t live here. But — aha — we do sometimes get birds that are kept and escape, either as ornamentals or by people planning to hunt them (there are resident populations of chukars in california that are escapees, for instance). So once I’ve decided it’s a Grouse, the logical reason it’s there is because it escaped and found an enclave of quail to hang out with. And I’ve trapped myself into a well-thought out braincramp, which I’ll now explain.
Now, it’s not unusual for bird that’s out of its native habitat to find the species that’s similar to it and hang out. My logic trail is quite logical, but the problem is it’s wrong. If I’d taken a step back and thought it through, the chances of a hunter keeping grouse (as opposed to Quail, pheasant or chukar) here in Coastal California is tiny, and in the area I was (Coyote Valley), the chances of someone keeping game birds for later hunting is beyond remote, and that bird wouldn’t have travelled any distance. It’s not a realistic scenario, so it should have been rejected.
If there’s a universal truth in identifying birds, it’s that you don’t think about the rare cases until you evaluate and reject all of the common ones. This is in conflict with the natural tendency of the enthusiastic novice, which is you’re hoping for that “rare” or “big” find, and so there’s a tendency to lean towards finding it. In reality, as a novice birder, you generally don’t really know what “rare” or “big” is — because you don’t really know what “normal” is yet. The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn so far is to back off and think through the “what it ought to be” situations before heading off into left field looking for that rare find.
The key to the mistake I made is the difference between these two pelicans. The one on the left is a young bird, young enough that the primary feathers on the wings and tail haven’t fully grown in. If you compare the wings with the adult on the right, you can see the wings look — stubby.
The logical bird to be where I was looking was the Ring-Necked Pheasant. I rejected that as an ID — why? because the bird was too small, and the tail structure was wrong. In reality, the bird is juvenile (probably female, but with kids, it’s difficult), or hatch year bird. It was a silly oversight to not consider a juvenile bird.
How’d I figure it out? I reported the trip to our local birding list (South-Bay Birds) which is full of extremely smart (and way more competent than I am) birders, and one told me they’d birded that same location and seen a male pheasant. Where there are male pheasants, there are female pheasants, and where those exist there are nests, and where there are nests, there are — baby birds who haven’t grown to adult size and who’s tail feathering is still growing in, just like those primary wing feathers on the younger pelican. Duh.
For those in the readership that aren’t birders (or birdwatchers — there is a difference, but that’s a different posting), birding isn’t so much about watching birds as it is about locating them and identifying them. I’ve found myself primarily curious about how an environment shifts over time, which is why I get excited over the return of white-crowned sparrows (“fall is here! the sparrows have arrived”) than I am chasing some rarity like the blue-footed booby that hid from me in Dana Point (I was going there ANYWAY. REALLY!); I love revisiting areas I know and watching how they change and what the resident populations look like over time. Birding is different for every birder, some of us consciously don’t set any goals at all, some are very competitive.
This is part of why I’ve really come to like birding — it is both a reason to get outside where I get exercise AND it’s a rather technical and challenging as a hobby. There’s an endless amount of technical geekery you can spend time studying and ultimately it requires a lot of time and energy to master. It really is the kind of hobby I think geeks can really get into if they choose to — but at the same time, it enforces a need for patience (something geeks aren’t always good at), because if you rush, all you do is scare the birds off or scatter them into deep cover.
And just when you start feeling comfortable with how well you’re doing, it throws you a curve that reminds you how much further you have to go.
Like baby birds that haven’t grown their tail feathers in yet.
But these are situations you can learn from; the lesson here is actually universal, too. It’s a simple one — and that’s that the further you get from the simple or common answer, the more likely it’ll turn out that you missed something along the way than it is that you’ve would up with something really rare. Even if you think you’ve ruled out the common answers — it never hurts to go back and challenge those assumptions before assuming those lights in the sky are a UFO instead of an airplane…
I long ago gave up hiding from (or denying) my mistakes; there’s plenty to learn from mistakes, and if you aren’t makingÂ mistakes, you aren’t pushing yourself to improve. And the more I thought about it, the more this seemed a chance to talk about decision making in general and how easily it can go sideways based on what seem to be really trivial choices — and also to perhaps explain a bit why I’ve been talking about birding so much recently and why it’s turned into something I spend time on and enjoy as much as I do. Who knows, maybe it’ll convince you to experiment a bit and see what you think…
I haven’t talked about photography much recently, mostly because I really didn’t have much to talk about (not that this ever seems to stop me).
Truth be told, my photography’s been “in between”. I’d shifted from using Photoshop/Bridge to Lightroom 2, but I only had my new photos in Lightroom, not my entire library, and while I was using Lightroom, I wasn’t really comfortable or felt I was using it effectively — to call what I was doing a workflow would be an exaggeration. I was in that “dating but no committed” phase, and stayed there for an extended period of time because I just didn’t have the time and energy to dig in and study the tool and make decisions on how I wanted to use it. It also didn’t help that work and other things were keeping me busy enough that I wasn’t doing much with the camera, so there was little new photography in forcing me to figure it out.
I finally decided to get serious about this, so I spent a couple of evenings importing my library. The import was painless, but — of course — created a couple of problems, the most serious one being that the keywording on my old photos and the keywording I was using weren’t the same. This led to two days of intermittently rearranging, merging and rethinking — I’ve come out of it with a singe hierarchy of keywords I (mostly) like that have (mostly) been reconciled and is finally (mostly) unambiguous and without duplicated functionality in different places (mostly). Another day or so of refining will resolve most of the (mostly) remains, but that can wait (famous last words).
I also realized I needed to change how I was handling exported images. In Bridge when I generated an image for, say, Flickr, I ended up importing it back into Bridge and pulling all of the versions of an image together into sets. In Lightroom, you can’t use sets with collections, which initially seemed like a real annoyance, but I later realized that between using snapshots to generate master images in the appropriate formats (8×10, 11×17, etc) and export presets to automate the image creation that storing the final image isn’t necessary in most cases; instead, regenerate it if you need it (duh). throw in a few lightroom plugins, and suddenly the workflow works pretty well.
I’ve adopted in a few Lightroom plugins to make this happen, the major one being LR2-Mogrify from Jeffrey Friedl. the other ones I’ve started using are his Geolocating plugin (which allows me to add location data within Lightroom using Google Earth), his plugin for finding photos near a given geolocation (so I can find all of the other images from that spot — once I get them all geolocated), and his flickr uploader.
Using LR2-Mogrify I’ve created some export scripts to do my framing and watermarking, and for flickr, I now upload them directly from Lightroom, which has simplified things massively for me. Now that I have this basic workflow done, I can adapt it for other formats that I plan on supporting (such as creating wallpapers in various sizes, more on that later).And I finally feel like I understand how to work the way Lightroom expects me to work; things are finally clicking, so I feel comfortable that what I’m doing is going to scale. I still have some work to do on the workflow, but at least it’s — flowing.
Along the way I made a couple of other changes; I changed the frame I use on flickr (again); I’ve shifted to a transparent watermark that I think will work better but be less obtrusive.
And maybe most significant, I’ve shifted photos posted to flickr back to a Creative Commons licenseon imagesI publish onto the net. Those images will continnue to be smaller images (1024 pixels max on the longest side), watermarked and with embedded information. I’ll continue to reserve non-watermarked images for license, and I will continue my policy of licensing them to non-profit and other worthy (as I define it!) organizations at no charge on request.
I’ll be updating my web site’s policy pages on this over the next few days. For now, I’ve left existing images under the old license for now. I haven’t decided what I will do there, whether I’ll change them all to CC or do it on a case by case basis. As I start gearing up for creating an updated web site with a portfolio and real licensing options, I’ll be re-processing and re-uploading my best images anyway, so I tend to think the status quo is less confusing than shifting things around…
I am in fact getting back on the planning process towards what I need to do to upgrade my web site to support my goal of moving from amateur photography to semi-pro (and from there to pro); I have a business model worked out and a strategy to implement it, and over the next few months, I hope to get it going and see what happens. After a lot of thought and research I’m comfortable with the idea that even though thousands of others are all buying digital SLRs and hanging out shingles as “pro photographers” during a time when many tradition revenue streams for existing pro photographers are either going away (newspaper photojournalism) or being significantly disrupted (stock photography) there are still options and opportunities to succeed.
So we’re going to go for it. Unlike most of those other photographers, I think I can succeed; for one thing, I know it won’t be easy and I know it’s a long-term investment. For another, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into technique (especially post processing) the last couple of years, and I think my imagery is now pretty good (but can still get better) — I look back on older stuff and wince a lot, which is a good thing. And I thnk I understand how to leverage the new technologies and marketing opportunities and my lack of dependence on the old days” of photography business models to my benefit.
We’ll see. I could also prove myself to be a blithering idiot. Wouldn’t be the first time. But heck, it’ll be a fun hack.
what’s my plan? That’s another blog entry on another day…
(I know, non birders wll find this boring, but what the heck….)
I had to go run some errands today, so since I wanted to take my walk I decided to head out and do some (surprise) birding as well. first stop was Tri-City park here in Placentia, which was very uninteresting, except for a few yellow-rumped warblers (my first of the fall, but not exactly notable). I shifted and headed to another place I’ve birded before, Lakeview Park, which is on the Santa Ana river (at, surprise, Lakeview and happens to be right next to the Kaiser hospital where mom had surgery). I discovered it when dad was sick and I was down in the area, and it can both be somewhat interesting with migrants and the river channel has standing water and some foliage so it also has some shorebird habitat, ducks, egrets and etc. At one point a little blue heron was found there, although I wasn’t in town for it.
So it’s an interesting place to visit at the right times, and what the heck, it was a nice, sunny day, warm but not too warm. How bad could it be? Pretty darn fun, actually. The area between the park and the hospital is full of mature trees and bushes and is a good place to search for migrants. today, there was a flock of at least 15 yellow-rumps and five (maybe six) hatch year western bluebirds, all in various stages of moult into their adult blues.
After watching the butter-butts for a while (I’ll get tired of them by January, but now, they’re new friends back in town), I wandered out to the channel. The river here has a decent flow and the area around Lakeview has some flood control channelling, so there are some ponds and some muddy shores and there’s a fair amount of green habitat that the blackbirds like. You look over it from a bike trail where you’re 25-30′ above the ground, so views are a bit distant, but with binocs or a scope you can see well.
The first thing I did was scare out a Green heron, who went squawking into the middle of the channel, where he picked up a friend and the two of them flew off to the far side of the channel, loudly complaining. Checking out the ducks I found a few Gadwalls among the mallards, plus one much smaller duck I finally decided was a female cinnamon teal (no males visible) — definitely a female teal of some sort.
Other notable birds found there today included two spotted sandpipers and an osprey that flew by downstream without. It circled the pond twice then headed off to better hunting grounds. I was about to leave and decided it was just too nice a day, so I sat on a rock and enjoyed the view and the weather and did one more check through the ducks…
Mallard… Mallard… Mallard… Gadwall… Two mallards head bobbing (hey! it’s the wrong season… oops. too late… Mallard.
Wait, that’s not a Mallard. Sitting off by itself in some weeds was a duck, green head, but — not a mallard. No, for some reason, there was a male Wood Duck hanging out at the edge of the pond.
Which just happens to be a lifer for me. My third in the last week.
Not complaining, you understand… That’s a species I’ve gone looking for up north a few times — and dipped every time. And that’s why you check out all of the duck flocks; you never know what’s in there..
(note: this location isn’t where the great crested flycatcher was seen a few days ago; it’s about a mile upriver. I was tempted, but this place has parking and I had a feeling the flycatcher was gone, since it hasn’t been reported in a few days, so I stuck with a familiar place…)
Location:Â Â Â Â santa ana river @ lakeview
Observation date:Â Â Â Â 10/2/09
Number of species:Â Â Â Â 28
Canada GooseÂ Â Â Â 1
Wood DuckÂ Â Â Â 1
GadwallÂ Â Â Â 6
MallardÂ Â Â Â X
Cinnamon TealÂ Â Â Â 1
Pied-billed GrebeÂ Â Â Â 1
Great Blue HeronÂ Â Â Â 1
Great EgretÂ Â Â Â 1
Snowy EgretÂ Â Â Â 2
Green HeronÂ Â Â Â 2
Black-crowned Night-HeronÂ Â Â Â 1
Turkey VultureÂ Â Â Â 3
OspreyÂ Â Â Â 1
American CootÂ Â Â Â X
KilldeerÂ Â Â Â 1
Black-necked StiltÂ Â Â Â 2
Spotted SandpiperÂ Â Â Â 2
Greater YellowlegsÂ Â Â Â 1
WilletÂ Â Â Â 4
peep sp.Â Â Â Â X
Mourning DoveÂ Â Â Â X
Anna’s HummingbirdÂ Â Â Â 2
Black PhoebeÂ Â Â Â 3
Western BluebirdÂ Â Â Â 5
Northern MockingbirdÂ Â Â Â 1
Yellow-rumped WarblerÂ Â Â Â 12
Red-winged BlackbirdÂ Â Â Â X
Brewer’s BlackbirdÂ Â Â Â X
House FinchÂ Â Â Â X
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
As I’ve hinted at a bit here and in twitter, I’m in SoCal this week, because mom needed to undergo a little surgery and I came down for moral and logistcal support. She came through in flying colors and I’m going to spend a few more days while she heals up a bit, just to keep her from lifting things she shouldn’t lift.
The surgery was Tuesday, and Wednesday i got permission to disappear for a while, so I headed out to do some serious birding and de-stress. I headed out to the coast to a few of the places I haunt here in orange county when I get a chance: bolsa chica in Huntington Beach, Newport Back Bay, and Dana Point harbor. It didn’t hurt that there was a blue-footed booby reported in Dana Point…. yes, I’ll say it. I went running around Dana Point for an afternoon chasing boobies…
Bolsa Chica is a major nesting area in season for terns, one of the few places for least tern, plus it’s a good shorebird habitat (and a snowy plover nesting areas) and the southern california hangout for black skimmers. It’s also known as a place where reddish egrets hang out, although I’ve dipped on that species in previous visits. Not this trip because there was an egret sitting right next to the entrance bridge along with a couple of snowy egrets, intently scratching an itch. After watching for a bit I moved deeper into the preserve to check out tern islands. No snowy plovers, but plenty of semi-palmaeted plovers. No least terns (not a suprise this time of year), and only hatch year Forster’s, but looking out on the island I saw a group of larger terns that I took for Elegant, but on closer looking, I realized the heads were white — Royal Terns (with two Elegants hanging out to confuse me). Ten minutes in, I have to life birds on the list…
I walked out into the shorebird habitats and found a half dozen skimmers a fair way out, but nothing else notable, so I wandered back in. The Reddish egret had moved a bit closer in and stopped scratching — I’ll have photos to add later.
After that, I drove up to newport back bay. There’s a hangout area for Great Blue herons there, and some nice shorebird habitat as well as some scrub and hillside bushes that can generate some interesting surprises (anything from great-tailed grackle to blue-gray gnatcatcher in previous visits). And sometmes, you get Anna’s and Song Sparrows. I stopped at the observation parking lot about halfway in and wandered up into the bushes, and this trip, I got — song sparrows and a couple of arguing Anna’s. Back at the observation platform, however, I saw something flycatching, and it was cooperative enough for me to get a good look at an Ash-throated flycatcher. While watching it hunt bugs, I suddenly heard panic calls from the mud flats and looked just in time to see a Peregrine make two swoops at a group of shorebirds. it missed both times, then gave up and caught a thermal, rose up into the air, and soared away. The only other notable bird at Back Bay was a small flock (8) of greater white-fronted geese.
After that, off to Dana Point in search of boobies. And Pelicans. Arrived about 2:15 and scanned the jetty, no booby. I hauled out the folding chair and settled in for an enjoyable afternoon of waiting.
Which it was. The booby was well-enough reported that even non-birders had heard something about some kind of rare bird, so I had the chance to talk to a number of curious people wandering by. I also had the pleasure of meeting a few local birders, including Joel Weintraub (who manages the orange county rare bird reports), who wandered in to see if the bird could be found since it hadn’t been reported since Sunday.
It never showed. We hung out keeping an eye out until a bit after 5, and it seems to have moved on. Oh well. In the meantime,Â I had a chance to watch an expert birder pick things out of the air — we had an osprey fly in and hunt just outside the jetty walls, a peregrine come in and chase some pigeons, a single caspian tern fly through (making it a four tern day for me), and I had a ball watching the pelicans fish and fly around. I never would have picked either the Caspian Tern or the Osprey out of the air without Joel’s help.
No booby, but that’s okay. A nice, relaxing afternoon with nice birds and interesting people.
In my last birding note, I said:
If I can get back in the swing of birding regularly (and early), 200 species for the year is quite possible. I definitely need to get to Bolsa Chica to add a few terns to the list, which Iâ€™ll try to do this next visit. And my life list is now at 229 — maybe I’ll add one or two before the end of the year, but I’m not planning any trips out of the area, and I don’t twitch, so I don’t think it’s likely I’ll do something too significant here. Which is fine.
And since writing that, a couple of serendipitous birding outings have notched four new life list birds: Reddish Egret and Royal Tern at Bolsa Chica, and a trip out to Palo Alto Baylands added a yellow-breasted chat and a nashville warbler out in the fennel. Bolsa Chica also added Elegant Tern and Black-Bellied Plover as year birds (I haven’t tried hard on the plover, obviously…), moving my year list to 185, almost exactly where it was a year ago, so now 200 for the year is manageable, and the life list has grown to 233. I can’t complain…
I’m hoping to make a day trip to Salton Sea before I head north, but we’ll see. depends on how mom recovers. If not, not…