Apr 302009
 
Hummer on a Stick

Hummer on a Stick

Reduce hummer stress: place feeders around your property out of sight of each other.

Hummingbird males (at least our broad-tailed hummingbird males) like sticks.

They like a vantage point to oversee their territory, to dominate all in sight. They terrorize any males that come into range (even if merely flying by) and hound any poor females stopping on a feeder to grab a rest and a bite (ok slurp.) These sticks are what they need in order to be mini masters of their domain.

So, don’t create a vantage stick? Don’t support this little megalomaniac? Maybe, but they’ll be little the same little bleeder anyway, just from a nearby branch or a bush.

If you put up the stick and attract them to it, at least you get some say in the matter. You can locate it such that he cannot see another feeder hidden around the corner of the house allowing those nesting females a break.

Literally within minutes of me putting this stick up we had a settler. He gave himself a good stretch and made himself at home.

Stretch

Stretch

See more hummer encounters on WildObs: Wildlife from you, for you and around you.

Apr 272009
 

Apple’s design preferences are to keep application settings in a separate settings application. Chances are you are familiar with this, but if not then press the home button and look for the settings icon:

Settings Icon

Once there, look for the Observer icon amongst the likely many:

Observer Settings

Observer Settings

These are your personal settings and affect how the application work for you. Version 1.0 (the current version) supports the following.

Encounter Defaults

Settings Icon
  • Default Tags — you can set tags (keywords) for all new encounters. For example one might set a tag of “Cornwall2009″ if one was on a vacation for a week or so.
  • Public — this defaults all new encounters to be public, i.e. visible by everyone. This is the preferred default, but you can set it to ‘private’ to keep encounters just for you.
  • Syndicate — this defaults all new encounters to be ‘syndicatable’ (i.e. in your RSS/news feeds and/or delivered to Twitter.)

You can modify any of these setting on a per encounter basis by going to the “extras” view on a record.

General Settings

General Settings
  • Play Sounds — turn this off to suppress noises upon saving an encounter, uploading to wildobs, deleting and others.
  • Shake for Random — turn this off to suppress shake causing the random three encounters on the front page to be re-randomized.

User Settings

User Settings
Semi-self-explanatory, the URL is for beta testing new versions. Don’t touch these (they probably ought not be here) unless you really want to. Better to uninstall to change a user.

Miscellaneous Settings

Misc Settings
  • Show Lists — is a dynamic setting, when you show or hide lists your last choice is recorded for future runs of the application.
  • Default List — is a dynamic setting, as above, and is the last list you chose.
  • Show Tips — allows a simple “tip” to show at start-up. [Needs work.]
  • Verbose Mode — mainly for debugging network connections. Show text during CONNECT.
  • Work in Progress — this is a fun one, any “work-in-progress” features are only enabled with this on. The current such feature is taking a photo (iPhone only) which attaches to the encounter and is uploaded upon next CONNECT. Try it out, let me know how it works:
Feedback welcomed to :
Apr 172009
 

Lake George is a wonderful little lake: built as an ice producer for the miner at Cripple Creek, newly refurbished after muskrat undermined it’s dam, currently undergoing random dredging attempts, below 11 mile canyon and next to the South Platte River (when it is but a stream.) It is also next to the cabin we go to.

Lake George (albeit now full)

Lake George (albeit now full)

This weekend it saw frost/rain/snow but also sun/blue skies. Each walk around it was a different and invigorating experience. Spring is building on the lake.

There were more water fowl (mainly coot & ducks) than it normally sees; a vast array of species. Luckily I had a sister-in-law wildlife biologist (central flyway) to help me identify the species ‘cos I was lost amongst the masses. Gadwell, Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Canvas back, Merganser, Bufflehead the list goes on. It was great to see them out enjoying the lake and feasting on it’s weed before they moved north. A mass of life.

On the cold mornings (after a spring snow) there was a thin layer of ice on the lake, and frost on the ground & cat tails. Red-winged blackbirds were settling in, with males singing to the world. A Belted Kingfisher stalked along the Platte, it’s call clear and distinct. On the muddy banks (even down at the water’s edge) mountain & western bluebirds took advantage of the damp ground to find food. Nice to see all these guys back for the season.

A couple of muskrats showed themselves to us in the river. Swimming away oblivious to the fact that they’d been the primary cause for a $1M & multi-year dam repair job (they’d just  been doing their thing & burrowing.) These guys remind me of the (somewhat cuter) water voles of the UK, just bigger/more gangly. Encounters with them make me smile.

The Tarryall Mountains red, and further enhanced with sunrise light, surrounded a low patch of cloud (technically fog I guess) from the remaining evaporating snow. The view from lakeside over the water and to this sight in the west was breath taking. Slowly the fog moved up and dissipated.

Turkey vultures (firsts for the season) demonstrated their amazing gliding skills, effortlessly skimming high and then low (almost brushing the ground) as they search for carrion. Ugly with the red faces yet beautiful in flight. Again, a welcome return for the season.

No bald eagle this weekend, but before we left we had one quick search for “a large white bird” my wife noticed flying over/down to the lake. Our inquisitiveness was rewarded by the gift of (separately) a white American Pelican and an Osprey both fishing the lake (although the Pelican took the more sedate approach.)

Spring is growing fast & strong at Lake George, CO.

Apr 162009
 

As I was driving back into Coal Creek Canyon this morning I spied the 70-80 strong herd of Elk over in the open space by Plainview. That was enough for me to detour & go for a walk. If you didn’t get to be/play outside today, let me take you where I went…

Plainview (albeit later in the year)

Plainview (albeit later in the year)

Sunny but not hot and with little wind it was perfect for a stroll. Mountain bluebirds (not as many as earlier in the year, and no Western) and Meadowlark were about, and some other small lark of sorts was making music up in the sky. Basically a just another great day to be alive and outdoors.

The ground was moist, the recently melted snows had granted that. The moles had made the most and pushed up a lot of soil & Elk had planted their hooves firmly in those piles. Small purple flowers were blooming, as were fat/round cactus. One could get a decent dose of wildlife just by stopping & looking down.

Up the other side of the draw the few remaining resting Elk were preparing to join the herd out on the plains. I watched them get up and casually move on. The couple of bull Elk were little more than spikes, and one lopsided with a single antler. A young Elk (and there were many) seemed to be having fun with a group of mule deer, perhaps lauding his ‘large’ size over them. For once he wasn’t the smallest around, and he seemed to enjoy herding them to his whim.

The creek draw was largely devoid of birds for a change. That’ll change soon enough, but right now the chatterers were scads of crickets (clicking their red wings), rushing water, and frogs. One small indent in the ground forms a pond this time of year (weeks ago it was just dry dirt) and the frogs were croaking their mating calls.

A year ago I’d found these frogs hard to creep up on, but had managed, so decided to take on the challenge of stalking them. My goal … to see them mid croak. Daft as it might seems, my tool of choice was my binos … ‘cos these critter are small, hide well, and shut up when disturbed. I spent over half an hour creeping steadily closer and closer to those noise makers, and (sad to say) I failed. They hid in an inches deep pond, invisible despite my focused scrutiny. Amazing; today I’d fail as a heron looking for lunch. I’d hoped to identify these frogs, but today I had to settle for … they are the “loud croaking, good hiding” type of frog.

As I watched the pond I remembered to take occasional looks behind me; one never knows when wildlife will sneak op on a sneaker. I half hoped the deer would tire of being herded and seek shelter down here, but if they did they passed unnoticed.

Still, as I left the puddle, I stumbled upon a small group of travelling Elk coming to re-join the herd. I’d caught their eye just as they caught mine, and although they hadn’t fully made me I only watched them for a while before I moved on. I’d replenished my wildlife batteries for the day. A good trip.

Apr 102009
 

One of the first e-mails I received after releasing WildObs Observer was “where is the intro video?”. DOH, that makes sense! Yup, I guess I better get one that (next week.) So, in lieu of that…

First thing to highlight (from working with the users/observers so far) is:

To use WildObs Observer you’ll need a WildObs account. So Sign-up here.

If you cannot log into WildObs Observer using the username/password you signed-up with, the problem is most likely that you have not clicked on the confirmation link in the address confirmation e-mail that WildObs sends you. Maybe your spam filter ate it, maybe it is waiting for you. Please look for that e-mail and click that link (basically to confirm you aren’t a robot spammer.)

Once you have that:

  • Let the application download it’s species lists. The initial download is long/slow, but needs to get done. Please do this while connected to a WIFI network if you can.
  • To record an encounter pick the species (either from the main tab screen with picker, or from the species tab with table view of species) and then press “RECORD”.
  • If you are on an iPhone the location ought be determined via GPS. If it cannot be, or you are on an iPod Touch, pick or enter a new location. WildObs attempts to geo-locate places (although this is imperfect for more remote locations) so enter an description address/placemark name.
  • Press “SAVE” to record the encounter to the local database. The red circle w/ number is how many encounters are locally stored, ready to be uploaded to WildObs.
  • Press “CONNECT” to synchronize your iPhone/iPod with WildObs.
All encounters are recorded on WildObs, sharable with your friends and others, and entered into the WildObs database. Not only do you get an encounter to remember/enjoy, but you help build a live/dynamic database (some citizen science) for species/places.
WildObs Observer is best used to record things, important sightings, unimportant sightings … whatever takes the whim. Be it an American Robin in a park, or a Moose in some wilderness. Record, record, record … it could help somebody else find somebody new for them.


On the back of the record pane there are “Extras”:
  • Tags are a great way to organize observations. Mark encounters with any keyword you think organizes them for you, e.g. “funny” or “road-trip” or “first-of-season”.
  • Syndication: set this if you want the encounter published in feeds (RSS/Atom) or tweeted.
  • Public: set this OFF if you DO NOT want to share with others.
Nice to haves:
Apr 082009
 

WildObs Observer (the iPhone Application for recording your wildlife encounters) is now available for download from the Apple App Store:

Available on the App Store

Here is the link to the application. It launches iTunes to view/install the application:

  http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=309451803&mt=8

Here is a recent screen shot of the application (there are more above):

Notice the NWF logo, that is a shout out to their wonderful Wildlife Watch program. WildObs encounters tweeted for the user by WildObs use the #nwf tag to stream into the NWF WildlifeWatch Twitter Timeline.

Apr 062009
 

Recently, I’ve taken to posting #ABDIP each morning. It started because I observed @coastalartist doing similarly, and felt it was a glorious way to start the day; to focus on the wonderful & value the gift of life. Here in Colorado that isn’t hard, things are often so amazing.

This morning (a Monday morning in many ways) I wasn’t ready to settle down to work so I decided to walk the dog, and get the days juices flowing. Bright white snow everywhere (a foot or more, but fluffy/melting not cold/freezing) and bright blue in the sky. Typical Colorado winter.

Just slightly up the hill the distinctive tracks of turkey are everywhere. Their long scaly legs allow them to wander in the woods, but in deep snow they enjoy a break of a snow-plowed road, like we all do. A fox had a similar idea, or maybe was sniffing after a turkey dinner.

The snow is thick, still hanging in the evergreen trees. Wind blows the occasional ‘glistening showers’ down to the ground; briefly they shimmer in the sunlight. The morning sun melts the snow, which drips to form into hanging icicles. The fields are covered with pristine smooth blankets of white (uninterrupted, except for the occasional critter track.) The damp bark of the ponderosas gives reds, the needles deep greens, the cones browns; all stand out against the snow enveloping them. All this works to deliver a “winter wonderland” to match any holiday scene.

Truly #ABDIP. Twenty minutes well spent.