Jan 132014
Screenshot of the Daily Bird App showing the frontscreen

Daily Bird App from BirdsEye Birding

Disclaimer: I played a part in developing this mobile app for BirdsEye Birding. :-)

There is a new birding app out from BirdsEye Birding, it is a virtual Daily Bird Calendar. Is pulls data from their large database of bird facts and photographs, and challenges the birder with an unidentified photo ripe for bird identifications.

If you are not comfortable making an identification you can ask the app by tapping to get more details. One tap and you’ll see the common and scientific names, any bird codes (e.g. PEFA for Peregrine Falcons), some information about the species and details of the photographer and photograph (such as f-stop, exposure, ISO settings, etc.)

If you are a Birds Eye or Bird Log user it will quickly take you to the real-time information from eBird, or allow you to submit to eBird.

This app is good way to learn more about birds, improve your bird identification skills, and have some fun.

Daily Bird App

Check out some of the bird identifications made on Twitter:

Jan 192013

The short version: Hack attempts were made (like they are regularly) but no hack/penetration occurred. No user data was at risk, no security breached. Not quite a false alarm, but it checked out okay.

The long version:

I believe that if/when a hack appear possible take action: immediately (1) shut the server down, quickly (2) communicate with interested parities, then (3) diagnose (4) repair and learn lesson (before bringing the server back up) (5) communicate. I took my time on (3) and (4) and here is (5).

When I believed that a hack might have occurred I took steps (1) and (2) via blog post and tweet.

I remotely viewed the disk (without booting it) and investigated the 3 clues.

#1 Hacked links to www.china101.com

This was the first sign I saw. The front page of WildObs linked to china101.com instead of itself. Not right. I assumed this meant that the hacker had gained write access to the file system. They had NOT.

WildObs uses rails page caching on some pages, one being the index.html front page. I believe some hacker had forged an HTTP request to wildobs.com, sending it to the correct IP address but spoofing the DNS name in the query. The wildobs code (incorrectly) respected “it’s host” and write it into pages. Not sure why it wrote absolute links not relative links, but both these two things will be resolved in a future update.

Yes the file was written, yes the hacker managed to alter it’s contents, but there even a possibility the hacker never even knew. It was an obscure side effect, that gain the hacker nothing, just gave me one big scare.

#2 Unable to connect to WildObs.com

This is what sealed the deal for me that this was a “hack”; I was locked out of WildObs.com. I assumed, having read this account of a hack, that the hacker was “buying time”. This turned out to be nothing but a bad coincident. I used an awesome product called Little Snitch which has one small weakness in that it is (at times) verbose, and can pop-up  questions, and can react to unintended keystrokes to store a rule. A stray local rule coincidentally disconnected me from WildObs.com, not a hacker.

#3 Failure in the database

This might have been due to me  rebooting the system, but it cleared itself up. I don’t like not having a definitive explanation for some clue, but I cannot find a malicious purpose. I took the database down immediately, but when I brought it up again the error was not there. It was some obscure column missing of some obscure valueless table, it cannot have value. I’ll keep thinking about this one, but I feel it had to be more bad coincidence.


One small hack-let and a couple of coincidences, plus one over active imagination.


WildObs has always been as secure as I can make it, and very locked down. That said, I’ve read/researched more, and I’ve made a few more changes to tighten security further. I will keep vigilant and communicate if I ever suspect a hack.

Jan 132013

UPDATE 1/18/2013: NOT Hacked.

Tonight I noticed that links on wildobs.com stopped pointing to wildobs.com but to china101.com. Not right. I went to log in to the servers, but was unable to.

Assuming the domain or IP hasn’t been re-routed, then the WildObs servers have been compromised. The links above means that files on the server have been altered. The “lock out” means they’ve compromised processes/configuration.

I’ve taken the servers down to limit their ability to steal or corrupt data.

At this time I do not know what has been done or taken, so I plan on assuming the worst, and reacting accordingly. If you are a WildObs user, the sort of things you should be thinking about are:

- If you created a WildObs account, yet (mistakenly, be best practices) re-used a password you use on other website, then change that password on those sites.

- If you’ve authorized WildObs for you Twitter, Facebook, Google or Flickr account, then perhaps suspend those permissions.

- Have a high index of suspicion on any communication you receive from WildObs for now. WildObs would never ask you for passwords or other sensitive information, so never give it any.

Sorry for this inconvenience and I’ll keep this blog updated.

Jan 102013

Happy 2013 everybody. I’ve just returned from a land of ice and snow, and Bald Eagles and am getting into 2013. That includes some house keeping on WildObs

I’ve recently started to migrate WildObs to a new look and feel, and a new internal platform. That process is proving challenging, and I’m working through the issues. One I just resolved (I believe) is the export capability (where you can export a CSV of your encounters.)

Please let me know if you have any problems with WildObs and I’ll keep updating on this work in progress.

May 022012

One of the best things I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in, for the past few years, is the Raptor Monitoring program of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP.) With conservation efforts, raptors have been recovering in Colorado, and even the re-introduced Peregrine Falcons (PEFA) are gaining in numbers. Volunteers (like me) monitor the nesting area weekly in order to determine territory occupancy, and reproduction productivity.

Peregrine Falcon Monitoring with iPad and iPhone

Field Notes with iPad and iPhone

I’ve been visiting my assigned location for a few years now, and never cease to be amazed by how much I enjoy it. I think of each trip as “another beautiful day in paradise” and it certainly is. I get to watch the change of the seasons, from late winter when the birds return to the area, to deep into summer. The changes of spring are quite thrilling to experience, and each year I feel a little more connected to this place.

I’d barely seen peregrine falcons in the wild, but now I’ve watched the peregrines select their scrape site, mate, incubate their eggs and raise their chicks to fledglings. I’ve heard and seen the awesome PEFA stoops, watched territory disputes, seems PEFA consume their prey, and become party to a wide variety of behaviors. I’ve gone from barely knowing these birds, to feeling somewhat connected. I feel honored.

I carry a pack on each of my monitoring session, and in it I have a notepad and pen in order to record notes. I’ve never cracked open that pad. For some reason I began taking notes in my iPhone, in Apple’s Notepad app, and kept on doing so. It’s taken me a few years to finally get sufficiently frustrated with typing on that keyboard, entering (and re-entering due to typos) times, and spending too much time looking at the phone and not admiring/observing the birds.

I finally wrote this application in order to make taking timestamped field notes a lot easier. I’ve used it on the past few weeks of observations, and it allows me to both record more and observe more. More time watching the PEFA is a good thing.

Dec 162011

This summer the WildObs platform outgrew itself, and it became time to move up.

I’ll skip the technical details, but the new platform should allow improved performance, and a fresher look. WildObs is better ready for the years ahead.

That said, things were not without a significant number of growing pains, and … ouch, some those hurt! WildObs was down for a while, and it has taken some time to get back to stability.

Hopefully we are long passed the worst of it, and getting better. However, if you notice any problems, please let us know.

Nov 092010
Download your species lists

Sample Species List

The web is a wonderfully powerful tool for helping identify and locate wildlife, and mobile phones keep it available in many more places that we go. That said, sometimes it is nice to take  a break from technology. When wildlife spotting that includes being able to print out a species list, to folding it up and stuff it into a backpack or pocket to use as you explore untethered. Knowing what species you might see on a trip, especially those you’ve not seen recently or are new to your life list, really increases the pleasurable anticipation.

WildObs observers can download species lists for WildObs places that have sufficient species data. The lists are grouped by wildlife class, allow a pen/pencil checkmark or tally, and include the scientific name where available.

How much do these species lists cost?

The “price” to observers for these species lists is … that in return for a species list, you please report your wildobs encounters for your visit. Okay, not a serious price, but the sentiment is good. Get from the community, and give back to the community to grow the community knowledge as a whole. If you encounter something not listed on the species list, definitely record it.

Where next?

As more data is available within the WildObs database these species lists will become more informative with information like “common”/”uncommon”, what seasons to expect them and even if they been seen very recently. You can help get us there by submitting your encounters.

Feedback welcomed as always.

Aug 272010

WildObs Naturalist 2.0 and WildObs Lookout 2.0 are available in the iTunes App Store.

Both these WildObs products now contain the functionality of WildObs Observer (to record any encounter along with time/location/photograph) but also provide their own features on top. This allows you to pick the WildObs application that is right for you, and stick with that one application.

WildObs Naturalist also let’s you :

  • Browse all your records, recent and most viewed, and view your species – favorites, wishlist, and life-list
  • Find new wildlife locations around your location, based off other observer’s encounters.
  • Find new wildlife species around your location, based off other observer’s encounters.
  • Map your recent/local wildlife encounters.

Use your encounters to find nature...

WildObs Lookout also let’s you:

  • Browse recent/local wildlife encounters
  • Browse recent/local wildlife encounters for species from your favorites/wishlist
  • View what your network of observers are seeing.
  • Checkout the wildlife at nearby willdife spots (based off other observer’s encounters.)

See what others have seen...

Aug 112010

WildObs Observer 2.0 is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod, see here: http://wildobs.com/about/observer

WildObs Observer let’s you record your wildlife encounters (on or offline in the woods), but also let’s you :

  • Browse all your records
  • See what species are around your location, based off other observer’s encounters.
  • Lookup a species by name (partial or scientific.)
  • Browse (and comment upon) recent and featured wildlife encounters.

One thing I really enjoy, is that featured encounters are viewable on the home page. Check this and others out …

Enjoy featured wildlife encounter on WildObs Observer

Dec 162009

WildObsMobile for iPhone allows wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy the WildObs community; access featured, popular and recent encounters as well as look-up species.

Unlike WildObs Observer, which is  designed as an offline tool for field work, WildObs Mobile is an online tool for interacting with the WildObs Community. WildObsMobile utilizes minimal device storage.

Check out this free wildlife iphone application — and allow WildObs to help you find your nature:

WildObs Mobile 1.0 for iPhone

WildObs Mobile 1.0 for iPhone

Available on the App Store