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April 30, 2008

eBirdseed.com Webcam Adjustments and Welcome to Engineering 101

Hi,

Well, if you've been watching our webcam below, you've certainly seen a rather unusual show.

Streaming Live Webcams - by Camstreams

Around sunrise, there were no doubt a bunch of hummingbirds. But then, the display went mysteriously white. After that, you got to see a microwave oven and can of "Pam" cooking spray. Next came the riveting excitement of a digital watch ticking off EST. And finally the webcam was back on line. (Whoa! Time out... Just saw a hummer!) Onward... So what in the name of Phineas J. Whoopee* is going on?!?

Here's the deal... Prior to posting the webcam, I tested the camera extensively. I tested it with different USB cable lengths. I tested it with different focal lengths. (There's another hummer! Dag Nabit they're busy today!) I tested it under various lighting conditions. I even measured the propagation delay of the video signal... All were within the "Cool Envelope". So we rolled the cam out for all to see, and it worked quite well yesterday. Unfortunately, yesterday was overcast and rainy, and that hid a crucial flaw that my testing also failed to uncover - that of the camera's inability to handle brilliant sunshine. Welcome to engineering 101...

Not to worry, we engineers thrive on this sort of "oops". So long as no one gets hurt, and the financial damage is negligible, we tend to think of these little events not as failures, but rather as learning experiences. And what was the solution? Well... I messed with the camera's exposure, contrast, white filter... No luck. So, a quick foray on the Web revealed that the Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Deluxe really isn't very happy with direct sunlight. Period. That kind of makes sense when you consider that the device probably was designed for gloomy boardrooms, etc. "What's left?" you ask... Umm... Err... Let me just loosen up my collar a bit... You see, we had to reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the camera lens via a system of... Deep sigh... Alright, I put sunglasses on the stupid camera as shown below. There, now you know the truth!

camera%20with%20sunglasses.JPG

Seriously, over time, we'll experiment with different filters, fix the cabling, find a better way to mount the camera, sharpen the focus, etc., etc., etc. Also, be aware that webcams aren't perfect - there will be the occasional frame drop out, and there might even be a need for a screen refresh now and then. 'Tis the way of the Web. Still, webcams are very neat.

One other thing to consider... CamStreams does provide a chatting feature that would let you guys talk amongst yourselves. Let me know if you want me to enable this.

Gotta run... See you by the feeders... (And remember, we'll be watched over by a camera wearing "Joe Cool" sunglasses...)

CapeCodAlan

* Betcha' didn't know that the man behind the voice of Phineas J. Whoopee was Larry Storch of "F Troop" fame!


eBirdseed.com photo library

References

eBirdseed.com Webcam

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April 28, 2008

eBirdseed.com Live Webcam is online! (And Momma, Don't let Your Babies Grow Up to be Engineers...)

Hi,

Yup... Just give the window below a little time, and the Official eBirdseed.com Real-Time Bird Webcam will come to life right before your very eyes.

Streaming Live Webcams - by Camstreams

Configured as is, it should make for a superb Hummingbird Cam during the day. At night, it will probably be turned off... But you just never know... The idea of an Official eBirdseed.com Real-Time Fish Webcam is certainly compelling ain't it? How about a Gas-Fireplace Cam? Anyway, let me know what critters/objects you'd like to see and I'll see if I can make it happen. In any event, we'll use the link below in all future posts to give you access to the eBirdseed.com cam.

But there is a sort of a postscript here... As the title says... "Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be engineers." (Thanks to Willie Nelson et al...)

Technically, this cam shouldn't be up for another week. I just didn't have the cables... Still, Hell hath no fury like an engineer scorned. Now, the cables are patched and taped, and the cam is up. We'll just have to watch where we walk in the kitchen for the next week or two... "Mission Control, all systems are go!" (At some point, the wife is just going to kill me...)

See you by the feeders in the hope that you'll be looking at them too,

CapeCodAlan

eBirdseed.com photo library

References

eBirdseed.com Webcam

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April 27, 2008

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are Back, and Ramblings on Literature and Etymology

Hi,

Well, aside from the "Bird-House War" and Spring blossoms, the debut of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird most assuredly seals the deal - Spring has sprung.

Hummer_400_P4265778.jpg

Note, here is the full-size version of this image in our eBirdseed.com photo library. (You can use the link below to access the complete library.) Other great non-eBirdseed.com hummingbird links include HUMMINGBIRD PHOTOGRAPHY, photographs of hummingbirds by Wayne Owen and Wikimedia Commons.

It is refreshing to see these little fellows, and it would be nice to write succinctly and eloquently about them, but I'm afraid Emily Dickinson and others have got me beat. Consider her poem number 1463...

A Route of Evanescence
With a revolving Wheel --
A Resonance of Emerald --
A Rush of Cochineal --
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head --
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning's Ride --

Her 500th poem is beautiful as well...

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel --
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill --

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose --
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted --
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres --
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, 'twere we --
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity --

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye --
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!

As a matter of fact, many folks including Dickinson and D.H Lawrence touched upon hummingbirds as did naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter... (Truth be told, work like Project Gutenberg offers rich general and ornithological research in tens of thousands of free books.)

But what of the origins of the word "hummingbird" itself? It just so happens that there's a neat Web site out there called the Online Etymology Dictionary. A quick look on that reveals that the first real usage was in 1637.

"There is a curious bird to see to, called a humming bird, no bigger then a great Beetle." [Thomas Morton, "New English Canaan," 1637]

However, the word "hum" may date back to the early 1300s.

And so it goes... A rambling look at hummingbirds, literature, and etymology...

Things could be worse on a lonely Sunday night...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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References

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April 25, 2008

Red Bellied Attacks Sparrow House, Update on the Web Cam, etc.

Hi,

We've got a number of items to touch on today, so let's get started...

I know I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating... The birdhouse is proving to be a very desirable domicile. Though the sparrows have clearly taken ownership, other birds (chickadees, downies and even the red belly below) have all tried to oust the sparrows.

red%20bellied%20woodpecker_pecking%20at%20aluminum%20birdhouse%20entry_2_P2175242_cropped.jpg

Still, the sparrows hold their turf. (It must get a little noisy inside when the woodpecker slams away at the aluminum opening protector.)

Next on the agenda - the upcoming eBirdseed.com Web cam! The setup progress has gone remarkably well, and the camera is now able to stream live video onto the Web like a champ. The only downside is that I need to get a USB cable that will let the camera itself reach the window feeder. That's not a big deal, but we did have to order it, so that's going to take time. But, you do have a choice... Would like to wait for the bird cam proper to come on line? Or would you like me to turn it into a live "Cat Cam"? I could focus it right on Toby's food and water bowl, and you could watch moment by moment as a 15-pound cat munches his way towards the "Big Two-Oh"... Just use the "Comment" button to let me know your thoughts.

And finally, on a related, but unrelated note... As just mentioned, the Web cam setup did go quite well, and the rough drawing in the link above did prove to be technically correct. But it's a shame that the diagram was so poor... Well, it turns out that there is a free software utility called Google SketchUp that can render a much better drawing. (I'll create one for a future post.) Quite simply, SketchUp is a sort of CAD program for both the technical and non-technical. It really is worth a long look...

Getting late...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. May 11th looms... Consider yourself warned.

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April 24, 2008

Experiment... Setting Up a Bird Web Cam

Hi,

Guess it had to happen... Whilst we have been taking (and will continue to take) some fantastic photos using the NovaBird and Olympus cameras, we still wanted to set up a real-time streaming bird video. Though this is certainly not a great novelty on the Web, it still sounds like a lot of fun! So let's outline the project and see if we can find some direction and perhaps uncover a few hints for others along the way... (Note: There are a ton of abbreviations and technoblab in here... If you're interested in this sort of thing, but new to the field, don't worry... Just get the "Big Picture" and then ask around... Remember, I answer all comments... You'll be fine...)

At this point in the project the crude drawing below is our roadmap. (We engineers use crude maps like this at the beginning of every project because we know that the scheme is going to change on a daily if not hourly basis.) Onward... The drawing depicts a USB bird-cam signal being tossed into a wireless local network, shoveled onto the Web, into eBirdseed.com, and finally resting right before your beady little eyes... Hmmm...

bird%20cam%20setup%20diagram.jpg

Reading the drawing from right to left (natch!), let's see what we've got...

  1. Birds are attracted to the window feeder. (Gotta love the drawing of the bird!)
  2. The USB 2.0 Web cam will capture real time as the birds eat, (or not...) We'll have to watch the camera angle for best viewing.
  3. The video signal will feed back into a PC with a wireless USB 802.11g, 54Mbps adapter.
  4. The PC/802.11g will in turn broadcast the signal to the 802.11g router...
  5. Next, the router uses cat 5 cables to dish off the signal to both the main PC and the cable modem.
  6. Once the video hits the cable modem, it rockets off into the fog of the Web/Internet and lands in eBirdseed.com.
But there's a serious consideration... How do we actually store the "broadcast" of the video itself? Well, it turns out that there's a service out there called Camstreams that offers just that sort of functionality. That will probably have to be installed on the computer in "Step 3" above. Once I get the cam working on my machines, I'll see if the boss wants to incorporate it into the eBirdseed.com site. If that proves impractical, I can probably link to the cam directly off this blog.

Anyway, this is all new to me, and no doubt there will be some mind bending in the process, but I'm betting that we'll get there just fine. I'll keep you posted.

See you by those ever-more-increasingly-visible feeders,

CapeCodAlan

eBirdseed.com photo library

References

P.S. Now about that MP3-based bird song library I've been meaning to build...

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April 22, 2008

Welcome to Cape Cod

Hi,

Every so often, a "stroke of the obvious" befalls a soul. 'Tis my time for such a glaring epiphany... After penning 200+ posts for this blog (each ending with the non de plume "CapeCodAlan"), it finally dawned on me that virtually none of you out there are truly familiar with vintage Cape Cod. Let's see if we can't remedy that, (and in doing so, take a quick break from "backyard birding").

Wow... Where to begin? (When in doubt, borrow from a master...) In the opening of Steinbeck's "Cannery Row", the author described the town as "...a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. He then went on to further depict it as another series of nouns which I can't use in that we want to keep this bit of the blogosphere strictly rated "G". Still, an accurate description of "Old Cape Cod" would probably be akin to that of "Cannery Row". (Apologies go out to Patti Page.) Personally, I like to think of "classic" Cape Cod as the place where the best of intentions go to die.

Still, that hardly offers real insight for the uninitiated... Hmmm... Perhaps another angle... The old rule was that one could not call himself a Cape Codder unless his kin had been here for at least four generations, and he had a minimum of a peck of beach sand in his bloodstream.

Nope... Empty definitions just don't cut it either - a story is in order... (This won't be easy - while I have literally hundreds of such tales, I can relate but a few in this forum. Here goes...) Years ago, local contractors, friends, (and real Cape Codders) Rocky and Marc got into a slight game of trading practical jokes. While that might sound silly enough to those of you outside of the confines of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges and fettered with post-1980's political correctness, it was hardly silly to those of us on this peninsula. Existentialism a la askew humor is our stock in trade. Anyway, weeks after the "Joke War" began I stopped by Rocky's, and there attached to the peak of the west-facing, exterior wall of his house was the naked bottom half of a female mannequin. More to the point, Marc had somehow managed to affix the partial model such that it looked for all the world like Superwoman had been flying about "au naturel" and hit the wall head on. Yup, the legs and tail section were on the horizontal... When I asked Rocky if he wanted help lowering the 50% figure, he was hysterically incredulous...

Are you kidding??? No way! That's a work of art! I'm going to leave it up there!

Rocky's poor neighbors... If they hadn't understood that they were living near an authentic Cape Codder before the nudie Superwoman crash, they certainly did afterwards.

And so it goes... Adult "Children of the Clam" claim such bizarre accomplishments as being thrown out of a police station for drunken and comical conduct. We earn our PhDs in physics, and then become commercial fishermen. We buy a restaurant, and then actually get banned from the joint by our own employees. The stories go on and on and on...

Anyway, thankfully, I have escaped the insanity as the "grillin' in the Winter" picture below clearly shows.

Me%20in%20sleet%20on%20grill_400.jpg

Welcome to Cape Cod!

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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References

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April 20, 2008

How Fast Does a Grackle Move Its Head? ... A Great Web Site, Etc.

Hi,

Ever wonder how fast those jumpy, herky-jerky birds flit about? It looks like the grackle photo below might offer some insight...

Grackle%20with%20blurred%20beak_DSC_0069.jpg

Let's see what we can do with this picture...

  • The NovaBird camera used to take this pic has a very fixed focal length of 15 inches. Apparently, the camera focused on the tip of the beak, and hence the weird image above.
  • We know that the NovaBird's shutter speed is 1/60 of a second. And in that 60th of a second, the tip of the beak traveled apx 2 inches or .167 ft.
  • Grinding out the math, it looks like the grackle is moving its head at about 7 mph. More math suggests that the acceleration involved is something on the order of 10 feet per second squared.
  • However, the numbers are misleading... We're assuming that the image reflects uniform acceleration over the 2 inches - a terrible assumption. More accurately, the beak is probably starting at 0 mph, accelerating to about 15 mph in 1/120 of a second, then slowing down to 0 mph in the next 1/120 of a second. That peps things up a bit.
  • So just how quick is the movement? Somewhere in the order of a boxer's jab, (though of a considerably shorter duration). Then again, boxers can't jab all day long either.
Well, now that you're bored to tears, here's a respite - a site that is just cool beyond words... Check out USGS National Map Viewer. While it's slower than Google Earth, and really does tax even a high-speed connection, it offers many more features including a topographical option. IMHO, this is a master stroke, and deserves considerable study by serious birders.

And if the USGS didn't bust you out of the doldrums, how about a chickadee?

DSC_0054_cropped%20and%20enh.jpg

There... If that doesn't gun your motor, you're probably reading the wrong blog!

See you by those feeders,

CapeCodAlan

References

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April 17, 2008

Update on the Sparrows, Hummingbirds, and the NovaBird Camera

Hi all,

Well, as the photo below shows, the sparrow couple seems to be settling in rather nicely. If you look carefully, you can see the female holding a slight twig in her beak. If all things go to plan, she should lay eggs in a week or so, and then incubate them for another week or two... With a little luck, we should hear chirping by early May... Time will tell.

House%20Sparrow_%20couple_6_nice%20shot_enh_399_vivitar.JPG

(I really should go on a bird house building binge... Aside from the sparrows that now live in our existing bird house, chickadees and a woodpecker also expressed interest in the dwelling... But right now, the only thing Mrs. CapeCodAlan is going to let me build down in the shop is her cherry hutch... And she's right, I've got it more than halfway done - it's just that all of the challenging fun stuff is fini. But I can't build another boat until that hutch is finished so I guess I'd better snap to it.)

Not only is this the time of year for sparrow "domestic bliss", but it's also the season for the return of the humming bird. According to the Spring 2008 Migration of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Map, it looks like the critters are just about to enter Cape Cod air space. Now that is cool. This Spring and Summer, I'm going to make a concerted effort to get some decent photos of the little birds. I know the workings of the NovaBird well enough now to hold my own. (The NovaBird is a remote, movement-triggered camera.) Unfortunately, the rig has a very slow shutter speed, (1/60th of a second) so there's no way we can get a good stop-action photo of the bird in flight. Necessity is the mother of... Awww, you know.

And speaking of the NovaBird... It looks like you can no longer buy direct from the importer. Still there are some folks selling the camera. (For what it's worth, the NovaBird seems to have been manufactured by SunPlus in Taiwan, and the model we're familiar with is actually an SPCA533.) On the other hand, the Wingscapes BirdCam looks interesting too...

Gotta run... See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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April 13, 2008

The American Red Squirrel, Citing Sources, etc.

Cropped%20and%20resized_P4135734.JPG Hi,

Very lucky to get the photo to the right... The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is a quick little loner halfway in size between a chipmunk and a gray squirrel. Trying to photograph him is usually an exercise in futility in that he zips from spot to spot at a remarkable speed, and is particularly wary of humans... Let's see what we can find out about this guy...

  • Wikipedia claims that these critters are diurnal (active during the daytime), however the ones we've been seeing seem to be more crepuscular in nature (active during dawn and dusk).
  • Red squirrels tend to be highly territorial, and quite aggressive towards intruders. Frequently, we'll watch a red "run off" a larger gray at the dedicated squirrel feeder or on the ground.
  • On Cape Cod, it seems that both of these rodents are open game for most predators including the coyote. Other threats include cats, dogs, red-tailed hawks, foxes, and of course humans and their cars. Locally, we don't see nearly the amount of red squirrels as we do the grays, but in general (once again according to Wikipedia), they seem to be striving.
And in an indirect sort of way, that leads us to the next issue for this post - that of citing sources of information for this blog. First background... Ah, back in the days before the Web there were very fixed rules and styles required for giving intellectual credit where intellectual credit was due. (And failure to do so was an intellectual kiss of death.) Today however, things aren't nearly so straight forward. I might hit five or more Web sites corroborating a specific fact. (For example, there is some agreement that a full-grown red squirrel typically weighs 200–250g). To document all sites (not to mention a stack of books) involved in this corroboration process would make these posts needlessly bloated. Yet there are obviously times when uniqueness demands citation, such as the claim by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums that the American Red Squirrel tips the scales at 140 - 310g).

The bottom line is that we go to considerable lengths to make sure that the folks who create knowledge get their fair due, and that when I make a mistake, I fix it pronto. (See: Little Brown Bat Update.)

But when all is said and done (concerning squirrels, birds, or whatever), it's probably more practical to simply point to our references link unless a specific citation or correction is called for.

Well, that's about it for tonight folks...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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Backyard Birding and Global Warming

P4125705_resized.JPG

Hi,

It's a wonderfully stormy night here on the Cape, and I snapped the photo above just a few minutes ago... But the shot brought to mind an issue that has been bugging me for a long time, and I wanted to get it out in the open with you folks...

Deep breath...

Well, if I haven't managed to tick off every reader whose eyes have ever skimmed over this blog, this entry should fill the roster rather nicely. Yup, I'm going to post on global warming... But before I go forward into the muck of public opinion, let me just remind the reader that I've had to dog paddle my way through the mud of both a liberal arts education, and an engineering education. And both disciplines drummed home the mantra that "real knowledge" (vs. the colloquial) is a tricky thing indeed. We no more "know" the human psyche and condition, than we know the nature of the universe. Freud, Sartre, and Skinner no more gave us final fact than did Newton, Einstein, or Hawking. They offered direction, but not final knowledge. In short, beware those who state that they know global warming is or is not a function of man-made greenhouse gasses, (or if it is even happening at all).

So what have we got concerning long-term environmental change?

  • We know that the climate of the earth is changing. That we can measure. Over time, we can photograph the changes in global weather patterns and environment from space.
  • We know that the chemicals we're spewing into the land, water and air are bad stuff. If one were stupid enough to eat three-day-old city snow, he'd learn right quick that this is bad mojo. (And that is a highly repeatable and consistent experiment.)
  • According to the EPA: Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2000 Status and Trends Report, "The IPCC concluded that humans are changing the Earth’s climate, and that “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”"
  • Beyond the EPA report cited above, common sense would suggest that 6.6 billion people are taxing this old planet, as are the billions of tons of pollution we loft skyward every year.
So where is all this going? My point is that far too often, the debate concerning global warming simply reflects the scientific and social egotism of our time. Arrogance, agenda, and the oh-so-warm waters of righteous knowledge get in the way of the issue - that of the environment. Put another way, I'm suggesting that all too often we pull an "Al Gore" and trumpet the issue rather than personally addressing it. As backyard birders (and birders in general) we should be sensitive to all aspects of the environment, including global warming (whatever its causes) and act! So... Do you act? Do you carpool? Do you recycle? Do you telecommute? Do you use energy-saving appliances and lights? Do you check your car's tire pressures? Do you drive your car as infrequently as possible and share shopping chores with your neighbors? Do you keep your furnace clean??? Look, you know the drill...

I'll be taking care of the feeders even though I don't know whether it's the birds or the elements that are wearing at them... See you there maybe...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. As soon as one of the experts can repeatedly and reliably tell me what my local weather will be 14 days from now, I'll start to consider the feasibility of "knowing" the global warming conundrum a century hence. Until then, I'm just going to play it safe, avoid the politics, and do the right thing.

P.P.S. This was recently in the headlines: Who's Who on Inhofe's List of 400 Global Warming Deniers

P.P.P.S. Told you that I'd tick everyone off.

Sources:

EPA: Climate Change - Science - State of knowledge

U.S. Census Bureau: World POPClock Projection)

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April 11, 2008

A Painless Look at Backyard Birding Math

Hi,

I was thinking of giving this post the title, Suet and the Lonely City Housewives or Penultimate Fight Club Underneath the Feeders, but that just didn't seem honest. So here we stand, facing the dreaded "Math Beast". Oh, this is going to be worse than a root canal performed by Dr. Yank using a brass band as Novocaine! Let's just get it over with...

  • First on our list of terrors is a quick way for most readers to determine how much sunlight they have left towards the end of the day. All you need to do is turn towards the sun, extend your arm fully with your palm facing towards you and the bottom of your pinkie resting on the horizon, and count up the number of fingers until you hit the sun. Each finger represents around 10 minutes of remaining daylight. Obviously, you may have to change this technique depending on where you live, and the size of your hand, but that will at least put you in the ballpark. (Note! Staring at the sun can be harmful... I can't believe that people and their lawyers need these kinds of warnings...)
  • This next one is a knee knocker - using your hand to measure distant angles... Extend your arm and hand as above making sure that the bottom of your pinkie is level with your eye. Each finger represents about two degrees of arc. This comes in handy when trying to measure distances...
  • And speaking of distances, have you ever wondered how tall a tree was or pondered just how high up a certain bird perched? Yeah, a little bit of the old mean math can give you some idea... Take a look at the masterpiece below...

    Stick%20man%20measuring%20height%20of%20tree_400_final.jpg

    Here's the skinny... You can roughly determine the height of a tree or whatever using just a tape rule and your tootsies...

    1. Pace off ten or twenty strides and measure the distance. Repeat the process a couple of times. Next take the distance covered by the fixed number of strides and average. There... You now have a respectable tool for approximating significant distance.
    2. Onward... Pace away from the tree until you can hold out a bit of your tape rule such that a fixed length of vertical measure uniformly covers the tree from base to top. In the impressionistic work above, the travel equals 100 feet and the red tape rule reads just 6 inches.
    3. Now, note the distance from your eyes to the tape rule. In the case of our little stick-figure fellow with the long arm this seems to be about 18 inches.
    4. Convert all measurements to the same unit, (in this example feet).
    5. Warm up the theremin, 'cause we're coming down the home stretch! Multiply the size of the red ruler by the paced distance to the tree, and then divide the result by the eye-to-ruler measurement. In this case, that boils down to: (0.5' * 100')/1.5' ... Which equals 33.33' or 33' 4".
There, now that wasn't so bad was it? In fact, common house-hold sundries and a little bit of the not-so-vicious math will let you calculate small weights to a fraction of an ounce, figure diameters to hundredths of an inch, and wrestle warping down to the thousandths. Quite cool actually...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. If you'd care to see the math behind the formula above, email me... Much fun with similar triangles...

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April 8, 2008

Humor and Squirrels' Whiskers

Hi,

One of the dilemmas of writing humor is the issue of "too easy". That is to say, that a writer may struggle with an over-abundance of comic materials. Here are a few examples of such dilemmas...

  • The 1988 photo of senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart wearing a "Monkey Business" t-shirt whist a very young, attractive, and non-wife Donna Rice sits on his lap
  • The President of the United States declaring "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..."
  • And who can forget the Ted Kennedy "Mike McGuire and Sammy Souza" line?
Now that's the stuff that makes writing humor just a little too easy. Ditto for the photos below...

DSC_0175_425.jpg

What to say about this guy? We could've given him a "Sopranos" name like "Jimmy the Cob" and made up a "gangsta" story about the squirrel's tough upbringing and his "need for seed".

On the other hand, we might have taken a more "Dr. Seuss" approach and fired off a post entitled "Gold Corn and Seed". Imagine for a moment a squirrel trying to avoid the temptation of "Reid-I-am", a "pusher" of corn and seed.

That Reid-I-am,
That Reid-I-am.
He demands I try gold corn and seed!

"But Please!" snarled Reid-I-am, "You must try my gold corn and seed!"

I do not like them,
Reid-I-am.
I do not like
gold corn and seed.

Would you like them here or there?
Would you like them behind the dumpster at the fair?

Look moron, I would not like them anywhere...
So, Reid-I-am,
depart,
lest I do three to five in the slam.

Naw... Everyone knows the ending, and besides, I can't draw dumpsters.

What else? What else? I could tell you that the ubiquitous Gray Squirrel's teeth never stop growing and the reason that the rodents continually gnaw is to keep their toothers sharp and under control... Boring! Nope... I've got some great squirrel pics (which you can see in our Flickr library), but I just don't know what to do with them...

Well, as the old Cape Cod saying goes, "When you can't dance or flesh out a blog post, and it's too windy to stack BBs, start counting the squirrel whiskers..."

DSC_0175_face_only.jpg

I see roughly 15 per each side of the face... Wow!!! Now that's the kind of intellectual minutia that will blow away your Mensa brethren twixt acts two and three at the Met.

See you by those oh so interesting feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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April 6, 2008

The Song Sparrow and Free Stuff

Funny how you can look at something for years and not really notice it. Both Mrs. CapeCodAlan and I are guilty of doing this when it comes to the Song Sparrow...

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In general, we tended to group various sparrows, wrens, warblers, and finches into a category we called "Little Brown Birds" (aka "LBBs"). The sad thing is that the LBBs are so ubiquitous in these parts, that we rarely took careful note of them. That is, until the wife spotted one in the front yard. We were fortunate to get a good close look at him and snap the picture above. (I can only wonder how many great shots I got with the NovaBird camera that I subsequently erased because they were just pics of "those common little birds".) What a shame...

Onward to a subject that we can all embrace - free (or nearly free) stuff! Specifically, I'm talking about Freecycle. Their mission statement pretty much says it all... "Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community." The idea behind Freecycle is simple - recycle working stuff by giving it away to people who will use it. It's not a "charity" site... It's not a "dump your junk" site... It's not a, "Let me see what I can find for free and then turn around and sell it on eBay" site... And it's not a "for sale" site... It's a site where people post free unwanted stuff, or ask if anyone out there has some working item that the owner just doesn't want anymore. In short, Freecycle is about community. (Example of Freecycle in action... We had a large box of computer equipment collecting dust... All in working condition, but none of it useful to us anymore. We placed it on Freecycle, and it was in the hands of a very happy and deserving soul by the end of the day.) As for backyard birders (and birders in general), perhaps you have a spare birding book, or need some binoculars... You get the idea.

Anyway, I'll try to do a better job getting close-ups of the LBBs, and perhaps you can partake in Freecycle...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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April 4, 2008

Red-Tails, Turkey Vultures, and What Not

Hi,

Looks like it's time for a more or less random collection of bird news, pics, and other stuff...

  • Feathers and down on the deck tell their own sad tale... Yup, the remains in the photo below suggest that a hawk got some poor bird. My guess is that a mourning dove met its fate here, though there really isn't much conclusive evidence left behind.

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  • In general, hawks are creatures worthy of distance whenever possible. A girl touring Fenway Park was attacked today. (Setting aside the rare assault on humans, Boston raptors (hawks and falcons) hold their own in the more mundane task of rodent control.)
  • And speaking of red-tailed hawks, here's one now... The wife and I were out for a drive last weekend, and she spotted this fellow. This photo was taken behind the old fire station on Bank St. in Harwich... (See: Harwich Conservation Trust.)

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  • But by far and away, the coolest part of our drive was spotting a couple of turkey vultures! We were in Chatham on Rt. 28 by Larry's PX when they caught our attention...

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    Now is that neat or what?!? When the wife pointed out the birds, I thought she was kidding. To me, they looked like those oversized, fake owls people put on the tops of barns to scare away the crows. It wasn't until one of the buggers moved that I realized that they were for real. We're talking huge birds here... They looked to be about the size of a medium Thanksgiving Day turkey (though they only weigh about 3 pounds). Still, with a wingspan of 6 feet, a turkey vulture is a real attention getter.

So let's wrap this post up... Hawk stuff... Turkey vulture stuff... What other random stuff? Well... The reason Suzie and I went for that drive in the first place was to check out a killer yard sale... Turns out that the proprietor sold a $5,000 Boston Whaler for $500 the day before... Arghhh!!! And you wonder why I'm posting a picture of a turkey vulture...

See you randomly and brokenhearted by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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April 1, 2008

A Crow and a Banana Walk Into a Bar

There are times in life (often in Spring), when only the most harmless and absurd will do... {You know... Like going to a theater, then (as folks file in) quietly passing a dollar to the person in front of you and telling him to silently pass it forward with instructions to repeat the process ad nauseum. Gotta love that hub-bub, Bub.} Yeah, we're talking crazy Spring stuff.

And so the question lilted free... "What would happen if a crow was offered a banana?" (Yes, it's been a long, cold winter.) The photo below shows the result.

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And there you go... Another great intellectual exercise brought to closure... Should a hungry crow be offered a banana, he or she will in fact eat the banana with great gusto. (After old road kill, it would seem that all things organic look palatable? Beyond even that, one might wonder if a crow would know how to defend himself against fresh fruit, but that's another story.)

In any event, the fun isn't over yet... Far from it. It's about time to set out one of our rare "Bungee Squirrel Extravaganza Machines"! Now we're talking knee-slapping action! This link offers insight into the upcoming entertainment... Tomorrow is supposed to be windy, but it's just a matter of time. T'aint nothing like watching a squirrel tackle an ear of corn on a bungee...

To wrap this one up... A crow and a banana walk into a bar, and the crow turns to the banana and asks, "How on earth did you learn to walk?" The banana replies... ... ... "A fish took my bicycle." (And you thought that I was going to mention something about the appeal of the exercise... Hah!)

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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