BirdCam Raison D'être

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

I know, I know, it's a terrible photo.  But for me, it's a very important photo.  Last summer, the suet feeder in my front patio was visited by a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).  It was both startling and thrilling to see such a large, impressive bird coming to the feeders.  I watched him through the blinds, and regretted not being able to get a photo.  If he had spotted me, he would have been gone in a flash.  This bird's visit was the inspiration for installing a Wingscapes BirdCam 2.0.

I now have two BirdCams set up in the yard.  One is in the front yard which is a meadow-like habitat.  The second is in the backyard which approximates a forest edge habitat.  While there is some overlap, I am seeing different species at the two locations.  This is not just explained by which lure is in place.  I believe the surrounding habitat also plays a role in which birds will be seen visiting a feeder.

Though barely adequate, the woodpecker photo represents an accomplishment for me and justifies the installation of the automatic BirdCams.  Then, this past week there was this:

Western Tanager
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)
In 23 years, I have never seen a Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) in my yard.  In fact, I have never seen one in my entire lifetime, so imagine my delight.  This is another advantage of the BirdCam, encountering the unexpected.  This migratory bird only visits Washington during the spring and summer breeding season.  As it happens, they like the coniferous forest edge habitat provided by my backyard.  I have more photos and I will be publishing a separate post on the species soon.

Finally, there is a bird I see a lot, but never expected to catch at the BirdCam:

Northwestern Crow
Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus)
The Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus) is our local beachcombing Corvid.  They are distinguished from the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhychos) by a deeper voice, slightly smaller size and a preference for living around beaches.  Many of us share that inclination.  Like the Gulls, I have watched them fly up and drop mussels onto the beach rocks to crack them open.  These intelligent birds may have learned this skill from the Gulls.  Beginning last summer, there is pair that flies up to my patio feeders from the beach almost every day.  They politely take turns at the platform feeder, while the other checks out the planters.  Despite their size and reputation, these are charming and gentle visitors.

A fascinating book about the complex and intelligent Corvids is In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell.  The accompanying PBS Nature documentary "A Murder of Crows"  is also worth checking out.  By the way, "murder" is the term for a group of crows.

I believe the installation of the BirdCams has been justified.  These have turned out to be more productive and more fun than I imagined.  Based on these shots, I will be making some adjustments in the focal length and setup of the backyard station. My goal now is to get a really clear shot of the Pileated Woodpecker.  Stay tuned.

Comments

  1. Great post Dave and a very cool idea - are the images triggered by motion or are you able to watch the view through a live wireless feed and snap the pics when you get a good composition?

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  2. Hi Dave. The images are triggered automatically by both motion and heat sensors as I understand it. Then the job is to go through the shots and glean out the good ones. Part of the fun is discovering what the camera managed to catch. Wifi comes in if using an "Eye-Fi" SD card in the camera. It transmits photos to your PC via wifi. Appreciate your comments. Thanks.

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