Friday, March 31, 2006

That didn't work too well

I'm going back to the web page format. I got to work today and took a look at the media server and decided it stank. So forget the "mms:" address and go back to I'll try not to change that again -- just trying to get better performance!

I've been entertaining the folks at work by showing them how "my" hummingbird feeds the babies. Hang around a few minutes and see if you can catch her in action!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New webcam stuff and the latest pictures

First of all, I'm trying a new webcam protocol. In an effort to provide a better picture, I'm trying out the Windows Media Encoder. This method requires the the viewer to have Windows Media Player, which I understand is available for both Windows and Mac platforms. The link is mms:// Note the "mms" at the beginning instead of http. This link should open up your Windows Media Player and start buffering the streaming video coming from my computer. Please let me know if it doesn't work for you. I'm still trying to find the best way to share my little birds with the world. The quest for a good camera continues. Until I find a good camera, though, I'm afraid the picture will be out of focus.

Speaking of focus, here are the badly focused pictures taken today. Both babies are happily squirming, and I swear I can already tell they've grown. Here's a picture that shows just a hint of baby fuzz.

And here's a picture of a tiny yellow beak -- see it there at the top right of that black blob? The blob is the head, and the yellow attachment is a beak. As always, you can click on the picture to see a larger version. I promise I'll get some good pictures someday! Really I will! I just never have the time to take a good picture. When the mother leaves the nest, I zip in, snap three or four fast shots, and then run away within a minute.

Stay tuned! It's going to get better from here on!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

And then there were two

Well, apparently I miscalculated. When I came home from work today I took a quick peek and there are now two little black aliens in the hummingbird nest. They have arrived!

We should now have about three weeks of baby watching before they take wing and start coming to the feeder on their own. I can't wait to watch their stubby little beaks grow. I wonder if I'll be able to tell whether they're male or female. I wonder if the mother will raise another brood before the end of the summer. I bet she will, and I hope she likes her current accommodations. I hear they sometimes re-use the same nest.

The webcam continues to be a little problematic. If you come to the webcam and find the picture is too dark, check back in a bit. The camera has an automatic iris that isn't too smart. During the brightest part of the day, it closes up the iris and makes the picture too dark. Some of the best images are early in the morning, 6:00 to 7:30 a.m., then again around 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., Pacific time, when the sunlight is fading.

I'm still looking at ways of getting a better live picture out on the web. I love these little birds and I want to share them as much as possible!

The webcam is online

A quick note for those who want to view the hummingbird webcam but have run into the "Offline" message -- it's not offline! Just click your browser's Reload button. I think the camera goes to sleep if no one has viewed it in a while.


Monday, March 27, 2006


After that last post I went and checked on the progress of the DVD. It's still churning away.

Then I went and checked on the nest. We have a blessed event!!!!!!! These pictures don't show much except a black blob, so please try to imagine this tiny, knobby, hairy, black blob wiggling around in the bottom of a tiny nest the size of a Coke bottle cap. I'm elated! I'm sorry about the rotten pictures, but I won't be taking anymore for a little while. I must leave the nest alone so I don't scare the mother away.

The second egg should hatch on Wednesday, according to my research. The articles say the mother generally skips a day between laying her two eggs, so the second should hatch two days after the first. I can't wait to bring you pictures of these two as they mature into big, mean hummingbirds!

Lights, camera, action

We continue to await news from the hummingbird nest, but I'm certain it will be coming any moment now. I've tried to improve the webcam accessibility, but I'm afraid I've lost quality in the attempt. Still, everyone ought to be able to view the camera now at Please let me know if it doesn't work for you. My fingers are crossed that it will now work for any browser, PC or Mac, even if the frame rate isn't too good.

And as I type this, my other computer is whirring away upstairs, churning out a final copy of the video we made for the International Documentary Challenge. We ended up going to the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada, and talking to Pat Travis, the proprietor. She was a wonderful personality and we're really proud of the resulting video. I've put a copy of the video here for the time being, although I may remove it soon. Check it out while you have the chance!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Well, the documentary business is going very, very slowly. Our assigned genre was character study. Ick. That means we have to find a character. We have to find someone who's interesting right now -- we can't rely on something they did long ago that was interesting. So, OK, this is Las Vegas, right? There must be a million interesting people! We called about half of them today and they're so interesting (or so busy) they can't talk to us. We do have a lead on someone who does something extraordinary, but I'm not going to jinx it by saying anything right now. Just wish me luck.

In the meantime, I did have the chance to take a few pictures of the hummingbird nest today. I watched the star on her webcam today, and she was doing something a little different and new. She would leave the nest, but when she returned she would perch on the twig beside the nest and look in. Ooh! Was something going on in there?! I had to find out. In the late afternoon I sneaked a few pictures. There are still two eggs, no chicks. It's exciting to know the little ones will be hatching soon -- almost certainly within the next week.

The picture at the top of this post shows a little bit of the camera setup. That's a green fence post on the left, and you can see the nest at the bottom right -- click on any of the images to see a much larger version. And I'm attaching a real close-up of the nest. It's amazing to think of how long it took her to gather up all those tiny spiderwebs and fibers.

Oh, and if you're still reading, you might be interested in this article. It's full of detailed information about black-chinned hummingbirds and their nests.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quick nest cam update

Y'all are so nice! No one has written to me to say "It's ridiculous of you to ask us to do all that stuff just to see your crummy camera." If I were someone else trying to look at this hummingbird nest, that's exactly what I would have said.

I've been trying for the last two nights to put in a different video delivery system and failing miserably. I'd like to be able to tell people to just go to a web page to view streaming video instead of jumping through all the hoops in my last post. (Besides, I can't see the camera from work because the firewall at work won't let me use the ports that are being used by my current software!) I've found the right software, but I can't seem to get the proper video card, USB connector, or whatever to get the RCA connector on my camera to talk to my PC. Last night's effort to plug in a USB converter was thwarted when I took the thing out of the box and found that the installation CD was scratched. One would think the manufacturer's web site would have a driver, but no such luck. Their tech support page said "Sorry! This page is still under construction." Oh. Hmm. Yeah. OK. Thanks. The thing is going back to the store today. And yes, I'll tell them about the scratched CD. The package had evidence of being opened, so maybe the previous purchaser didn't tell them.

Tonight at 7:00 I will receive in e-mail a topic for a documentary. My husband and I will have until Monday evening, March 27, to finish the four to eight-minute documentary and send it off to be judged. So, as you might imagine, I'll be pretty busy between tonight and next Monday. With luck, maybe my topic will be nature, and I'll be able to document this little backyard miracle as part of the film. Here are the details about the Documentary Challenge, if you're curious.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I probably won't have time to work on the nest cam in the next few days. I'm still planning to get it up and going, though, so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ready for her close-up

I couldn't take it. Before my head exploded, I had to go get a camera and put my hummingbird on the tube. This evening we waited for her to take her last trip to the feeder and my husband and I zipped in with a camera on a stake. If you want to keep track of the nest with me over the coming weeks, here are the long, involved, overly-complicated steps you must take.
  • Go to -- yes, that's port 81. I can't be normal and just give a simple address like
  • I know the site will work with Internet Explorer and that it won't work with Firefox. I'm not sure whether it works with AOL's browser. Bay, can you enlighten me?
  • You'll have to download and install the video viewing software when you go to the web site the first time. This is because I'm using a lousy video capture card that doesn't serve the images directly to the browser. Sorry about that, folks! It's a one-time deal, though.
  • The software always prompts me to change my screen resolution. I like to keep my monitor on high resolution, but the software requires 1024 x 768.
  • If you've actually gotten through all these steps, you can log in with the user name nest and the password nest. Use the button with a key on it to log in.
  • Unless I'm mistaken, you'll only be able to view live surveillance, not remote playback. The playback feature is only available from the local network, I believe.
I hope you guys will enjoy watching this as much as I will!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Now we sit and wait

This is torture. Today is Saturday. I'm home. There's a hummingbird nest just feet from my door, and I can't go out there and stare at it! I wouldn't want to scare her away, of course. So I stand at the patio door and wait for her to pop out for a bite to eat. Then, of course, I worry that she's away from her nest and that her eggs will get cold. I know she knows what she's doing, but I can't help but worry. Is she a first time mother?

I have to confess, too, that I'm busily thinking about how I could get a weatherproof video camera out there and attach it to the web so I can keep an eye on the happenings at the nest. So far I've resisted going to Fry's, but my resolve is weakening.

I took the above picture from about 12 feet away with my telephoto lens straining as hard as it would go. See the photo below for a comparison of the size of the nest to the size of the bush. I'm done visiting for today. I feel like a kid at Christmas, though. Come on!!!! Hurry up and hatch!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

A bird in the hand

Remember that hummingbird I talked about in my last post? That vicious female who was guarding the bush in my back yard? That bush is about six feet away from the patio where the feeder hangs. That bush is the first stop of Leon the bulldog every morning. And that bush is now home to a couple of tiny miracles in the making.

When I was in high school, a friend of my mother's pointed out the nest of a ruby throated hummingbird to me. It was maybe 20 feet up in a pine tree, and the only way you could know there was a hummingbird nest up there was to follow the path of the mother and note where she stopped. So when I saw that this female was guarding the bush right here behind my house, I hardly dared hope she would make her nest there. I've looked in the bush two or three times over the last few days, but I didn't spot the nest until this morning. I was late to work because I had to stop and take pictures, then I had to send them to my sister, then I had to call my sister on the way to work and insist that she check her e-mail immediately.

I know the gestation period will be about two weeks, but I don't know when she laid these eggs. She was spending a lot of time on top of the bush last Sunday. Surely she hadn't laid the eggs yet. She wouldn't have left them alone that long. Oh! And do you suppose she was all fluffed up because she was so pregnant?

By the way, I haven't seen a male around here yet, but I was obviously wrong about her not having a mate. Now, where's this deadbeat dad?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Tired of the hummingbirds yet?

Well, I'm not.

Here are some of the latest pictures. First of all, there's a new picture of a couple of birds at the feeder. The picture was taken Friday night. The newcomer is fluffed up, either because she's trying to look like a big, bad, mean hummingbird or because it's stinkin' cold in Las Vegas. I'm pretty sure both birds are female black-chinned hummingbirds.

I'm starting to think this may be the last time I see two birds on the feeder at the same time, though. One of the girls has decided that this feeder is hers and hers alone. She's staked out a spot on a bush near the patio and is dedicated to running off any intruders with the audacity to think they might get a sip of nectar from the feeder. As far as I can tell, she doesn't have a mate, so maybe she's just grumpy. The problem for me, though, is that I'd like to see a variety of hummingbirds in the yard. I've put up another feeder in the side yard and I'm thinking about adding another one in the other side yard. She can't guard them all at the same time.

Today's high is supposed to get all the way up to 53, but by Thursday the highs should be back to normal, close to 70. I can't wait.

Besides the hummingbirds, the only other big news is that I won a t-shirt by answering a trivia question at The Strip podcast. Anyone who's interested in the behind the scenes workings of the Las Vegas entertainment industry would appreciate this podcast. It hit the news recently when Steve Wynn made some comments about the performance of several Broadway shows that have made their way to Las Vegas. Taken out of context, it sounded like Wynn was trashing the competition, but listening to the whole interview, I think he was just making a reasonable evaluation of the business.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Two at a time

Now, here's an unusual occurrence. Two hummingbirds within inches of each other, and there's no battle. Sorry about the devilish eyes -- I had to use a flash because the light was fading fast. To be honest, I kind of hoped the flash would help illuminate some color on the birds besides green.

Are those two females? I know the one on the right is a female black-chinned hummingbird, but who's that on the left? A biologist looked at the pictures from my last post and her opinion was that the one with dark feathers under her chin is probably an Anna's female. So does tonight's picture show two females, one Anna's and one black-chinned?

The weather has been a bit cool the last few days, and this weekend is supposed to be especially cold, with highs around 50. The norm for this time of year is about 70. I'm afraid I jinxed all of Las Vegas by mentioning Spring in my last post. Oops. Sorry about that, y'all.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Colorful Las Vegas visitors

My weekend was spent peering out the back door. That's where the hummingbird feeder is. Now, I was surprised back in January when the hummingbirds started coming back to Las Vegas. Silly things should have stayed in Mexico! However, I got used to the black-chinned hummingbirds pretty quickly. I'd seen them all last summer, so it was nice that they remembered me and came back.

But now there are newcomers. I came home a little bit earlier than usual one afternoon last week and got a good look at something that was decidedly not a black-chinned hummingbird. This male had color all over its head, not just a little dark purple band under his chin. My impression was that his whole head was bright rose. An Anna's hummingbird, perhaps? Well, I still don't know! I spent the weekend standing at the patio door with a camera on a tripod, trying to get a picture of that colorful male. I never saw him again. In fact, I never saw a male black-chinned hummingbird this weekend. The girls have run off the boys!

Well, no, that's not exactly true. I haven't seen the boys at the feeder, but I had the thrill of watching a male hummingbird display in my very own backyard! Yes, a male flasher on my patio! A female was perched in the bush just behind my patio, and I saw a streak plummet down in front of her, swoop in a sharp arc at the bottom of his dive, and zip straight back up. At the same time, I heard a loud "Chrip!" at the bottom of the arc, followed by several "chip, chip, chip, chip" squeaks as he climbed back toward the sky. I was sitting on the patio, so I couldn't see how high he went, but a few seconds later he repeated the performance. Wow! I don't know about his girl perched in the bush, but I know I was quite impressed with his avian studliness.

The two pictures at the top of this post were taken on Saturday. I don't know what type of female hummingbird this is -- all the females are green and white. I do like these pictures, though. The close-up of her head even shows pollen on her beak, and you can see her little tongue sticking out at the end of her beak as if she's saying "Nyeah! I dare you to figure out what kind of hummingbird I am!"

On Sunday I saw another female at the feeder, but this girl was different. She had dark feathers under her chin. Logic would say this must be a black-chinned hummingbird, but I don't think those females have black chins. Do Costa's females have dark chins? I need a hummingbird expert to tell me what I've got here! To be honest, though, I don't really care. I'm just glad they're here! I hope they stay all summer.

Oh, and a weather report -- spring is almost here!