Sunday, June 25, 2006

No birds in this blog post

Weird, isn't it? Things have slowed down in the backyard birds department, so let's see what else has been going on.

I was in Washington, DC, last week presenting a paper at a conference. It gave me the chance to release a few Where's George dollars in our nation's capitol. The happy result was that I quickly added the District of Columbia to the list of states where my bills have been tracked. Now there's only Delaware standing in the way of my 50 State Bingo.

I just posted a video of Leon the bulldog on YouTube. Let's see if I can link to it here.

This is a video Paul and I made in the summer of 2005 just to try out some new editing software before the 48 Hour Film Project. (Hence the silly transitions.) To be honest, I never really planned to make it publicly available, but I came across it today and thought oh, what the heck. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Orioles in da 'hood

I promised more pictures, and I'm finally able to deliver. These hooded orioles are determined not to be photographed, especially the male. My routine for the past week or so has been as follows. I sit at my breakfast nook overlooking the patio, typing away at my computer and watching the hummingbird feeder. The camera is a few feet away on a tripod, aimed directly at the feeder. At the first glimpse of an oriole, I leap up, dash to the camera, and watch as the oriole flies away.

On a couple of occasions I've been able to sneak to the camera without alerting the female to my presence. I didn't realize until I looked at these pictures that she has a bit of a crossed beak. Poor thing looks a little frazzled, too. I wonder if she's sitting on a nest or feeding babies. I wonder if I'll see juveniles at my feeder. Anyway, note that in this picture the female is demonstrating how an oriole drinks from a feeder that's not designed for an oriole. I was surprised that their beaks would fit into those tiny holes, but maybe it's just their tongue that has to get in there.

I've only been able to get one picture of the male at the feeder. As you can see in the image at the top of this post, the oriole feeder is backlit and difficult to photograph. If he'll keep coming to the hummingbird feeder, though, I'll keep the camera on the tripod in an effort to get a better picture.

Monday, June 05, 2006

What iPods are good for

I got an iPod a few months ago because I was intrigued by the world of podcasts. At that time there was a big brouhaha brewing over some statements Steve Wynn purportedly made about the entertainment choices at competitors' establishments. Wynn made the comments on a podcast called The Strip, so I went in search of the original interview, curious to see whether there was anything to this story. As it turned out, Wynn's comments didn't sound at all judgmental when heard in context. He was simply addressing the business of entertainment on the Las Vegas strip.

What I had stumbled on, though, was the wonderful world of podcasting. I had heard about the phenomenon, but I wasn't an early adopter. I had been aware of iPods for a while -- I first heard about them several years ago when fellow MINI owners were talking about hooking them up to their car stereos. I had always thought of them as fancy Walkmans, though, so I was pretty sure they wouldn't be something I'd be too interested in.

I was wrong.

There are podcasts out there that cover just about any conceivable topic. The Strip, for instance, covers news and entertainment in Las Vegas. The real appeal of this particular podcast is that the two hosts really know their stuff. Miles is a producer at a local TV station, so he gets the inside scoop on the big stories. Steve is a successful freelance journalist, writing for the likes of Newsweek, USA Today, and publications of that ilk. (Nice ilk!) In addition to the aforementioned Steve Wynn interview, they've landed interviews with Dennis Miller, Johnny Mathis, Howie Mandel, Hal Prince, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Franco Dragone -- real legends in the entertainment industry. This ain't no "Hey, we got us a computer, so let's do a podcast" operation. These guys are the real deal.

If you have an iPod and an interest in Las Vegas, I highly recommend The Strip podcast. The latest news to break on the podcast: Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't know that the show opening soon at the Venetian will be Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular. Sir Andrew was under the impression that the show would be Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Just goes to show you, Steve and Miles have a better handle on Las Vegas entertainment than the showmakers themselves!

And if you check it out and like it as much as I do, be sure to vote for them at Podcast Alley. I'm having a blast watching their votes come in this month, catapulting them over lesser podcasts. I love it when the good guys win!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bird gestation periods and other stuff

My post about "What brings you here?" actually brought more people looking for bird gestation periods. Google is sending people by the dozens who are looking for "hummingbird gestation period," "cardinal gestation period," "house wren gestation period," and so on. To those who have come here for that information, let me offer these notes.
  • The black-chinned hummingbird gestation (incubation) period is about two weeks.
  • From what I've been able to find on the Internet, cardinal eggs hatch after 11 to 13 days, house wrens hatch after 13 or 14 days.
  • I've found it more productive to search for "incubation period" than "gestation period." Like I said below, I made the same mistake myself when I first wrote about the hummingbirds in my yard, so please don't think I'm criticizing! Just learning from my own mistakes.
  • A great source for information about wild birds is Cornell's All About Birds web site.
In other bird news, I just bought a pair of hummingbird houses from Dan and Diane True. They came in the mail today. I haven't yet put them up, but I have high hopes. I think there will have to be a negotiation with Paul about where to locate these nest platforms. I want to install one under the patio roof, next to a supporting column that blocks the wind. That just happens to be right over where our grill lives, though, so a hummingbird nest would curtail our grilling activities. Of course, we could move the grill, but Paul's a little set in his ways. We shall see if he goes for this.

Along with the hummingbird houses, I also bought the Trues' hummingbird DVD. Amazing! It's fascinating to watch the nest building process and there's even video of a mother hummingbird laying an egg. I highly recommend the video to all hummingbird lovers.

In yet more bird news, the hooded oriole I wrote about back on April 17 has decided to hang around. In the last week I've seen both the male and a female on the hummingbird feeder. They've decided this is really an oriole feeder, except that the perches are too close to the feeding ports. They solve that problem by leaning around the bottle and drinking from the feeding port on the other side. While I applaud their ingenuity, I've decided to buy an oriole feeder just for them...and, of course, any friends and family they might have in the neighborhood.

While I wait for the feeder to be delivered, I've bought some oranges and have attempted to make them available to the orioles. My first attempt was to put a cut orange on a table on the patio. I watched the female oriole hang off the hummingbird feeder and examine the orange, but she made no attempt to fly to the table and claim her prize. It looked to me as if she were thinking, "Um, yeah. See, I know oranges, and oranges grow on trees. Oranges that are on a flat surface are rotten and have fallen off the tree. Get a clue."

So I got a clue. I have now tied an orange to that column I mentioned earlier. It's very near the hummingbird feeder, so the orioles can't miss it. I decided not to tie the orange to a tree because my trees seem to all be covered with ants. There wouldn't be any orange left for the orioles if the ants got there first. If the orioles turn their beaks up at the orange I've affixed to my house, I'm just going to eat the rest of the oranges myself and let the birds wait for the feeder. (That's not too terribly heartless of me since the feeder is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow.) In the meantime, they don't seem to mind using the hummingbird feeder. The hummers mind, but the orioles don't.