Trumpeter Swans

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

This morning I took a Zipcar out to do some targeted birding on Long Island. First stop was the Timber Point Golf Course West Marina for the Dovekie. However the marina had frozen over and it left overnight. Damn. Should have gone yesterday. And the pictures others got were so cute! These are adorable birds, and you usually have to take a pelagic to get even a quick glimpse of one flying by half a klick away.

Then 30 miles northeast to Upper Lake in Yaphank for my life Trumpeter Swans. The lake had also frozen over, but there was a little water in the far north corner of the lake, and there they were:

2 White swans with black bills

Only it turns out to due to captive breeding and release programs Trumpeter Swans aren’t accepted as countable in New York. Double Damn. This is actually the 5th swan species for my list (after Mute, Black, Whooper and Tundra) but only 2–Mute and Tundra–are countable where I saw them.

Tagged Gulls ID’d

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The USGS has identified both of the tagged Ring-billed Gulls I found recently. As expected, both were tagged by Dr. Tom French in Massachusetts.

A99 from Gravesend Bay was banded at the Upper Blackstone Wastewater Treatment Plant in Worcester, Massachusetts on November 5, 2008. Sex unknown and born in 2005 or earlier.

A99 certificate


Prediction: The Apple Tablet is Going to Flop Worse Than the Newton

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The more I hear about the rumored Apple tablet coming later today, the more I’m convinced this isn’t going to work. The love child of an iPod Touch and a Kindle might be pretty but it isn’t world changing in the way the iPhone and the Mac were. More to the point, it won’t save the media industry from their own outdated business models. Newspaper publishers and magazine publishers and book publishers are so desperate for some hope of salvation that they’ll swim to anyone who promises to throw them a life preserver, not noticing that the life preserver is made out of lead. Remember, we’re talking about people who think the problem with HTML is that it isn’t more like PDF. The surest sign that a technology will fail is when senior citizen C-level execs are gaga over it.

I could be totally wrong about this, as could everyone else who’s been posting rumors about what the Apple tablet is actually going to be and actually going to do. It could well be that the use case for the tablet is something we haven’t even imagined yet, and if so all bets are off. However, if the fundamental raison d’être for the tablet is simply to be a nice e-book/magazine/newspaper reader with network connectivity and a built-in iTunes content store, it’s DOA. Microsoft made this mistake with Blackbird, MSN, and Silverlight. AOL, Prodigy, Genie, and Compuserve all made this mistake; and it killed three of them, and is slowly killing the last. Apple made this mistake before itself with eWorld. (Remember that?)

The bottom line is that the Web wins. The Web is the content delivery platform. Paid or free, what people want is an open two-way platform based on networked hypertext. Furthermore, that platform should be as open as possible. The more DRM is imposed, the less people will use it. Even a simple registration form is enough to drive more than half of potential readers away. If the content for the iPad isn’t on the Web — if it’s in some nonstandard, closed, non-editable format like PDF that’s served only from Apple’s servers or the servers of big media over some proprietary protocol — the tablet will fail. If the content looks good on an iPad but doesn’t look good in Firefox on Linux, or Chrome on Windows, or in Internet Explorer with JavaScript turned off, the tablet will fail. If you can read an article, but you can’t save it, or e-mail it, or copy and paste from it, the tablet will fail.

Sorry Big Media. This has been tried before and failed before, many, many times. Sprinkling magic Apple pixie dust over a bad business model won’t make it profitable. Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen gave you the most important technological development in publishing since Gutenberg, and you’ve spent 20 years proving you have no clue whatsoever how to use it while teenagers blogging from their parents’ basements beat you up and took your lunch money. A shiny new toy from Apple won’t save you from your own incompetence.

When High Speed Sync Doesn’t Work on a Canon 50D

Monday, January 25th, 2010

After months of consulting multiple manuals, books, forums, and experts, I finally figured out why my Canon 50D + 580EXII flash wouldn’t work in high speed sync mode. That is, when I turned on the flash the maximum shutter speed was 1/250s. No matter what I set the ISO, shutter speed, mode, or aperture to, I could never get shutter speed faster than 1/250s. No matter what mode and settings I applied to the flash and/or camera, as soon as the flash was ready, shutter speed dropped to 1/250s. (I could easily take pictures without flash at speeds faster than 1/250s as lighting conditions and settings permitted.)

If you’re encountering this problem on a 50D (and likely other Canon models) here’s what you (probably) need to do:

Hybrid Mallard/Northern Shoveler?

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Here’s a weird duck I found in Prospect Park this morning while looking for Friday’s Australasian Shoveler:

Male Mallard with some Northern Shoveler like plumage

Another Tagged Gull

Monday, January 18th, 2010

This morning I walked around Prospect Park for a few hours. Nothing majorly new, except for one Cooper’s Hawk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The feeders were shockingly quiet. Not a bird to be seen. I look for the American Pipit that’s been reported repeatedly on the Long Meadow over the last couple of weeks, but wiffed again even though another birder found it later. However, I did find another wing tagged Ring-billed Gull on Prospect Lake, this one a first winter bird. As best I can make out its number is A288:

1st Winter Ring-billed Gull, Wing tag A288 Black on Red

Likely all the wing tagged gulls that are showing up lately are coming from Massachusetts where Dr. Tom French has been banding gulls. I should know more shortly. Multiple birders have been reporting them around the city. This is possibly the fourth from Prospect Lake alone.