9/9/15 Well, talk about a story that told me how connected we all are… This afternoon, and as some of you might have seen on the cams, we had a heavy thunderstorm starting around 3:15PM EST that brought some high winds and ultimately a half an inch plus of rain (very unusual for us this time of year, if at anytime) over a very short time. The temp here went from around 97F to about 75F in about 15 minutes – a welcomed relief. But during it I was going around the Starr Ranch HQ closing windows and checking this and that. But when it finally abated and later Sandy and I had finished eating dinner I took a look at my email. And there was scylla’s telling me the watering hole cam was tipped over. I literally just had to turn my head and look about 30 feet out our door to see what she was talking about. And low and behold, it was just as she said. So I went out to fix and decided to try a new angle – and that’s where we are right now. But that scylla (from over 5,000 miles away) – and all of you too – have my back is just great. You guys are the best. Thank you. Pete
09/03/15 Just a quick note on the spiked buck mule deer (“Starrbuck“) with the odd antlers and a possible reason for this which I think was suggested previously. The “rut” (breeding season) began at least two weeks ago – it used to not begin until late September – and I’m seeing more bucks in the HQ area. Their testicles are quite obvious. However, not the case with Starrbuck. I actually think he is lacking them. He is definitely a buck since he has a penis, but lacking testicles must have some affect on his hormones and thus his very odd antler growth and the fact that he hasn’t dropped them and grown new ones in years.
He’s the second one to walk by in this video from a while ago:
07/12/15 For now, House Finch nest replaces the “watering hole” cam until I can set up another spot for it. House Finch has 4 chicks, 2-3 days old when I looked today. May be a day or two before you see their heads pop up. Pete
Bat cam will be down for a bit while I work on it.
OK, I took down the cam with the IR LEDs not working to troubleshoot and replaced with a cam of marginal quality, yet not bad, pointing straight up into the box. Not really the sharpest view but you should be able to see the bats jockeying for position and moving up/down depending on the temperature. Right now it’s about 80 at SR but up there it’s HOT – I know cause I just got down from there… Here’s a pic of the setup:
The “washouts” are hard to attenuate. But should get better as it gets dark. Pete
06/28/15 Moved the watering hole cam view to hopefully get a better look at the mega fauna that shows up – like the CA mule deer, ground squirrels and the ravens (Like Seth when he/she’s not raiding our compost – another potential cam). And a new view is on one of many bat boxes we have here. Right now there are 12-15 bats in that box at our workshop (I looked in there today) so stay tuned to when they work their way down to the “launch pad” which is what the cam is on to see when they come and go. And please do post what you see happen. We know they come and go at night but when and how often would be interesting to document. TX. Pete
05/12/15 All – Thanks for emailing me various clips and information. If you don’t hear back from me right away it’s because there is a lot of info to digest and I’m all still trying to find and download what might be key video clips before they get overwritten after a week. Thanks you all for your help. Pete
09/11/15 Update. I have been in contact with the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Investigations Lab and will be sending the Kestrel chick to them that I was able to retrieve from the box yesterday. Maybe we will learn what might have caused the entire clutch’s rapid and highly unusual demise. From what I can tell, all the chicks appeared fine around 6AM on May 8th. So I am trying to save as much video as I can from that point through when the last chick had clearly expired. Maybe there’s something that will jump out at me when I can review it. For example, a particular incident or prey delivery might shed some light on what happened. In the meantime, if any of you saw/recorded some specific activity that looked odd to you or perhaps when you noticed any of the chicks first exhibiting signs of distress, please email me what you know, including date and time. I’m trying to accumulate as much info as possible to hopefully turn this difficult situation into something we can learn from and perhaps prevent from happening again. Thanks. Pete
05/09/15 In light of what has occurred rather rapidly, i.e. the demise of 3 of the 4 chicks, I’d like to say a few things.
– I don’t think a rush to judgement suggesting that this is the result of West Nile virus is warranted, although possible.
– It has been unseasonably cold and rainy for the last 3-4 days possibly making hunting difficult for the adults when the chicks really need food.
– Apparently the adults have been bringing in lizards and large insects, but not a lot of mice or other prey of large size/biomass. As these chicks grow they need a lot of food and maybe the lizards and insects weren’t enough.
– Most important – this kind of thing HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. Lots of reproduction takes place every year and, when ALL conditions aren’t right, nests fail. I suspect this is why birds and other wildlife produce a lot of young every year. They are at the mercy of the current condition of their habitat and food source when they breed annually. In years when every thing is good, lots of young make it. When not, they don’t. But these species breed every year and try to produce way more young than it would take to replace them when the die. Think about it – A pair of Kestrels (or insert most any other wildlife species), during their lifetime, just need to produce a male and a female to take their place when they die to keep their species viable. But they make this attempt every year, trying to raise in any given year way more than it would take to accomplish this. So most don’t make it as a matter of course, whether in the nest or after fledging. It’s just the way it works. If there are factors that indicate that a species or population is failing every year due to things like habitat loss, pesticides, etc. then that’s on us and it’s what concerns me the most. But until I see evidence of this – and I look for it all the time – chicks dying (not making it) is part of a natural cycle given how prolific these birds are over the course of their life. However, I think our severe drought is a factor affecting prey availability and there may be other reasons. And climate change is definitely influencing things. Some of these are our doing and we can fix them. If that’s the case we need to start doing so – now. Pete
05/06/15 At least one new visitor to the trail cam that I haven’t seen before. Not sure if the other two are also “newbies”. Pete
05/05/15 Phew, finally settled after 5 days in MI, 3 days at a staff mtg, and Family Nature Workshops here on Saturday. Birdathon recap and follow up is in process. I also put together a ladder to use at the Kestrel box. As soon as things warm up I’ll clean the lens and take some pics of the brood. In the meantime, here are some clips from the time periods Trish gave me for each egg hatching. The quality is not great and some kinda long, but best I could do. Once lens is clean we should be able to get a much better view.
Also, tomorrow morning sometime btw 6AM and 9AM I need to change out a firewall on our network. So if cams go down, this is why. Pete
04/20/15 Thank you all who pledged or made a flat donation to the Starr Ranch Birdathon! After resting on Sunday (24hr birding is fun, but exhausting…) we’re checking our list for double entries or birds we got but didn’t write down. Preliminary total is 152 and the 100th bird was a Killdeer, which no one guessed. So, closest guess to the 100th bird is the Western Bluebird (congratulations, Kay!).
Since I’m about to leave for Michigan for a week to inspect and repair Osprey platforms on Fletcher Pond in Hillman – a project I’ve been doing for at least 25 years – I won’t be able to get back to all with the day’s write up, pledge amount due, t-shirt winners, and those who will get t-shirts for donating/pledging $100 or $1+/species until the beginning of May. In the meantime, thanks so much!!! Pete Addendum: Final tally: 152 species. Congratulations Barbara, who had closest guess of 150!
04/16/15 The Starr Ranch Birdathon starts today at 6:00 PM! If you can help out with a pledge of any amount per bird species we see/hear in 24 hours it would REALLY be appreciated. Details are here: Starr Ranch Birdathon
Also, from last Saturday’s Owl Banding here are some faces to go with some familiar screen names:
L to R: JoAnne, Pete, Lynn, Wynne, BJ, enzo, greycat, 4pawsmom, Meg. Thanks, Pete
04/01/15 The Starr Ranch Birdathon is just around the corner! Please take a moment to check it out and make a pledge if you can. This is an important fundraiser for us and your help is really needed and appreciated. Thanks, Pete
This just added: There are Great Horned Owls and Barn Owls nesting near our access road (but too far away for cams) who both have chicks that I will be banding on Saturday, April 11. If you would like to join me for both bandings, details can be found HERE. This will be a fund raiser – much like banding events we’ve done here in the past – which help us to keep Starr Ranch operating. Lunch will also be provided. I hope you can attend. Thanks, Pete
04/01/15 I set the PTZ cam to hopefully auto switch to the south end of the limb where Trish reported she thought she saw a lot of bats flying by regularly at that time. If I got it right the cam will be there from 8-8:30PM, then switch back to the full limb, and then in the morning switch back to the Kestrel Box. We shall see. Please post what you see – cam position as well as any activity.. This really helps me a lot. Thanks, Pete. (And please check out my Birdathon link above. I really need your help with that part too.)
03/31/15 10:30AM Kestrel lays Egg #4
Correction to paragraph below. I got my dates messed up and it appears she’s is maintaining the 48hr apart laying sequence. Going forward it would be really interesting to note her incubation patterns starting with the first egg. My sense is she is increasing time spent on them with each additional egg but has yet to assume the typical incubation of pretty much constantly. I also just capture a week of video at a time so I may spend a little more $ and have dropcam buffer a month so it can be downloaded and reviewed later. Also, I changed the date on the Egg#3 note below from 3/30 to 3/29. Thanks for the correction, Meg! Pete
But given her 48hr period between laying I didn’t expect this and don’t know when it happened. So if anyone knows about about when #4 arrived, please let me know and I’ll look for the video clip and post it. Thanks, Pete
03/29/15 10:30AM Kestrel lays Egg #3
Hard to tell exactly when but some time between 9:10 and 10:20 this morning there were two eggs and then there were three. Here is a 90sec time lapse. A few times one can catch a glimpse of an egg or two but it’s not until she leaves that we see three. Also interesting is her timing. So far it’s pretty close to 48 hours apart. And we should see at least one to maybe three more eggs. Pete.
03/25/15 Solar incubation? Really, if you haven’t yet, see my note two paragraphs below about Kestrel incubation. I find this really interesting and is making me think more of the why it’s like this. Meaning why is it that, say, a Mallard lays a dozen eggs, starts incubating when the clutch is complete, the chicks hatch all at once and are very shortly ready to go (“precocious” young) while raptor chicks hatch over the course of several days based on when incubation started and eggs were laid and then chicks need care and feeding to fledging (“altricial” young). I understand the circumstances that likely allow for precocious v altricial young, but egg laying and incubation timing makes me think more about the “why”. Pete
03/25/15 9:25AM Kestrel lays first egg!
Hard to tell exactly when but clearly there was not an egg before 9:00. Here is a 60sec time lapse between 8:45 and 9:30. At around 40secs she briefly stops her preening and my sense is this is when she laid the egg. At 50secs we get the first glimpse. Also, here are some short realtime clips of when I first caught a glimpse of the egg and then the first view of the entire egg.
Also, perhaps of interest: Common knowledge is that raptors in general begin incubating shortly after the first egg is laid. But I’m not sure what Kestrels do specifically. So I asked my good friend Art Gingert who has decades of experience with Kestrels and Kestrel boxes. In fact I was an intern of Art’s back in the late 70’s when he was managing Audubon’s Miles Wildlife Sanctuary in CT and when we put up some of his first boxes. I still recall checking a box back in those days with him and saying “Yup, there’s an egg in the box.” But at the time neither of us knew what a Kestrel egg looked like… As it turned out, it was… Anyway, here’s what Art had to say about Kestrel incubation:
“From what I have read, and heard, kestrels may wait until the 2nd — maybe 3rd — egg before incubating, which is seemingly why at least two of the nestlings in a brood of 4 or 5 are quite close in size, and there are always one or two which are smaller, with the asynchronous hatching. And the male, as you recall, also helps incubate at times, often at night. Will be interesting to see whether that will occur there at Starr Ranch.”
03/21/15 10:20AM The PTZ will be off for a bit while I adjust some settings.
OK, I was able to set the PTZ to automatically switch to the limb at 7:00PM and the K-box at 6:30AM. If anyone thinks I should tweak these times, feel free to send me an email. I can also set up 6 other preset view during any window of time so if there’s something else anyone thinks might be good to watch at a particular time just let me know. Thanks, Pete
03/19/15 Last night a Grey Fox came out of the darkness from the same place as the previous night’s Coyote and a day or so before that, a Cougar (See links below). It’s a parade! Pete
03/18/15 Around 6:30 this morning a coyote walked by the trail cam along pretty much the same route the cougar did the night before last. Watch the upper left corner at the start of both videos. Playing back to back also provides a nice perspective on the size difference between these two mammals. Coyote and Cougar. Pete
03/17/15 Last night around 9:15PM this guy gave us a nice look on the trail cam. I suspect it’s the same one from 02/18/15. Watch the upper left corner of the video when it starts… Video Pete
03/04/15 I bet most of you will recognize these two from their past visit to the watering hole. This buck STILL has the same antlers he’s had for going on five years now. Very odd. But he appears healthy. Pete
03/02/15 Someone else checks out the Kestrel box. Hopefully decided it was too big. (There are lots of natural cavities and other bird boxes at Starr Ranch for these guys to use.) Pete
02/27/15 Bobcat on the trail cam around 2:15PM today. Nice light, too! Pete
02/18/15 After months of not seeing any on the trail cam, Surprise!
Trail cam at 1AM on 02/17/15. Pete
02/15/15 Jorge is doing some updates, backups, etc. on the server today so there may be times where the cavity, PTZ, and RSHA nest cams are down. Pete
02/08/15 Due to some water now in Bell Creek, activity at the water hole has tapered off considerably because so many other sources are available. I also recently noticed some territorial behavior by the RSHAs by our office. So I’ve switched the watering hole cam to last year’s RSHA nest. While RSHAs don’t typically lay eggs here until around the middle of March, if they’re going to use this nest we could see some new sticks and greenery brought in soon. Please let me know if you see new activity. Pete
01/28/15 And also a Mule Deer Doe a little while ago. Pete
Mule Deer Doe
01/28/15 Two recent visitors on the trail cam.
(A little quiz: What’s unique about an opossum’s skull?)
Spike Buck Mule Deer
The buck is the one seen at the watering hole and is also the one who hasn’t dropped his antlers in at least four years. Pete
01/21/15 If you want to see some excellent video of a BNOW in action and in some amazing slow motion, check this out:
BNOW hunting in hi-res slow motion (from BBC). Pete
12/28/14 IMPORTANT END OF 2014 INFO: This is now THE site for Starr Ranch webcams, including the BNOWs. The “BNOW only” cam site (starrranch.org/blog/barn-owl; 2 cams) is currently telling you to come here and will soon redirect you here automatically if you have it bookmarked. The comments from that site will soon be archived and available here, but going forward and to keep things as organized and as clear as possible – especially regarding comments – this is going to be THE page you want to go to to view and comment. As always, feel free to email me if you are having any problems watching or commenting.
On another note, thank you to all who have made this site so much of what I was hoping it would become. It has evolved into a camaraderie of sharing, caring, education and learning that I truly wasn’t expecting. Really, thanks so much. Among other things you have made this easy for me. The nuts and bolts of putting up and maintaining the cams, servers, etc. is actually fun for me and I love doing it. But that I have not had to “police” the site is simply awesome. You guys look after each other and zealously protect what we all have here. Wow.
Also, a sincere thank you to everyone who has helped keep it all going. I think it’s obvious that it takes $ to keep the wheels on it all (buying/installing cams, paying a third party for the bandwidth so many can watch, and just all the other things needed that unfortunately aren’t free). Without you folks, I can’t make this happen. So again, thanks. Onward to 2015. Pete
11/26/14 Gretchen and I (mostly Gretchen…) are working on some tweaks to the site that will allow some other cams to be watched – like the Kestrel box – We’re also exploring giving you the choice of what cams you want to view because I suspect as I try to add more on the same page not all of you might have enough bandwidth to stream them all simultaneously. Gretchen is also going to make the page wider since most laptops and desktop screens these days can accommodate more than the current view width. Last, comment length is now limited to 2500 characters (about 30 lines), and may get shorter after trying out, so that no single comment monopolizes an entire page. I think most of what can be said in a comment should easily fit within this limit. Pete
11/12/14 Kestrel box is up. Until I have time to work with Gretchen to put this on a page, you can check it out here: http://dropc.am/p/starr-ranch-kestrels
This cam records continuously in a 7 day buffer meaning on the 8th day, the 1st day gets overwritten. But I have motion sensing set up at the cavity entrance so if something sticks its head in I’ll get an email and can take a look. I’ll be out of town from tomorrow until the following Thursday but will still be able to monitor any activity. Also, I might point the PTZ at the box during the day so you can see the setting and also if something checks it out. Pete
11/12/14 10AM PST Cavity and PTZ cams will be off for a bit while I put up the Kestrel box and make some adjustments. Hopefully for just a few hours. Also, if you heard some chainsaw activity this morning it’s just ground cleanup of the limbs I pruned last weekend. Pete
11/09/14 Cams will be off and on for a bit today while a finally get to make some adjustments, clean lenses, etc. Am also going to see what it looks like when I move the PTZ in and a bit higher if possible to get a better angle. I’m also going to place the Kestrel box nearby so that the PTZ can be used to view the entrance hole (there will also be a cam inside the box). Pete
11/08/14 Euc pruning done but took longer than expected, but is done. Cams back up now but will be down for a bit tomorrow when I make some adjustments to them. When I turned cams back on I saw female Kestrel was roosting in the cavity. All is well… Pete
11/08/14 Sometime today the BNOW cavity and PTZ cams will be offline for a while. I need to make some adjustments and further support the boom that holds the PTZ cam. I also hope to put up a Kestrel box w/ cam that the female Kestrel might check out and use. I’ll also be pruning some of the adjacent eucs so there would be a few hours of a lot of chainsaw noise… Cams will be back up by end of day. Pete
09/19/14 I talked to Gretchen this afternoon (who, if you don’t know by now, is awesome and is playing a major role keeping the wheels on this site) about providing an encrypted email address for you folks to use to let me know you accurately guessed launch and return times to win a Starr Ranch t-shirt. She told me how to do this and I will be providing it tomorrow. Because if I just simply post the email address (and none of you should ever put an email address in a comment) for tshirt winners to use then spammers are all over it immediately and I start getting 50-100 emails a day from them. Sad, but true, and too bad there are some bad people out there who spend time doing this – and think it’s OK to do so. Shame on them. Pete
09/05/14 A little different watering hole view for a while. Hopefully will give better views of the deer and squirrels. In any case, should give you some context of the setting. Pete
08/30/14 While we are in between nesting seasons and the BNOW cavity has been empty or at least just had an occasional visitor I figured I’d get all our cams up for you to watch. All should play fine, but if you don’t have a high speed internet connection you may find watching all simultaneously will not work well. If so, just click on any screen – that’s lowest on your list to view – to stop the feed. Clicking it again should restart it. BTW, comments here will be unique to this page and not appear on the BNOW cam page to keep things from getting confused. Pete