Burlington Bay: Lake View Park & WTP

Today I fought my cold and went birding in the rain and 50’s°F to look for a Pacific loon reported in the morning. Unfortunately I didn’t find it, but I did find a red-necked grebe on the lake. I walked down to the beach next to the water treatment plant and looked for rocks. After the rain picked up, a red-breasted merganser came into one of the coves. The water is so clear I watched it forage around the rocks underwater before it went back out to deeper water.

Google Earth Image Exporting for Download

We were breaking apart our region of interest to facilitate downloads, but I decided instead to let Google tile the image for me. Some things I noticed: even when providing a region for export, the extent is used as opposed to an actual “clip” of the image. However, when you clip the image earlier in the script, it appears that the extra region given is just filled with 0’s (so perhaps you can download a smaller image of the same extent by providing the clip).

Some weird notes on differences between the *.tifs surely resulting from some part of from what I’ve changed…

  • the mask that makes only 1’s part of the image: in some things I was trying before it fussed at me seemingly because of the mask so by exporting an image of 0’s and 1’s it seemed to help

What results from both is an image of 0’s and 1’s, but oddly “out of the box” the 1st TIFF displays as expected (i.e. in ArcGIS, even though the auto color scheme is stretched, you can see the wetlands). However, the one with the bullet point changes made does not: it looks all black (the value assigned at the 0 end) until you display with discrete colors. Then, the images look analogous. Looking closer, it looks like the original script exports with unsigned integer and 8 bit pixel depth, whereas my new script exports with floating point and 32 but pixel depth. This is making the newer images way bigger (and I think unnecessarily).

Review: Peterson Field Guides Birding by Ear (Eastern/Central)

The 1st disc starts with a “dawn chorus” that is also a nice little quiz once you work your way through the CD’s! The credits mention that it is taken from an album for which I can’t track down an electronic recording, but it has been generated from more recordings than that, based on a quick scan of the track list. I assume the other sounds are from the other cited sources on the CD set booklet.

The intro is dated (1990) with the term “Indian” being used for Native Americans, and a simplistic mention of what the earliest inhabitants of the continent might have gleaned from bird song. From that sparse overview, though, I was led to personally flesh out some of the claims on how Native Americans interacted with birds. For instance, the narrator mentions that bird songs may have signaled food or a predator approach. A concrete example of that is the “chachalaca,” a bird name imitative of its call that originated from Nahuatl-speaking tribes. This bird is still a game bird today. As for predator approach, the first thing that comes to my mind would have been an enemy tribe, and I can think of how birds flush from me in the woods or otherwise respond with vigilance. Birds are also known to mob mountain lions (Morgan & Young 2007).

Here’s the track list…

Disc 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Mimics
  3. Woodpeckers
  4. Sing-songers
  5. Hawks
  6. Chippers & trillers
  7. High-pitchers

Disc 2

  1. Whistlers
  2. Owls & a dove
  3. Simple vocalizations
  4. Complex vocalizations
  5. Name-sayers
  6. Warbling songsters
  7. Commoners

Disc 3

  1. Wood warblers & a warbling wren
  2. Thrushes
  3. Unusual vocalizations
  4. Miscellaneous

This was my introduction to learning bird song, so I’m quite sentimental about this CD set! It taught me a skill I didn’t know I could acquire when I was younger, and helped launch me into my passion of birding. Since it meant a lot to my learning to identify birds, I’m not sure I can be wholly objective about it. It’s my favorite bird song learning tool, though.

I plan to continue to think about how we can learn, and how to teach, bird song. What worked for you? Do you have a favorite resource? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Cited

Tiffany Morgan, Jon Young. 2007. Animal Tracking Basics. Nature.

Brightest Ray Aurora I’ve Ever Seen!

We were lucky to see the brightest ray aurora I’ve ever seen right at nightfall! As soon as it got dark enough (but before total dark), we could start to see the aurora in the northern sky, so we knew it was going to be good. As it got darker, the green light only got brighter! We made our way to a clearing on Boulder Dam Rd. to see a bright, well-defined ray dancing like a quill pen writing. There was a patch to the east low in the sky, but unfortunately the aurora was quieting down by the time we got to our next destination. When we made it to Boulder Lake, there was still a bright glow that continued as we drove around. The activity took a hiatus as it got closer to our bedtime, so we took it as a sign to go in and warm up. How convenient to have a bright aurora so early in the night! 🙂

What I’m Doing in Google Earth Engine

Right now, there’s a data set we want that’s distributed exclusively on Earth Engine. So, to break it into manageable/meaningful chunks for our analysis, we’ve created regions. We basically need to generate the raster (requires a “max” function for the time period of interest) for each year, and then clip the raster to each region and download it. All of this is exclusively done in the JavaScript IDE on the site.

Already, some data distribution hurdles for this platform are identified (to its credit, it sort of isn’t built for that purpose; it has many other strengths, i.e. actually being able to do processing). Possibly one of the funkiest things about Earth Engine is the distinction (and difference in how it’s coded) between “client-side” and “server-side” functions. So, whenever you make something “ee.” it’s server side: it means that the server is processing whatever it is into the thing you want. So, you have to deal with the resulting objects differently depending on what “side” you’re on.

Yerkes Observatory Refracting Telescope

Paul & I looked through a bit of history, visiting the 40″ refracting telescope for an observing night. It was something I’d always wanted to do but never made time for when I lived in southern WI. The price to look through the old telescope is a little steep considering it’s an outdated refractor ($100/person); it seems to take advantage of those who just really want the experience (like me tonight) and maybe don’t know better. It hurt to shell out that kind of cash for an event I used to get paid for! Nonetheless, it was a really fun experience, and I can’t remember the last time I spent the better part of a night in an observatory (must really have been sometime in undergrad). Also, our docent was awesome and the decades of his amateur astronomy hobby showed in the knowledge he shared throughout the night. There was plenty I’d forgotten, was rusty on or just plain never knew!

It was a 1st quarter moon on a mostly clear night (but with somewhat poor seeing), so we looked at a heavily cratered area and Copernicus. Within our own solar system, we saw Neptune, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before! Triton was also very faintly visible alongside it. Ergo, it wasn’t as dark as it could be, but we still managed to check out some deep sky objects. We saw a globular cluster, the Saturn nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy.

G3 Aurora Near Autumnal Equinox

I’m actually still outside as I type this, in case the aurora decides to act up again! Tonight I saw the brightest sub-storm I’ve seen yet…from my deck! Before 10:30 PM I noticed a sub-storm brewing, which is a big deal if I can see it from my apartment. I could actually see structure and movement so I went out to my favorite dark sky spot. It’s always a tense drive if I wait until after there’s activity to get out of the city lights, but just even seeing a diffuse glow in the night sky that’s not the moon is thrilling along the way. Even so, once I got onto scenic north shore drive, I could see patches even while driving. Once I got to my spot, I could clearly see the homogeneous patches pulsating and moving. At that time, the aurora filled up about half of the northern sky with the “racing clouds” phenomenon.

I got to my spot just after 11 PM and for the first time saw “Steve” just west of the aurora. I stayed out until sometime after midnight, submitting a live Aurorasaurus report with my best photo at the time from the “Slow Shutter” app. Getting sleepy and cold, and since it was a work night (turned morning), I decided to head back home. I looked out my bedroom window to take a last gaze, and noticed it was quite bright! Then, I saw double homogeneous arcs start to form from the glow, so I grabbed my warm folding chair and rushed out to my deck (I’m lucky to be on the top floor and thus above the street lights). The arcs “broke up” into the colorful dancing ribbon, and I gasped as well as kicked myself for leaving my dark sky spot! I couldn’t believe how visible it was even from my apartment. After the band dissipated, I noticed those spiky, trapezoidal rays to the northeast, though this time from my vantage they were not as bright nor colorful. I watched the flaming phenomenon for awhile filling up the whole sky to the zenith from my vantage. The real clouds are now chasing me inside which is probably a blessing for my sleep, but also a tease as I can see the lights getting bright behind the clouds again! Once more, seeing that brightness behind the clouds which would usually be a full moon is a thrill in itself.