Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Carolina Wren in the Nestbox

Finally, a real bird nesting in this year's boxes with the new camera system. We have had ants, bees, wasps, and several false nest starts. Ironically, another Carolina Wren. The last wrens that nested in our yard, used a hard hat in the shed after rejecting my bird house. Given that Carolina Wrens may have up to three broods in a season, this may in fact be the same pair.

I had angled the cameras with a bluebird, chickadee or titmouse in mind, trying to get more of a side view. Unfortunately, the nest building style of the wren is to fill the box nearly to the top ... right over the camera. I have had to thin out some of the obscuring twigs a few times. Here, you can see the camera almost on top of the eggs.

Both male and female were actively involved in the nest building. They started on top of a fake nest that was made by wrens a month ago. The female has been incubating the eggs for about a week and sits on them most of the day. The camera is pretty much right in her face. These boxes are much darker than the martin gourd so I never get to see any images in daylight spectrum.

June 29 - Hatching started this evening at about 16:45.

June 30 - Many different food offerings including spiders, katydid, and this small snail which the adult finally had to eat.

July 2 - Danielle planted milkweed in the courtyard to attract monarchs. We found a Queen Butterfly chrysalis and caterpillar a yesterday in one of the plants. A bit of a miscalculation on combining hobbies. Here is the wren feeding the chicks the chrysalis ... perhaps she ate the caterpillar. We thought the milkweed was supposed to make these taste bad.

July 3 - An iPhone nest check today confirmed what I could not see in the video stream: all four eggs have hatched.

July 4 - It is clear these are not Titmouse chicks. They already have much longer bills. This shot finally shows all four visible in the nestcam.

July 7 - pin feathers on wings and back

July 10 - I am pretty sure we only have 2 surviving nestlings. Hopefully, the adult removed them. I can see much more feather on the head and back than a few days ago. The color photo shows that the feathers unfurling from the shafts have a tan color.

Today's unique food item appears to be a very small lizard. Not sure I have seen one this small.

July 15 - Both surviving nestlings fledged this morning at dawn.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Purple Martin Gourd Camera

Another risky move  for me with the martins. As the the day of hatching approaches, I decided to move one of the cameras to the martin house. Hopefully enabling me to check the nest daily without as much disturbance. I took down one of the spare gourds to experiment and came up with the following design.

I am using Excluder Gourds from PMCA. I first took the access cap off and drilled a 2" hole in the center with a forstner bit.  I also drilled 4 mounting holes for #10 screws.

The next step was to obtain a 4" PVC sewer and drain cap and drilled corresponding holes in it. I put silicone sealant between the two and clamped together with #10-32 screws and nuts.

Next, I got a 4" PVC DWV Cap which I found slips neatly over the drain cap. I drilled a hole in the top of the cap and used a #10-32 3/4" bolt and rubber washer to attach one of my HawkEye HD cameras from Birdhouse Spy Cam to the top of the cap. I played with the orientation of the camera on its mount so that I could tip the camera down slightly and still have the lens roughly centered. Another 3/4" in hole in the side of the cap allows the wires to route out. All of the cable connections are pushed back into the cap.

This the view from inside the gourd with with two pieces slipped together.

The first assembly simply screws back onto the gourd. At the point that it was snug, I marked the lower edge and cut a slot for the wires to pass. It did not need to be this large. I can leave this in place to do a quick visual check.

The camera portion slips over with wires exiting at the bottom.

Because of the way the Excluder Gourd mounts to the rack, it is only free to swing front to back. As such the extra weight of the PVC caps does not change the orientation much. Otherwise, this system would not have worked. I tied the cable along the owl guards and let it drop down parallel to the hoisting cord. 

I modified the snake guard to add an extra pass-through hole.

and ran both cord and cable through the raccoon baffle. 

Finally, here is a full resolution image of the nest in daylight. The field of view nicely spans most of the nest including the entrance porch on the left and the egg cavity on the right.

This is a shot of the female shows the IR LED turned on and casting a greenish illumination in the center and true daylight illumination in the periphery.

This final image at 8:30 is illuminated only by IR LED with negligible daylight left.

Everything was in place just in time for hatching which started early on Sunday evening, June 19.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pebble - Another Epic Fail

I had previously blogged about my issues with Pebble's health data infrastructure. Danielle had an issue this week that has caused us to give up on the company entirely. Unlike me, she didn't use the watch for tracking steps, except casually; she has worn a Fitbit One for several years as her activity tracker and continued to do so while wearing the Pebble. The Pebble Time Round was more useful as a watch and for notifications, which it did fairly well.

Danielle charged her Pebble Time Round every morning on the nightstand next to the bed, a table which stands slightly over two feet high. While disconnecting her watch from the charger on Thursday, the watch slipped from her grasp and fell on the floor. When she picked it up, she discovered that the crystal was shattered. This was very surprising as it was supposed to be Gorilla Glass.

Danielle contacted Pebble Support to find out what her options were. She was hopeful that they would replace the watch, which she was happy with overall.

Pebble's response was not encouraging:
While we can't replace your Pebble under warranty in this circumstance, we would like to offer you a discount on one of our new watches. If you are interested, we will provide you with a limited time link that you can use to receive 15% off. 
Danielle wrote back the following letter:
I do not consider this to be acceptable.  
The Pebble warranty specifically excludes "normal wear and tear and cosmetic damage, including, but not limited to, scratches, dents and broken plastic." I do not consider shattered Gorilla Glass to be "normal wear and tear," nor is it excluded in the list above.  
The warranty also specifically excludes "defects or damage caused by misuse, accident (including, without limitation, collision, fire and the spillage of food or liquid), neglect, abuse, alteration, unusual stress, modification, improper or unauthorized repair, installation, wiring, or testing, improper storage." If Pebble is arguing that no such accident is covered under warranty, then please explain to me the situation described in https://wtvox.com/pebble/pebble-time-round-review/m where the writer states "This is what happened to me at work: I knocked my Pebble Time Round on a corner desk and cracked the screen. The impact was big. It would have shattered to pieces a normal watch, but, in this case, it only cracked the screen. The watch was still fully functional. I rung Pebble, explained that I am retarded, and they kindly offered to send me a new one. For free. How nice is that?" 
I will contrast your refusal to replace my Pebble under warranty with the behavior of two other fitness tracker companies with which I have experience, Fitbit and Garmin. Fitbit replaced one of my devices three times when it was damaged by sweat on three separate occasions, despite the fact that the unit was not advertised as waterproof. Garmin replaced another device due to screen failure with no questions asked. 
The Pebble Time Round is advertised as having a "2.5D gorilla glass display" and "Marine Grade Stainless Steel chassis and bezel." This implied, to my mind, that the unit was fairly rugged. Having owned devices with Gorilla Glass before, I know that it can be scratched and I have even chipped an exposed edge before. For that reason, I purchased a screen protector (that and to conceal the hideous bezel). The people I know who have shattered their displays have generally done something like slam a car door on their phone or drop the phone onto pavement from 5 feet or more. My minor drop onto the floor of my home from a height of 3 feet does not begin to compare. 
Presumably you offered me a 15% discount in an attempt to cultivate customer loyalty. I am not at all sorry to tell you that it has exactly the reverse effect. I see no reason to waste any of my money on a company that will not stand behind its products. If you offer me a replacement under warranty, as you offered the reviewer I quoted above, I will be happy to continue using your product. If I have to spend my own money to replace a unit that is close to being obsolete technologically, I will go elsewhere.  
Danielle Cunniff Plumer
Pebble's response was a classic blow-off:
Thank you for reaching back out to Pebble. 
I spoke with management on your behalf, they stated that accidental damage is not covered under warranty, as such no replacement will be issued. Sorry for any inconvenience, if you would like the 15% off discount offered to you in my last email please let me know.
So I am done with Pebble. For the price of a new Pebble Time Round, even with the miserly 15% off, Danielle was able to purchase a new Fitbit Alta. It doesn't offer the quality of notifications that the Pebble Time Round did, but its features as an activity tracker are far superior. The movement reminder is far superior than anything we were ever able to jury-rig on Pebble. Battery life and sleep tracking are almost infinitely better. Most importantly, the fitness data ecosystem integration that Fitbit provides is second to none. Finally, Danielle feels confident that if the display does shatter, Fitbit will replace the unit.