04.03.2016 10:40Lick Observatory

I just finished an interview for NHK (Japan’s public broadcast station) about Heber Curtis and his discovery of a polar jet in M87 using the Crossley Telescope at Lick Observatory. At the time he suspected that many of the nebulae he was describing in detail were actually very distant and not part of our own Milky Way galaxy. He debated this with Harlow Shapley in 1920 in “The Great Debate” after which the prominent astronomers of the day agreed with Curtis that these were island universes.

06.24.2011 9:45General, Wildlife

June 21st, the Solstice, brought not only the longest day of the year, but also five California Condors to Mt. Hamilton. Birds tagged 0, 44, 51, 81, and 99
(corresponding to birds #400, 444, 451, 481, and 499) are all immature condors out exploring. We hope that at least a couple of these birds will decide Mt. Hamilton will be their future home when they become old enough to establish territories and build nests.

The condors perched on top of the trees near the Visitors Center and on top of the Fire Lookout Tower here at Lick Observatory. The birds were curious and picked at everything and all of them played with the rope on the flag pole at the fire watch tower. I have photos posted on my Picasa web site:

05.29.2010 20:35Wild Flowers, Wildlife

Today I took a drive from Mt. Hamilton to Patterson to see what sort of wildlife I could find along the way.
Final tally – 45 species of birds (including, redwinged, bicolored, and tricolored blackbirds; golden and bald eagles),
5 species of mammals (ground squirrel, tule elk, brush rabbit, black-tailed jackrabbit, and mule deer), 4 species of reptiles (western fence lizard, northern pacific rattlesnake, gopher snake, san joachim coachwhip), and lots of wildflowers (including the biggest bloom of clarkia breweri I’ve ever seen).

Now if only all days could be so fun and relaxing.

05.13.2010 18:01Photography, Wildlife

Spring is here and I’m out with my camera taking photos of birds. A few samples below.

Violet-Green Swallow
Violet-Green Swallow

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird

12.29.2009 22:15General

Well, I had a little glitch with iMovie and my Sony Handycam movies. I very happily had everything working
nicely with sound for my MPEG2s in iMovie then perian updated itself and broke something, so that sounds for my movies stopped working. Just uninstalling and reinstalling perian did nothing to help. However, reinstalling iMovie (actually iLife ’09) fixed the problem. Clearly perian is doing something to one of the sound libraries that messes up iMovie, though what I have no idea. Anyway, I’ve stopped perian from automatically updating itself in the hopes that I won’t have this problem again. Maybe this tip will help some other hapless Mac user with MPEG2 formatted movies……

12.17.2009 11:24Photography, Wildlife

As most of my friends know, I traveled to South Africa in November for a safari vacation focusing on birds and mammals. I’ve managed to distill the 4000+ photos into various albums totaling about 500 photos highlighting the various plants, animals, and vistas from the trip. Instead of posting the photos here (which I had done for previous vacations), I’ve decided to give Google’s Picasa web site a try. Luckily there is a handy app for iPhoto to upload the photos and comments so that putting them there is simple. To take a look at some photos, check out

Most mammals I saw I got photos of, but there were a few seen at night or too quickly to train my camera on.
The trip list for Mammals is:
Chacma Baboon
Peter’s Epauletted Fruit Bat
Lesser Bushbaby
Thick-tailed Bushbaby
African Civet
Common Duiker
African Elephant
Small-spotted Genet
Southern Giraffe
Scrub Hare
Spotted Hyena
Black-backed Jackal
Side-striped Jackal
Greater Kudu
Banded Mongoose
Dwarf Mongoose
Slender Mongoose
White-tailed Mongoose
Samango Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Common Reedbuck
Grey Rhebok
White Rhinoceros
Tree Squirrel
Suricate (Meerkat)
Common Waterbuck
Blue Wildebeast
Burchell’s Zebra
Fallow Deer
Long-fingered Bat

Other mammals seen, but not necessarily wild, were: Black Wildebeast, Sable Antelope, and Springbok.

For my birding pals, here is a list of the species I saw (* denotes not a life bird). I have photos of about 200 of these species in the on-line album (doesn’t mean it is a good photo, however, many are just record shots).

Great Crested Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Little Grebe
White-breasted Cormorant
Reed Cormorant
African Darter
Grey Heron
Black-headed Heron
Goliath Heron
Purple Heron
Little Egret
Yellow-billed Egret
*Cattle Egret
Green-backed Heron
*Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Stork
Woolly-necked Stork
Saddle-billed Stork
Marabou Stork
Yellow-billed Stork
African Sacred Ibis
Southern Bald Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Hadeda Ibis
African Spoonbill
*Greater Flamingo
White-faced Duck
White-backed Duck
Egyptian Goose
Yellow-billed Duck
African Black Duck
Cape Teal
Red-billed Teal
Cape Shoveler
Southern Pochard
Comb Duck
Spur-winged Goose
Maccoa Duck
Hooded Vulture
Cape Vulture
White-backed Vulture
White-headed Vulture
Yellow-billed Kite
Black-shouldered Kite (elanus caeruleus – different than the Australian Black-shouldered Kite elanus axillaris, which I’ve also seen)
Tawny Eagle
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Wahlberg’s Eagle
Marital Eagle
Brown Snake-Eagle
African Fish Eagle
Steppe Buzzard
Jackal Buzzard
Little Sparrowhawk
Black Sparrowhawk
African Goshawk
Dark Chanting Goshawk
African Harrier-Hawk
Lanner Falcon
Eurasian Hobby
Taita Falcon
Amur Falcon
Rock Kestrel
Coqui Francolin
Crested Francolin
Shelley’s Francolin
Red-winged Fracolin
Natal Francolin
Swainson’s Spurfowl
*Helmeted Guineafowl
Kurrichane Buttonquail
Wattled Crane
Blue Crane
Black Crake
Red-knobbed Coot
African Finfoot
Kori Bustard
Denham’s Bustard
Red-crested Korhaan
Black-bellied Bustard
African Jacana
Greater Painted Snipe
Three-banded Plover
Crowned Lapwing
Senegal Lapwing
Blacksmith Lapwing
White-crowned Lapwing
African Wattled Lapwing
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
African Snipe
*Black-winged Stilt
Water Thick-Knee
Bronze-winged Courser
Grey-headed Gull
Whiskered Tern
White-winged Tern
Double-banded Sandgrouse
*Rock Dove
Speckled Pigeon
African Olive-Pigeon
Red-eyed Dove
African Mourning Dove
Cape Turtle-Dove
Laughing Dove
Namaqua Dove
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
African Green-Pigeon
Brown-headed Parrot
Krysna Turaco
Purple-crested Turaco
Grey Go-away-bird
Red-chested Cuckoo
Black Cuckoo (heard only, not seen)
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Levaillant’s Cuckoo
Jacobin Cuckoo
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Diderick Cuckoo
Burchell’s Coucal
*Barn Owl
African Scops-Owl
Pearl-spotted Owlet
Spotted Eagle-Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl
Square-tailed Nightjar
White-rumped Swift
Little Swift
Alpine Swift
African Palm Swift
Speckled Mousebird
Red-faced Mousebird
Narina Trogon
Pied Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Malachite Kingfisher
African Pygmy Kingfisher
Woodland Kingfisher
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Striped Kingfisher
European Bee-eater
White-fronted Bee-eater
Little Bee-eater
Lilac-breasted Roller
Purple Roller
African Hoopoe
Green Wood-Hoopoe
Common Scimitarbill
African Grey Hornbill
Red-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Southern Ground-Hornbill
Black-collared Barbet
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird (heard only, not seen)
Crested Barbet
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Cardinal Woodpecker
Bearded Woodpecker
Rufous-naped Lark
Flappet Lark
Sabota Lark
Eastern Long-billed Lark
Red-capped Lark
Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark
*Barn Swallow
White-throated Swallow
Wire-tailed Swallow
Red-breasted Swallow
Mosque Swallow
Greater Striped Swallow
Lesser Striped Swallow
South African Cliff-Swallow
Rock Martin
Common House Martin
Banded Martin
Black Cuckooshrike
Fork-tailed Drongo
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Black-headed Oriole
Cape Crow
Pied Crow
White-necked Raven
Southern Black Tit
Grey Penduline Tit
Arrow-marked Babbler
Dark-capped Bulbul
Sombre Greenbul
Kurrichane Thrush
Karoo Thrush
Orange Ground-Thrush
Groundscraper Thrush
Cape Rock-Thrush
Sentinel Rock-Thrush
Mountain Wheatear
Capped Wheatear
Buff-streaked Chat
Familiar Chat
Mocking Cliff-Chat
Ant-eating Chat
African Stonechat
Chorister Robin-Chat
White-browed Robin-Chat
Cape Robin-Chat
White-throated Robin-Chat
White-starred Robin
White-browed Scrub-Robin
Bearded Scrub-Robin
Willow Warbler
Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler
Bar-throated Apalis
Yellow-breasted Apalis
Long-billed Crombec
Yellow-bellied Eremomela
Burnt-necked Eremomela
Green-backed Camaroptera
Cape Grassbird
Zitting Cisticola
Wing-snapping Cisticola (heard only, not seen)
Rattling Cisticola
Levaillant’s Cisticola
Croaking Cisticola
Lazy Cisticola
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Black-chested Prinia
Drakensberg Prinia
Spotted Flycatcher
African Dusky Flycatcher
Ashy Flycatcher
Southern Black Flycatcher
Pale Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher
Cape Batis
Chinspot Batis
African Paradise-Flycatcher
African Pied Wagtail
Mountain Wagtail
Cape Wagtail
African Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
Yellow-breasted Pipit
Cape Longclaw
Yellow-throated Longclaw
Lesser Grey Shrike
Common Fiscal
Red-backed Shrike
Magpie Shrike
Southern Boubou
Black-backed Puffback
Brown-crowned Tchagra
Black-crowned Tchagra
Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike
Grey-headed Bush-Shrike
White-crested Helmet-Shrike
Retz’s Helmet-Shrike
*Common Myna
Pied Starling
Wattled Starling
Violet-backed Starling
Burchell’s Starling
Cape Glossy Starling
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Red-winged Starling
Red-billed Oxpecker
Malachite Sunbird
Marico Sunbird
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
White-bellied Sunbird
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Amethyst Sunbird
Collared Sunbird
Cape White-eye
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
*House Sparrow
Cape Sparrow
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
Yellow-throated Petronia
Thick-billed Weaver
Spectacled Weaver
Village Weaver
Cape Weaver
Southern Masked-Weaver
Lesser Masked-Weaver
Golden Weaver
Red-headed Weaver
Cuckoo Finch
Red-billed Quelea
Southern Red Bishop
Yellow-crowned Bishop
Yellow Bishop
Fan-tailed Widowbird
Red-collared Widowbird
Long-tailed Widowbird
Green-winged Pytilia
Green Twinspot
African Firefinch
Blue Waxbill
Common Waxbill
Red-headed Finch
Bronze Mannikin
Pin-tailed Whydah
Village Indigobird
Yellow-fronted Canary
Cape Canary
Forest Canary
Streaky-headed Seed-Eater
Golden-breasted Bunting
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

315 species seen, only 10 of which weren’t lifers. Wow! What a trip!

10.29.2009 10:22General

I purchased a Sony HandyCam video camera not even considering that it might not play nice with my Mac.

As many people have discovered, iMovie, Quicktime, etc. on Macs don’t read MPEG2 encoded video. After many hours of reading
posts on-line I have finally gotten iMovie to recognize the videos from my Sony HandyCam and import them directly from the
camera. I’m not sure what the magic piece of software is, but I installed the following (and I am using the Snow Leopard operating system):

Perian (www.perian.org)
Flip4Mac (www.telestream.net/flip4mac-wmv/overview.htm)
Quicktime mpeg2 component (apple.com/quicktime/mpeg2 – this one costs $20) – Note, this you absolutely need, even if you don’t get any of the other pieces of software (I haven’t found a freeware program that suits, though VLC will play your mpeg2 movies, if that is all you need, and is free).
Quicktime Pro ($29.99)

Quicktime Pro will display the video, but does not play the sound (even though the a3 codec is part of the perian package and the sound should play. If works for some people, but not for all. Don’t know why).

I find MPEG Streamclip (http://www.squared5.com/svideo/mpeg-streamclip-mac.html) is also a great tool for converting MPEG2 to other formats. However, it needs the $20 quicktime mpeg2 component to work.

Of course it would be nice if iMovie and Quicktime just dealt with MPEG2 out of the box, but at least I managed to get it working so I can do what I want.

What still doesn’t work is importing the MPG2 files from disk to iMovie, as it doesn’t recognize them as a format it knows. So all
is not perfect, but at least I’m now content that I can look at and edit my videos in iMovie or Quicktime Pro.

02.17.2009 17:02Wildlife

For those of my friends who are birders, here is the list of birds I saw in Australia in January. Almost all the birds on the list were lifers for me. Birds that were not lifers are marked with an *.

Orange-footed Scrubfowl
Australian Brush-turkey
Australian Pelican
Little Black Cormorant
Magpie Goose
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Wood Duck
Green Pygmy-goose
Buff-banded Rail
White-browed Crake
Purple Swamphen
Dusky Moorhen
Great-billed Heron
Great Egret*
Striated Heron
Black Bittern
Australian White Ibis
Australian Bustard
Bar-tailed Godwit
Great Knot
Curlew Sandpiper
Masked Lapwing
Black-winged Stilt
Silver Gull
Black-shouldered Kite
Black Kite
Whistling Kite
White-bellied Sea-Eagle
Grey Goshawk
Brown Falcon
Australian Hobby
Nankeen Kestrel
Pied Imperial Pigeon
White-headed Pigeon
Rock Dove*
Brown Cookoo-Dove
Peaceful Dove
Bar-shouldered Dove
Emerald Dove
Crested Pigeon
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Rainbow Lorikeet
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Australian King-Parrot
Red-winged Parrot
Crimson Rosella
Pale-headed Rosella
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Pheasant Coucal
White-rumped Swiftlet
Azure Kingfisher
Little Kingfisher
Laughing Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Forest Kingfisher
Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher
Noisy Pitta
White-throated Treecreeper
Superb Fairy-wren
Variegated Fairy-wren
Red-backed Fairy-wren
Atherton Scrubwren
Large-billed Scrubwren
White-throated Gerygone
Brown Gerygone
Large-billed Gerygone
Brown Thornbill
Red Wattlebird
Helmeted Friarbird
Little Friarbird
Blue-faced Honeyeater
Macleay’s Honeyeater
Noise Miner
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater
Graceful Honeyeater
Bridled Honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Yellow Honeyeater
White-throated Honeyeater
White-cheeked Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater
Brown-backed Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill
Dusky Honeyeater
Grey-crowned Babbler
Eastern Yellow Robin
Grey Whistler
Rufous Whistler
Rufous Fantail
Willie Wagtail
Leaden Flycatcher
Shining Flycatcher
Spectacled Monarch
Spangled Drongo
Yellow Oriole
Australasian Figbird
Great Bowerbird
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
Varied Triller
White-breasted Woodswallow
Black Butcherbird
Pied Butcherbird
Australian Magpie
Pied Currawong
Australian Raven
Welcome Swallow
House Sparrow*
Red-browed Finch
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Olive-backed (Yellow-bellied) Sunbird
Metallic Starling
Common Myna*

122 total species, only 5 I had seen elsewhere. My life list for birds is now much longer!

02.17.2009 11:44General, Lick Observatory

It has been snowing for days here on Mt. Hamilton. Today, the ice, snow, and wind was too much for one of the black locust trees around my house and it fell. Unfortunately, my car was in the way.
Tree fell on my car.
I don’t think much damage was done to my car (probably some dents and scratches), but I won’t know until I can get help removing the tree. Since the snow probably won’t get plowed on Mt. Hamilton Rd. until this afternoon, I’m pretty much stuck at home (unless I ski to work…). Luckily, I don’t have to be anywhere today (I hope I’ll be able to get out tomorrow!).

02.09.2009 0:27Photography, Wildlife

I took a great vacation to Eastern Australia, visiting Sydney and the Blue Mountains, then North to Cairns and Daintree. The weather was hot, though otherwise very nice, with only occasional rain in the
Daintree rainforest. I’ve put a photo album of some of my best and interesting photos showing lots of the things I saw. I like nature and photographing wildlife seems to be my focus when traveling. In Australia you don’t usually see many mammals as they are mostly nocturnal. Same seems to be true for the amphibians. Thus, my photos are mostly of insects, arachnids, and birds as they are what you see most
during the day. Click on Australia2009 at right in the Travel links to see the photos.

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