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:

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……

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 (
Flip4Mac (
Quicktime mpeg2 component ( – 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 ( 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 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!).

02.19.2008 20:56General

The morning of Feb 8th we arrived at Port Lockroy and Jougla Point. Port Lockroy is a research station and historic site. The main building there is now a museum showing what life at the station was like and also houses a gift shop and post office (who would have guessed there would be a gift shop in Antarctica?). I wasn’t going to send any postcards and Carl, a fellow traveler on the Lyubov Orlova, insisted that I choose a postcard and address it to myself and he would send it. Now I get to see how long it takes for the postcard to get to me. The Port Lockroy staff also stamp passports – so of course, I got my passport stamped. Port Lockroy is also an active research site where visitors can only visit about half the island. They are studying how well (or poorly) the gentoo penguins exposed to humans do compared to those that aren’t disturbed by humans. So far it looks like the penguins do better with our presence, possibly because we keep the skuas away. The penguins are nesting everywhere, so you can’t help but walk within a few feet of nests to get into the museum, so this is the one place where you are allowed to get closer than 5 meters to the wildlife (of course, the wildlife can always move close to you – and the penguin chicks often do wander up to you in curiosity).

Jougla Point, a site on a neighboring island, has a reassembled whale skeleton as well as a jumbled pile of whale bones. There is also a healthy population of penguins and blue-eyed shags. One of the gentoo penguin chicks there is leucistic, meaning it is lacking some of the normal pigmentation of a normal penguin.

The day was beautiful and calm, so we next sailed through the Lemaire Channel, a narrow dramatic passage with tall mountains and glaciers on either side. On the way into the channel we had to avoid some largish icebergs and saw a leopard seal hauled out on an iceberg.

Once through the channel, we stopped at Peterman Island. This was our first excursion to have Adelie penguins. This island also had nesting gentoo and chinstrap penguins and blue-eyed shags. The research being done there (as well as the research staffs tents) limited where we could go on the island, but there was a great hike to a high point of the island with commanding views of area. There was more snow at lower altitudes on this Island, so I saw both Adelie and Gentoo penguins tobogganing, which I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

Since the weather was so nice, we were treated to third outing to the Yalour Islands after dinner.
There were many more Adelie penguins here than on Peterman Island and I didn’t see a single gentoo penguin. Watching the sun set with a view of Adelie penguins, glaciers, mountains, and icebergs was an amazing experience.

02.17.2008 19:05General, Photography, Wildlife

After neglecting the blog for months and months, I now have something to write about. I traveled to Argentina and Antarctica. Words cannot describe how amazing the trip was, but pictures may help. I took about 2000 pictures and have distilled that down to 120 of my favorite, best, or most interesting photos. Take a look at the Argentina and Antarctica Photos to get an idea of what my trip was like. With luck over the next week or so I’ll put the expanded set of images for each site I visited online with helpful commentary in the blog (though don’t hold your breath – as history shows, I rarely actually update this blog).

The trip started on January 29th with flying down to Buenos Aires, Argentina and arrive on the morning of Jan 30th. After checking into the Hotel Colon, which sits right on the plaza with the Obelisco, a monument commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires. I spent the afternoon walking around the Cemeterio de la Recoleta, which is famous for Eva Peron’s tomb. The monuments, mausoleums, and statues are impressive and you can spend quite a lot of time searching for the tombs of famous Argentinians.
Afterwards, I wandered the city, taking in the parks, going to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and admiring the statues and architecture of the city. Take a look at my photos of Buenos Aires to get an idea of what the city is like.

The next day (Jan 31st) I went bird watching at Costanera Sur, a nature reserve near downtown Buenos Aires. I hired bird guide Sergio Corbet (recommended through birdchat and birdingpal) and was not disappointed. The day was beautiful (if a little on the warm side) and I saw plenty of birds and Sergio’s knowledge and affability made the day a true pleasure. Photos of many of the birds (and other wildlife) I saw are at my Buenos Aires Animals photo page. For those of you interested in birds, here is the full list of what I saw (and new lifers are marked with an asterisk – 81 species, 60 lifers):
Neotropic Cormorant
Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
*Cocoi Heron
Great Egret
*White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
*White-faced Whistling Duck
*Fulvous Whistling Duck
*Coscoroba Swan
*Black-necked Swan
*Red Shoveler
*Silver Teal
*Yellow-billed Pintail
Southern Crested-Caracara
*Chimango Caracara
*Grey-necked Wood-Rail
*Plumbeous Rail
*Red-gartered Coot
*Wattled Jacana
*White-backed Stilt
Southern Lapwing
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
*Brown-hooded Gull
*Kelp Gull
Rock Pigeon
*Picazuro Pigeon
*Eared Dove
*Nanday (Black-hooded) Parakeet
Monk Parakeet
*Dark-billed Cuckoo
*Guira Cuckoo
*Glittering-bellied Emerald
*Gilded Sapphire
*Checkered Woodpecker
*Green-barred Woodpecker
*Field Flicker
*Rufous Hornero
*Freckle-breasted Thornbird
*Narrow-billed Woodcreeper
*Small-billed Elaenia
*White-bellied Tyrannulet
*Warbling Doradito
*Bran-coloured Flycatcher
*Spectacled Tyrant
*Yellow-browed Tyrant
*Cattle Tyrant
Tropical Kingbird
*Fork-tailed Flycatcher
*Streaked Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
*Red-eyed Vireo
*Grey-breasted Martin
*Brown-chested Martin
*White-rumped Swallow
House Wren
*Masked Gnatcatcher
*Rufous-bellied Thrush
*Creamy-bellied Thrush
*Chalk-browed Mockingbird
*Blue-and-yellow Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
*Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch
*Double-collared Seedeater
Saffron Yellow-Finch
Yellow-billed Cardinal
Red-crested Cardinal
*Rufous-collared Sparrow
*Golden-billed Saltator
*Glaucus-blue Grosbeak
*Epaulet Oriole
*Yellow-winged Blackbird
*Shiny Cowbird
*Hooded Siskin
European Starling
House Sparrow

Sergio and I rested in the middle of the day by having a traditional argentine BBQ lunch at a great restaurant at the old port of Buenos Aires. This area of the city is being refurbished and the old warehouses being turned into shopping centers and apartments. At the end of the day I was tired and happy and was content to get a quick dinner and some sleep after sifting through my photos.

I slept in and was about to head out when my roommate for the Antarctica cruise, Vennie Anderson, arrived at the hotel. Once Vennie got settled in the room, we went to breakfast and then started a walking tour to the Plaza de Mayo, seeing Casa Rosada and lots of monuments. Vennie was exhausted from traveling, so she went back to the hotel while I continued wandering around the city.

That evening we headed to a dinner and Tango show at El Querandi and enjoyed great food, dancing, and music.

02.27.2005 21:05General, Photography, Wildlife

Last year (Jan 2004) I took a fantastic vacation to Costa Rica to see the wildlife. I decided this would be a good time to try and see if I could add my web page of the best or most interesting photos to the links section of my blog. It seems to be successful.

02.25.2005 3:45General

What am I doing? Starting a blog? I must be insane.