react-europe (and birding, naturally)

Posted on May 11, 2017 in Birding, Training / Conferences | 0 comments

Next week I’m very excited to be heading off to Paris for this year’s react-europe conference. It being Paris and all, my wife decided oh-what-the-hell and will be coming along for the trip. After the conference we’re going to be driving up through France to Belgium, then onto Amsterdam where we fly back.

Really looking forward to the conference. I enjoyed ng-conf a few weeks back, but I definitely consider myself a React guy. I’ve also spent the last 2 months reading my European bird book over and over, so all in all I’m exceedingly excited for this trip. If all goes according to plan, I’ll soon be boring the tears out of family and friends with a new array of bird photographs… ah, joy.

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2016 birding sum-up

Posted on Jan 8, 2017 in Birding | 0 comments

Time for the yearly birding sum-up.

So 2016 didn’t go quite as planned! At the start of the year, we thought my wife would get her final surgery around Feb but it got bumped to August which meant shuffling a few things – namely, my birding trips. Ultimately my goal of getting my life list up to 1,000 birds fell short, ending up with 842. But no matter! Just have to get them this year instead. :)

Highlights:

  • Seeing several white-headed woodpeckers down in Leavenworth, Washington early in the year. Beautiful birds!
  • Catching a northern hawk owl up in Prince George in March. I only got to see the bird via a scope at a distance, but it was great to finally see one. That’s been a target bird for years.
  • Seeing a whole laundry list of Eastern birds in North Carolina, many of which have also sought for years: prothonotary warbler, black-throated blue warbler, brown-headed nuthatch, red-headed woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpecker.
  • Spending all of June in Iceland while I finished up my job at IBM, seeing a whopping 76 species of bird and ending up 8th in the country on the year’s eBird list. Saw numerous lifers including a lone king eider, white-tailed eagle, purple sandpiper, pink-footed goose, a common house martin (!) and atlantic puffin by the bucketload.
  • Seeing 16 white-tailed ptarmigan up on flatiron peak, coquihalla. I wrote up an article for the most recent edition of BC Birding to describe the trip.
  • Catching a few late birds for Bowen Island that have eluded me: ancient murrelet off the lighthouse, and a handsome townsend’s solitaire at the golf course.

I cut down on my birding quite a bit from the previous year so only ended up seeing 266 species in BC, 19th on the province’s eBird list. Still, not a bad year.

This coming year I’ve got several trips planned (and a couple already booked): Utah in early April, France, Belgium & Netherlands in May with the wife, San Francisco in October. I’ve also got my sights set up a big trip to Peru in November. Today I’m going to crunch the numbers and figure out how to pull that off… It’s gonna be tight.

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birdsearch.org 2.0.5

Posted on Nov 26, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org, Form Tools, Open Source Projects | 3 comments

Alrighty! I just released another small update to birdsearch.org, the latest of a series of bug fix releases. I believe this release now fixes all the significant errors, so I’m going to be putting the site largely aside for a bit. The next task for that site is to add mobile support – something badly needed! But first I want to return to Form Tools for a little while.

btw, I’m off to Mexico for a week so sorry if I don’t respond promptly to anyone.

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birdsearch.org 2.0.2

Posted on Nov 6, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org, Open Source Projects | 0 comments

Couple of small updates to birdsearch.org this last week:Map styles

  • Report Sightings link added to the top header
  • Incorporated feedback from a few people to improve the UI in the few places.
  • Settings tab updates to include a new “Map Styles” section that lets you customize the look of the map. There are now six styles, chosen to be either quite dark or light to ensure the map markers show up clearly.

Next version is going to be for bug fixes only. There are a few small things I’d like to patch before letting more people know about the site.

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It’s aliiive!

Posted on Oct 30, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org | 0 comments

Wbirdsearch1ell, for a project that was supposed to just take a few months, this sure took the cake. But it’s live at last: check it out! birdsearch.org.

I created the site 3 years ago, and even though very few people actually use it (I should probably have let people know it was there) I’ve found it invaluable for my own birding. This new version was a complete rewrite in React, Redux, react-intl with a Node backend. It’s still in beta – I’ve got a running list of bugs and enhancements to fix on github here. But as a first draft I’m very pleased.

I’ll write a separate post about the technology behind it all, but feature-wise there are lots of nice improvements:

  • Better UI / user experience. The site now welcomes you with two easy options: Search Nearby and Search Anywhere. 9 times out of 10, I found I used the site to keep track of what was being sighted in my neighbourhood. This let’s me get that info at the touch of a single button.
  • Simplified search. I moved all “advanced” features to a settings section. That’s where you find the option to search Notable Sightings,
  • Extra stuff removed. I removed the option to search for nearby hotspots. It didn’t add much, and the eBird website offers this functionality in a far better format.
  • Wikipedia links for all species. This is a rather nifty option. When you browse the sightings, each bird species shows a Wikipedia link. Clicking it takes you to a wikipedia article about the species. When I use the site to browse birds in far-off places I’m going to be visiting, I find this feature particularly useful.
  • Misc UI improvements. Sightings now link to the original checklist on eBird; all data is sortable (species name, location, sightings count, etc); you can filter locations and results by a search string to pinpoint exactly what species/location you’re interested in.

So yeah, check it out.

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birdsearch.org update

Posted on Oct 28, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org | 0 comments

birdsearch.org will be down for a little while this weekend while I move it over to its new home at Digital Ocean. Just a heads up. I’ll make a post once it’s all complete.

10pm Sat Oct 29th: yikes, not going fabulously. The site’s going to be offline for a while while I sort this all out.

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White-tailed ptarmigan!

Posted on Oct 2, 2016 in Birding | 2 comments

If I ever had a white whale, it was in a smaller, cuter avian form: a white-tailed ptarmigan. For the last 3 years I’ve made attempt after attempt to find this bird, but never with any luck. Finally today I found a pack of 16, up on Flatiron peak, Coquihalla. Took a little delicacy, but after 45 minutes of slow movement I was able to get close to them. Gorgeous, fascinating bird.

Pictures here: http://www.benjaminkeen.com/birding/local-wildlife/

Damn good day. I picked up a bottle of proscecco to mark the occasion.

Back to responsible coding Tues. Soooo close to polishing off birdsearch.org.

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birdsearch.org rewrite

Posted on Oct 1, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org | 2 comments

Just a heads up that birdsearch.org will be updated in the couple of weeks. Rather than do a safe roll-out of a beta.birdsearch.org subdomain for the new beta, I’m just going to switch out the entire site. The site gets so few users, if there are bugs it won’t inconvenience too many people, but more significantly, I’m switching hosting providers for the site and it isn’t easy to have both running at once.

The new site is a HUGE improvement. I’ll be extremely excited to release it! The site is a complete rewrite in react, redux, react-intl, react-router and node. It also features a snappy new UI and design. I’ll post when it’s all done.

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