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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New job

Posted on Aug 18, 2016 in Birding, Blog | 2 comments

New job is great, but holy moly… the commute! There was I, thinking I had no time before, but tack on 3-4 hours of commuting time a day and there often isn’t even enough time to fix a decent meal when you get home at night. Yikes. Our cats are NOT pleased.

So yeah, zero updates on anything. I’m pushing for working from home for a day or two a week, but I need to get to a place when I *can* work from home and be as productive as I would be in in the office. And that still may take a few more weeks to get there: plus get the requisite laptop + everything set up.

Anyway, to stave off insanity I created a new twitter account where I could tweet about all things birding. Feels like the only non-work thing I’ve done in weeks.

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Iceland

Posted on Jun 4, 2016 in Birding, Blog | 0 comments

I’m spending the month in Iceland. Working remotely has its advantages. I’ve created an album for the various birds I’m seeing while here. Just click the pink-footed goose picture…

ping-footed-goose1

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2015 birding sum-up

Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in Birding | 0 comments

And so ends 2015: time for the old birding sum-up. More so than previous years, last year I decided to take my birding a bit more seriously and set myself some concrete goals:

  1. Buy a damn scope already!
  2. Shoot for 300 species of bird in BC (I saw 262 last year, 245 the year before),
  3. Shoot for getting into the top 10 in BC, top 50 in Canada on the eBird list,
  4. Above all: broaden my horizons and bird some new areas of BC.

Despite a few setbacks, the year was an unqualified success:

  1. Scope: tick! I picked up a Swarokvski ATX with a 85mm objective lens in early January. Having a scope makes the absolute world of difference to birding. Suddenly, scanning the shoreline or sea is a pleasant occupation rather than a deeply frustrating one. It also makes some difficult IDs easy [on New Year's Day this year, a quick scan of a 207-strong flock of trumpeter swans yielded 4 tundras. That would have been a hit-and-miss affair without a scope].
  2. Saw 316 BC species (yeah! I know!),
  3. Ended up 2nd in BC, 15th in Canada.
  4. Visited Merritt, Lillooet, Peace River region, all over the Okanagan, Prince George, various spots on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii.

Highlights

  • Seeing a Canada warbler with my dad up in Fort St. John. That bird is an absolutely stunner, and for me a long-awaited tick (I mean, it’s a Canada warbler, for heaven’s sake). Some people self-identify as dog people or cat people: I’m definitely a warbler kind of guy, so this sighting meant a lot.
  • Freezing my butt off on the ferry back from Haida Gwaii seeing literally no birds for 30 minutes on a dead-calm sea, then having a leach’s storm petrel flutter by within a few feet of me. What a moment.
  • Same trip, a few days earlier: taking the ferry from Digby island over to Prince Rupert and seeing a yellow-billed loon, still in alternate plumage pop up within a few feet of the boat.
  • Finding a Ross’s goose at Brunswick Point, Ladner. This felt like karma. When I first started birding back in 2011-12, I missed the fact that Ross’s geese weren’t actually found around here, so I spent a shameful amount of time scanning snow geese flocks looking for them. At some point I must have consulted my bird book and smacked myself on the forehead, but the habit of scanning geese flocks stuck with me and that one day in Ladner it paid off.
  • Visiting Whistler mountain hoping to find a gray-crowned rosy-finch and finding 450.
  • Having the great pleasure of now owning my own house on Bowen Island and my own local eBird “hotspot” to monitor. Current total: 97 species. Let’s see how many we can get it up to by the end of the year.

Birds that got away

I could easily list twenty birds that really rankle, but let me limit it to my top five. These should be read to the sound of gnashing of teeth.

  1. Veery. In the late summer it dawned on me I hadn’t seen one and did a couple of frantic day-twitches to find one. Never did.
  2. Clark’s grebe. I’ve had a lot of luck with this bird in the past, so the thought of missing it didn’t really cross my mind. Shows my inexperience, I suppose. Despite a very promising candidate at White Rock in the late Fall, I couldn’t in all decency tick it.
  3. American bittern. That damn bird! I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent this year standing around at Reifel’s in the freezing cold looking for one. My wife knows how many times I’ve been out for this bird, so any time its name comes up she laughs endlessly (nothing like a supportive spouse).
  4. White-tailed ptarmigan. Insert expletive here.
  5. Ruffed grouse. This bird is probably the most frustrating because my dad sees them all the time and sends me “gosh I almost ran over a half dozen in my car today” emails which I’m pretty sure causes him endless mirth.

On to 2016…

This year’s going to be very different. 2015 was enormous fun, but holy cow I need to tone it down. I devoted a huge amount of my time to birding and let my other pursuits (software, art in particular) suffer. And suffer they have; time to reintroduce a degree of moderation. My new house needs work and my various software projects are in dire need of maintenance and updates. Sadly, all of this will mean less time in the field.

Instead, I’m going to ramp up my reading. I have a row of bird-related literature gathering dust on my shelves and it’s high time to work through them. For a long time now I’ve felt that the number of birds I see far exceeds my knowledge; I’d like to bring the two more in par.

Third, I want to get my life list up over 1,000 species. No, this doesn’t conflict with the above: overall I’ll do less birding but I’ll do some intensive (self-led) birding trips to get my numbers up. Current plan: Mexico early in the year, Iceland for May-June, Brazil/Peru in the fall, and possibly one more if I can raise the funds (Panama? Hawaii? Philippines? Not sure). I may have to take up prostitution or sell some of my body parts to fund all this, but what the heck. It’s worth it.

Lastly, I want to crank up my local birding, i.e. Bowen Island local. I’ve learned a few of the spots here on Bowen but I’d like to explore more.

Bring on 2016.

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