Hello Bird Canada readers, from Rob Campbell.
Because this is my first contribution to this cross-Canada blog, I reckon its best to start off by saying hello personally, and lead with a few words about myself. I’m an amateur bird watcher, now in my mid forties and just budding as a Birder. I live in a high rise condo in Toronto, and have binoculars and a lawn chair dedicated to this cause. I started the Toronto Bird Photo Booth Business Challenge because I like the idea of birds taking pictures of themselves. The motion detector-enabled cameras inside the Bird Photo Booth are the latest passive technology that makes compelling stories filled with beautiful and intriguing pictures.
The Toronto Bird Photo Booth Businesses Challenge 2014 is designed to raise awareness of urban birds and bird friendly buildings and businesses; the sponsors make media as they host the challenge, while the images and text are collected at the 2014 Birds of Toronto website.
The guy seen below is David Suddaby, professional camera man who shoots all manner of rock videos, TV commercials and corporate or industrial productions. He’s a professional videographer who works in the Toronto film industry and is an incurable gadget guy. In the photo below, you can see Dave and I are on the east side of Lamport Stadium in Toronto testing the photo booth rig and that’s him placing the iPhone 5c into the original Bird Photo Booth as sold by Bryson Lovette. The rig we have today is much different than what is pictured here as we have modified it significantly. Dave did most of the testing and modifications and finally selected the HD Camera Motion Detector App for the iPhone 5c as the primary 100% automated, close-up portrait photography solution.
I also bought a Wingscapes Birdcam Pro which is another category of bird camera altogether, and is employed here as a photo redundancy. It’s a battery operated trail camera and does not have a feeder dish attached. This instrument is made available to provide host business with more photography options. The Wingscapes camera lens is not as nice as Apple; the pictures this machine collects are not as crisp as the ones taken by the iPhone 5C. Yet it’s nice to have a backup and it proved invaluable in Week Two. We found it’s a good idea to set up the bird feeder and then use this rig to point at the dish from a different direction – that way it serves as something of a security camera and potentially photo any thieves who approach and take the iPhone from inside the bird photo booth. Or this unit can be set low to the ground to get the Robins and Thrashers that like to wander across a lawn and scratch at the grass looking for bugs.
Vigorate Digital Solutions loyalty programs software developers built the Birds of Toronto website and photo gallery display which will get more complicated as the program matures and they deploy more sophisticated viewing and voting software. These guys (and gals) are pin code geniuses, and they support this unique birdwatching project despite there being little or no connection between bird photography and their specialty commerce software; they just knew this project was golden, and they wanted to help.
Behold this terrific shot of a Common Grackle! This picture is, in my opinion, the best photograph taken in the competition thus far. It was captured by the iphone camera in the Toronto Bird Photo Booth when both devices were set up and ‘rolling’ in the back parking lot behind Standard IP Telecom on Laird Dr. They were positioned by John Conn, the CEO of the company. You can read about this episode, and what happened to John on Week Three of the Toronto Bird Photo Booth.
Grackles are large, lanky blackbirds with long legs and long tails. Males are slightly larger than females. They have a strong bill, enabling them to eat acorns and other tree fruits throughout the winter. Their heads are flat and their bills are longer than in most blackbirds, with the hint of a downward curve; Common Grackles fly south to winter, often alongside other birds like cowbirds, starlings and red wings and other blackbirds.
I’ll be honest, the previous birdwatcher upon whom I relied for accurate bird IDs told me this was an American Crow, and so I wrote that in most of the literature published thus far. It was only after consulting with Pat Bumstead at Bird Canada that she set me straight on this being a Grackle.
Businesses compete using the pictures the booth collects when visiting their property. What this unique challenge needs now is to find more ‘drivers’ – CEOs who are birders and who have host businesses looking for exposure. Host companies must have private backyards, rooftops or bird friendly gardens; each host business gets good media attention and their contributions are preserved on the site photo gallery forevermore. History will remember their participation in the 2014 avian audit of the city of Toronto.
Also, and for the same reason, this project needs sponsors, a bird friendly garden equipment merchandiser, a birdseed maker, a bird house contractor, bird bath engineers.. something.. What are your thoughts, ideas, and opinions of this? What advice can you offer?