Archive for August 2008

Geneagrapher Development

Earlier this year I spent some time cleaning up (and rewriting portions) of the geneagrapher tool. I intend to release the source as soon as I get it packaged, but want to take this opportunity to list some of the properties and features of the upcoming release.

  • Command-line based. The previous geneagrapher was designed to be completely web-based. I have written this one so that other people can use the tool on their machines.
  • Produces Graphviz dot files. Processing the file is left to the user.
  • The ability to generate trees with ancestors and/or descendants. The original tool only had the ability to generate ancestor trees, primarily because a descendant tree can be very large.
  • The tool works by crawling the Math Genealogy site, and each time the site’s design changes, the originally geneagrapher tool breaks. This new version has a number of tests that will help to detect when this happens earlier and to hasten the time needed to adjust.

Avian Discoveries II

This is another post about another mid-June bird encounter. One possible route to work takes me, for a short distance, through a field covered by prairie grass near my apartment complex. I often heard the chirping of a number of juvenile birds while walking through the field. Eventually, I had the opportunity to see the birds in a large tree.

I would stand under the tree for several minutes, and they would continue with their chatter. If I stayed for more than a few minutes, though, they would quiet down and watch me.

I did not know what they were at first, but ultimately decided that they appear to be falcons. I managed to capture some images of them. Unfortunately, given the conditions, the quality of the images is somewhat low. The birds do appear to be falcons, particularly American Kestrels.

Grayscale Flowers

Avian Discoveries

In mid-June, on my way to buy groceries, I was walking across an empty parking lot and heard the distinctive sound of a killdeer.

As I approached, a pair of them starting going wild, which from experience, suggested the presence of a nest nearby. When I was a child, I discovered on a few occasions how aggressive killdeer parents can be if you end up too close to their nest, but was fortunate enough once to see a clutch of superbly-camouflaged killdeer eggs. On this day I simply continued on to the store, knowing that I probably would never locate the eggs, even if I wanted to.

A killdeer parent attempting to draw attention away from its nest.

After shopping, I headed home along the same route. As I began to descend a hill close to where I had seen the birds earlier, I saw a killdeer dart away from a bush below me. He or she started to make a lot of noise and feigning injury.

It is lucky she made such a racket, too. I was walking straight toward the nest, and without warning I may have inadvertently stepped on it. When I approached the bush she was near and the rock bed it was in, I took very cautious steps, just in case my suspicions were correct.

I was right to be careful, but I always assumed she was protecting eggs. It ended up that she was monitoring a nest of hatchlings, which, like the eggshells they had previously been encased in, had excellent camouflage.

Apparently, killdeer hatchlings are precocial, and so these chicks were naturally remaining silent and motionless when I was around. That in itself was interesting to see, but I also found myself wondering where the eggshells had gone. Did the parents move them away to decrease the liklihood of detection, did they move the chicks after hatching, or was it just the wind?

Killdeer chicks.

After looking at the chicks for a short period (I did not want to stay too long and create a greater disturbance than I already was), I continued toward home. About forty feet later, and now on a parking lot surface near a median with six inch tall bushes in it, I stopped to look back to remember the location of the nest. I stood there for possibly fifteen seconds when a bird launched out of the bushes, frightening me in the process. I turned around to see a female Mallard Duck fleeing from her hiding place because I had just happened to stop right there. Of course, she was hiding in the bushes with a bunch — eight, in total — of eggs underneath her.

Duck eggs.

Green Mountain Fire

The high temperatures here have been 90 degrees or more for three weeks, and at the end of last week we broke 100 degrees for a couple days. This hot streak has culminated in a new record for consecutive at or above 90 degrees. The previous record in Denver of eighteen days was set in 1901.

High temperatures here are not really a problem, though. In the shade, even mid-ninety degree weather is not unbearable, but the sun here is quite intense. So when I noticed that the sky had become overcast during mid-morning today I was pleased because I knew the journey outside during lunch would be better than most days recently.

When I went outside during lunch, the sky was rumbling from high-altitude lightning. On the way back from lunch, I noticed a fire — presumably started by a lightning strike — on a nearby foothill. Green Mountain was burning for at least several hours and appears to have burned right up to some homes near its base.

Blackened hills

The image was taken at around 7pm, and the flames appear to have died down, although the hills were still smoldering.