Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Few Waxwings

I spent about 3 hours birding the neighborhood this morning and enjoyed the cold, clear, still conditions. I left the house at about 7:40 and right across the street I found a Pine Warbler. This was only the second one I've seen in the neighborhood this winter, so it was a great way to start the morning. On Stillforest I got a quick look at a Red-shouldered Hawk as it flew by low in the tree canopy. These hawks live here year-round but I hadn't seen one in a few weeks. Things were relatively quiet until I crossed the Lake Creek Trail footbridge onto the floodplain property. There I heard a familiar high-pitched "see see see" and found these Cedar Waxwings perched near the top of a cedar tree on the edge of the creek. There were about 8 of them flying down to drink or bathe. Cedar Waxwings have been scarce this winter (I have not seen any in the neighborhood since mid-December), probably because of dry conditions. So it was nice finding this group by the creek.

Near the end of Holbrook Street I ran into a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos. These grey and white sparrows are only here in the winter and make a high fast ticking call. I've been trying to get a decent picture of one and this was the result. It's the best I've gotten so far of this species, but still it's a bit out of focus.

On my way back, by the footbridge, I got this picture of a Bewick's Wren, 1 of our 2 common year-round resident wrens. It's very similar to the Carolina Wren, but its breast does not have the buffy wash that the Carolina Wren has, and overall the Bewick's Wren is grey-brown instead of reddish-brown. You can see its distinctive wren posture here, with the cocked up tail and horizontal body.

The T&C playing fields parking lot at the end of Meadowheath is one of the few places in the neighborhood with street lights. This morning I noticed a wireless device on top of one. Does anyone know what it is?


Anonymous said...

In today's Statesman...

Monday, March 09, 2009

There are at least two streetlights in my Northwest Austin neighborhood that have a metal box on top of the fixture with an antenna pointing skyward. There appears to be a cable connecting it to what is normally the sensor that controls the streetlight according to ambient light. What are these boxes? My guesses are Wi-Fi or relay transmitters for the electric meters. - J.C.

The equipment you described is part of Austin Energy's automated meter infrastructure. The automated meters send radio transmissions of power usage. The city began installing these meters to homes throughout Austin last year and will finish installation, a total of about 270,000 devices, by the end of the summer, Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark says.

The meters will eventually allow Austin Energy to provide better service, including the ability to detect power outages on the neighborhood level and to remotely turn power on and off when people move in or out of houses, Clark says.

-Back Yard Birder

Mikael Behrens said...

Very interesting, thanks! Austin Energy recently replaced the electricity meter on my house with a newer one that is part of this new infrastructure.