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A New Day

For the past several years now I’ve been using a combination of a spotting scope, a digiscoping adapter from Vortex, and my Canon Powershot ELPH 100 HS to reach out and capture those distant bird photographs. And as I’ve taken this rig into the field on countless occasions to work on my skills, I’ve developed a love- hate relationship with it.

I’ve captured some really great photos digiscoping, and I’ve had for the most part shot some real lousy pictures. At the end of a typical field trip where I shoot lots of pictures, I would load my pictures into my computer to start the photo editing process. This is where the picture you thought was really pretty good, turns into an out of focus mess not worth saving, let alone sharing it on my blog. And this is where the “hate” relationship comes into play. The pictures that you see are just a fraction of what I’ve deleted as I’d scroll through a day in the field.

On a whole I’m not a bad photographer. I’ve been a photographer since my first Canon SLR was purchased back in the mid-1970′s. So I do consider myself an experienced amateur. However this digiscoping style of photography has really perplexed me when the bottom line is always an out of focus subject. And I think I know where the problem lies.

The camera is relying on the spotting scope to be in focus to capture the quality photo that the camera can produce. The camera by itself has the capability to taking some awesome pictures, but when it relies on another whole set of lens in front of it, now that becomes a whole other problem we have to deal with.  For myself I have difficulty in telling if the image is in focus while viewing it through an LCD screen on the back of the camera. The process for me to take a digiscoped pictures has several steps and by the time you complete them either the bird has flown away, or it’s moved and out of focus. Also when I’m just looking through my bin’s or spotting scope I don’t wear my reading glasses. However when I digiscope a picture I have to put them on to see the image on the LCD screen. The whole process is maddening.

But when you come up with an image like this…


it makes the 40 other crappy pictures seem less important. So you continue to put up with getting that 1 in 40 shot that comes out really sharp and in focus.

Well, not anymore. “Say hello to my little friend”

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

The first time I saw this camera was back in January while out on a wintery field trip with my friend Brain. He was home from college and we were both adding birds to our January 100 species list. We were down along the Little Miami River in Newtown when we spot a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Brain pulls out this exact camera and takes a photo of the Sapsucker that blew my mind away. We weren’t exactly close, but the close-up shot of that bird instantly sold me.

Now it looks almost like my Canon Powershot S3 IS if you compare these 2  images.

Sharing the same body shape, that’s the only similarity these 2 cameras have. Where my older canon has only a 12X zoom, the new one has a 50X zoom. It goes from 34mm to a whopping 1,200mm. That’s a crazy zoom on what is considered just a point-n-shoot camera. And that’s optical zoom, not digital. My spotting scope only zooms from 20X to 60X, and this camera does 50X, WOW!

So to show just how much this beauty will zoom onto a subject I went out today to try an experimental photo shoot. The first image is shooting away from the house towards my backyard towards the fence line. It’s the fence we want to focus our attention on.


Now I’m going to start zooming in to an object that’s sitting on top of one of the fence posts. The item I’m zooming in on is 100 feet from the camera which is mounted on a tripod. The object is 4.5″ x 3.5″.

IMG_0003Remember so far this is all optical zoom.

IMG_0005Still optical zoom

IMG_0006This is at the extent of it’s zoom capabilities. 50X or 1,200mm.

IMG_0008And this final picture is when you apply the 2x digital zoom.

Now considering that I was just started fooling around with it and haven’t yet explored the full capabilities of this camera, and it’s a cloudy day, the zoom on this camera is just outstanding.

So what’s going to happen to my digiscoping rig? Well for the time being it will be semi-retired and be remembered as a worthy companion that took some great photos…every now and then.

Rare Bird Alert

First we had the Snowy Owl invasion. Then for a short period we had what I thought was an over abundence of Snow Buntings. And just recently we have the White-winged Scoter phenominon. So now which bird is the new attraction all over the State of Ohio? Well it’s the Red-necked Grebe. And from all the chat on social media you can pretty much find them anywhere you have a large body of water. From East Fork State Park, the reservoir at the Cincinnati Water Works at California, on the river at Armleder, the gravel pits in Ross, to the Ohio River. Not knowing how long they’ll be around so the sooner you get out into the field the better. For myself maybe one day this weekend.   

Rare Bird Alert

This morning while checking my e-mail I noticed a sighting of a Eurasian Wigeon on Lodge Pond at Fernald Preserve. Go check it out before the weather turns bad.


January 100 Species Challenge

The month was slipping away. This was the last full weekend before February and with 2 solid days where I could go birding. And it was supposed to snow on Saturday, which made finding my final bird for the month just that more important. However this was the last thing on my mind as I made my way to Oxford Ohio to visit my oldest son for the evening. Then I received the phone call…it was my best friend Phil…a male and female Northern Bobwhite were under his stationary feeders eating the seeds on the ground. And here I am an hour away with hardly any daylight left. So I told him the situation and asked that he keep me informed as to whether they return the next day.

Northern Bobwhites were once a very abundant species, however with the loss of habitat they’ve now become fewer in numbers till you could almost call them an uncommon species. So when the call came yesterday while still at work that they just showed up again to feed lifted my hopes. Even though Phil’s  house fronts a very busy road, the back and sides offer the cover that Bobwhites like, and they used that cover to sneak in and out to feed throughout the day. From what Phil was observing they would stay for about 15 minutes, feed, then leave. I smell a pattern that I might be able to use to catch these birds with my bins.

So after work yesterday I made my way over to his house to play the waiting game. As the clock approached 5:30 they came out. 1 male and 1 female, and 100 species.

IMG_3981Male Northern Bobwhite

IMG_3983Female Northern Bobwhite

IMG_3982The lovely couple

Sorry for the poor quality photo. You see I was taking this picture through 2 doors. One with just a glass pane and the other through a screen.

So here’s the list of birds for this January 2014.

  1. Carolina Chickadee
  2. House Finch
  3. House Sparrow
  4. American Crow
  5. Tufted Titmouse
  6. American Robin
  7. American Goldfinch
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. Blue Jay
  11. Red-tailed Hawk
  12. Northern Mockingbird
  13. White-breasted Nuthatch
  14. European Starling
  15. Northern Cardinal
  16. Red-shouldered Hawk
  17. Barred Owl
  18. Canada Goose
  19. Cackling Goose
  20. Pigeon
  21. Trumpeter Swan
  22. Tundra Swan
  23. Cooper’s Hawk
  24. Bald Eagle
  25. Carolina Wren
  26. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  27. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  28. American Coot
  29. Gadwall
  30. Mallard
  31. American Black Duck
  32. Song Sparrow
  33. Dark-eyed Junco
  34. Hairy Woodpecker
  35. Pied-billed Grebe
  36. Ring-billed Gull
  37. Ring-necked Duck
  38. Mourning Dove
  39. White-throated Sparrow
  40. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  41. Bufflehead
  42. Canvasback
  43. Greater White-fronted Goose
  44. Mute Swan
  45. Snow Goose
  46. Hooded Merganser
  47. Redhead
  48. Greater Scaup
  49. Lesser Scaup
  50. Hermit Thrush
  51. Common Grackle
  52. Ruddy Duck
  53. American Wigeon
  54. Common Goldeneye
  55. Northern Shoveler
  56. Brown Creeper
  57. American Tree Sparrow
  58. Wood Duck
  59. Northern Harrier
  60. American Kestrel
  61. Swamp Sparrow
  62. White-crowned Sparrow
  63. Great Blue Heron
  64. Double-creasted Cormorant
  65. Killdeer
  66. Northern Flicker
  67. Herring Gull
  68. Snow Bunting
  69. Fox Sparrow
  70. Horned Lark
  71. Glaucous Gull-Lifer
  72. Lapland Longspur
  73. Eastern Towhee
  74. Black Vulture
  75. Savannah Sparrow
  76. Red-headed Woodpecker
  77. Pileated Woodpecker
  78. Eastern Bluebird
  79. Eastern Meadowlark
  80. Wild Turkey
  81. Red-winged Blackbird
  82. Horned grebe
  83. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  84. Red-breasted Merganser
  85. Snowy Owl
  86. Merlin
  87. White-winged Scoter
  88. Common Merganser
  89. Surf Scoter
  90. Field Sparrow
  91. Turkey Vulture
  92. Green-winged Teal
  93. Brown-headed Cowbird
  94. Common Loon
  95. Bonaparte’s Gull
  96. Belted Kingfisher
  97. Rough-legged Hawk
  98. Short-eared Owl
  99. Winter Wren
  100. Northern Bobwhite

Some pretty common birds that I dipped on this month are very common, however I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes the birding Gods are with you, such was the case of the Snowy Owl, Glaucous Gull (which I saw on the coldest day of the year), Short-eared Owls. And other times no matter how hard you try you just can’t find them. Such as…

  • Northern Pintail
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Sandhill Crane

So until next year I’ll just keep on birding.

January 100 Species Challenge

With almost 2 weeks already gone for January the anxiety level of making 100 species is a foreboding cloud over my head. Will I, or won’t I make it? So yesterday John and Jon and myself hit it pretty hard in Western Hamilton County with stops at Fernald Preserve, Miami Whitewater, Whitewater Senior Center, and other various spots along the way.

Then to top it off after I got home I find out that a Surf Scoter was seen at the mouth of the Licking River. So I was back into the field again chasing a relatively rare bird. Then this morning I was up to Caesar Creek to try for a couple common birds there.

So now this being my last day of vacation, I’m sitting at 95 birds. So the new ones from both today and yesterday are:

  • Surf Scoter
  • Field Sparrow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Common Loon
  • Bonaparte’s Gull

Some of the common birds still needed are:

  1. Eastern Screech Owl
  2. Great Horned Owl
  3. Gray Catbird
  4. Winter Wren
  5. Rusty Blackbird
  6. Sandhill Crane
  7. Rough-legged Hawk

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

January 100 Species Challenge

Patience pays off when a tip from Jon led me to my 88th bird for the year, a Common Merganser. So besides all the Woodpeckers for the eastern United States, we can add all the Mergansers

# 88. Common Merganser