Barbara and I headed out to Achensee (near Jenbach in Tirol) this afternoon to see if we could find any waterfowl of note. We managed to find about 50 Coots (Blässhuhn), 2 Mute Swans, 19 Tufted Duck (Reiheenten), one Mallard (Stockente) and one Great Crested Grebe (Haubentaucher) along with about 15 Blackheaded Gulls (Lachmöwen).
We stopped in at a scenic Gasthaus overlooking the lake, to have a cup of hot chocolate and were greeted by a bird feeder. And as with many winter bird feeders in Europe, it had a a steady stream of tits and other little birds coming in.
Watching them from our cosy booth, we got to discussing and observing the various interactions between and within the bird species.
As it turns out, size counts.
The most abundant species was the Coal Tit, and there seemed to be one dominant individual that would tirelessly chase away other Coal Tit individuals when (s)he wanted to feed. But he was no match to the Great Tit that occasionally came by. Nor did (s)he have anything to say when the much bigger Nuthatch showed up.
Canon EOS 5D mark II, Canon EF DO 400mm f4, Canon EF 2x converter
At one stage a single Blue Tit showed up and got to feed in a quiet period, but it soon disappeared as a whole herd of Coal Tits, a Great Tit and two Nuthatches flooded the feeder all at once.
It was great fun to peacefully watch the antics of the birds outside and I can fully appreciate the therapeutic benefit millions of people around the world get from watching birds at their garden feeders.
The Rock Partridge is a stunning bird of the grouse family - one of my favourites, really. They are also incredibly difficult to find in the Tirolean Alps, and I only know of a few places where they have been recorded.
My one encounter thus far with real wild Rock Partridges here in Tirol was last spring up near Kühtai. I had stopped off in an area where I knew Rock Partridges had been seen before, and got out to take a panorama photo. This is the hastily stitched together result:
The road on the right is the western portion of the road on the left.
So I have already posted about the Wild Goose Festival in Tata Hungary, but while I was out there I took some video footage so that I could make a short video about it. It is very short, I promise, but it has some cool footage and will help you imagine just how incredible of a festival it really is.
Every year in November, the west Hungarian city of Tata hosts an incredible birding festival. 2009 saw approximately 24,000 wild geese on the Old Lake (Öreg To) and played host to more than 10,000 people coming to view the spectacle.
The festival drew large numbers of serious birders as well as a considerable crowd of non-birders (avian muggles) who were just fascinated by the experience.
Besides the early morning take-off and sunset return of the geese, the day is largely occupied with a bird race for the more serious birders, and information talks and demonstrations for the general public.
Recently, I have been using the Canon Eos 5D mark II a fair amount, and it makes a great camera for digiscoping using the TLS800 adapter. To be completely honest, I have been astounded by the quality of the results. Here are some photos of Chamois I took at Alpenzoo last week.
Every winter, hundreds of Snowfinches collect in Kühtai in large non-breeding flocks; feeding on the sunflower seeds on offer there, and sheltering from bad weather in the high mountains. I have yet to see a snowfinch below 1800m and Kühtai lies at just over 2000m.
The flock size tends to increase through the winter, reaching a peak in about February (but I'll monitor it more closely over the next winter season.
Yesterday I was up in Kühtai again for a day of glorious powder skiing and picked up the first small flocks of the season in town (as opposed to the single individuals I have been seeing in the high mountains up until now).
It is wonderful to have them back, and I look forward to take looooots of photos of them over the next few months.
Here are five things you should consider when wanting to get crisp, sharp digiscoping photos:
1. Get good focus - use the optical viewfinder of a DSLR or macro autofocus of a compact camera.
2. Understand your camera settings - use ISO and Aperture setting to get photos with low noise (low ISO) and with a wide open aperture (smallest f number in Aperture Priority mode) to get the fastest shutter speed possible for those conditions.
3. Use a remote release of countdown timer - anything that lets you reduce the shake of the camera will improve the sharpness of the images taken with the digiscoping setup
4. Use a stable platform - carbonfibre tripods are light and dampen vibrations effectively. If you are using a tripod, make sure you use a telescope balance rail as adding the weight to the back of the telescope tends to pull the whole setup out of balance and introduce/accentuate camera shake. Even better than a tripod is a Bean Bag. These are very easy to make and - filled with beans, rice or corn - make excellent vibration-dampening camera/telescope supports.
5. Use good quality optics - photographers have been saying this for decades: buy good quality lenses first, and then think about upgrading your camera body. Applied to digiscoping, the quality of the image coming through your scope will largely determine the quality of the image you are able to get out of your digiscoping setup.
btw, those really are real live hippos in the background. they kill more people in Africa than all other living creatures put together: snakes, bees, sharks, lions, spiders... (oh, that list is long)
In May, Clay Taylor and I spent a few days in Italy's dream birding location - the Delta del Po. One of the highlights is the thousands of Pygmy Cormorants (Zwergscharbe) floating/flying about. They really are an abundant bird in the Po Delta - and I suspect - a good deal of the reason why they are spreading throughout the region now (Martin and I saw two Pygmy Shags in Neusiedlersee last weekend).
The highlight of the trip was being taken to the hide near Ravenna. Here are some digiscoping photos from our time with the Pygmy Cormorants there:
A nice sillouette:
While we were at the Pygmy Cormorant hide, we made a little video on the UCA digiscoping adapter which I have posted here before - it also has some videoscoping shots of the Pygmy Cormorants:
The geese sleep overnight on the large "old lake" (Öreg Tó), surrounded by the Hungarian city of Tata. During the day, they feed out on agricultural fields up to 50km away from the lake, returning at dusk again. Binoculars and telescopes really help enhance the experience:
view over the lake, with large flocks of geese coming in
digiscoping the geese across the lake (see the previous photo)
I also took a fair amount of video footage and did an interview with one of the organisers. I'll post it when I have it done. I am really loving video and videoscoping (as you may well have guessed), it just takes so much time to edit and prepare the video files...
Hi All, we have just set up a Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/digiscopingvideos where we will regularly (hopefully) post videos about digiscoping, birding, bird identification, cool places to commune with nature, conservation projects and and and...
Here is a video I made while in the woodbush forest in the northern Drakensberg mountains, Limpopo Province, South Africa (with Cape Parrots in the background!!!). It is about how to choose the best spotting scope for digiscoping including telescope objective size, ocular/eyepiece choice, and the adapter.
If you enjoyed the video, please go along to the youtube channel and subscribe.