While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Digiscoping Birds on La Costa Brava, Spain

The wife and I have just joined a few friends on the Catalunian Costa Brava, based in the marina-town of Empuriabrava. Inspired by Clay Taylor`s CD1000 bird digiscoping project, I decided to do a mini version whilst here - try to see just how many bird species I could digiscope on a vacation (with wifey and non-birding friends ;-)

I haven`t had time to take advantage of photoshop yet, but here are some of my early photos:

Day one:
Barn Swallows

Day two:
Blackwinged Stilt
One of my favorite birds as a child, they are particularly common here and there are also lots of youngsters about.

White Stork

Another bird I knew as a child - good to see (and hear) them again.

Little Grebe

Day 3:
Yellowlegged Gull (juv)

My first Nightingale photo

Day 4:
Blacktailed Godwit

Squacco heron

Purple Gallinule (Swamphen)

Blackheaded Night Heron


Species digiscoped so far: 34
Most of the easy ones done, now comes the hard part!

Happy birding
Dale Forbes

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The last of the Ortolan

The story goes that the Ortolan Bunting was the favorite food of Galileo Galilei and my bird book says that Ortolans are to be found throughout Europe. So, one would expect the Ortolan to be just a little bit more common.

As it turns out, there are only 7 or 8 Ortolans left in Austria. And they all live in the same little patch of fields between Silz and Mötz in western Tirol. According to the local expert (Andreas Danzl), they need such a complex mix of crops at specific times that the there are very few spots in the Alps that they are able to eek out a living. And every year there are fewer and fewer Ortolans about (despite Andreas' best efforts).

This species' population decline in Central Europe is echoed throughout Europe with habitat degredation and (mostly) illegal capture for gourmet dishes being the main suspects. I have just been reading a little about how these birds were (are) caught and kept in lit rooms (to disrupt their feeding cycle) and stuffed with cereals to fatten them quickly. There was nothing pleasant about that little bit of research (though it did remind me of KFC and battery chicken farming stories).

So, this morning I headed out for Silz hoping that the rain would ease enough for me to find a couple of these cool little creatures. As luck would have it, the drizzle slowed then stopped just after I got there. It took a while before I heard my first Ortolan. and then they were calling everywhere!

But annoyingly, I could not find a single one. I slowly crept closer and closer to one that was singing in a field and despite their reputation for sitting on posts, this one was calling from within the 15cm high vegetation of a fallow field. I got to within 25m of it without ever catching sight of it. Well, that was until it flew off. I spent the next 70min wandering about trying to find one. By that stage they were quite and all I could find was the related Yellow Hammer (which were then everywhere).

Persistence paid off though and I managed to find two just as it started to rain. I was able to snap off a couple of photos just in time before running back to the car.

The rain still has not stopped.

Here are some photos I managed to get yesterday evening up in Itzlranggen:
Some Redbacked Shrikes

Male Redbacked Shrike playing hide-and-go-seek ;-)

And the lovely Yellow Hammers are very vocal at the moment:

Happy birding

Dale Forbes

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Diginocking in the mountains

After last weeks' fun taking photos through my ELs, I decided to do a little more of it this morning. Last night we had taken a hike back in to the mountains to a most gorgeous of spot: Solsteinhaus, a hut set way back in the mountains on the edge of my favorite mountain in the whole wide world (Große Solstein - on the right in the first photo).

I was admittedly lazy in getting up this morning, but when I got out there was still something to be seen. The Alpine Accentors were not very vocal at all and we ended up playing an interminable game of hide and go seek. I was not the one hiding. No useful photos there.

But the Ring Ousels were far more obliging. Weary, but far more interested in singing from the "tree" tops to be too worried about me. I don't have the little Snap Shot Adapter anymore - it was borrowed - so these were all taken by just holding my camera to the binoculars. As you can see, I am still learning how to focus effectively.

I also spent some time trying to get some shots of the Crossbills, but they were proving elusive:

catching one taking off was completely by accident:

Here is a habitat shot:
Mostly grassland with some stunted trees (mostly below head hight). Also about were some Grey Wagtails, Wheatears, a couple of ravens and a few other little bits and pieces.

A couple of digibinned insects:

This digibinning thing really is a whole lot of fun. and it means that I can still take bird photos even if my huge digiscoping setup is a home.

Happy birding

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Digibinning, Diginocking or simply BAD photography

A few weeks ago, I asked a question on birdforum.net about what people call taking photos through a pair of binoculars (kinda like digiscoping's little sister ;-). I was calling it diginocking. I liked the silliness of the name and it added a bit of lightness to my attempts at taking photos (and videos!) through my binnies.

Last year we visited Kruger National Park in South Africa (amongst other lovely places there), and I managed to get some half decent leopard, black rhino and elephant photos through my SLCs but I always struggled to align the camera lens with the binoculars. Most of the time I managed to avoid too much vignetting but I still often got a washed-out blue haze over many of the photos. I continued to practice and got my best results with some friendly ducks in Lago di Garda a few months ago.

Then last Saturday, I went out with the guys from Natopia and Tirol Werbung (related to a project they are doing with Swarovski Optik called Nature Watch) and got to play about with their quick-shot adapter. I had heard a bit about it but I never expected anything near the results I got.
I had sooo much fun!

The little plastic job fit on to the top of my bins and held our little camera in place quite nicely. I am not the biggest fan of our camera (Casio ex-z110) but still I was quite happy with the results.

I took some lovely photos of Luke Pfeiffer through my ELs: a beautiful young man with a sharp mind hiding behind deep eyes (I'll just wait for his folks' permission before posting them here).

It seems that most people on bird forum call this digibinning but my absolute favorite was BAD photography - Binocular Assisted Digital Photography. Gotta love that!

Here are a few other photos from the day:

Happy birding