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!

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Animals singing Christmas Song

Georg also has a bird blog: http://algarvebirds.blogspot.com/

Hope everyone had a splendid Christmas,
Dale Forbes

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Nuthatch trumps Great Tit trumps Coal Tit trumps Blue Tit

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.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Rock Partridge digiscoped

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.

Rock Partridge digiscoped with Canon EOS 5D mark II, TLS800 telescope photography adapter, and Swarovski Optik STM80HD telescope, in Alpenzoo.

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.

Very quickly I heard the distinctive call of the Rock Partridge (play in Xeno-Canto). I never managed to see them, but they were there!

Maybe next spring I will have more luck.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Wild Goose Festival, Tata Hungary

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.

The festival was organised by MME / BirdLife Hungary, Szaz Völgy and the Duna-Ipoly National Park.

Happy birding!
Dale Forbes

Monday, 21 December 2009

Canon 5D mark II digiscoping with TLS800

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.

I liked this guy's expression

Happy digiscoping,
Dale Forbes

Friday, 18 December 2009

Digiscoping website

Anyone who has spent any time on my blog knows that I am somewhat obsessed with digiscoping and birds. oh, and wildlife. along that line, we have just launched a brand new digiscoping website:

with tons and tons of information (and some photos and videos, naturally).

The major sections are:
Principles - what is digiscoping?
Benefits and special features of digiscoping
Digiscoping Tips & Tricks - everything from basic digiscoping "getting started" to in-depth digiscoping knowledge
Digiscoping cameras - how, why, what, when, considerations...
Digiscoping equipment - everything you may be wondering about what you need and why
Digiscoping FAQ's - what is aperture; what is my focal length; and lots lots more

We worked really hard at it, and it will hopefully be very useful for lots and lots of budding digiscopers out there...

Here is a stunning picture from my blogger friend Kevin Bolton of a Short-billed Dowitcher. This was one of the winning images in the BirdChick section of Digiscoper of the Year 2009. Congrats Kevin!

It is -10°C outside but the sun is shining on the snow, and I really have to get out and go take some photos! Work can wait till tomorrow ;-)

Happy digiscoping,
Dale Forbes

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Snowfinches are back

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.

If you are interested in other blog posts about snowfinches in Tirol/Austria, see here.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Five tips for sharp digiscoping - Hippos in South Africa

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)

This video is from our new Swarovski Optik Birding YouTube channel, please go along and subscribe, we'll be bringing out lots of cool videos in the future (and there are already some there).

Happy digiscoping,

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Fraser's Mandarin Ducks

Fraser's Birding Blog is one of my favourite birding blogs and I was just over there to see what he had posted last night. And it was well worth the visit!

His latest series of Mandarin Duck photos are exquisite with lots of playing with light and dark, colour and reflections...

So go along and check it out; leave Fraser a comment, I'm sure he would appreciate that.

Happy birding,

btw, I have a couple of Mandarin Duck photos from my series: Great places to practice digiscoping: your local duck pond.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Pygmy Cormorant Zwergscharbe Delta del Po, Italy

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:

Happy birding, Dale Forbes

Saturday, 5 December 2009

24000 Wild Geese!

24,000 wild geese
10,000 people

The Tatai Vadlud Sokadalom (Tata Wild Goose Festival) last weekend was - as expected - simply incredible.

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...

Some of the geese species involved were:
Taiga Bean Goose (>10,000)
White-fronted Goose (>10,000)
Greylag Goose (>1500)

And a few each of:
Redbreasted Goose
Brent Goose

Join us next year in Hungary for the 10th Tatai Vadlud Sokadalom!

Happy birding

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Choosing a Spotting Scope for Digiscoping

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.

Happy birding,

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

On Facebook ... again

Many years ago I was a Facebook junkie and used it to communicate with all my various friends scattered about the globe.

After resisting the temptation to do so for as long as I could, I have finally re-joined Facebook.

So, if you are already on Facebook, then please come and find me. Friend me. write on my wall...

I think this link might get you there.

Happy facebooking,
Dale Forbes