Birdchick Podcast #186 World Girl Birders

Hey gang, there is still space left on the relaxed Panama birding tour. Come with me, we will see cool bird and sloth and end the day with booze and bat falcons and tinamous. 

There is now a World Girl Birders page you can join on Facebook. 

Interesting story advocating feeding ducks fruits and vegetables instead of bread

This is the worst hummingbird feeder every. Really, don't do this.

This is the worst hummingbird feeder every. Really, don't do this.

One of the best thing you can do is plant at least one native plant in your yard. Are you up for that this summer? Here are some tips

Crows bringing gifts to a kid sparks others to share their crow sharing stories

Birdchick Podcast #185 #TheDress #WeaselPecker and Panama

Hey! I'm going to Panama, want to come with me?

How does the whole "The Dress" debate apply to birding...think about all the times you saw someone (or maybe you yourself) grossly misidentify a bird...

Here are Non Birding Bill's suggestions of eye mind benders--it's the color dogs and chess set that freak me out. 

Another controversy...did a weasel actually hitch a ride on a green woodpecker? I'm Team #WeaselPecker

This lucky kid has a bartering system with crows...are we watching the origin story of a future evil genius?

Small owl penis story.

Here's the video from Dr. J. Drew Lanham...funny but also very sad. Want to be part of the solution? Check out Outdoor Afro.

 





Birdchick Podcast #184 Sibley Guide Replacements, Famous Birders and Art Ducko

 

Buy Christana Staal's art. AKA Drawing 10,000 Birds

Hey remember the whole brew ha ha over the first printing of the second edition Sibley? Well, the publisher is now offering people who purchased that copy a chance to replace it with a  color corrected one according to The Birder's Library

Are more celebrities getting into birding? Actor John Stamos and singer John Mayer drop some interesting info on the social medias. 

I was honored to be included the list of people Audubon asked how we got into birding. And I giggled about some of the edits they made to my article. On another Audubon related note, the magazine had an article about an avian ecologist who tested about an anti-bird killing collar on their outdoor cat and it kinda works. Not sure what shocks me more: an avian ecologist admitting that they let their cat run loose and know it kills birds or that the collar actually kinda works. 

What it means when you see certain birds

Dungoens and Dragons birds


World Digiscopers Meeting and great life advice from Justin Carr

I get copied on emails to my buddy Clay at Swarovski from time to time. Over the year I kept seeing emails from some guy named Robert Wilson about organizing a digiscopers meeting a chance for pole to come learn about digiscoping but a also a chance for those of us who have been digiscoping for years and sharing our work online to get a chance to meet. 

And somehow...it happened. 

Viera Wetlands aka Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Melbourne, FL. A great place for photographing birds and alligators and perfect for a digiscoping get together. 

Viera Wetlands aka Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Melbourne, FL. A great place for photographing birds and alligators and perfect for a digiscoping get together. 

As I put this blog together I realize I was a complete dork and didn't get pictures of the people who attended, I simply practiced the technique and learned quite a bit from the others. But it was a totally international affair and people came from Europe and Neil Fifer even flew in from his home in Hong Kong.

What I enjoyed most about it was the chance to listen and watch other people's techniques in the field and try it out with my equipment. And just hang out with guys like Danny Digiscoping--he and I are two peas in a pod. We like to play and get people excited about digiscoping. We aren't trying to be the best, but we want to inspire others to try it and let them shine as the best. Do check out his site, he offers lots of great tips. 

American Bittern digiscoped with Nikon V1, TLS APO adapter and Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope. 

American Bittern digiscoped with Nikon V1, TLS APO adapter and Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope. 

One really cool aspect was a day long competition. All of use were partnered up with someone and our team could only submit a total of 10 entries and we were given 8 categories. To prevent someone like me from submitting nothing but birds our categories were: 

Birds
Non Birds
In The Air
Man-made/Weather or Landscapes
Macro
Video no editing
Video - a story told in less than two minutes

Robert Hunt, my digiscoping partner. That's right, he's using a telescope for digiscoping.

Robert Hunt, my digiscoping partner. That's right, he's using a telescope for digiscoping.

My partner was a complete stranger to me and rather than using a spotting scope like I do...he goes out with a telescope. That's him with his telescope above. It's not my style of digiscoping, but he does astronomy programs in Florida, that's his equipment and he wants to see what he can do with it, He can do some amazing things, but his set up takes longer. The bittern photo above was one of bout 250 that I took while he was still setting up his gear. However, once Rob is set up and going, he can do fun stuff like this.

Sun spots digiscoped by Robert Hunt.

Sun spots digiscoped by Robert Hunt.

The dude digiscoped the sun...and sun spots. But that wasn't even the coolest thing he did. He digiscoped fish. You heard me correctly, he digiscoped frickin' fish:
 

Fish (a very tiny one, like a guppie) digiscoped by Robert Hunt. 

Fish (a very tiny one, like a guppie) digiscoped by Robert Hunt. 

One advantage that Rob has was the ability to switch out lenses for different types of subjects. Though that may not be my style or interest for birds, for versatility...and building upper body strength, it worked for him.  I tried it with my iPhone.

My attempt to digiscope a guppie with an iPhone 5s, Swarovski iPhone adapter and Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope. 

My attempt to digiscope a guppie with an iPhone 5s, Swarovski iPhone adapter and Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope. 

Not quite the artistic shot that Robert got, but good enough to make me consider attempting it again when I'm around fish...or when I'm bored. I think that's what of the main things I learned from digiscoper Justin Carr. He's a Brit who has an uncanny knack of getting flight shots of birds. When first speaking to him, he was referring to others as the best of the best, but I think he gave me some of the best photography advice ever:

"I was bored and there weren't really any birds so I tried to digiscope a common swift."

Here's a link to his shot...yeah, so he was bored and just, you know, digiscoped a swift. This is one of the most difficult birds to shoot and he got that. 

So from now on when I'm bored, I'm going to try the hardest thing that I can in that moment. That's not exactly bad life advice. 

Speaking of astronomy, Rob got me interested in that so I've been playing around with digiscoping the moon in the time lapse feature on my iPhone. Here's a bit that I got the other night while doing bird surveys in Texas. Digiscoped with the Swarovski ATX 65mm and iPhone 5s:

Not bad. Thanks for the inspiration, Rob.
 

A double-crested cormorant with a chill photobombing great blue heron behind it. I was eavesdropping and listening to Tara Tanaka give photography tips while I took this. She has inspired me to find more art in my digiscoping. 

A double-crested cormorant with a chill photobombing great blue heron behind it. I was eavesdropping and listening to Tara Tanaka give photography tips while I took this. She has inspired me to find more art in my digiscoping. 

One of the things I was really looking forward to was meeting Tara Tanaka. She's an award winning photographer and does it with digiscoping. Her set up is a bit more complicated than mine, but man does she get some incredible shots. Check out this rabbit nose bump. I took the time while working on the above photo just listen to her talk as other digiscopers asked her questions. She's slow and methodical in her approach--like a little blue heron. I'm more of a trip-colored heron, excited to see if new possibilities and technology can work, running around and frantically squawking. 

Most of the digiscopers there were hot for the Panasonic GH4 with a Digidapter attaching it to their scope. I've been playing with this new adapter and though it only works with Zeiss, Kowa, Leica, Swarovski and Celestron scopes its a good sturdy adapter that works with multiple cameras with a pancake lens. I highly recommend it and when I get some time, I'll go into more depth. One thing that I really like is that it has an easy set mechanisim so you always know where to place your camera on the adapter so it will fit with your scope. Check out the webpage and if you get one, tell the Birdchick sent you--see if it gets you anything special along with your purchase.

Tri-colored heron flying at sunset. One of the things that I love with the iPhone is that it thinks for you and helps you digiscope some beautiful shots at dawn and dusk without having to make any adjustment.

Tri-colored heron flying at sunset. One of the things that I love with the iPhone is that it thinks for you and helps you digiscope some beautiful shots at dawn and dusk without having to make any adjustment.

The GH4 is a heck of a camera and there was even discussion that the video quality is so good it's super easy to just take fantastic stills from it and if you do that, is that too easy, is it still photography? As I was drooling over the camera, Clay told me that he got one and we can play around with it on our next round of the web series. He didn't think it was the camera for me. And that may be true--I don't like to deal with bells and whistles. Whereas Tara is the sort of person who likes to control every bit of the situation to get the shot she is looking for--controlling ISOs, exposure, metering, I'm the sort who likes the iPhone because it does so much of the thinking for me...good grief, I sound like Ilsa when she tells Rick in Casablanca, "You have to do thinking for all of us." Maybe I should rename my iPhone Bogart. 

Not the greatest photo ever but most of the time I'm more interested in capturing something interesting rather than making it the perfect photo--like this belted kingfisher lurking under a great blue heron nest. 

Not the greatest photo ever but most of the time I'm more interested in capturing something interesting rather than making it the perfect photo--like this belted kingfisher lurking under a great blue heron nest. 

Tara assures me with some time, practice and patience I could do all this. I'm not so sure. I am certainly set in my ways when it comes to digiscoping, but at the same time maybe I need to challenge myself more to keep myself interested?

Avocets digiscoped at sunset. 

Avocets digiscoped at sunset. 

We shall see, Tara. 

So of course I had to make a video and iMovie templates make throwing together a quick trailer remarkably easy. Here's the 90 second trailer I came up with for the Digiscoper's meeting based on video that I took in one day for the contest:

If you'd like to see the winning images from the Digiscoping contest, here's the album. Do check it out. One of my favorite images was one that Justin Carr got of a flying butterfly...are you kidding me, Justin? That's nuts. 

Not Doing A Big Year

I'm not doing a big year--just wanted to say that because so many people start them now, but I'm not one of them. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I applaud those who want to, if it trips your trigger, go for it. It's not what I like about birding. I tried the digiscoping big year for a fundraiser, but I just don't have the drive to chase and I'm fascinated by those who do.

Speaking of big years did you see that the guy doing the "Biking For Birds" ended 2014 with 617 (give or take a few depending on records committee acceptance) and 17,830 miles on a bike. Now that guy has drive...or should I say pedal? Hoo boy. There's part of me that looks at that and things, "Yeah, birding for a whole year, on my bike (two things I love) that would be cool."

But I also like sleeping in, dinner with friends, not biking in pouring rain, sipping a bit of scotch late into the night while watching John Wayne in the Quiet Man next to Non Birding Bill on the couch...I do not have the will power for a big year, even as I type this an ivory gull is a mere 7 hours away and I have a 48 hour window to twitch it before I have to fly to an undisclosed location to do a bird survey for work, but I'm choosing to stay home, take a day to relax before work and sharing some chicken pot pie with non birding friends. 

I did do a little bit of birding on New Year's Day. I checked the BirdsEye app on my iPhone and saw there was a Townsend's solitaire reported not too far away in a cemetery and people were seeing snowy owls around the Minneapolis/St Paul Airport. 

NBB tagged along for the car ride. There was a solitaire in a cemetery in 2013 and that was a fun challenge to pick it out among the headstones and I thought it would be a fun bird to pick out. Although, there were already some birders milling about waiting for it show. They had staked out a spot that it would periodically return to and there were taped calls (literally a boom box was used). And I instantly lost interest in the solitaire. I'm not 100% against using taped calls--they have their time and place. But a stake out bird that's been getting called a lot, a boom box played to loud...just not how I wanted to see the bird. We tried driving around the cemetery for other potential spots then gave up on it and headed to the airport. 

I drove down cargo road to where the bird is generally reported. With all the snow, the owl would be a challenge to find. We saw other birders scanning, they hadn't found it yet. Just as we were about to head out, I noticed a small building with what looked like a wedge of snow. I  pulled over, grabbed my binos and said, "Ah, there it is."

I have the binos to NBB and got my scope out of the trunk. While I was doing that, NBB posted this photo and caption to his Facebook page:

He asked, "How did you see that?"

"It's what I do," I said. "This is what I look for on bird surveys."

"You were driving!"

"I just looked for the anomalies," I said.

But it's not just a matter of it being what I do. The secret that many birders know, especially the ones who like to look for owls is that we are looking all the time. We are coming up empty 90% of the time. We never tell people when we don't see the owl, only when we do see the owl.  That coupled with the number of times I've been to the airport and looked for snowys, knowing where they are likely to perch and knowing what all the buildings look like give you an idea of when some thing white is on a building that isn't normally there. 

A very distant snowy owl digiscoped from behind a chain link fence. A Hipstamatic filter added because it's not a great photo anyway.

A very distant snowy owl digiscoped from behind a chain link fence. A Hipstamatic filter added because it's not a great photo anyway.

But I think that the puzzle part of it is what I enjoy most about birding. Finding the hidden the owl, figuring out where the solitaire is going to pop up in the cemetery. Noticing that a large eagle has a dihedral shape and bang, it a golden eagle. I should be into gulls since I like puzzles so much...but not yet.

If big years are your bliss, have a great time. I will admire your determination while I sleep in. 

Birdchick Podcast #181 Can Owls Swim?

Good news on the Vikings Stadium. 3M is set to step in an test out a film to prevent bird strikes. This seems hopeful. 

World's oldest living wild bird is back and ready to mate at 63 years of age. That is one heck of an albatross. Cool video of a peregrine diving after pintails. 

Can owls swim? Kinda. Especially when forced into one of the Great Lakes by a peregrine falcon.

Here's the Nissan ad that pissed Sharon off. 


For cleansing purposes, a budgie that can sing like R2D2:

The rufous hummingbird controversy--well intentioned people mistakenly capture winter hardy hummingbird and now it's in limbo. 

Brace yourselves, snowy owls comin'. Again.