Horned Guan Death March

This post was updated December 19, 2017 when I noticed many of the photos were gone after transferring the blog from Wordpress to SquareSpace. I also updated some of the text. It was originally two posts and now I've condensed it to one.

Yowie Horned Guan

This particular toy at the top of this post is a replica of a horned guan. You can get them from knock-off Kinder Eggs called Yowies—which for whatever reason are legal in the US. I was going to just buy the eggs until I got my guan, but the chocolate is nasty. Rather than going the traditional route of purchasing several inedible eggs, I found someone on eBay who already had the guan and for the price of one Yowie egg I had the guan sent directly to my home. To people who say this is cheating...I say, "Bite me."

A horned guan is one of the rarest birds in the Americas. Imagine a black and white bird the size of a turkey that has a bright red horn on its head that lives in the trees on the side of a volcano. Even if there weren’t only 600 or so of these birds left in the world, they're are still an amazing sight.

If I truly understood what was ahead of me to see a guan, I don't know that I would have gone for it. There were tales from some of my buddies on the bird festival circuit that it was a horrific climb. I had heard of well-known, great birders, who I considered to be physically fit, having to crawl that last part of the trail just to see. Here's Julie Zickefoose on NPR and on her blog or Bill of the Birds on his horned guan search. I think a part of me thought that was just a bit of exaggeration--birders have their fish stories too.

The hike up Volcan San Pedro was saved for one of our final days of birding in Guatemala. Our group had been mentioning it to each other, "Do you think you're going to be able to do it?" or "Sharon, do you really think you can take your scope up the volcano, I'd leave it here."

I heard that previous male birders had brought their scopes, so I thought that I should be able to do it too. I didn't get very scared until the day before. I had found some wifi at our lodge in Los Andes and put up a status update on Facebook: Sharon is nervous about tomorrow's climb up the Volcano to see the horned guan. I got a comment from Chris Benesh who works for Field Guides--travels all over the world to show people birds. He was also on the same Ivory-bill Search Team I was on. I considered to him to be very physically fit. He left a comment to the effect of the climb being the toughest he had ever done, it was brutal, but the got the guan.

Okay, if Chris called it brutal, maybe those stories of birders panting and crawling to the top weren't just exaggerated fish tales. I decided to be all Scarlett O'Hara about it and, "I'll not think about that right now, I'll go crazy if I do. I'll think about that tomorrow."

We had one more field trip planned at Los Andes to look for some mannikans, I opted to take the afternoon off, relax a bit so I could be fresh the next morning. The next day was a rough schedule. We had to be ready to go by 4:15 am, take a bus to Lake Atitlan where we would take a ferry to San Pedro for the climb. The hike up to the guan was going to take four hours, who knew how long the hike down would take.

Gulp.

Initially, all went well. We arrived at Lake Atitlan and watched in amazement at how the locals used the water. As we were loading our ferry, one man drove in his tuk tuk (tiny taxi car) into the water for a wash, another drove in his truck, a couple of people were bathing in the nude right on the water's edge.

Volcan San Pedro...were we really going to climb that?

Volcan San Pedro...were we really going to climb that?

We boarded boat, marveled at the beautiful volcanoes that surrounded the lake and laughed as the cool water sprayed us as we hit waves. Outside the boat we looked to pad our species list with lesser scaup, brown pelicans, and ruddy ducks. As we approached the other side of the lake, we watched in amazement as Volcan San Pedro loomed over us. Yes, we would be climbing this extinct volcano. Hugo, our guide tried to alleviate our fears since many of us were not accustomed to this altitude. In his quiet, spanish accent he said, "Yes, we will go slow. It will be slow, slow walking, then looking at birds, slow, slow walking, then looking at birds."

I felt some comfort in this. Perhaps the four hours was not all climbing but just such a slow pace of birding that it would seem steep, but not be that bad.

When we landed in San Pedro, I saw more tourists here than in any other town. Peddlers were ready for us, a Mayan woman greeted us with a basket full of baked goods. I looked at the steep streets in front of us and wondered if we were going to start right away, but our local guides and hosts Irene and Ana Christina said that a bus was coming to take us.

Our "bus" was a pick up truck and they ended up corralling ten birders like livestock in the back to take us up to the horned guan preserve.

Our "bus" was a pick up truck and they ended up corralling ten birders like livestock in the back to take us up to the horned guan preserve.

Birders looking for horned guans

I love this photo. We’re all so happy, so giddy, so blissfully unaware of the horrors and sweat that awaited us. That’s me with Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds, Jen Sauter, Hugo our guide and even a part of Rick Wright. It was all just an exciting adventure then.

This poor guys was carrying what appeared to be recently washed blankets up a steep road. 

This poor guys was carrying what appeared to be recently washed blankets up a steep road. 

We began our drive through the narrow cobblestone streets of San Pedro, up and up we went. We passed many locals taking the route on foot, many carrying piles of goods on their backs. What is it like to be acclimatized to this?

Horned Guan Preserve

We arrived at the reserve for the horned guan. We readjusted our packs with our lunches and our bottles of water and began the trail. The day was sunny, the birds were numerous and we made some stops.

We found a spot loaded with western tanagers (more of those North American breeders). I was excited to get the rufous-capped warbler. I had actually seen one of these earlier in our journey, but was the only one who had. I was glad others got to see it and this time I even got to digiscope it. We also got great looks at this ginormous squirrel cuckoo—it was much bigger than the black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos I see. And so beautiful too—reminiscent of a brown thrasher.

Rufous-capped warbler.

Rufous-capped warbler.

As we stopped for all of this birding, I started to think, “This isn’t so bad.” I have short legs and I was not used to the elevation but was doing ok. I did lag behind the group but always managed to catch up with enough time to rest along with them before pressing forward. I felt that I could do this.

The relentless trail to the guan...five hours of this nonsense. 

The relentless trail to the guan...five hours of this nonsense. 

But then we didn’t stop for birds anymore and the trails became much steeper. It was switchback after switchback. It was dry and the volcanic dust made for powdery walking conditions. I toiled up the trail and as my pace slowed, the sound of our group ahead became more and more faint, I realized I was losing ground. There was another person named Mel in our group who seemed to struggle with the climb along with me. I was grateful for the company and to not to be the pokiest of the little puppies.

This guy booked it past me like the switch backs were nothing. 

This guy booked it past me like the switch backs were nothing. 

Local farmers loaded with burdens of fire wood, corn or coffee moved swiftly passed us on the trail. Many looked to be twice my age which made me feel worse. I bike ride, I lead nature hikes, I haul bee equipment and this trail was turning my legs to jelly. It was relentless in its incline. I was desperate for a flat surface. The high elevation and lack of oxygen didn’t help either. Life in Minnesota rarely exceeds 850 feet. The trail starts at about 5000 feet and has a change of over 4000 feet.

The gorgeous views on the climb. 

The gorgeous views on the climb. 

After much sweat and panting my slow friend and I caught up to the group at another resting spot. I hoped that we were half way up and was saddened to learn that we were only a third of the way, with another three hours to go. It was at this moment that Gustavo from Neblina Tours told me , “I’m having trouble staying balanced on this steep trail. Would it be alright with you if I took your scope and used it as a way to balance myself on the trail?”

One of our guides Hugo on the left. Gustavo on the right holding my scope...note how much equipment he was carrying besides my scope. 

One of our guides Hugo on the left. Gustavo on the right holding my scope...note how much equipment he was carrying besides my scope. 

It was lie. He carried more on this trip than I did: he had two massive field guides besides his binoculars, lunch, water, recording equipment, etc. I knew it was a lie and I was too sweaty and tired to care. I gratefully accepted his offer and continued my slow lumbering walk up the trail.

We eventually made it to a halfway point. I sat on the floor of the observation deck and used the wooden railing to prop my head up and looked out at the beautiful view. I was seriously questioning my life choices. I was not forced to do this, I signed up--willingly. What’s worse is that I could have stopped at any time. I could have just stopped walking on the trail and said, “No more, I’ll wait here in the shade, watch some foliage-gleaners and pepper-shrikes and wait for you on your glory walk down the trail after seeing the guan.” One of our group already had given up the trail due to a bad knee. It was the honorable and safe thing to do. But I willingly continued. Quitting this steep upward battle was never an option to me.

I looked at our group and said panting, “This is like hitting yourself with a hammer because it feels so good when you finally stop.”

We laughed and Hugo warned that we should probably save our oxygen.

Jen soon joined Mel and I as those lagging behind now and two of us practically held on to each other to stay upright. Ana Christina from the tourism board sensed our waning resolve and anytime we  paused she would call in her sweet Spanish accent, “Jen, Sharon, come on, the horned guan is right up here.”

We fell for it once and scrambled up, but realized she was really a cloud forest sprite beckoning us forward. It worked. At every switchback we would pause to try and get some order to our respiratory system, Ana Christina would be another switchback ahead of us calling, “C’mon Jen. C’mon Sharon, horned guan is waiting for you.”

We finally reached the horned guan appropriate elevation. I sat in the dust. Gustavo smiled and pointed out how dirty my face was. Fuck you, Gustavo. Part of our group rested, while the rest did an initial search.

The exact moment I realized I hated birds and that I may need psychological help. 

The exact moment I realized I hated birds and that I may need psychological help. 

I took a picture of myself at this point. I wanted to remember forever the exact moment I realized how much I hated birds and that I needed psychological help. What the fuck was wrong with me. I had heard how horrible it was and I kept going, for what? For the high of seeing one rare bird.

No guan. We needed to go higher. Fuck everything.

We paused once more. Optimism was fading in the group. A few still held out some sweaty hope, but the rest of worried that we’d been talking too much or paying more attention to our body and foot aches and completely missed the turkey sized tree chicken that was our quarry. One guy even said, “You know, we could go all this way and not see it.”

This was the first time in my life I ever felt the deep, gutteral desire to throat punch someone.

Then an anxious whisper came from above us, some crazy asshole in our group was still climbing and went two switch backs up…and found the guan. All of us suddenly forgot body fatigue and dashed up the switchback—where had this new-found energy come from?

Horned guan foot.

Horned guan foot.

The light broke through the trees and…all I could see was a bird foot. Fuck you, bird. I was going to count it, but if this was all I’m going to get of you. Fuck you.

DSCF5368.JPG

Finally, a little head poked out. I saw the horn, the little red horn where the guan gets its name! And the crazy yellow eye! At first we thought there was one guan, but there were two…and then a whole flock of about 7—they vocalized, they displayed, they flew! My little head exploded in awe as I realized I was watching what is arguably the most endangered bird in the Americas.

Horned guan in all its crazy glory. Alas, this was back when I was digiscoping with a point and shoot. Oh the photos I could get  now with a smartphone. 

Horned guan in all its crazy glory. Alas, this was back when I was digiscoping with a point and shoot. Oh the photos I could get  now with a smartphone. 

And after all of that, we had to go back down! Certainly it would not take the five hours that it took to get up to the guan, but it would still take time. My legs are only used to flat surfaced and had been trudging uphill for four hours non stop. And now I had to go down, something I still wasn't used to. Every muscle in my legs vibrated at any moment I stopped. I kept going, but the decline and volcanic ash still caused me to slide and fall. Every time I did fall, a large cloud of dust preceded me, causing Hugo to cross his arms and shout, "Safe!" as if I were a baseball player sliding into home. Fuck you, Hugo.

Gallo Beer

Some way, some how we made it back down the trail to our meeting point, our water bottles depleted. Ana Christina took us to a local watering hole for some refreshments to wait for the ferry. In our dehydrated state, we should of have had water, but it wasn’t safe for the American to drink so our only option was beer. Giddiness soon set in with most of us, especially for me--I NEVER HAVE TO DO THAT CLIMB EVER AGAIN. It occurred to me that a horned guan is a bird that I will only see once in a lifetime and I had a pang of pity for guys like Hugo and Mel who would have to lead a tour here again and take people up that volcano. Those poor god damned bastards.

One of the many Mayan ladies who sensed our fatigue and tipsiness and used the opportunity to relieve us of many quetzals in exchange for their exquisite and colorful textiles. 

One of the many Mayan ladies who sensed our fatigue and tipsiness and used the opportunity to relieve us of many quetzals in exchange for their exquisite and colorful textiles. 

We finally crossed the lake and checked into our next lodge. I took a very long shower with my scope and binoculars to clean off all of the volcanic dust. By the time we were settled and clean it was 8:30pm when we sat down for dinner of squash soup, homemade tortas, fruity drinks and rich dark Guatemalan run.

I've only ever seen this hot sauce in Guatemala. It was as tasty as it was hilarious. 

I've only ever seen this hot sauce in Guatemala. It was as tasty as it was hilarious. 

We discussed the next day's birding. After getting our stuff together at 4:15am that morning and birding almost 12 hours, I was delighted to hear that we were meeting at 7am for breakfast before birding (we'd get to sleep in).

Mel said in a panicked voice, "Hey that means we won't get birding until 8 - 8:30 am, anyone for starting earlier?"

Goddamn lister was already on the quest for more birds.

Hugo our guide said, "Well, it's whatever you want..."

There was a pause, I could tell by some in the group that they needed the rest as much as I did but didn’t want to look like the weenie and say no. I myself have no problem saying no.

"I gotta say that I'm not in favor of that idea and would rather sleep in and rest after today."

Mel looked disappointed, but I felt a palpable wave of relief come across the table from everyone.

So I look down on my little plastic horned guan that ordered from eBay, I think you can understand why I don't think it's cheating to go through loads of technically edible chocolate to get my little souvenir of the day I realized my limits in birding. 

Digiscoping With Clay and Sharon, Episode 7, Fun With SlowMo on the iPhone

Here it is! This is the final clue to the series theme! Have you figured it out yet? I tried to drop some heavy hints in this episode!

 

Be sure to check out the pages of our generous sponsors for this episode, especially if you saw something in the show you liked:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

South Texas Nature (because birding the Rio Grande Valley is a must do)

Alamo Inn (my favorite place to stay when birding the Rio Grande Valley)

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.23.10 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.23.10 AM

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets. And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope. Please read over the contest rules before entering.

All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014. To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 6, Discreet Birding

So...this episode got a little weird but I love that I got to work with some of our good friends and professional actors like Kelvin Hatle, Dawn Krosnowski and Birds and Beers regular Duck Washington! I love that this project allowed me to see some friends...even if I was ordering them around. Alright, we are in the home stretch of the web series...have you guessed the series theme yet? Enter your guess at Digiscopoing@Birdchick.com with your guess ( and please read all the contest rules below).


Be sure to check out the pages of our generous sponsors for this episode, especially if you saw something in the show you liked:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets.  And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope.

Purple finch reach
Purple finch reach

Please read over the contest rules before entering. All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014. To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Digiscoping With Clay & Sharon, Episode 4 Light and Photography

This is a fun episode, there are two cameos: our pet rabbit Dougal and Greg Miller (aka Jack Black's character in The Big Year). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i3L_gwdgtQ

Please visit the pages of our generous sponsors if you see something you like in the series:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

Alamo Inn Bed & Breakfast (the best place to stay for birding in the Rio Grande Valley, TX)

South Texas Nature (information for birding south Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley)

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets.  And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope.

Please read over the contest rules before entering. All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014.

To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Episode 3 - Digiscoping Techniques

   

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 12.57.33 PM

And here is episode three which includes a last minute cameo addition of a Lawrence's Warbler! How many bird shows do you know have one of those in an episode?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQDKYi3fhKY&feature=youtu.be

Clay and I also talk some photography techniques in this episode and remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope.

Be sure to check out the pages of our generous sponsors for this episode, especially if you saw something in the show you liked:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

BirdsEye Birding (the most useful bird finding apps available)

Please read over the contest rules before entering. All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014.

To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Obligatory Snowy Owl Post

Hey! Have you checked out Project Snowstorm or contributed to it? You should donate because your money allows researchers to study an owl irruption in a way we've never been able to before--in real time rather than spending the next two years trying to figure out what happened, why it happened and if the owls survived. I gave $25, can you do the same? How about $10 or more? But if you can't donate, check out what they are learning...like maybe these owls aren't all starving to death and that some are even hunting ducks over open water at night! Amazeballs!

snowy owl male (1 of 1)

If you live in the eastern half of North America...it's kind of your duty to post about snowy owls this winter. So many people are finding them and so many non and casual birders are seeing them, it's reminding me of the great gray owl irruption of 2004/2005...which means my blog will be 10 years old in September of this year. Wow. How did ten years happen that fast? So many adventures and changes. And I wonder who is the next "Birdchick" that is out there with a fire in her belly with a ton of bird stuff to share. She (or he for that matter) doesn't have to be "Birdchick" but I do wonder who is like I was 10 years ago seeing how people share birding information and thinking, "I could do this in a completely different way (and maybe even a better way)," and will soon get their message out there for the delight or chagrin of the world? For every movement there is an anti movement or as we like to say at Chez Stiteler, "For every Mame is an Auntie Mame." And I'm totally cool with being the Mame in this situation and gladly await the Auntie Mame.

But back to snowy owls! They are all over the frickin' place. They are within a 30 minute drive of my apartment to the northwest and to the southeast. All one really needs to do is either use eBird or the BirdsEye app on their phone to see where people are seeing them.

snowy owl on pole (1 of 1)

Based on eBird and Facebook (and the many photos people are posting on that social media site) there is currently a fairly reliable snowy owl on 180th street and Hogan in Dakota County, Minnesota. I headed down after doing some work on Winter Trails Day to test out a new digiscoping adapter on my iPhone 5s (can't talk about the particulars yet). It was far easier finding the owls than I thought, I just drove around to the known spots and pulled over where ever I saw cars on the sides of the farm roads. The above bird has been perching here regularly no matter how close people get to it.  I alas, cannot get close to a snowy because my scope and camera set up have too much zoom! From that particular setting here is what I got with the Nikon V1 and my Swarovski scope:

snowy owl v1 (1 of 1)

I could barely get the whole bird in the frame! With the Nikon V1, you get great photos but it really zooms in. I've noticed before that it's field of view is quite narrow.  When a bird is close like this, I find my iPhone 5s works much better for digiscoping.  Here's the same bird in the same spot but with my iPhone:

snowy owl iphone male (1 of 1)

Better field of view.

Here's another comparison with a different snowy owl that was further out in a corn field:

snowy owl in field iPhone (1 of 1)

This was taken through my scope with the iPhone 5s with a bird that was about 100 yards out from the road. I do like getting habitat shots of these snowy owls. It's fun to try and figure out where they are hiding. I'm to the point now that I look for a dirty wedge of snow and that helps me find the females.

snowy owl (1 of 1)

Same bird taken at the same distance with the Nikon v1 through my spotting scope.

Oh and if you are interested in attempting to sex the snowy owls in your area, Cornell has a good page explaining it. Based on what they show, the bird on the post with the thinner barring and larger white chin patch is a male and the above bird with the thick barring is female.

Here is a short video I made showing the difference between my iPhone and my Nikon V1 of digiscoping the male snowy owl.  You can see that with either set up, you really don't need to be close to the owl and all up in its business.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-XUhNQlSRg[/youtube]

Digiscoping with an iPhone 5s

Hey Minnesota and Wisconsin friends, my buddy Clay Taylor from Swarovski and I will be at the National Eagle Center on December 7, 2013 for the Optics Expo and if you have any questions about digiscoping or would like to learn more about using your smartphone with a spotting scope, this would be a great day to come down.  I'll have some adapters you can play with to. Speaking of smartphones, my Verizon plan was up for renewal which meant I could finally get a iPhone 5s. I am enjoying using this so much for digiscoping, I'm tempted to hang up my Nikon V1 for good.  I got the new phone right before I left for the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival in early November. If you saw the birding trailer I made for it, that was filmed and edited entirely with the new phone.

When the iPhone 5s was announced, my techie niece was wondering why anyone would care or want to have burst mode or slow motion video on a phone camera. I thought, "Man, birders are going to love this!" I already love the iPhone for its ability to capture images well in low light conditions, but slow motion video could be quite something to aid in identification.

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 8.57.27 AM

Clay and I were down to teach a digiscoping workshop at South Padre Island during the festival and we arranged it so we'd not only be able to practice getting photos of birds in the afternoon light, but also play around with getting arty shots at sunset (one of Clay's favorite pastimes). I was eager to see what this phone could do with my scope.

sunset

 

This was the sort of lighting conditions were were dealing with.  You can see a concentration of gulls and terns just off the shore.

SouthPadre Birds

Kite surfers were working the winds and the birds roosting along shore didn't seem to mind them. Above is a black skimmer, laughing gull, marbled godwits, willets and royal terns with kite surfers behind them.  Made for some interesting shots. But it gets fun with the SloMo video feature on the phone. The videos are taken at 120 frames per second. On your iPhone, it will replay back easier, but if you have an older Mac operating system and you upload them to iPhoto, they may show at normal speed. This is easily fixed by opening the movies in iMovie and watching them at 25% speed.

Here's a sample of what you can do with digiscoping through a spotting scope (it looks best if you select watching it in 720p HD or 1080p HD):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1muz5glNxk

This is fun lightweight option to take in the field and with iMovie you have some fun editing options. Heck, one could almost film their own wildlife show with a phone and a good quality scope.

sunset gulls