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.

Web Series Teaser

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 11.42.39 AM I'm just back from some epic US travel. I've been in California, Oregon and south Texas. Some was bird festival work and the rest was filming for the web series Clay Taylor and I working on for this spring. Here's a little clip of some of the fantastic footage we got while at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Wfr_gr0jg&feature=youtu.be

This clip is crazy on several levels: the fact I can get slow motion video with my iPhone and you can see how fast the kiskadee zips in and out of the shot and then watch it hover in slow motion to get the peanut butter out of the suet log is just nuts.

If you haven't seen the trailer for our series, check it out. It's not just a nature show, the birds in each episode will be a clue to the series theme. Guess correctly and you will be entered into a drawing for a free Swarovksi spotting scope!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm0OE0aSoV8

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

 

 

 

Woodcocks At Biggest Week

Part of the fun of birding at the Biggest Week is I get to see my friend Dale Forbes.  I met him a few years ago in Kazakhstan and since then he's moved on to working full time for Swarovski Optik as a products manager.  This is Dale's first time in North America...so you can imagine he's about to explode getting tons of colorful life birds. Jeff and Liz Gordon are also here pimping the American Birding Association and they tipped us off to some hot all woodcock action over at Maumee Bay State Park.  We hightailed it over there after one of my programs so Dale could get the full on woodcock lekking experience.

Before we started, we could hear an eastern screech-owl trilling outside their cabin. I of course had to experiment getting a shot of said owl with my iPhone.  Considering the only light was a flashlight, this wasn't too bad.

Dale got the full woodcock treatment.  The bird skydanced and timberdoodled several times.  He even landed so close at one point that there was no way for me to digiscope him--but what a thrill, we even heard the little crazy inhale sound before they explode out their peent.  Most of the time though he was in a position to not only get shots like the above with my iPhone and scope but also video:

http://youtu.be/vup4FGTGoAM

Jeff also got a video of the woodcock and the sound quality is much better, though he was using an actual camera with video and not an iPhone...it now kind of makes me want to investigate mics that are available for the iPhone.

Woodcocks are all over, one has been found foraging near the boardwalk and appears to have a nest hidden in the leaves.  Some of us have tried to scope her but she's so well hidden, almost all you see is that eye.

So it's not just all about the warblers here at Biggest Week.

 

 

Scope Eyepieces For Digiscoping

I haven't thought about scope eyepieces all that much. Swarovski Optik has three different eyepieces you can choose for your scope a 20-60 zoom, a 25-50 zoom and a 30 fixed. For newer people to the blog, those numbers give you an idea of the scope's magnification or of how close the image is brought to you.  A 20-60 eyepiece can bring the bird 20 to 60 times closer (as opposed to your 8x42 binocular which will only bring the image 8 times closer). I've always been a fan of the zooms, because they can make a real difference in ID when that bird is far away (I got a great look at my lifer saker falcon thanks to my scope's ability to go to 60 power when I was in Israel.  I don't digiscope when I zoom in to 60 unless I really, really need to document something because the photo will be crap.  You lose clarity and brightness when you zoom in and the photos aren't worth it unless you are documenting your state's first record of a hooded crane.  When digiscoping, I always keep it on the lowest magnification.

I almost always use my 20-60 eyepiece.  I like having the option of such a wide range of magnification.  The 20 power magnification gives me a fairly wide field of view but it also helps me a bit with the problem of having the bird too close.  My buddy Clay Taylor kept nudging me to play with the 25-50 zoom eyepiece and the other day, I decided to head out to the feeders at Minnesota Valley NWR.  Their feeding station is always active and I figured I could get some good comparison shots.  When I got there, the feeders were bare.  And I saw the reason why before I could complete the sentence, "That's odd."

A sharp-shinned hawk was perched outside and was so darned cooperative, I got all the footage I needed to compare both eyepieces in less than 15 minutes.

So, here we go and I have to say, I was surprised at my results.  All the video and photos were taken using my iPhone 4s.  Here's a video tutorial followed by photo samples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z5yprCMYrA

I was very happy about the lack of vignetting with the 25-50  zoom when taking video!  Here are some photo comparisons of the sharp-shinned hawk without zooming in with the phone.  This is what it looks like as soon as  you train the iPhone to your scope's eyepiece without zooming in with the phone using the 20-60 zoom eyepiece:

There it is at 20 power and you get a full vignette (the black circle framing the image).  That could be edited out in iPhoto or Photoshop or whatever photo app you use to crop images.

Now, here is the same sharpie on the same perch with the 25-50 zoom eyepiece:

There it is at 25 power and with that eyepiece there's less vignetting.  Again vignetting can be cropped out later, but you get a bigger and better image if you zoom in on the iPhone when you take the photo.  And you do that the same way you enlarge images on your phone with your index finger and thumb.

Now, here are images of the same sharpie with the two different eyepieces and zooming in with the phone:

A pretty good image of a sharp-shinned hawk (especially with it being an overcast day).

Not a lot of difference when you zoom in with the iPhone.  If you want to take video, I highly recommend the 25-50 zoom, it will save you a lot of headaches post production of cropping out the vignetting.  But if you only want to do photos, both eyepieces work really well.

And this was all done by hand holding the iPhone up to the scope--no adapter.

When I think back to what bird photography used to be I marvel at the quality of photos I can get with a phone.

Bentsen Rio Grande State Park Birds via iPhone

South Texas, as always was SO much fun.  Even if you choose to do some casual birding you can still hit all the specialties.  I took a mini break down there over the weekend to hang with a girlfriend and since we had both been there, each day we slept in and let our bodies wake us rather than our alarm clocks and enjoyed the local Mexican restaurants and headed to our favorite parks.

I always have a soft spot for Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. It's the first south Texas park I ever visited in the Rio Grande Valley and where I got most of my Texas specialties like the above green jay (you can get them at most of the parks, but like actors who portray The Doctor, you never forget your first).  Sitting in the balmy 60 - 70 degree weather with my scope and bins really made the tension melt from my bones.

Though walking and biking are fantastic ways to enjoy this Texas park, the bird feeders really deliver. The birds went crazy for this log filled with peanut butter. There was even a clay-colored thrush (or clay-colored robin as some field guides call it). These sometimes zip over the border from Mexico but I haven't seen one since Panama.  Not that I really note that, but I guess I got a new bird for my US list without even trying.

I really clicked with using my iPhone 4s for digiscoping rather than my Nikon D40.  I'm hopeful that by the time spring arrives, I will no longer go out with that camera and only go out with my iPhone...we'll see.  Hand holding has been okay but not as nice as having an adapter.  But since I was having such luck in Texas, I tried taking video at the feeders...I was hand holding but it turned out okay.  Ignore what the people are saying during the oriole part.  They were sitting next to us and talking about a different bird than what you see in the video.

http://youtu.be/A1j4Rvcz0pE

I loved those great kiskadees.  They were "peanut butter catching" at the feeder like they would for aerial insects.  As a matter of fact, because the kiskadees were so fast, they people next to us thought they were grabbing flies attracted to the feeder.  But check out these stills I grabbed from the video:

That's a beakful of peanut butter!

Even the plain chachalacas got in on the peanut butter action...I don't think I saw a single woodpecker come to that feeder.

Besides all of these there were warblers checking it out as well (warblers in January, what a gift to this Minnesota girl). We didn't see them, but many reported that bobcats come to hunt around the feeders too...needless to say, we didn't see squirrels.

Thank you, Bentsen State Park, for a lovely afternoon.