Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of March Sparrows - 29 Mar 2017

I played with the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 this evening while digiscoping sparrows through the back window. Dark-eyed Juncos are still around by the dozen. A second Song Sparrow has finally appeared. And, a Fox Sparrow has been kicking around the dirt for the past 3 days! Tree Sparrows continue, as well. I had two birds this evening.

With the 40X W eyepiece the 19mm Sigma shows just the very edges of a vignette circle, so its a nice option for digiscoping. However, I wasn't all that thrilled w/ the sharpness of the images compared w/ the Sigma 28mm f/2.8 that provides a bit more magnification and a bit more punch. Still, these are nice images.

It will be tough to let this digiscoping kit go... Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ring-necked Ducks Continue - 26 Mar 2017

After finding 3 Ring-necked Ducks in the pond in front of the entrance to the Del Webb Bridgewater Community yesterday, I stopped by to look for them this morning. There are now 4 birds! 3 Males and a female.

I spent some digiscoping them from the cover of the spruce trees overlooking the west side of the pond. I also swapped out eyepieces on my Zeiss 85T*Fl Diascope; the 40X W returned and the 25-75X Zoom Eyepiece got benched. The reason? These Ring-necks showed me just how bad the chromatic aberration is on the 25-75X. Their brilliant white bills next to their dark-purple heads and bright yellow eyes really show the yellow-blue CA bands that appear when the optics are just not up to par. The 40X W eyepiece has significantly-improved sharpness and only a trace CA under similar-lighting conditions.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Meanwhile, At Home - 25 Mar 2017

Radar maps showed bigly numbers of migrating birds last night. This afternoon I drove by the Meijer store on Telegraph Rd. in Brownstown, MI (Wayne Co.) and found 3 Lesser Scaup in the pond next to the gas station. Then, while driving into the Del Webb on Arsenal Rd. I spotted 3 Ring-necked Ducks in the pond in front of the community!

I dropped off dinner, grabbed the scope and camera, and ran back to get some digiscoped images. A new bird for the Bridgewater complex, and a new yard bird for me!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Synchronicity! - 19 Mar 2017

A few weeks back Sabrewings Tour Guide and fellow bird photographer Brian Zwiebel posted a composite photo of an American Wigeon taking off from the water. At 10 fps, however, every photo showed the same wing spread, making it look like the duck never flapped its wings. I experienced the same thing just this morning!

While photographing a Northern Shoveler taking off from the ditch down here at Erie Marsh Preserve (Monroe Co.) I captured 11 frames consecutively at 10 fps (1/2000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600). The duck never flapped its wings, neither. I created this composite by stitching all 11 images together using Photoshop's Automerge tool (after content-aware removing the ducks from duplicated layers), then re-inserting the ducks using the opacity tool to line up their original positions. I then did some trimming of layer backgrounds from each duck and flattened the image. Since the background was so bleh, I kept it as a technical image.

Another pair of Northern Shovelers took off and I followed them in flight. Note the absolute synchronicity of their wing beats. The Chinese Olympic diving team would be impressed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why One Photo May Not Tell The Truth! - 20 Mar 2017

I was at Erie Marsh Preserve in s. Monroe Co. this morning photographing migrating waterfowl. Light was low and skies were overcast. The scaup shown above took off and flew across my path, which allowed me to grab a quick burst of it in flight. Both Lesser and Greater Scaup possess white secondaries, however, Greater Scaup have white that extends onto the primaries. That would make this bird a Greater Scaup, no? Hmm... This is an example where one photograph of a bird can lead to an incorrect identification.

Note the sheen on the head: more purple than green, which would suggest Lesser Scaup (yes, I know head color is not reliable under some lighting conditions, but is useful in most situations). Note also the lack of a distinct black tip on the bill. This is also suggestive of a Lesser Scaup.  It is not until we see additional flight shots that the true identity is revealed.

A few more looks at this bird in flight reveals more brown in the primaries that helps seal the ID. Even the female shows browner primaries.  Here's a digiscoped view of the bird on the water. 

The peaked head confirms it to be a Lesser Scaup! Lesson learned: beware of lighting - it could result in a wrong impression, and a mistaken identity!

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