The Bufflehead Birder

June 19, 2008

Blustery Day in Heaven

Filed under: Digiscoping — admin @ 12:22 am

This may be hard to do, especially if you were in the Philly area during the last sweltering heat wave, but let’s try for the sake of this week’s post.

Picture a whipping wind shoving gray clouds across a pale mid-morning sky. This is how it was for me one Saturday last February when I took my new digiscoping equipment out for a real drive, not the 30-minute test drive at the nearby pond I spoke about in an earlier post.

Andorra Nature Center is located along the Wissahickon River. Not only is it located in a quiet part of the woods just off the walking trail along the river, but it also offers a complex of feeders, which is a boon to beginner digiscoper. Anywhere birds congregate is an excellent place to practice.


Firstly, there are lots of birds coming and going.

Secondly, there are always certain perches in the path of approach to a feeder that are used over and over by incoming birds. When these perches are noted, they make a handy place to focus your scope or camera while you settle in and wait. That’s the idea anyway.

However, keep in mind Hunter’s First Perch Principle:

If, the following is true:
X = likelihood of target bird using given perch
Y = frequency of scope or camera focused on given perch
Then, X will decrease in direct proportion to the increase of Y.

I stared at a lot of vacant perches until I got a few worthwhile shots.

Luckily, this principle did not apply to the path of approach used by the White-breasted Nuthatches. They liked to hop down the along the side of a nearby tree, stopping from time to time, and remaining still long enough for me to actually attempt a focus, before making the short flight to the feeder of choice.


White-breasted Nuthatch

Very cooperative, those Nuthatches, unlike a favorite friend pictured below.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

The wind set my scope to vibrating, and although the low light conditions actually allowed me to see through my LCD viewer, it forced me to set my Coolpix P5100 to an ISO of 400 and to use the widest aperture possible. That made for grainier images but, at least they stood a better chance than the proverbial ice cube, of being in focus.

Wren Hairy Woodpecker

Carolina Wren and Downy Woodpecker

I stood huddled against the wind, clicking shots of Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, sometimes Tufted Titmice or Chickadees but more often of vacant perches. The wind was so high that trees bowed back and forth, and vicious gusts swept birds en masse off of the feeders and into the trees.


Chickadee with Seed

(Either Black-capped or Carolina. Black-caps have the more distinct white stripes on the wings. I couldn’t quite tell from my viewpoint.)

But the digiscoping thrill was on and I couldn’t stop. Just one more shot of the Nuthatch, or hey, now that Titmouse is finally on its perch, or what about a few more shots of those Juncos with their cheeks full of seeds?

And then there was a Red-bellied Woodpecker spinning around on the suet feeder while Titmice, Chickadees, and a Carolina Wren joined in. No chance here of a sharply focused shot, so I applied one of Mike’s digiscoping tips and took a video of the twirling feeder so that I could snatch a couple of in-focus stills from that later.
It was absolute Heaven.
Finally, 5 hours later, my fingers were too numb to shift the exposure dial, and the snow was starting to come down in a serious slant. It was time to beam back to the Home Planet and go get a hot coffee.





Andorra Bench

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