The Bufflehead Birder

May 21, 2008

The Rabbit Hole

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I made the decision to purchase digiscoping equipment. I had no idea. And now, I feel like I’ve fallen into an extraordinary rabbit hole and I don’t want to stop falling.


But, before I spent the money on a spotting scope (a good one) and a point and shoot camera, I thought about it long and hard. I was keen to try digiscoping but had to consider the fact that I might really stink at it, and then what? Was it worth getting a scope and point and shoot, or would it be better to just get a bigger SLR lens?
I decided that having a spotting scope was helpful if I wanted to learn my shorebirds better, especially now that I had moved back east with such excellent shorebird hotspots within a few hours drive. I also decided that a point and shoot was something I needed anyway for trips and outings with friends. It would be much easier to take a pocket camera along rather than a big ol’ SLR Canon D20.

And so, I gave Eagle Optics ( .) a call and bought a ticket to a place of excitement and intimacy with nature that I did not expect.

I did know that taking images through a scope is much harder than with a regular lens because you cannot track birds or sight them in as quickly with a scope. I also knew that for many birds, it would require a lot of patience and tenacity on my part to get shots of them. But I welcomed that and looked forward to what I might see and learn in the process. Much as I love hanging out in wild, I don’t always get myself out there as much as I would like.

However, the first time out with the scope and camera was rough and I wondered if Eagle Optics shouldn’t have included tranquilizers as part of the deal. For more on that experience please read the post after this one, entitled “Where the Birds Should Be”.

After only 3 and a half months of digiscoping, I haven’t fallen as deep into the Rabbit Hole as I will have in 5 years from now, or 15 years. But it’s been a swell journey so far. It’s more than just seeing birds close up with a 80mm scope, or the getting outside to look for birds that makes digiscoping so much fun. I am finding that I will spend much more time with them than I would with just a spotting scope. I get to witness things I most likely would not have stuck around long enough to see if I weren’t trying to get a good shot.

I love to photograph and have no problem spending 5 hours or more in a place working things. So I may stay in a good birding spot for a long time. The difficulty with focus (more on that in future posts) has actually forced me to stick around to get a decent shot. And having the camera with me has not hindered my observation of bird behavior as I had been afraid it might. I had been concerned that I would spend to much time on the photography and not on the observation and learning. In fact, the opposite is true.

I’ve discovered active nesting cavities, seen birds fight and flee from one another, watched the mating of Killdeer and White-tailed deer, witnessed a pair of Tree swallows fighting with one bird being pinned in the mud for a moment, and two hours later a pair of House sparrows going at it with one of them being pinned to the sidewalk, and last weekend spent an hour watching a killdeer chick pulling and stretching worms out from the muddy shores of a pond. And that’s just what’s on the top of my head.

I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth and can hardly believe it can get any better.

But how can it not?

My digiscope set-up at work


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