The Bufflehead Birder

May 22, 2008

Where the Birds Should Be

Filed under: Main Posts — admin @ 10:08 pm

Please take heart.

The next few images you will see on this post are confined to this post only because this post tells about my first attempt at digiscoping, which did not have shining results, of course. The point of this post is the story, so have fun and when you get to the end there is a surprise.


When you first go out to try your new digiscope set up, there are two rules to follow:

1. Do not read the manual. Take it with you, but do not read it ahead of time - this may give the idea you might have a clue or two about setting up your gear.

2. Pick a bone-chilling day with high winds to try out your digiscope gear - obstacles and challenges make us better learners.

Although I had actually read my Nikon Coolpix manual and had gotten comfortable with my point and shoot, I did adhere to the above two rules admirably. The first weekend after my scope arrived back in February, I went to a nearby preserve called Prophecy Creek where there is a pond with plenty of cooperative Canada geese and ducks for me to practice on.

I set up my scope on my tripod and attached the camera to the adapter. Ok, I lied a bit. I had read my spotting scope instructions a bit during my break at work the day before, but somehow missed the part about how the adapter is supposed to have one piece permanently attached to the scope just below the eyepiece, which unscrews, and then the other piece of the adapter attaches to the camera lens (after you remove the lens ring). The idea is to be able to slip the camera right over the eyepiece and screw in the ONE adapter screw. Meanwhile, I have both pieces of the adapter nicely attached to my camera and while it will still fit over the eyepiece, it’s clumsy and wiggly, and I had to tighten two screws to secure it. Frankly, I thought it was a bizarre set up, but decided Swarovski knows what’s it’s doing.

So, then I scanned the pond with the big ol’ Canada geese floating all around. How hard could it be to sight in on a couple and snap off a few shots?

But it didn’t work quite that smoothly. First off, the geese were swimming or being swept by the wind along the water’s surface and did not stay in the scope’s sight. I was new to attaching the camera with adapter onto the scope eyepiece, and there was a delay in the point and shoot’s shutter release, and I could hardly tell what I was seeing through the LCD screen on my camera. Oh, and there was some severe camera shake and wiggly scope syndrome.

The results were lots of goose hind ends or empty space, although I did get a nice abstract of a Mallard. But even that Mallard was a stroke of luck.


Lucky shot aside, I needed a break from the drifting subjects. I caught sight of some starlings high in an American Plane tree (similar to a Sycamore) and wondered if maybe they might not be easier because at least, they were sitting. I sighted them in easily enough and even managed to attach the camera without too much trouble. However, I still couldn’t see much in the LCD viewing screen, so forget focusing; it wasn’t even a factor here. But I snapped off a shot anyway.

It was a great shot. Nice blue sky, seed balls sort of in focus on the branches. But the shot would have been even better if there had been some birds in it. I looked up again to see if the starlings had flown, but they hadn’t. They were still sitting on the branch, a nice composition of 3 birds. I removed the camera from the scope and started over. Somehow I had tapped the scope while attaching the camera and adapter, so that the scope moved just enough to accurately frame the vacant branch next to the subject. This happened several times after. Apparently, I was jarring the scope to the right of the target.

By now my hands were frozen and I took a break to warm my fingers. I gazed around at the pines and thick woods, and thought about all those small fast-flitting woodland birds that were supposed to someday be the subject of future images. It would never happen. I was doomed to digiscoping only comatose birds.

With this weary thought in mind, I then noticed that some of the geese had wandered onto the far shore and were waddling up onto the green lawn. On dry land the birds didn’t blow out of the frame, which was promising, and despite the glare of sun on the LCD viewer, I could see vague shadows that I knew were heads and necks and even entire geese in the frame. Ok, now I was rolling.

I had faith.

And while I might not walk away with anything I’d keep later, I began to get excited and hopeful and I thought, “It can be done.”

Three Geese

Turns out that there are two categories of images for first time digiscoping that I would like to lay claim to:

The Once Upon a Time Category and the Wish You Were Here Category. The difference is this:

If the subject has either partially or completely moved out of the frame, the resulting image falls into the Once Upon a Time Category.

If the subject has not been captured in the frame due to movement of the scope itself, then the resulting image is of the Wish You Were Here Variety.

Can you guess which belongs in which group? See answers below.

A Duck Says Goodbye a Starlings b There Once Was a Duck c Stage Right d

a. Once Upon a Time b. Wish You Were Here

c. Wish You Were Here / Once Upon a Time d. Once Upon a Time


If you found that quiz fun, there’s a lot more where it came from. Please feel free to request more.

Meanwhile, here is a puzzle of a much improved image for you to enjoy.

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