Friday, March 28, 2008

Last Weekend

i've been busy putting together some t shirt designs for a UK band this week and along with the day job haven't had any time to go out during the week, not that the weather has been great anyways.

last weekend we went out birding with good intentions but nothing all that exciting happened.
that happens sometimes doesn't it? Laughing

Saturday we drove out to Tsawassen to see if we could find the Common Teal that was said to be there but for the second time left empty-handed.
Reifel was next and we faired better.
we ran into Carlo, who tipped me off on a good book to read and later i found TC Wong and David Tang shooting birds at my favourite swallow spot.
the G-H owl mom was sleeping and the kid nowhere in sight and since this bird and tree truck have been photographed hundreds (thousands?) of times by now already we moved along.
on the way back from Reifel we happened upon a gathering of Snow geese close to the side of the road and Audy hopped out and maybe because of her small stature and gentle nature they came close to her and she got off some nice shots.

Sunday we checked out Iona beach because i wanted to shoot swallows there but none would sit for us at the time.
Western meadowlarks made a brief appearance and things were looking up until the cable-release on my camera exploded leaving me trigger-less.
this was all the more frustrating since i had just replaced my last one a week ago. i have the worst luck with cable-releases i tell you.

thus i have not much digiscoping to show but Audy got some decent shots and would like to show a few of hers for a change.
they are always better than my own anyways Smile

i really like this shot, i just wish it had been composed a bit better

anyways, that was last weekend, bring on this weekend, i'm raring to go and have a burly new expensive cable release that i'm hoping will work out better.
Very Happy

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anna and the Redhead

well, the weekend didn't quite turn out as nice as they forecast but it didn't stop me from wanting to get out.
Birding during the week is ok, but it's always afternoon and it's always after my work duties are finished for the day.
i've seen some cool birds during the week, don't get me wrong, but nothing beats weekend birding Cool
weekend birding is all about preparation and having a game plan so that the time can best be managed.
it means getting up early, something i do every day (since i start work at 6am) but somewhat more of a chore for Audy i must admit.

for this weekend in particular i decided to simplify the routine and concentrate on only one target bird a day.
those birds were Redhead duck at Surrey lake and the male Anna's hummingbird at VanDusen garden.

knowing that VanDusen opened at 10am i chose Sunday as a good day for that location and Saturday (early) for the drive out to Surrey.

Surrey lake is a great little man-made lake full of waterfowl this time of year from the looks of what we saw Saturday.
we were the only people there when we arrived at around 8:30am and the lake was quiet.
things were so quiet that all the birds were sleeping as well.

the grouping in the middle of the lake included American wigeon (including a couple of Eurasian), Gadwall, Mallard, Scaup, Canvasback (only place i've seen these handsome ducks at this season) and a couple Common merganser as well.
a few ducks were awake but most had their heads tucked in and glided softly back and forth, frustratingly so.

the task on hand was to look for the drake Redhead in the bunch.
my only previous encounter with this species occurred last spring in Kelowna but it was a distant "life list" shot and i was anxious to better the effort hopefully.
first i had to find the bird.

Audy and i split up, she concentrated near the bridge area and i decided to walk further along to scan the large gathering in the middle.
scoping the birds as they "slept" was easy enough to do with the 50X eyepiece but i knew at that range any shot would suffer, nonetheless.
suddenly i found the bird Very Happy
i was able to ID it by the colour of it's head, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
once i had it in scope it was just a matter of tracking action until it woke up.

well, the excitement of finding the bird slowly wore off when i realized it could be while before something in the bird triggered it to suddenly get up. a disturbance from shore in the form of a large off-leash dog barking at me while on my knees in the mud wasn't even enough to wake the birds, i would just have to wait it out.
about an hour later it finally happened.
the bird awoke, stretched and took account of it's surroundings.
it started to move and i began pursuit, eventually it came close to shore and i knew this was my opportunity, i had better get the shots now.

a few minutes later it flew off suddenly and was gone.
when all was said and done, this was the best shot and i'm quite happy with it.
it's full frame as well, no cropping.

Sunday we were going to look for the male Anna's hummingbird at VanDusen garden i had heard about.
i had a general idea of where to look for the tiny gem of a bird but i soon realized, it was a big place, there was no guarantee we would even find it.

Audy is pretty good at tracking hummingbirds and she had a hunch she wanted to follow so went off in another direction as i staked out this spot and that spot, always looking towards the tops of the trees for that little hummingbird shape i knew so well.
i kept coming up empty however.

at one point i watched incredulously as a family walked by noisily through a section of bamboo forest.
i heard a great crashing and breaking of branches and thought one of the kids had gone off into the bush.
i didn't expect to see each kid (3 of them) happily walking out with big bamboo sticks in their hands, waving them about like swords as dad broke off leaves, throwing them on the ground around them as they casually walked by.
some people just don't get it Mad

anyways, just at that moment my cell phone rang and it was Audy telling me she thought she had found the Anna's!
i walked quickly on ahead and marveled at her bird luck, once again she had come through.
sure enough, there was a little bird, high up in a tree top, with terrible light behind it.

i smiled, the shot didn't really matter (as long as you get at least one) since actually finding the needle in the haystack was the true reward in this instance.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Leucistic Robin

I know what you are all thinking..
"oh great, another Robin"
Rolling Eyes Wink
but this one is Leucistic and i've never seen one like this before.

kind of cool don't you think?

Maplewood Flats, North Van.

camera settings

posted this for someone else but thought i'd share it here as well. i tinker with settings often though and nothing is clad in stone.

my camera settings (Coolpix P5100) are thus:
top dial set to A.
FUNC button set to ISO.
sound settings set to off. i don't want my camera to make sounds.

digital zoom set to off.
AF assist set to AUTO.
VR on.
date imprint off.
brightness 5.
date off.
welcome screen off.

A settings:

distortion control off.
converter off.
noise reduction AUTO.
fixed aperture on.
flash control AUTO.
flash exp. comp. 0
auto-focus mode Single AF.
AF area mode Center.
auto bracketing off.
Continuous mode.
metering Matrix.
ISO sensitivity as low as possible, typically 64.
white balance AUTO.
optimize image Normal.
image size 12m (4000x3000).
image quality Fine.
i also have the Macro (flower symbol) selected as well.

and that's about all i can tell you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Charley Harper

just wanted to mention that i recently came across a great bird artist who went by the name of Charley Harper. He recently passed away but was gracious enough to leave us with a large body of work. I remember seeing his illustrations in books as a kid but never knew anything about him, or the fact that he illustrated so many birds over the years. When most think about "bird art" we tend to throw out the names Audubon, Wilson, Peterson, heck, even Bateman, all realists who painted and illustrated in a fairly traditional style. Traditional has never really "done it" for me however and during my Art school days i aligned myself with modern art. That's why i was so excited to find out about Harpers art and i can thank Audy for that since she was the one who mentioned that she was interested in finding a book by him. She is a designer and excellent illustrator herself and always on the lookout for inspiration. I found the book she was looking for and ordered it for her as a valentines day present. It arrived last week and we spent an enormous amount of time looking through it all. Beautiful modern bird art!
i would love to find some of his original prints but by now they are quite expensive.
i've posted some pages from the book on my "other" flickr site if anyone is interested, although a quick Google search of images will bring up loads of his work as well. Very Happy

Sunday, March 9, 2008

50X the birding fun

The past week was beautiful here on the lower mainland and the stretch of Tuesday through Thursday was particularly nice, especially in the afternoon (when i sometimes go out birding after work).
As my luck would have it, the boss called overtime this week (6am till 5pm), effectively wiping out any such notions of afternoon delight at Maplewood.
Instead, i watched the sun and blue skies from the safety of a glass divider and the cold glow of a computer screen to occupy my time instead.

Needless to say i was raring to go come weekend, i had to get out and channel some of the negative work thoughts into positive bird thoughts instead.

Audy decided to call in sick this weekend as far as joining me birding on Saturday so i headed out solo.
Coffee was feeling good inside me and the ipod plugged into the car stereo was cranking good tunes.
I always find choosing the right music before a birding day is extremely important as it sets the initial mood.

I'll mention now that i haven't been overly happy with the final results as far as quality of my recent digiscoped shots and it's gotten me down a bit.
i've been getting good looks and decent lighting lately (and bird luck is holding strong) but when processed, a lot of them have been Soft.
To combat the evils of Soft i decided to put my old 50X eyepiece back on the scope instead of than the 30X that i regularly use since i have a sneaking suspicion that it produces a sharper image.
The 50X has it's drawbacks in that everything is that much closer and you get more vignetting.
It's good in that i no longer have to use the camera zoom as much since i think it has a lot to do with image degration.

So, i switched to the 50X and drove to Iona beach since i wanted to see if the swallows had come back yet.
I knew they were back at Reifel but wanted to avoid that whole scene as we had been hitting it up frequently lately and i wanted to avoid crowds as much as possible this weekend for a change.

Not too many people at Iona and i walked around looking for the shrike (who wasn't around) but did run into a pair of flickers.
No swallows yet however.

Checked out the sewage treatment ponds and looked through a flock of red-winged blackbirds and found a couple pair of Brewers blackbird mixed in as well.
The Killdeer were active and i had fun watching them run about calling to each other.
At one point i ran into an extremely brave Robin and it even posed for me nicely.
i like this shot as the carpet of small blooms and the lighting remind me of Spring.

at around the same time i ran into an old friend the Spotted Towhee.

i love shooting these charismatic birds.

after Iona i drove out to Tsawassen ferry jetty to look for Surfbird again but didn't see one.
Saw plenty of Black turnstones, loons, grebes, scoters and Harlequin ducks however out by Berth #1.
I then proceeded to drive out to the Tsawassen portion of Boundary Bay park to look for Eurasian (Common) teal, one of which has been seen regularly just off of 12th ave. by the pump house.
I looked really hard and carefully scanned all the flocks etc. but never saw the Common.
ah well, shot his cousin instead.

After all that i made a half-assed effort to drive around the Boundary Bay roads looking for raptors but got tired and called it a day.

Today Audy was well enough to come out and we decided to go to Lost lagoon in Stanley Park to shoot waterfowl but soon realized a marathon was underway.
Maplewood was decided on then as our Sunday destination.

We didn't do the whole walk as we became pre-occupied with the Red crossbills that were swarming around.

it was cool because while i have run across them plenty of times Audy has yet to come into close contact with this charming species of bird.

The 50X eyepiece performed quite well in the challenging light this weekend.

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area