Tag Archives: Digiscoping

5 Reasons to Attend the 2016 Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival

The 2016 Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival runs from January 20th to the 25th and is held in Brevard County, Florida. Here is a list of 5 reason why I think you should attend!

1. The Birds – Obviously. The main reason birders go to festivals is to see birds and get as many lifers as possible. Merritt Island NWR (more below), Daytona Beach, and Viera Wetlands are among the more popular birding locations. Click on the photo and type Brevard County, FL into the Location box and learn more about the birding hotspots within a short drive of the festival headquarters. Here’s a list of birds seen during the 2015 festival.

Brevard County, Florida eBird Hotspots. Credit: eBird.org.

Brevard County, Florida eBird Hotspots. Credit: eBird.org.

2. The Keynote Speakers – There’s an impressive lineup of Keynote Speakers for the 2016 festival, including Dr. Steven W. Kress of the National Audubon Society, Giff Beaton, a leading authority on Odonata and other fauna, James Currie of Birding Adventures TV,┬áKevin Karlson & Dale Rosselet, authors of the new Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, and Steve N.G. Howell of WINGS. Read more about the speakers here.

3. The Field Trips & Workshops – There is an exhaustive list of field trips and workshops for this year’s festival, way too many to list here. I will say that there are a few digiscoping workshops, most discussing digiscoping with a DSLR, but one by Clay Taylor highlighting phonescoping! Read more about field trips here and workshops here.

Red-shouldered Hawk in Brevard County, Florida on January 22, 2015. Digiscoped with a Samsung Galaxy S4 + Vortex Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-shouldered Hawk in Brevard County, Florida on January 22, 2015. Digiscoped with a Samsung Galaxy S4 + Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

4. The Exhibit Center – This place is typically packed with visitors. Festival participants can try optics and gear before buying, talk with birding and wildlife tour leaders, and check out local artists’ work. Read more about the Exhibit Center here.

5. Merritt Island NWR – Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is, hands-down, my favorite spot to bird in Brevard County. Black Point Wildlife Drive is an excellent place to photograph wading birds and ducks, Florida Scrub-Jays are “common” year-round, and Painted Buntings frequent the feeders at the Visitor’s Center. If you’re attending the festival, make sure you spend a AT LEAST one morning at Merritt Island!

Roseate Spoonbill at Black Point Wildlife Drive, Brevard County, Florida on January 25, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Roseate Spoonbill at Black Point Wildlife Drive, Brevard County, Florida on January 25, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Registration for this year’s festival is open until 5 PM on January 15. You can register for the festival online. I’ll be at the festival working the Phone Skope booth and should be out in the field birding each morning. Let me know in the comments if you’ll be at the festival!

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir

This morning I finally ventured outside of Grove City to do a bit of exploring in Mercer County. I had a few spots in mind to visit, including Buhl Park and Shenango Reservoir. A short, cold stop at Buhl Park (eBird Checklist) yielded a number of Canada Geese and Mallards along with a lone Mute Swan and female Green-winged Teal.

Buhl Park in Hermitage, PA on January 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Buhl Park in Hermitage, PA on January 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I then drove to Shenango Reservoir (eBird Checklist) to check for ducks and geese using open water. I arrived to find most of the reservoir to be frozen, but Mallards and Hooded Mergansers were taking advantage of the “small” opening in the water.

Hooded Mergansers at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Hooded Mergansers at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

I drove along the reservoir with little success at finding any more open water. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a decent-sized flock of geese off Rt. 846. I found an open parking lot and, fortunately, a trail leading to the edge of the reservoir with a clear line of sight to the flock. Most of the birds were sleeping, but would occasionally lift their heads. I counted 258 Canada Geese and managed to pick out one Cackling Goose (eBird Checklist). Although distant, I was able to get photos and video using my iPhone 6 Plus and Phone Skope Adapter.

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Brambling – Medina County, Ohio

On December 30th, Katie Barnes and I set out to twitch two ABA rarities, Kelp Gull and Brambling, before trying to get her additional year birds. More on the Kelp Gull later. We arrived at Allardale Park in Medina County, Ohio to find 30 or so birders staking out the feeder station for the Brambling. We waited, waited, and waited some more. The bird finally showed itself in the top of a Sweetgum after an hour of waiting, but only gave brief looks before flying off. While we waited for it to return, we enjoyed excellent views of Mourning Dove, House Finch, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and a variety of other birds visiting the feeders.

Finches at Allardale Park, Medina County, OH on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Finches at Allardale Park, Medina County, OH on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

After a short, cold wait, the Brambling returned to the feeder station, but this time stuck around for a couple of minutes, giving the crowd the desired look and providing a decent photo opportunity. It was well worth the wait! Here are two of my best digiscoped shots of the bird.

Brambling at Allardale Park, Medina County, Ohio on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brambling at Allardale Park, Medina County, Ohio on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brambling at Allardale Park, Medina County, Ohio on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brambling at Allardale Park, Medina County, Ohio on December 30, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Observing this bird without ticking anyone off is somewhat of a challenge, so here’s a map of where to park (red pin), where to stand (yellow pin), and the feeder station the bird visits (blue pin). Click on each pin for more information.

Let me know if you have any info to add to the map. I hope this helps clear up some confusion about seeing the bird as there have been many posts to the Ohio Birds listserv about it.

December Highlights – A Glorious Day of Birding in New Castle County

The plan for the day was to check out the Ashton Tract of Augustine Wildlife Area and then to chum for gulls at Augustine Beach. That all changed when Alan Kneidel, Tim Frieday, and I crossed Reedy Point Bridge to find a large flock of geese in a corn stubble field. Every time we see a flock of geese, we have to check it out. It’s like a game of “Where’s Waldo.” There is usually a “waldo” in the flock, but it may take some time to find it. Anyway, we searched and scanned, but came up empty on the goose front. We did, however, hear two Sandhill Cranes calling from somewhere within or around Thousand Acre Marsh!

Canada Geese at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Canada Geese at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The effort was not “empty,” and actually paid off as we discovered the landbird activity was phenomenal in the thickets adjacent to the road, which was part of the C&D Canal Wildlife Area (eBird Checklist). Along the edge, we encountered a number of uncommon birds for December, including Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Baltimore Oriole.

We worked the roadside thickets for a while, then proceeded down a trail that lead to what we call “The Salina.”

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We pushed birds the entire length of the trail, encountering Ruby-crowned Kinglet and many, many White-throated, Song, and Savannah Sparrows. Brown Thrasher and White-crowned Sparrow were also good ticks.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

At the end of that trail, we stumbled upon a massive mixed-species flock of sparrows. Mixed in were a handful of American Tree and White-crowned Sparrows (uncommon for the most part in the state), numerous White-throated and Song, and a bunch of Savannah Sparrows.

American Tree Sparrow at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

American Tree Sparrow at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We progressed towards the Delaware River, picking through the flock of sparrows. Eventually, the flock dissipated, allowing us to make a run for the river with few(er) distractions.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

At the river, Alan picked out a Great Cormorant (uncommon in the county) flying upriver and a Marsh Wren sounded off. There was no waterbird movement on the river and landbird activity slowed dramatically on the walk back, so we decided to move on to the next location.

Alan and Tim Frieday scanning the Delaware River at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Alan and Tim Frieday scanning the Delaware River at C&D Canal Wildlife Area on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Our next stop was the Ashton Tract of Augustine Wildlife Area (eBird Checklist). Our primary goal here was to study the continuing Glossy Ibis and tick the immature Little Blue Herons that have been hanging around. Alan immediately found the ibis and the herons, which fortunately were close enough for a thorough study session.

Little Blue Herons at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Little Blue Herons at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Glossy Ibis at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Glossy Ibis at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Otherwise, Ashton Tract was relatively slow, but we did manage a few new waterbird species for the day, including Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and American Coot.

American Coots at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

American Coots at Ashton Tract (Augustine Wildlife Area) on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Augustine Beach was next (eBird Checklist). We were extremely pumped to bird at Augustine Beach because we planned on chumming for gulls. We had a trash bag full of freshly-popped popcorn, saltines, and a variety of other goodies. While we roped in almost 200 Ring-billed Gulls, most other species weren’t interested.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

After nearly 45 minutes of chumming, we drug in a few other species, including Herring, Great Black-backed, and Laughing Gull.

Herring Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Herring Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Great Black-backed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Great Black-backed Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Laughing Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Laughing Gull at Augustine Beach on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Tim (the other Tim) managed to pick out a female-type Black Scoter sitting on the water at a distance. We later saw the same bird flying upriver towards Delaware City.

Augustine Beach was supposed to be our last stop, but we made a last minute decision to check on the continuing Red-headed Woodpeckers at Lums Pond State Park (eBird Checklist). Before we could make it into the park, we found another flock of geese. Of course, we had to spend a few minutes picking through it, but were unable to turn up anything notable.

We then made our way to Area 1, where the woodpeckers have been seen almost daily for a couple of weeks now. The beach at Area 1 is a great place to scan the pond, but today the water was void of avian life.

Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

As we were scanning the pond, we heard one Red-headed Woodpecker. The bird was very active, which made documenting difficult. I did manage a few video clips, in which I grabbed this still shot from.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

As the bird above was foraging and caching, we heard another bird call behind us. We were able to track this bird down, which was gorgeous in its own right as it had an almost complete, red head.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We watched the two woodpeckers for a while and as we were doing so, a number of other birds joined in a flock-like fashion, including Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Bluebird, and more. On the way out, we were graced by the presence of this beautiful Merlin.

Merlin at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Merlin at Lums Pond State Park on December 12, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Overall, this ended up being one of my all-time favorite days of birding in Delaware. Unfortunately, this may have been my last day of birding in the First State as I am leaving the state on Tuesday. My wife and I are moving to Grove City, PA, where we’ll start the next “chapter” (more on that later).

Video: GoDigiscoping – Episode 5

Episode 5 from GoDigiscoping is an interview with a top-notch digiscoper, Kevin Bolton, who gives tips on digiscoping warblers during spring migration in the northeast.

Digiscoping – The Classic Method

I recently decided to try the classic method of digiscoping, holding a point-and-shoot camera up to a spotting scope to take a photo. I used a Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS and Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85. I obtained the best results with the scope set at 20x, while focused on the bird, and with the camera zoomed slightly. Zooming with the camera removes the painful vignetting, or black ring, and leaving the scope at 20x retains the quality of the image you are trying to capture. The camera is only 10 MP, so I doubt I will get any ridiculously crisp results. Anyway, here are my two favorite photos thus far. I’m looking forward to “mastering” this method.

Check out this blog post I wrote for Celestron for more on digiscoping.

Bald Eagle at Conowingo Dam, Harford County, Maryland on December 4, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Bald Eagle at Conowingo Dam, Harford County, Maryland on December 4, 2015. Digiscoped handheld with a Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS and Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Mallards at Perryville Community Park in Perryville, Maryland on December 4, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Mallards at Perryville Community Park in Perryville, Maryland on December 4, 2015. Digiscoped handheld with a Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS and Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

DOS Local Patch Birding Series – Newark Reservoir Trip Summary – December 5, 2015

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

This morning, I was joined by nine birders for the DOS Local Patch Birding Series trip to the Newark Reservoir. The Newark Reservoir is located in the heart of Newark, Delaware and is surrounded by fragmented forest and urbanization. To this day, 154 species have been recorded at this eBird hotspot.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware - December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The walk started off with Song and White-throated Sparrows sounding off, American Pipits flying over, and a Red-winged Blackbird singing as if it were on territory. As we walked the path around the side of the reservoir, we spotted a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk perched, in which all participants got excellent scope views.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We reached the top of the path and of course the Red-shouldered Hawk flew off, but we did catch up with it in-flight later in the walk. We were surprised and mildly bummed to only find nine Ring-billed Gulls and a lone Canada Goose on the water. Recently, there have been several hundred Canada Geese and a variety of other waterbirds, but waterbird diversity was not present today.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Additional Ring-billed Gulls joined the crowd as we walked around the loop and seemed to pick up on a food source that was not apparent to us. The gulls eventually landed, allowing us to really study their plumage.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We were discussing ages of Ring-billed Gulls when Alan yelled, “Snow Bunting on the path!” I couldn’t believe it, a rarity for New Castle County and the first record for the reservoir! The bunting was a lifer for a few folks in the group, which made it an even more savory experience. Plus, the bird was extremely cooperative allowing for great scope views and photo and video opportunities.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Warning: This video contains three minutes of pure Snow Bunting cuteness. Soak it in.

After watching the Snow Bunting for ten minutes or so, we moved on to watch Northern Flickers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers fly from tree to tree and a few Canada Geese drop in for a visit.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We also stumbled upon several flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos with a few White-throated, Chipping, and Song Sparrows mixed in. Eastern Bluebirds even made and appearance!

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

To round out the walk, I was telling a story about a Marsh Wren I found at the reservoir a few weeks ago and a Marsh Wren started scolding in the same exact spot! What are the chances of a wren stopping over in the same, small patch of cattails for over three weeks. Birds are awesome!

In the end, we spent two hours birding in calm, sunny conditions at the Newark Reservoir tallying at least 38 species (eBird Checklist). You never know what you will find if you visit a local patch over and over again. The Newark Reservoir is still my favorite birding spot in the state of Delaware. Check out the DOS Field Trip Schedule for upcoming trips to local and regional birding hotspots.