Monday, April 28, 2008

Baxter's Hollow, SPG Preserve and Bakken's Pond on Sun.

Ok, I haven't been very good on posting lately. Birding has taken up so much time.....

First, I went along on the Madison Audubon field trip to Baxter's Hollow SNA. Baxter's Hollow is a very cool spot. It's a true hollow in a sense that the hills wrap around a small valley with a stream flowing through it. it's a lone hill in sort of a "C" shape.
It will come up on Google Maps if you search "Baxter's Hollow".

At the start of the trip, the leader's wife brought a Turkey Vulture to show everyone. That was pretty cool. If you haven't see a TV close up, I recommend it. They may be ugly looking but they are cool birds.

The little hairs on the head are cool.

This one had a broken left wing that was healing so he coundn't lift his wing very far. 

Then we went for a walk. The birds were rather minimal. The only interesting ones were a pair of Broad-winged Hawks, a flyover B Kingfisher and several singing Louisiana Waterthrush. The LAWT nest at Baxter's Hollow.

Since the birds were rather scarce, we spent most of the walk looking at the vast carpets of wildflowers. Trout Lilies and Spring Beauties were by far the most common and were spread in thick carpets on the woodland floor.

Marsh Marigold grew in the wetland areas (I forgot to remove the sticks before I took the pic):

Saxifrage. I don't remember what species though:

Any guesses? If you said Jacob's ladder, you're correct:

I don't remember exactly what this is. I like the picture though. 

Nodding Trillium! Not flowering yet, but give it a week or so. 

See all the green on the forest floor? Know what it is? If you said Garlic Mustard, you're wrong. Dead wrong.  All the green is Spring Beauties. Solid Spring Beauties. 

Here's more a little closer:

Someone found a Caddisfly! 

Then he came out!

Then some Wood frog eggs were found:

This Female Cowbird was carefully watching the Female Louisiana Waterthrush. 
Parasitism in action:

A Trout lily. Still not open yet. 

I'm not sure what this is. Probably in the Hepatica family though:

This Spring Beauty didn't focus like I wanted it to:

The Trout lilies carpeted the forest floor:

Here's a closeup of one flowering:

And another Trout Lily.  I had to get under this one to take this shot:

The Stream at Baxter's Hollow.  This is across the road from where the Mourning Warblers like to hang out:

After spending the morning at Baxter's, Peter Fissel and I headed down to the Spring green Preserve. The land is owned by the Nature conservancy.

Here's the view from the top of the hill:

The hillside here has been cleared of everything woody and is currently growing up as a tallgrass prairie.  It has some specialty species that are more reliable here than anywhere else. 

Some of the best ones that can be found here include Grasshopper Sparrow, W Meadowlark, Dickcissel and this spectacular adult male Lark Sparrow:

This bird was VERY cooperative. He was still sitting there when I walked away. 

Peter and I also found several Pasque Flowers in bloom:

Although, the flower foiled my attempts to get a clear, focused shot. 

After we left the Preserve with a targeted Lark Sparrow written down, we headed down to Pearl Rd and County G to find the flooded field that we had seen from the top of the hill. 
We found the Flooded field (actually, it was more of a shallow "Lake") but didn't find any shorebirds. We did find a flock of about 60 Yellow-rumped Warblers though. 

This beautiful adult male posed several times for his picture:

Then he showed off his bright yellow crown:

Even better, he posed out in the open on a fencewire:

And then showed his crown stripe!

Just before he took off, I snapped another picture:

Peter and I then ran down to Bakken's Pond. The water is much higher than I've ever seen it. 
Normally, everything in this picture would be marsh grass and reeds. It's all water now:

Here's a shot of the boat landing. The water is way higher than usual:

Besides half a dozen Ducks and a million Coots, I was also able to pick out this adult Palm Warbler:

It was a fun day! I wish everyday was a full birding day like that!  Unfortunately, it's not. So it's back to nose-to-the-grindstone for now.... plus a little birding on the side! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Birding this week.

Ok. I haven't posted recently.

On Mon, I took a run down to County TB along the river to look for shorebird spots and ducks.
I then looped back around along the WI river to the Millpond and then back to US-14.
I added a few species to my Richland County list. N Shoveler, Am Coot, Lesser Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser.
All the water everywhere is high. The marsh at ST-80 and ST-60 is flooded.

Today, I heard my FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and FFTYFTY (first for the yard for the year) House Wren and Chipping Sparrow.
This evening, I walked up to the field behind my house and picked up a few more Bigby birds.
3 flyover Gr Blue Herons, half a dozen Wood Ducks, Wilson's Snipe, Am Woodcock and a singing Henslow's Sparrow to top it off.
the Henslow's was also a year bird.
The only Owls that were calling were Barred. It sounded like there were 7 or 8 of them.

I'll post some pics the next time I have time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More on digiscoping

For many digiscopers, birds like Warblers are just plain out of reach and are too fast to try to digiscope clearly.
However, one digiscoper I know has managed to figure out how to digiscope the small birds as well as big. He gets some amazing results too.

Here's the link to his website:

Some of you may recognize the url. The website belongs to Mike McDowell. He lives in Madison WI, about an hour's drive from me. He's a great birder and a superb digiscoper.

For the average digiscoper, a setup like mine works very well. Especially if you just want a few decent pictures. There are problems with it though.

For example, at medium to long distances, light distortion becomes a problem.

Here's an example of light distortion at a medium distance:

Note the bluish coloring outlining the birds.  The only way to get rid of that is to go to a better quality scope. 

Digiscoping works only at low zoom levels.   Here's an example of light loss at a higher zoom level. I took this picture at Horicon Marsh yesterday.  I zoomed my scope to about 30X and then zoomed my camera to 10X:

The birds are IDable but the picture is not really good quality at all. 

Here's an example of even lower light. I took this picture right around Sunset at the County C & V ponds in Dane County:

So long distances aren't good and low light is worse. 
Here's an example of a picture taken at medium brightness (AKA partly cloudy, overcast, but the middle of the day), but the bird is much closer than the last one. Range was less than 30yds:

There's a little more clearity. I didn't get the focus I wanted because the bird was moving but it turned out ok. 

Here's a Swamp Sparrow at about the same light level but slightly farther away:

Note that it is difficult to focus properly in low light.  
The best time for digiscoping is when the birds sit still and are close and it's a clear, sunny day.

Here's some examples of that (all taken at Bolivar flats in High Island TX):

On the above picture, the sun was almost behind the bird so the light wasn't absolutely perfect.

On the below picture, the sun was up and to the right of the birds. A little bit better position:

Here's one where you just have to wait for the right time to take the picture:

The light reflecting off the water screwed this one up a little. It still came out pretty decent though:

This bird was a little less than 30 feet away in bright sunlight. Note the clarity of the picture despite the fact that the wind was blowing at a steady 30Mph that day:

Here's an example of a Prothonotary Warbler that I took at Boyscout Woods in High Island TX on a slightly cloudy day with all kinds of shadows around from the trees:

Now, the comparison. For this Louisiana Waterthrush, I used the same camera on the same settings, in the same light at the same place.  The only difference was the scope I used. 
For this picture, I borrowed a Swarovski 80HD:

You can see the difference. Now imagine that I had also used a really good quality camera.....

In the end, if you want really good pictures. It's going to cost you money.  The Swaro 80HD runs at around $2000.... minus a good camera. Add the camera and you're talking around $2500-$2800  
A Canon 40D + a 100-400mm lens runs in around $3000.  

For me, the camera setup is more economical. Plus, it's faster and more agile.