I took a very brief trip (5 days) to see the winter birds of Calgary Canada at the end of January and beginning of February. My primary reason for traveling to this area was to look for Snowy and Hawk Owls since these two owls are not overly common in the continental U.S. even though small numbers usually show up most years in the northern states. Hawk Owl would be the most uncommon of these two species and the one I had most wanted to find. Along with the owls, the mammals and winter birding this far north promised to offer other species that I would not find in Southern California and some that may not be very common in the lower 48 states at all. New to me, I was pleased to run into several coveys of Grey Partridges while in the area. They are fairly common this far north but I had never seen one. Since I have been singing 🎼 “and a partridge in a pear tree” ♫ every Christmas since I was a kid it was a pleasure to actually have a picture in my mind of how they really act and what they look like. They seemed quite similar to our quail being in groups running around on the ground (missed any in pear trees!). I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity bring a pair of Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 Binoculars with me for review. For now all I will say is “WOW, The views through these binoculars are incredible”.
When the dog days of summer become the birding doldrums, some birders turn to other flying creatures. The most accessible of these are butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, all of which require binoculars with excellent close focus. It was unusual recently that a birder birding San Timoteo Creek in Redlands, Riverside County, CA discovered a pair of Filigree Skimmer dragonflies (Pseudoleon superbus). As the species has only recorded twice before in California, we went to take a look. Continue reading
Gray Thrasher is a non-migratory endemic to Baja California, so when Sunday afternoon on August 2, 2015 was interrupted with a report of the first US occurrence in San Diego, we had to make the 75 mile drive and take a look.
Finding the Gray Thrasher
The Gray Thrasher was found by John Bruin, Lisa Ruby, and Terry Hurst at the southwest end of Famosa Slough. This is an area that has had its share of rarities, including Bar-tailed Godwit. Once we arrived and parked, we quickly found a couple of dozen birders standing around or off to other parts of the area looking for the bird. We learned where it had been seen (about 45 minutes before our arrival) and which way it went. Since it obviously wasn’t where everyone was standing, we decided to look around. Just after our fourth pass by a large lemonade berry bush, someone spotted the Gray Thrasher deep in the foliage. Birders surrounded the bush looking for a better angle. All of a sudden, the thrasher decided it was hungry and came out onto the slope to forage in the leaves and twigs only about 15 feet away from us. That was too close for my Kowa TSN-884, but just right for binoculars.
Happy 4th of July 2015
This year we stayed close to home to watch the 4th of July 2015 fireworks. Walking to the top of the hill that is next to our local high school we were able to see several fireworks displays from one place. The beauty of our local 2015 firework shows were quite impressive and certainly worth an attempt at taking nice photos of. Since I had tried taking photos of the fireworks last year I figured my 2015 firework photos might be a bit better. As it turns out they are! Hope you enjoy the pictures and that this year will continue to bring many outdoor viewing opportunities. A good pair of binoculars and or spotting scope from Optics4Birding makes the viewing experiences of life more enjoyable. Happy 4th of July to you from all the Optics4Birding staff.
We can learn a lot by watching animals. Unlike humans, they remain focused on their task at all times. This Green Heron, gone fishin’ at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, California was no exception. Green Herons fish for a living. They have to get good at it to survive. This one patiently waited, coiled like a spring and camouflaged in the bulrushes, for a fish to come within striking distance and then struck with lightning speed and precision.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park in Laguna Niguel, California is a wonderful place to go in the spring to see summer resident breeding birds. The habitat is a combination of coastal sage scrub with willow and cottonwood riparian areas along the creek that runs down the center of the canyon. Late March and early April is the perfect time to see and hear Greater Roadrunner, Least Bell’s Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Knowing this, I headed there one morning to try digiscoping with my micro 4/3 format camera through the Swarovski ATX Modular Eyepiece with the Swarovski 85mm Modular Objective. The Chats weren’t in yet, and the only Blue Grosbeak I encountered was high in a willow against bright marine layer clouds – a difficult background to work with.
As luck would have it, this Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus was posted up and singing with foliage in the background. The bird was so vivid and singing so beautifully that I immediately decided that video was called for. Mounting the camera to the scope was effortless, thanks to the Swarovski TLS-APO adapter, and I was rolling seconds after I had focused on the Grosbeak with the scope.
The pale gray downy feathers are part of the Grosbeak’s insulation system and the chill from the previous night had not yet left the air.