Digiscoped favorites                                                                                         gallery 1
by Don Roberson
all photos digiscoped in the wild
all shots with an Olympus Camedia 560, 3.2 megapixel,
cheap automatic camera, though a Leica Trinovid scope
male Hooded Merganser in Carmel Valley, 7 Dec 2004
Some angel brought donuts to work today, so instead of going for lunch, I took a drive to Quail Lodge golf course in Carmel Valley in hopes of finding some ducks to digiscope. I cannot describe my emotional state when I found that the first pond checked had a pair of Hooded Mergansers! This superb little duck has always been a nemesis for my photographic efforts: always skittish, always backlit, always way too far away. But this pair was actively diving and permitted a long series of shots, of which this is one of the best. A couple times during my visit the male raised his crown full-spread and, in combination with the beautiful reflections on the pond, I'm pretty happy with this shot. There were several problems with these photo efforts trembling hands for one but the secret was just to keep shooting. The sun was in and out, the shadows across the pond put the birds in light and then shade, and the birds themselves seldom stopped moving. Digiscoping is tough when the birds won't stay still! I also like this other shot (below); how many times does one get to study the undertail coverts of a Hooded Merganser?
Common Goldeneyes at Big Sur R. mouth, 5 Dec 2004
I spent two hours working with this very skittish group of six goldeneyes: one male and four females. They were very actively diving most of the time: focus was a big problem. I had chosen late afternoon to get the sun behind me, and I really liked the way the water looked like a swirled palette of color as it reflected the late autumn leaves. The late afternoon sun gives a nice warmth to the photo. It was just fortuitous that these two emerged close enough together to that both are with the very narrow depth of field. They've just popped to the surface note the water droplets running down their primaries. I thought he was a first-year male just beginning to show the white facial spot and a bit of iridescence. I believed she is a first-year female just beginning to show the yellow tip to the bill. I was surprised to see the yellow tip to the male's bill; I had thought only females had this pattern.

Later: Peter Pyle kindly supplied comments on this photo. The male is an adult coming out of 'eclipsed' plumage, not a first-year bird. Adult males can sometimes have 'female-like' soft part colors in eclipse, although it is rare. This oddity, combined with the rather late date for a male to be in partial eclipse, makes this a very strange duck indeed. Peter had never seen a photo or specimen of this particular combination before.

Loggerhead Shrike at Big Sur R. mouth, 5 Dec 2004
Shrikes sit out in the open, making them good targets for digiscoping. But they are shy and tend to fly one fence post too far away. My biggest problem has been that they seem always to be on manmade objects: fence posts, fence wires, telephone wires, even old sheds. It was just pure luck that this particular shrike flew across the trail at Andrew Molera State Park and landed on a bush. However, I had to very slowly move past it to get the sun to my back to take a series of a dozen shots. All are okay but only this one had crisp focus from bill through tail... a constant problem in digiscoping because the depth of field is so narrow. I was close enough so the bird was full-frame in the viewfinder. I usually have another problem with the "whites" on birds like this it tends to get to bright so it washes out details (see the male goldeneye above) but in this case the background was bright enough that the auto camera settings stopped down enough to allow the white areas to show details.
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Page created 5-7 Dec 2004, updated 14 Dec 2004