Thursday, July 11, 2019

Distant raptor! Reach for the...

My Kowa spotting scope has been gathering dust the past few years since I started photographing birds with a DSLR camera and long lens. Before I ever considered buying a big camera, I tried digiscoping, shooting photos with my pocket camera through the lens of my scope. At the time, I lived in New Mexico and obtained most of my images through the front windows of our home.

This Ash-throated Flycatcher raised a family in one of my nest boxes:

Ash-throated Flycatcher

A Blue Grosbeak perched atop a juniper tree in the front yard:

Blue Grobsbeak

Am Evening Grosbeak devoured sunflower seeds from our feeder:

Evening Grosbeak male FEB03

My simple digiscopic photo equipment consisted of the spotting scope, a point-and-shoot 2 MP (yes, that 's right only 2 megapixels!) Canon PowerShot A40 camera, and a Durkee's spice bottle with the bottom cut to the size of the camera lens housing.

Digiscope Overview

Digiscope setup Insert Camera

Our house, at 7000 feet elevation in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, had a great view of the wooded front yard:

Cedar Crest Home in the Snow

This contraption worked well when deployed in a stationary location with birds that flew in nearby and settled down. However it was a clumsy arrangement in the field, so I usually settled for binocular and scope views without photos. The scope itself is quite heavy, but this was not a problem when I could drive up into the mountains and set it up along the road. 

After we moved to Florida I learned the hard way that lugging such a heavy piece of equipment several miles in midsummer heat was very difficult. Then I started using a telescopic lens and DSLR camera. The scope is still useful on the boardwalk during our nature walks, or for viewing the nearby Bald Eagle nest.

The long lens has been a very convenient replacement for my spotting scope. This is the approximate binocular view of a large raptor roosting about a half mile away across the lake in the Wounded Wetlands (420 mm lens on Canon 80D DSLR corresponds roughly to the view through 8-9x binocular):

Osprey Bino View 20190709

I was not certain whether this was an Osprey or a Bald Eagle, or maybe a vulture. Blown up on the camera's LCD screen or back home on the computer it was clearly an Osprey. The cropped image is poor, but good enough to identify it as an Osprey:

Osprey CROP Scope view 20190709

Binocular view of a small falcon about 1/4 mile away. Is it a kestrel or a Merlin?:

Merlin distant bino view 20180214

Long lens confirms the ID, a Merlin:

Merlin distant 02-20180214

Enough of this long distance stuff. I have gotten some nice close shots these past couple of weeks. Is this Loggerhead Shrike trying to tell me something?

Loggerhead Shrike 03-20190702

OK, he has my attention!

Loggerhead Shrike portrait 02-20190702

Gray Squirrel freezes as I walk up:

Gray Squirrel 20190630

I think I can see my reflection in its eye!

Gray Squirrel portrait 20190630

Butterflies are scarce, but Halloween Pennant dragonflies are numerous:

Halloween Pennant - Celethemis eponina 20190702

A birder from The Czech Republic contacted me and wanted to walk in the Wounded Woodlands. I tried to explain to him that they are not very productive, especially at this time of year. I suggested other places he should visit to make better use of his limited time in the US. 

He came anyway and seemed to enjoy identifying the local birds. He too is a "patch" birder and has found over 40 species in a small area there over the years. We discussed the value of learning about the habits of common species and the thrill of seeing the occasional unexpected visitor. I shot this photo of a rainbow just as he was identifying a bird very familiar to him, a European Starling:

Petr Soukal 20190629

This White-tailed Doe has a small antler next to her right ear:

White-tailed Doe with small antler 20190626

The doe reflected nicely as she walked across the flooded prairie:

White-tailed Deer 01-20190626

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. Enjoying your shots is one of the reasons I consider a long lens. I wonder if I could find one in a dollar store...

  2. Some beautiful close-up shots, especially the Shrike. I love my telephoto lens (Canon 100-400mm) but I know what you mean about carrying weight around on a hot day. I frequently leave it at home because it's just too heavy. But whenever I take it, I get some great shots!

  3. Wow! Beautiful captures. Hope you are enjoying tele lens a lot

  4. @Spare Parts-- I had the same experience with the 100-400L. My son-in-law in Illinois has one and invited me to use it. It was ok for a brief walk in a local park but started getting heavier on a long hike, so I stuck to my trusty prime 300L. As usual, for both I also carried my PowerShot SX700 HS for landscape shots. It has amazingly good image stability and low-light performance.

  5. Wonderful shots as always! The spotting scope, spice bottle and 2 MP camera set-up was pretty clever.

  6. Hello, I have trouble carrying a scope around. I much prefer my Canon SX60, it has great zoom. Love your house in New Mexico. The birds and deer are all beautiful. Great post and photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thanks for all the visits to my blog and for all the comments over the years.

  7. I saw a Blue Grosbeak for the very first time this week and have it on my post! I was SO should have seen me! heehee! Enjoy your weekend! Love that beautiful Merlin! WOW!

  8. Another post full of great pics. Thanks for sharing your camera tricks with us. Love the grosbeak pics. I haven't ever seen either of these. Just the rose-breasted grosbeak.

  9. I would not survive without my telephoto lens I use it for almost everything! I just love the shot of the shrike getting your attention. Brilliant. Have a good Sunday Diane

  10. Your recent sightings are similar to what I've been seeing. I just bought a scope for my cellphone...but need to learn how to use it. Too hot to play around with it. Your deer are super (one of my favorite animals. I video taped a couple of 1 minute youtubes on my personal blog)

    My favorite is the face to face shrike! Awesome.

    As always thanks for sharing your photos & expertise with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this week.

  11. Good ol' Yankee ingenuity. You were able to capture some great shots with your contraption!
    Thanks for sharing at

  12. Beautiful captures - thanks for sharing your images.

  13. That shrike is rather disappointed in you! Great portrait. Everything Looks good up close this time of year.. the Birder from distant shores was lucky to have such a good guide . Our newest granddaughter (by marriage) is from Slovakia, so we are learning more about the two countries these days.


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