Archive for July, 2014

My Favorite Binocular- Bill Schmoker

Bill Schmoker sharing the pleasure of viewing Mountain Plovers on Colorado's Pawnee Grasslands, trusty Ultravid HD 8x32 at the ready.

An amazing part of being on the Leica Birding Team is choosing a binocular to use. Conversely, a really tough part about being on the Team is choosing a binocular, given the mouth-watering range of choices in the Leica stable! With well-used and loved Ultravid 8x42s already in my quiver, I thought I’d evaluate something in a different niche to support my birding style. When I’m afield, I’m usually toting a DSLR rig and spotting scope in addition to my bins. I also travel a bit and know that every cubic centimeter of camera bag space is precious, especially when flying. To top it off there’s more gray in my beard than when I started this game, and when I’m already strapped up with a DSLR on one shoulder and a scope on the other my neck appreciates whatever break I can give it. So I decided to give the 8×32 Ultravid HD a go to gain weight and size savings. My only regret is waiting so long to get into Leica 32s!

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They’re not all gems! – a birding quiz.

another mystery bird shot

Sometimes bad bird photos (and I take a lot) can make for challenging identification. Try your luck & test your skill with this “Photo flub Challenge”!

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Travis and the year that was – Whirlwind review 2013

Travis after viewing the "Island Scrub-Jay" off the coast of California.

Leica Store Miami manager Peter Dooling ceremoniously unpacks the Traveling Trinovid and it’s off to the races. With the assistance of Rangel Diaz and Rafael Galvez the first birds are enjoyed and the Traveling Trinovid receives his name “Travis”- it’s April 7th, 2013. Forty species were seen to include Piping Plover, Brown Pelican, Anhinga, and other [...]

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My Favorite Binocular – Alvaro Jaramillo


As a teenager birder I always had crummy binoculars, it was all I could afford, the realities of life. I convinced myself that if I could identify birds with optics that distorted the image and colors, well that was great training. In other words, the challenge of not seeing the birds well was good for me – gain through pain! I was so wrong.

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Who’s Your Mamma?

This male yellow warbler was feeding an angry brown-headed cowbird chick several times his size at Tinicum NWR in Pennsylvania.

Birds have all sorts of crazy antics and nesting behaviors—from multiple female anis who all lay all their eggs in the same nest and raise the chicks communally, to swallows who use nothing but mud and spit to build their nests, and more, but in my opinion, one of the most fascinating behaviors of all time belongs to a group of species called cowbirds, who leave the dirty work to over a hundred other species.

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My Favorite Binocular – Steve N.G. Howell

The author enjoying coconut milk and showing off his favorite binoculars. Nendö Island, Santa Cruz Island, Solomons.

For me, good binoculars require 4 basic things: waterproof and reasonably knock-proof (if not, stop here); close focus (without multiple turns of the focus wheel); good depth of field (so you’re not constantly tweaking the focus wheel); and a reasonably wide angle of view. If they’re small, lightweight, and easy to hold and pack, then even better; and of course the optics need to be excellent, providing a bright, clear image.

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Wordless Wednesday

Common Loon, Burnett County, Wisconsin, June 2014.  Photo © Bill Schmoker, Leica Birding Team.

© Bill Schmoker 2014

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Lesser and Common Nighthawks – wing shape and pattern

The pale (white here) bars across the primaries of Lesser Nighthawks are closer to the wingtip than on Common Nighthawks. On Lesser Nighthawks, the bar isolates a dark wingtip that approximates an equilateral triangle (three even-length sides) - the pale bar on a Common Nighthawk isolates a decidedly longer isosceles triangle of dark at the wingtip.

This photo primer discusses the ID of Lesser and Common Nighthawks in the field [and on the branch, and even in the air!]. While geography and a knowledge of status & distribution can get you pretty far with this species pair, it’s helpful to focus on wing shape and exact pattern in order to nail down an identification.

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“Get to da choppa!” Helibirding for science and style

Ammodramus sparrows were remarkably easy to see from the helicopter. Often, it was fairly straightforward to separate small, pale Saltmarsh Sparrows...

It’s hot, humid, and buggy – time to enliven your birding with a bit of a change in perspective. Join Leica Birding Team member Tom Johnson on a helicopter bird survey in New Jersey.

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Dispatches from Camp Colorado: Day 1

2014 Camp Colorado participants enjoy the view over North Saint Vrain Creek in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Hi folks- Bill Schmoker checking in here from the American Birding Association’s Camp Colorado at the YMCA of the Rockies in beautiful Estes Park, right on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. I can see the 14,259-foot summit of Long’s Peak out my dorm window and have 21 eager and talented middle- & high-school kids in the adjoining rooms resting up after a fantastic first day of camp.

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Dueling Video Techniques

Both digiscoping and DSLR rigs can be used to obtain high-quality video of birds.  Below we'll compare results from a Nikon DSLR rig (right) and a Leica APO-Televid + iPhone rig (left.)

More and more I find myself looking for opportunities to shoot video of birds along with stills. With HD video recording capability now widely featured in DSLRs and high-quality cell phones it has become easier than ever for birders to grab really neat movies of their avian subjects doing cool things. On my annual sojourn to northwest Wisconsin this past June I had a cooperative Yellow-bellied Sapsucker whose favorite drumming post was right outside my cabin. I took advantage of the opportunity to film the bird both with my DSLR rig and through my Leica APO-Televid 65mm spotting scope. Below I’ll summarize a few considerations for both rigs and present short movies taken with each setup for your perusal and comparison.

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Wordless Wednesday

Western Snowy Plover Nest, San Diego, California, Photo by Jennie Duberstein

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Making Conservation Connections-One Red Dot at a Time!

Deep conversation with Mr. Doug Gibson

As I sit here and a red-eyed vireo drones on in the boiling heat, it comes to me that even more than the couple of hundred birds Ursula has pegged down for me, she and I have been able to reach even more people with messages of bird conservation and ethic that go far beyond field of view and magnification. Here’s the rundown.

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Athena update July 6, 2014

Atlantic Puffin in Maine

As of July 6th, 2014 Athena had added stops to pick Bicknell’s Thrush in New Hampshire, swung through Maine to see Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, Razorbills, Arctic & Roseate Terns. Then headed south to add Mississippi Kites in Mississippi (appropriately enough)! All of these birds were seen with the great assistance of Leica Birding Team member, [...]

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Wordless Wednesday


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