Archive for the ‘Fieldcraft’ Category

Advancement of the digital point & shoot camera

bathing White-necked Jacobin digiscoped with Leica D-lux 4 & APO Televid spotting scope

by Jeff Bouton I remember my very first experiences with a digital point & shoot camera over 15 years ago now. A no name camera without zoom for $99 – “no more film” I thought, “… almost too good to be true.” I was right, it WAS too good to be true. The idea was [...]

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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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How to Use a Field Guide Part 2a: Size matters, but use with caution

This Least Sandpiper looks pretty bloody small compared to the Dunlins it is with, so how would you compare the “sizes” of these two species?

Master of birding fieldcraft, Steve N.G. Howell, continues his “How to Use a Field Guide” series with this installment on how to use size effectively when identifying birds in the field.

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How to Use a Field Guide Part 1: Remember the “guide” part of Field Guide

Bolinas, CA

In this multipart series Steve Howell takes us through “how to use a field guide”, or more accurately, how to maximize your effective use of a field guide to get the most bang for your buck.

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Dead Leafers

Blue-winged Warbler reaching for a dead leaf in late fall.

So what good are dead leaves for birds? Read what John Sterling has to say about dead-leafers—birds that specialize in foraging for insects in dead leaves.

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ID-Tip Tuesday: Male and Female Ibis

Female following male White-faced Ibis.  Female usually does not show leg extension beyond tail, but in this photo there is some due to position of tail.

John Sterling has a tip for identifying sexes of Glossy and White-faced ibis.

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ID-Tip Tuesday: Some quack and dirty scaup notes

In flight, the amount of white in the flight feathers of scaup can be helpful for identification - Greater Scaup tend to show obvious white across the secondaries and into the inner primaries, while on Lesser Scaup, this is restricted to the secondaries. Lighting and angles make this difficult to assess in some photos (check out the rightmost bird here), but in real life, the extent of the white wing flash on a flying scaup is very useful. Greater Scaup, Avalon, New Jersey. February 2014.

Ever get tripped up identifying the two species of scaup? Yeah, us too…but Leica Birding Team member Tom Johnson breaks it down for us so everyone can have a better shot at conclusive ID of these similar (but different!) species.

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ID-Tip Tuesday: Sorting through gulls, Little by Little

adult Little Gull. Villas, Cape May Co., New Jersey. March 2014.

Ace birder and newest member to the Leica Birding Team, Tom Johnson, kicks it up a notch with this ID-Tip Tuesday foray into small gulls.

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Leica Stories: Matt Daw


If the name “Matt Daw” rings a bell, it is likely because he was behind the unbelievable video capture of the first ABA-area record of Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in July 2013. But before he gained international fame as the videographer of a photo bombing marshbird, Matt was the 2006 ABA Young Birder of the Year and has been involved with birding and bird conservation for a number of years. Leica Birding Team member Jennie Duberstein caught up with him recently to find out what he’s been up to lately.

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Leica Stories: Keith Hansen

Keith Hansen demonstrates the set-up in the field

As Steve Howell notes, one of the nice things about living in the small town on Bolinas is that it is also home to birder and bird artist extraordinaire Keith Hansen, whose gallery-studio downtown is the hub of the local birding scene. Keith has a well-worn Lecia scope, and has self-built a wonderful rig on which he mounts a video camera to capture any and all ornithological moments. Visitors to his gallery can view real-time video of birds outside the window, as the video-scope setup is linked to a large screen. This also means that if a rare bird pops in (and they do a lot!), Keith can switch to record mode and “nail that puppy” as he says. For example, he has documented 3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at his feeder, of about only 14 recorded in the state of California. The rest of us would still be fumbling for a camera and the bird would have got away! At Keith’s gallery the other day I asked him about his Leica scope.

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