Leica’s new digiscoping kit with the Leica Q camera is a joy to use. The auto focus synchs fast allowing one to easily capture fast moving subjects and built in viewfinder works well in bright sunlight. The quality of the Leica glass in the camera and spotting scope lenses allow you to capture the most finite of details with incredible clarity at incredible magnification (focal lengths up to 2500 mm equivalent).
Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope with Leica Q camera & matched digiscoping adapter
I carried this kit with me during the recent International Migratory Bird Day 2016. The focus of this trip was to detect as many bird species as possible rather than photography, so these images were literally shot “from the hip” in the course of normal birding activity. There was no real prep or additional effort taken to stage photos, I just quickly slid the camera adapter sleeve over the eyepiece after looking at the bird and took some quick images before moving on. These are but a few of the incredible images captured.
The day started as usual with golden rays of light gilding the landscape. This adult male Least Bittern clung to the reeds as it preened and roused in the early morning light. Low lighting led to some motion blur as the bird shook itself, but I still liked this image.
Ospreys are regal looking birds with clean, contrasting dark brown and white markings setting off bright yellow eyes. However, the Leica Q shows just how tattered these birds can look at this time of year with sun-bleached, worn feathers, mixing with new darker brown feathers adding to the disheveled, mottled appearance on the back.
Osprey feed on fish and use their extremely long, deeply curved talons to help them hold their slippery prey. Adult females like this bird typically show a “necklace” of brown streaks. Males have all white chest feathering, and typically show more white through the crown and a less prominent brown eye stripe as well.
Along the shore a diminutive Least Tern gives a furtive, over the shoulder glance. They are the smallest tern species to occur in the United States, and are very similar to “Little Tern” which is found on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.
A tiny adult Semipalmated Sandpiper weighing an ounce or less was seen as it made its way from the coastal beaches of South America to the highest reaches of Alaska & Canada where it will breed on the arctic tundra. Never very colorful compared to other waders/shorebirds, the Semipalmated Sandpiper will develop a band or collar of brownish-gray streaks across its chest and is getting some darker crown feathers as it enters its alternate or breeding plumage.
In a mad dash the Wilson’s Plover chases small crustaceans through the dunes. It uses its large bill to dispatch its favorite prey, crabs! This adult bird is likely a worn plumaged male due to the extent of the dark breast band, and blackish brown on the fore crown. Again, even though backlit, note the level of detail captured here, the back feathers are worn and frayed.
In winter or basic plumage Sanderlings are very pale gray and characterized more by their lack of markings than anything else. They appear as pale ghostly apparitions chasing the waves in and out searching for food in the surf. At this time of year as they molt into alternate plumage they become extremely colorful though.
Check out the intricate patterning on the back and wing feathering as example.
Back in the woods, an Eastern Screech-Owl is uncharacteristically out in the open. Typically these small birds (~8” tall) are well hidden and near impossible to find by day, but unlike the migrating shorebirds, these local owls are already well into the breeding cycle and have hungry chicks to feed. They will roost in a location where they can view their nest cavity, and will come out of hiding to defend against squirrels, Blue Jays, or any another potential threats to their young even in daylight hours.
They will also sometimes hunt to feed hungry nestlings by day if easy prey presents itself. Otherwise though, these birds stay well hidden by day and are only active at night, as the large eyes would suggest. The many specialized, whisker-like feathers surrounding the face are just amazing!
Note the macro view of the breast feathering shown above, once again it’s a testament to the amazing level of detail the Leica glass delivers!