Digiscoping experiments with Huawei Mate 9 smartphone

The new Huawei, Mate 9 smartphone features dual lenses co-engineered by Leica. One lens shoots in color and the other in stunning 20 mp monochrome. I got to briefly experiment with the Mate 9 mounted to a Leica APO Televid spotting scope at the Leica Store Los Angeles back in February and knew it had great potential for digiscoping and couldn’t wait for a more thorough field test.   In color:   Dredged in mud!       Monochrome Lens: Lesser Yellowlegs in monochrome   American Alligator hangs out with the waders!   Green Heron in the reeds!   Wood Stork…

Extended Seasons

A personal awareness of one’s natural surroundings can provide daily discoveries, wonder, and even stir the soul. It also makes one keenly aware of the natural seasons. Even though the official “first day of spring” on the calendar is listed as March 20th, “spring” from a birding perspective is defined differently as it relates to a specific set of behaviors shown by the animals that surround us. Since these birds  may migrate from distant points even birds within the same area may show entirely different cycles at the same time of year.

Assumptions versus the dark-morph Pink-footed Shearwater

Whether Pink-footed Shearwater has a (very rare) dark morph, or whether occasional individuals are melanistic, are interesting semantic questions. But the bottom line for field observers is that apparently dark-plumaged Pink-footed Shearwaters are out there, and they could be confused with Flesh-footed Shearwater. Although some have questioned this assumption (e.g., see pages 56-58 of the January 2012 issue of Birding magazine), their alternatives of an undescribed new species of large shearwater, or of hybrid Pink-footed x Flesh-footed Shearwaters, seem to overlook the principle of parsimony: the most likely = parsimonious explanation is that some Pink-footed Shearwaters are dark-bodied. There’s even…

FEB
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Urban Treasure Hunting

The Las Vegas strip is a dream location for some. However, if nature is your thing, this sterile, urban environment makes it real challenging to get your daily wildlife fix. Recently, I found myself in the middle of the strip and decided to pit my skills against that challenge. I had very limited time for exploring, (maybe a half hour in mornings & just over an hour of daylight on my first evening) so I took to the strip with low expectations to see what a crazed birder could see in this most unbirdy spot in the dead of winter. I realize of…

First At-sea Images of Ainley’s Storm-Petrel – but who cares?

Leica team member Steve Howell is back recently from a ten-day pelagic trip off northwest Mexico, where he saw plenty of ‘Leach’s Storm-Petrels’ – including the enigmatic Ainley’s Storm-Petrel, endemic as a breeder to Mexico’s Guadalupe Island (about 170 miles west of the Baja California Peninsula), described as new to science as recently as 1980, and never before photographed at sea! Here’s the story…   Ainley’s Storm-Petrel? Huh, what’s that? OK, here’s a synopsis of taxonomy to put the story in context. (Don’t worry, it’s short!) In 1980, marine scientist David Ainley described the winter-breeding ‘Leach’s Storm-Petrels’ on Mexico’s Guadalupe…

Endemism in a Disappearing Rainforest

The Atlantic Forest of Brazil is simply ridiculous. Located in the southeastern portion of the country, it is characterized by lush montane and coastal rainforest and is sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and several other unique Brazilian ecoregions such as caatinga, cerrado and pampa. This isolation meant one particular outcome: lots of birds and lots of endemism. Roughly 150 endemic bird species, actually. The extent of the Atlantic Forest used to be massive. Today, about 10% of it remains intact; the rest of it has been lost to agriculture and city centers such as São Paulo and Rio de Janiero.…

Amazing Crew of Birders heads Toward Honduras

So about a month ago I started contacting some VIP’s in the birding industry (and most friends as well) asking “I know it’s short notice, but would you like to go to Honduras with me next month?!?….” Not surprisingly it didn’t take me long to fill the trip!

Feathers Over Freeport

Now in its 9th year (see previous post LINK), the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch in Pownal, Maine attracts an average of over 1200 visitors annually. Furthermore, many times that number visit the summit throughout our two month season and briefly chat with the Official Counter or read our count board and display. Of those 1200+ folks, many have never heard of, or at least never visited, a “hawkwatch” before, as the culture of hawkwatching in Northern New England isn’t as ingrained in the birding culture or as widespread as in such places as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For my…

Contrasting & Comparing Big Years

The movie “The Big Year” brought the concept of seeing as many birds as possible in a single year to the attention of many for the first time, but hardcore birders have known about these events and have been taking up the challenge for as long as I remember. In the movie, the contestants had limited themselves to the confines of a specific geographic area defined by the American Birding Association which is essentially the United States and Canada. It’s an enormous undertaking, considering the amount of territory in question and the difficulties at reaching the most remote corners of the…