GTBC Big Sit Round Up

As the afternoon progressed yesterday, there were certain birds that decided to join us on our big sit. Among them was this White-eyed Vireo.

Passers by saw our signage and asked questions about the big sit.

As a front was moving in, Jeff was prayin' for a good fallout.

The front brought a few new birds, and a lot of rain.

Here are the Groovy Billed Anis, seeking refuge in the Men's room of the South Padre Island Convention Center. As the rain came so did evening and we were forced to call it quits as the sun fell. We had a great time and ended up with a total of 127 species, beating the previous Big Sit record at this location.


South Padre Island Big Sit: Part 2

Above is Jeff Gordon, manning the spotting scope sometime around 8:00 this morning. Right now it's about 10:40 and we're sitting around 105 species and Jeff is napping. The action had been fast paced though it's showing signs of slowing down now, as most of the birds we are seeing have already been counted. If we can pull out 30 more species for the day, we will be doing very well. I'm crossing my fingers that one of the birds that I will set eyes on before the end of the day is a Magnificent Frigatebird. That's the most likely candidate for a new bird that will get me another species closer to my goal of 600.

South Padre Big Sit

For those of you new to the concept of a Big Sit, I recommend watching the following quick and informative video:

Right now, in addition to blogging, I am big sitting! It's 5:51 in the morning here on South Padre Island and The Groovy Billed Anis have recorded 25 species thus far. Who are the Groovy Billed Anis??? That would be the all-star birding team sponsored by Eagle Optics and Birdwatchers Digest that is competing in this years Great Texas Birding Classic. Team members include myself, Jeff and Liz Gordon, Terry and Marci Fuller, and Bill Thompson III.

Bill, Jeff, and Liz have been here at the South Padre Island Convention Center, where we are headquartered, since approximately 2 A.M. Currently, our birding is limited to species we can hear, hence I can blog and bird at the same time.....

I'm hoping to update 600 Birds with pictures and tales of our Big Sit throughout the day. Stay tuned for more riveting action, Live from the South Padre Island Convention Center!


The Booby and the Brit

So I'm just getting around to processing all the experiences and photos from Florida's Birding and Fotofest in St. Augustine. The digiscoping seminars and birding experiences were only enhanced by the great camaraderie among the exhibitors, attendees, and guest speakers.
I ended up returning from this trip with 3 new bird species, bringing my quest to 600 up to 535. Among the more notable of these sightings was my unanticipated encounter with a Brown Booby (Sula lecuogaster). The reason that I say this sighting was unanticipated is that Boobies are sea birds, seldom seen from shore. When I heard that I could go to the St. John's county pier and see one, I imagined myself setting up my scope at the end of the pier and scanning out into the ocean for a distant bird diving in the water for food or maybe perched on a buoy or some other marine structure. To sum it up, I was expecting a distant, barely identifiable view of this bird.
As it turns out this was a bizarre booby.

I pulled into the parking lot to the pier and was soon accompanied by Steve Ingraham and Paul Hackett from Zeiss. Paul was a featured guest at the festival, visiting from the enchanted land of Britain (Manchester to be exact). I was excited to play the role of hospitable American and show Paul the Booby, which was a life bird for him as well. It turns out that we were able to garner fantastic views and photos of this Booby as it lounged at the end of this fishing pier, oblivious to the fisherman and sight-seers. We birders were the only spectacle to behold as we donned our cameras and floppy hats, exclaiming what a wonderful bird sighting this was, etc....

The fishermen thought we were crazy, of course, but that didn't stop us from having our fun. It's very likely that the Booby thought we were crazy too.

Here Paul trys to tempt the Booby with a piece of shrimp. The bird acted like it knew better than to take seafood from an Englishman.


Florida Birding and FotoFest....

I had a great time in St. Augustine Florida. More posts to follow. For the moment I'll leave you with some of my favorite images from the event.


Leaving Spring Behind....For A Little While

As I prepare to leave for Florida tomorrow, I'll be thinking of the wonderful coming of spring that I will be leaving behind temporarily. This past weekend I was able to do a little digiscoping in the backyard while I was grilling our dinner.

When Spring Goes By
by Duncan Campbell Scott

The winds that on the uplands softly lie,
Grow keener where the ice is lingering still
Where the first robin on the sheltered hill
Pipes blithely to the tune, "When Spring goes by!"
Hear him again, "Spring! Spring!" He seems to cry,
Haunting the fall of the flute-throated rill,
That keeps a gentle, constant, silver thrill,
While he is restless in his ecstasy.

Ah! the soft budding of the virginal woods,
Of the frail fruit trees by the vanishing lakes:
There's the new moon where the clear sunset floods,
A trace of dew upon the rose leaf sky;
And hark! what rapture the glad robin wakes-
"When Spring goes by; Spring! Spring! When
Spring goes by."


Chicago here we come!

Generally when I get to travel for work here at Eagle Optics, I'm getting on a plane to go somewhere south or west of here. While this next trip is taking me south, I won't be getting on a plane when I depart tomorrow morning. My co-worker Kristin and I are heading to the Windy City to do an optics event with Chicago Audubon.

The event, as described on Chicago Audubon's website is as follows:

CHICAGO AUDUBON'S ANNUAL EAGLE OPTICS DAY! SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2008. 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. North Park Village Nature Center. 5801-D North Pulaski Rd. SAVE THE DATE for the annual visit from the largest independent dealer of high quality binoculars, scopes, and all types of optic equipment which will take place at the North Park Village Nature Center. Experts will be available all day to help answer questions or help you make decisions about binoculars and all other types of optic equipment. Light refreshments will be available and there is plenty of parking. For those who have never attended one of these exciting events and have never been to the Nature Center, it is located in North Park Village. The entrance to North Park Village is at the first stoplight south of the intersection of Pulaski and Peterson. If you need help with directions, just call our office at 773-539-6793. A portion of sales from this important event goes to support the programs of the Chicago Audubon Society. Mark your calendars!

We have been doing this event with the good folks at Chicago Audubon for quite a few years now and it's nice to go back each year and see all the familiar faces. This is also a great opportunity for any optics enthusiasts in the Chicago metro area to get their hands on large assortment of different optics to compare and evaluate. The icing on the cake is that a portion of all the sales is returned to Chicago Audubon to support the good work they do.


Friends Don't Let Friends Skimp on Tripods.....

It's a story told all too often....Bob decides it's time to buy a spotting scope and he wants to get the best scope possible for his budget of $700. There's just one problem; Bob forgot that he needs a tripod in order to use a spotting scope. Not wanting to cut into his scope budget, Bob decides that he can get by with a $50 tripod from his local department store. Bob just skimped on a tripod and consequently, Bob is doing a great disservice to his investment in a new spotting scope.

The correlation between stability and performance can be observed and appreciated in any optical system working at a high level of magnification. With most spotting scopes functioning from 20-60x magnification, stability becomes a huge factor in the quality of one's observations. If it worked well for your camera, it doesn't mean that your light-duty tripod will be suitable for a spotting scope.

Pictured above are two scopes and tripods of different qualities. On the left we have a $700 Bushnell scope on a $250 Bogen tripod. On the right we have a $2000 Zeiss scope on a $50 tripod. If I were to pick one outfit to take on a birding trip with me, it would be the Bushnell outfit on the left. With the shakiness and instability of the small, light duty tripod on the Zeiss scope, despite it's higher grade lenses, any user is going to miss out on a lot of critical detail that can only be resolved with the benefit of a solid platform for the scope. The bottom line, be prepared to budget $200+ for a tripod, and you will be rewarded with better views, regardless of how much you spent on your scope.