1983 BMW R100 RS SOLD

These are photos of a 1983 BMR R100RS that I'm selling. I've owned this bike for 10 years and have ridden it regularly. The heads were rebuilt at 55K miles with new valves, valve seats, springs, etc.... The carbs have been rebuilt and the front suspension has been aligned.
I would consider it to be very well maintained, tuned, and in perfect running order. When I purchased the bike it had no fairing on it. 3 years ago I purchased and installed the Vesco Rabid Transit fairing. It has mounting brackets for Krauser bags. This is a strong running and reliable bike!
Feel free to call (608-437-4343) or email (benlizdas@gmail.com) with any questions.

Location: Mt Horeb WI (just west of Madison)
Price: $2700
Milage: 68K


Some recent birding trips

I'm just settling in from a few trips to birding events in Alaska and Texas. Below are a few images I managed to digiscope while on the road.Harlequin Duck near Ninilchick, AK.

Indigo Bunting at South Padre Island, TX.

Scarlet Tanager, High Island, TX.
It was a pretty face paced trip jumping from one end of the country to another. A bit of exciting news is that the Eagle Optics sponsored team (the Groovie Billed Anis) won the Big Sit Tournament of the Great Texas Birding Classic this year. We managed to see/hear 145 species in 24 hours at the convention center at South Padre Island.
I did miss the one Black-billed Cuckoo that was seen that day and also manged to miss out on Aleutian Tern and Black-backed Woodpecker while in Alaska. Still sitting at 598 birds right now, though I have a date with a Kirtland's Warbler later this week. I'll keep y'all posted on those developments later.

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Migration is well under way!

I was enjoying coffee in my backyard last week and spotted a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers flirting and feeding on a birch tree in my yard. The Sapsucker is one of my favorite harbingers of spring. It's a species that shows up to let me know that winter is in fact over. One morning each spring I wake up to find our resident Hairy Woodpeckers replaced by this larger, more colorful relative passing through from the south. Once the Sapsucker has arrived, he will be followed shortly by a migratory cavalry of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other neo-tropical migrants. I also think the Sapsucker may hold the title as the showiest of backyard bird species that we see at our house, with it's faint yellow markings on the breast and dramatic red throat and crown. The Sapsucker is the perfect aesthetic compliment to the Bloodroot that inevitably begins to bloom within a day of this bird's arrival. As I sat on my deck, watching and photographing these birds and admiring the buds in the garden, I could only wonder if there a sweeter season than spring??? At the moment anyway, the answer would be "No"...
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597 Birds....

So 2009 has been put to bed and 600 Birds comes to a turning point of sorts. The idea or concept of this blog began as a way to document my travels to various birding events around the country and my quest to see 600 different bird species in North America. This pursuit was not simply an attempt to reach a personal goal or fulfill a lifelong dream. At its core, it was a beer bet between me and a few coworkers here at Eagle Optics. When the clock struck midnight and the new year dawned, I lost that bet.

How close did I get? 597 species was where I stood at the end of the year and where I still sit today. Let me tell you, those last 3 species have been hard to find, given my limited ability to just hop in the car and chase birds. Sure, there were chances to travel north and hunt down a Hoary Redpoll, Gyrfalcon, and Bohemian Waxwing for example. The problem is that December just isn't a good month for me to get away.

So having lost 2 cases of beer (is it possible to lose something you never really had?) and fallen short of my much publicized goal, I come into 2010 anticipating the joy of seeing my 600th bird species without the pressure of a deadline. That doesn't mean I won't celebrate though!

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Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Pictured above is the current view from my desk at Eagle Optics. On Wednesday we got walloped with 18 inches of heavy snow. The Rio Grande Valley feels very far away as I turn around and look out my window these days.

This year's Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was simply wonderful. Last November I was on a cruise in Costa Rica and Panama, forcing me to miss this great birding event for the first time in many years. Getting back down to the Valley this year reminded me why it remains one of my favorite birding destinations ever. Lots of my affinity for this event stems from the wonderful volunteers who run the show and their inexhaustible hospitality. It's been such a pleasure to work with those folks over the years. My love for the lower Rio Grande Valley isn't solely due to these fine people. The birds there have their own charismatic draw.

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Great Kiskadee

Inca Dove

Harris's Hawk

Green Jay

Curve-billed Thrasher

Black Throated Sparrow


Digiscoping with a Digital SLR

The Concept

As a concept, digiscoping is as simple as it gets. Put your camera up to a spotting scope's eyepiece and take a picture of what the scope is focused on. However, we often find that in practice things are not as easy as they seem. It's been my experience that one of, if not the biggest challenge of digiscoping, is to get the right mix of scope, camera, and adapter that can easily and effectively be assembled as a complete, photography-ready unit. Why is this?

The Problem

I think the biggest hurdle here is the camera to adapter interface. In today's point-and-shoot camera market there is no uniformity in regards to shape, size, and features. It turns out that camera makers could care less about their products' suitability to digiscoping. As a result, the manufacturers of scopes and digiscoping adapters are forced to come up with intricate, highly adjustable, and often complex universal adapters to fit the plethora of cameras offered to consumers. I'm not interested in making digiscoping any more challenging than it already is. I'll always opt for the route that is fast, simple, and effective.

Pictured above are some of the "universal" digiscoping adapters. Large and mechanically intricate, they offer a less than optimal solution.

The Adapter Solution

The best hardware for digiscoping is that which requires the least amount of forethought or effort to put into use. In regards to camera adapters, the simple tube-style adapters on the market fit the bill perfectly. These tube adapters are simple, both in design and functionality. The premise is a hollow tube screwed onto the front of your camera lens that can slide over a scope's eyepiece, effortlessly centering both lenses at the proper depth. Not only are these adapters easy to deploy, they are compact and lightweight. Question: what's not to love about this type of setup? Answer: it doesn't work with a lot of cameras.

Pictured above are "tube" style adapters offered by Kowa, Vortex, and Swarovski

The Camera Solution

Very few point-and-shoot cameras have the functionality to attach adapters, filters, or boosters to the front lens. The absence of this feature is a design trend that seems to be picking up momentum, and as new models are introduced each year, fewer and fewer of them support filter thread attachments. Here is where a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) fits the bill nicely. Almost all DSLR camera lenses are inherently designed with filter threads that easily adapt to those wonderful tube style adapters. Warning: not all DSLR lenses are suitable for digiscoping. The best lenses are the short focal length lenses. Both Canon and Nikon make 50mm f/1.8 lenses that are relatively inexpensive and perfect for digiscoping. If you're shooting with a Pentax DSLR, you will want the Pentax 40mm f/2.8 “pancake” lens. When using a DSLR for digiscoping, you will need to disable the auto-focus, put the camera on its full manual settings, and set the lens aperture wide open. You will also need to adjust the camera's shutter speed to obtain the proper image exposure.

An exploded view of a full DSLR digiscoping rig, minus a tripod.

Nothing's Perfect

Using a DSLR for digiscoping doesn't come without compromise. DSLR benefits include universal adaptability via a threaded lens and the ability to use, and compose images through, a viewfinder. The drawbacks to DSLR cameras are the inability to use the lens' auto-focus and working with a bigger, heavier camera body. Because of a DSLR's size, I would NOT recommend allowing the camera body and lens to hang unsupported from the spotting scope for any extended period of time.
My current digiscoping set up: Leica 82mm APO Televid with Swarovski DCA and Pentax DSLR

What Are Your Options?

If you've got a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera that uses filter threads, and you need a good digiscoping adapter, I would take a look at the Swarovski DCA, Vortex Razor Digital Adapter, and Kowa DA10 adapter. These three brand-specific adapters accept rings to accommodate various lens thread sizes. I have had some limited luck getting some of these adapters to work with other brands of scopes. For instance, I'm currently digiscoping with the Leica 82mm Televid and, much to my delight, found that the Swarovski DCA adapter fits nicely around the new Leica eyepiece. Be prepared to get creative; if you are going to try to mix and match brands of adapters and scopes, you might need to make your own bushings or modify the adapters in one way or another.


Fall Walk

This past weekend my dad turned 60. We have started a tradition of getting together for Grandpa Bill's birthday to walk among the woods and fields of Southern Wisconsin while enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. As you can see from the photo above, we have not quite reached our peak fall colors yet, though there are a couple hints of what's yet to come. Here in the southern part of the state, the color change isn't as dramatic as we see elsewhere. The Oak woodlands that make up most of the habitat tend to hold onto their foliage for a longer time and turn more of a brown/red color. As we go north into the Maple and Birch forests, we see more of the spectaular reds, yellows, and oranges that draw onlookers from all over the midwest.

This year we went to Lapham Peak State Park. The weather was gorgeous on Sunday and the park was full of visitors. I haven't seen a state park parking lot quite as full for a number of years. Maybe this was because the Green Bay Packers were only playing the lowly Detroit Lions??? Regardless, I was happy to break away from an afternoon of football to hang out with my family and take in some of the seasonal splendor.
One of our first finds along the trail was this beetle. I'm fortunate to have two daughters that don't shy away from the creepy crawlies. In fact, both girls will gladly come running to check out an unusual beetle, worm, spider, or snake. I came into work this morning and asked a coworker who knows his insects about this beetle. He looked at the picture and quickly identified the bug in question as a Blister Beetle. Following his ID of the bug, he added that it's best to not agitate them because the Blister Beetle emits a chemical that can burn or blister one's skin.

Here is Nya, getting a closer look at what I thought was just an innocent little beetle. Little did we both know that she was tempting fate here. Fortunately for all, the bug was lethargic and mellow. Not in a fighting mood, I guess. When I get home today I'll be sure to tell Nya more about the bug she was handling on Sunday and maybe use it as a lesson to identify such a critter before picking it up....
There was a hint of color in the trees and that wonderful smell of decaying leaves permeated the entire forest.

When we head outdoors we always take our binoculars. I recently got both kids new binoculars. We have a new 6.5x32 model that is particularly well suited for kids. With a wide field of view, narrow interpupilary distance, and bright optics, they are a no hassle piece of equipment that takes the technological challenges out of using binoculars. Especially for kids. They kept my two girls fully engaged for a few hours in the field.

Fall is a season of transition. We spent time with the kids talking about what plants and animals do in preparation for winter. A lot of time was spent looking at seeds and talking about why there are so many different types. Seeds that fly, seeds that bury themselves into the soil, seeds that stick to animals, and seeds that are eaten.

It's always a wonderful day when you get to bring generations together to enjoy and delight in the complexities of nature. I was able to convince the kids that it was a good idea to leave the beetles, leaves, and seeds at the park. To my delight, they did manage to bring home lots of questions. I see a 3rd graders presentation on seeds in my future....