Tag Archive | american avocet


Digiscoping is the activity of combining a digital camera with a spotting scope to record images through the scope.  Anyone who has ever looked through a good scope knows how impressive they are at turning distant specks that can’t be identified, even with binoculars, into sharply defined birds.  The combination of big lenses and up to 60X magnification really brings faraway objects into close focus.  Scopes are especially useful for waterfowl far out on lakes, and shorebirds on distant shorelines.

Today’s post features some wonderful photographs taken using digiscoping by local birder and photographer Daniel Arndt.

Eared Grebe and juvenile, by Dan Arndt

Digiscoping can be done with any point-and-shoot or SLR camera (or even a camera phone) coupled with any scope or binocular, but it can very tricky to get to good quality pictures by just holding the two together.  Here is a White-crowned Sparrow I photographed in my yard this week, using my camera phone held up to my 8X42 binoculars:

It’s very hard to tell when you have the shot in focus.  It’s even hard to get on the bird!  You get a better shot with just a good camera:

The same bird, from the same distance, taken with an SLR and 400 mm lens.  Note the leg band.

Here is another shot I took (in the winter) of a House Finch, using a point-and-shoot camera held up to my spotting scope.

However, the birds in these examples were only about twenty feet away.  I could identify them with the naked eye.  If you are dealing with distant waterfowl and shorebirds, the thing to do to get good photographs is to get an adapter that fixes your camera to the scope.  Dan Arndt’s outfit, pictured below, consists of :

Pentax K-5 camera with T-mount adapter
Meade ETX-90EC 90mm Matsukov-Cassegrain Telescope
Meade #844 Advanced Field Tripod
Meade Electronic Focuser
Meade MT-64 Camera Adapter
Pentax 39892 Waterproof Remote Shutter Release

Photo by Dan Arndt

Here are some of the amazing photos Dan took this summer at Frank Lake using his digiscoping rig.

White-faced Ibis with juvenile, and American Golden-Plover, by Dan Arndt

Lesser Yellowlegs by Dan Arndt

American Avocet by Dan Arndt

Black Tern by Dan Arndt

Black-crowned Night-Herons by Dan Arndt

American Golden-Plovers by Dan Arndt

You can see all of Dan’s digiscoping pictures on his Flickr page here, and while you’re there, explore all of his other excellent photographs as well.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Sunday Showcase: Calgary Birds

More stunning photographs of birds in the Calgary area, this time sent to us by Terry Chiddy. Thanks for sharing! Click pictures for a larger view.

American Avocet

Northern Flicker

Common Megansers


Black-crowned Night-herons

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron

Most birders in Calgary have seen Great Blue Herons along the city waterways or flying overhead as the birds come and go from their communal roosts.  But many people are not aware that you can also see their smaller relative, the Black-crowned Night-heron, within the city limits.

These birds are not very common in this area.  During the past five May Species Counts, between 6 and 21 Night-herons were counted, and that is within an 80 kilometre radius of the city centre.  In the 2009 count, only 13 birds were seen, all of them in the prairie area and none within the city limits.

There may well be many more birds around than these numbers indicate, since Night-herons, as their name suggests,  are mostly active at night.  During the day they roost in trees, bushes, or reeds and can be difficult to see, despite standing about 64 cm (two feet) high.

These birds have an almost worldwide distribution and in this part of their range they are migratory.  They arrive in the Calgary area during the second week of April.

The best place I know to see Black-crowned Night-herons within the city of Calgary is at a pond near Country Hills Boulevard and Deerfoot Trail in the Northeast.  The pond lies in the southwest corner of that intersection.  There is a gravel road (15 Street NE) that runs just west of the pond.  You can park there and see the herons from the road, or walk down.  I don’t recommend going near the pond until at least mid-July since American Avocets nest there and get quite agitated if you approach.  We don’t want to scare them off.

I don’t know if the Night-herons breed near this pond.  The earliest I have seen them there is the last week of  June, so I suspect that they breed elsewhere and come to feed after the breeding season is over.

In 2008 I saw as many as seven birds there at once, including two juveniles.  This year I have only seen adults.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-Herons have also been reported at the ponds near Airport Trail (96 Avenue) on the west side of Deerfoot Trail, which is about one kilometre south of the Country Hills Boulevard location.  But it is very difficult to access that area safely.  The best you can do is pull on to the shoulder of Deerfoot Trail to have a look.

If you know of any other reliable locations for these birds within the city limits, please post a comment.