Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Digiscope and Digibinoc Era...

My camera took a dive off of the deep end recently to the point that it won't even turn on.  That is one of the reasons why I haven't been blogging as much this year.  I've also gotten very lazy towards it too, but, on the flip side, I've had time for other things that are more awesome than sitting in front of a computer and typing.  Over the course of the last month and more, I've started to take many pictures through my scope and binoculars with either my cell phone or my iPod.  It is usually my iPod.  During this time frame, I've added 3 birds to my Maricopa County list in the last month to bring my number for the County up to 373 species.  With the exception of the Heerman's Gull at Glendale Recharge Ponds (see previous post), I haven't been able to photograph the other two Maricopers I've added to my list, because they are small songbirds.  With a new camera quickly coming around the corner, my photographs on here will hopefully be back again.  But some of my digisscoping has actually worked out quite well at times..

On a November afternoon, Joshua Smith found a Pacific Loon at a pond in Peoria.  It was a smaller pond too, one of those with a fountain shooting up in the middle of it.  Pacific Loons, or any loon in general, are usually found on large bodies of water.  With some exceptions, we all have to come in for a landing if were tired right?  This loon stayed for a couple days before flying off to a bigger body of water (most likely...)  Here is a shot I took of the loon using my iPod through my scope.

Days later, another awesome rarity was found by Darrel Wilder in Gilbert at the Higley and Ocotillo Road ponds.  That rarity was an American Golden-Plover!  Ironically, it was my second American Golden-Plover in 2015, and also, it was only the second of my life.  The first was also in Maricopa County, in a slop pond outside of Tres Rios Wetlands.  Once again, pictures were snapped through my scope by using my iPod.

One recent Saturday I took Melissa Okimoto to the Hassayampa River Preserve.  No birds were cooperative for a binocular and iPod photo shoot, but seeing Melissa get her first Red-shouldered Hawk and Wood Ducks were epic.  The Wood Ducks were a male and female pair, and they are a duck birders just don't see enough of in Arizona!  Later in the day, I successfully chased a Ruddy Ground-Dove in Tolleson as well as a White-tailed Kite in the Arlington Valley.  The Kite was fantastic.  This raptor is gorgeous, and is one I hadn't seen in a few years before this one.  Here's a scope and iPod digiscope of the White-tailed Kite.

Last week I took Caleb Strand out for a day full of birding.  Caleb is doing a Big Year in Maricopa County and has had a goal of reaching 300 species.  At the start of the day, Caleb had 297 birds for his year list.  With a combination of reported rarities in the East Valley and a Red-breasted Sapsucker, Dunlin, and Cackling Goose later, I helped Caleb reach his goal of 300!  Ironically, the bird of the day wasn't even a year bird for Caleb, which was a Harris's Sparrow that he found at the Higley and Ocotillo Road Ponds.  I never thought I would take a digiscope shot of a Harris's Sparrow using my iPod, but that was also added to my collection!

The other two Maricopa County additions I have had this month have been four Purple Finches that were found at Gilbert Water Ranch by Tyler Loomis, and a Yellow-throated Warbler that was found by Caleb.  The Purple Finches came on November 30th.  I got a text from Tyler and shortly after I was on my way to Gilbert Water Ranch.  After some looking, Tyler got on the finches and we were able to study them at close range.  Tyler discovered three females that day, which Tyler eventually found a male days later with the females.  On December 9th, Caleb found a Yellow-throated Warbler at Tres Rios while he was with his birding buddy Joe Ford.  I quickly rushed up to the spot to see the Warbler, which Caleb had for me in his scope.  The Warbler was distant, but the scope views were great and I had Caleb to thank for yet another Maricopa County lifer, something he has done a lot of for me.  Here is Caleb Strand and Joe Ford celebrating Caleb's rare find, which was number 301 for Caleb's Maricopa County Big Year!

Last week, Melissa and I ventured down south to the Santa Cruz Flats to look for some of the famous birds that inhabit the location as well as a rarity from Louisiana.  Of course, those famous birds everyone loves to see are Crested Caracara and Mountain Plover.  Melissa's most desired bird of the three was the Crested Caracara, and it was mine too.  After some driving around, I spied our first of eight Caracaras for the day.  It was a great sight.  And it was time for some digiscoping through my scope using my iPod...of Crested Caracaras!

Seeing Melissa loving the sight of the Caracara with a smile on her face made my day!

Driving over to Tweedy and Pretzer and scanning the Evergreen Turf Farm didn't give us any Mountain Plovers in their usual haunt.  But...looking in taller grass on the east side of Tweedy...did.  It's not often you see Mountain Plovers in taller grass, but Melissa and I...we'll take it!

Our final target was a Louisiana Waterthrush in the area, which we got and not only got, but had killer looks at.  The Waterthrush was too difficult for me to get photographs of, but Melissa and I were so close to it that we won't forget our stellar views of it anytime soon.  Melissa did get some awesome pictures of it...

Mark Ochs and I took a jaunt up to Scottsdale to look for the Red-breasted Sapsucker for my second time of seeing the individual.  It didn't take us very long to find it at all.  Here is Mark playing the role of Phoenician Kingbird, pointing up at the Sapsucker.  At this point the bird was peeking it's head halfway up out of the branch.

I then put my iPod up to my binoculars, and snapped a photograph of this nice-looking rare woodpecker!

Yesterday, I went to the Salt River to look for a Rusty Blackbird that has been hanging out at Coon Bluff Recreation Site.  It didn't take me very long to find it.  Rusty Blackbird is very rare in Arizona, and this was only the second time I have ever seen one in my life.  The experience was cool, and once again, I took this picture with my iPod through my binoculars.  This is a female Rusty Blackbird, one I thought I'd never take a picture of through my binoculars with my iPod.  As you can all see, I've gotten pretty decent at this weird form of photography...

On Black Friday, I bought a new camera, a Canon T5 Rebel.  It arrived yesterday while I was at the Salt River.  Likely, the Digiscope and Digibinoc Era has come to an end...for now..

On a positive side, at least I have learned how to do something new...

On the random side, here's a song I think is awesome.  Give it a listen!


  1. Awesome post! Even without a camera, you still managed to proficiently document most of the birds you saw! Congrats on your 3 new Maricopers. I thoroughly enjoy every Maricoper I see and I can't imagine how much more you appreciate them considering the magnitude of your county total! Godspeed and good birding.

  2. Thanks Josh, and well done on finding the Pacific Loon in an unexpected location. Godspeed and good birding to you too!

    1. Thanks! Maybe we can go birding again in the future - maybe rock to some Disciple on the way over!

    2. For sure Josh, the birding and Disciple combination is always a good one!

  3. Fly post Mr. Tommy!!! Those are some pretty dope photos for an iPod! Congrats on the Maricopers! Nice song, it was awesome seeing Lincoln Brewster live the other night.

    1. Thank you Mr. Caleb! I'm shocked I was able to get some of the pictures to be clear like they are. Lincoln Brewster is awesome!

  4. I'm not gonna lie--I've been missing the posts, but this post was like eating a whole French silk pie in one sitting. Good grief, have you been busy and seen some good birds! Way to find a work-around to document your rarities. Get that new camera figured out--we've got epic northern owls to get....

    1. Thank you Josh! I've missed the normal camera and I'm glad a new one is on board with things! Yes, I do need to figure out the new camera to the absolute, we do have those epic northern owls to get...