Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Digiscoping with the Leica D-Lux 5 Review.

I thought id try to describe the type of Digiscoping set up I'm Currently using  which is the Leica D-Lux 5 with Leica Adapter Connected to my Leica Apo 82 Scope.
Now Digiscoping is the art of Photography by attaching a held hand Camera to a Spotting scope. This can produce very good results and means not having to spend a fortune on fancy Len's for fancy and expensive DSLRs, it also means not having to get so close to birds to photograph them. Oh yes and less to carry around, I'm a birder first photographer second.

Now if I'm honest the art of digiscoping still means the better photos are coming from a distance of between 10-30m but decent record shots can be obtained from birds 100m away and in poor light as in the Picture below. Click the picture for full view.
I'm Still on a massive learning curve but feel I'm getting some very good results with this setup both at close range and longer distant range. The pic below taken at below 25m
I've been using this camera and Scope setup since September and I'm changing settings continually but I find at present the best settings are as follows:
I'm using the camera on Aperture Priority. Ive worked out how to brighten my image by upping the f stop to 4.0 so now Aperture prority seems better than Programme as i was using before. On really nice days Programme may be worth a play.
The other settings are:
>Spot metering.
>Standard color mode.
>AF macro mode which is on the side of the camera and all shots are taken at the full 10mb.
>Aspect picture ratio is 4:3.
>The White Balance I've left on auto as the UK weather changes continually and changing settings every time the sun appears just means faffing around too much. Although recently ive been using the cloud balance for when its cloudy and this seems to bring out the colours much more. Its worth having a play with this as the weather is always changing and i dont think there is a perfect solution.
>Auto focus mode is on spot too.
>I Exposure i leave on as increases the exposure in under-exposed areas by detecting the brightness level part-by-part in the picture.
>I Resolution i leave on Standard it should add contrast to the pics but its very minimal but i leave them on anyway for now...
>Image stabilizer I've left off because some cameras cant deal with the image digiscoped, seems to give the image a less than sharp image although again more practice with this setting needed as I've not used Image stabilizer on this camera at present..
>Everything else on this camera is turned off.
Once the Camera is set up Exposure rates vary depending on light and Distance of bird.
I will say in my limited experience ease of use of this camera is superb the adapter slides straight onto my 25-50x Zoom eyepiece on my scope so it takes just seconds to attach the camera.
Sharpness is excellent with no internal Sharpening from the camera (this is turned off) sometimes adding a sharpen in Photoshop is too much and no sharpening is needed.
The only trouble I'm having at present is the image  at 0 Stop seems very dark, my old camera the excellent Coolpix 4500 meant I always under exposed by -0.7 of a stop, with the leica I'm having to over expose by +0.7 making the bird lighter but that means bringing some of the colors back in Photoshop. I'm sure with a few more tweaking to the settings I may find out what I'm doing wrong.
So Far I'm finding results very good especially as I'm cropping my images to 200-300kb and 800x550px in Photoshop, wheres with my Coolpix smaller cropping had top be done otherwise id loose quality. The quality is definitely there with the Leica D-Lux 5. Most pictures will still need some sharpening in Photoshop.
Another very Important piece of kit on this superb camera is the Video mode Hd video digiscoped is superb and I do try to video any birds as well as photograph them. 
Video Below better viewed in HD mode in Youtube.

All in all this is probably one of the best Digiscoping cameras around for the Leica Scope at present. Im just still in early Stages of learning the potential for this camera.
A small portion of the results Ive managed from this camera are as below.

Ive tried Digiscoping flying birds, the hardest part of Digiscoping with some fairly good results i hope.

Many more pics can be viewed here on my Blog ... and here on my main website

Monday, 27 February 2012

Great Grey Shrike. 26th Feb

Well its been work work work all week so no birding to be had, Saturday was spent sorting stuff out for my trip to Spain on Thursday. But Sunday I was given permission by Rach to go out to Dumfries and Galloway birding with Keith.  
So we headed for the long staying Great Grey Shrike, which was now into its 3rd Winter and a cracking looking bird... It showed fairly well albeit in the drizzly rain.

We had a wander around the area too but nothing out the ordinary. A few Crossbill and some Red legged Partridge and Greater Spotted Woodpecker were the only other birds of note. The Woodpecker seemed to favor the same tree as the Shrike but wasn't at all phased.. The local Chaffinch's and Reed Buntings kept having a go at the Shrike, at there own peril, I've seen Great Grey Shrike hunt down Reed Buntings before and catch em.. 
We then headed to Keilder Forest to see if we could spot a Goshawk or two but the weather was misty and Drizzly no good for raptors. Families of Crossbill showed well though. A Green Woodpecker gave us a fly past and a few Buzzards were knocking around.

All in all not a bad day pity about the Goshawks but we can save that for another time..
As I say off to Spain birding with Keith on Thursday for a week so hopefully my next blog will be a full one...
Bye bye for now...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Common Yellowthroat 18th-19th February

Well I was on Facebook, when my real good mates the Asbo started talking about a Common Yellowthroat, I thought what the hells one of them so Googled it and though WOW that's stunning, well the adults are but as no news was still forthcoming at this point other than Common Yellowthroat in Wales i wasnt to fussed and though hope its a hoax or gone. Its not often we get any American Warblers this time of year that are adults so I looked at a 1st Winter jobbie and even that looked stunning. I thought Bugger, that would be nice to see but too far for me theres no way.
So I texted Keith jokingly saying its his turn to drive, Gwent tomorrow, he said wheres that I said South Wales he said no way lol understandably. I wasn't going to go alone and never expected to go but I asked the wife and she said.......YES OK ...What!!!! Did you say yes. YUP woohoooo.
So Friday comes I had the day off and Rach had to do half day. News by now had broke. 1st Winter Male Common Yellowthroat Rhiwderin Nenwport. So we left by 12-30 but as I new it would take an age to get there and we wouldn't make it till after dark I was more relaxed and jammed in on a Single Hawfinch at Sizergh castle. A Sandwich and drink were in order too as we had missed dinner.
The Traffic all the way down was murder especially around Birmingham but by 7pm we were checking in to our Ibis Hotel, we had the dog and so I new this hotel would accept them free of Charge. After checking in we had a lovely carvery at Toby carvey across the road.
 Next morning I was out before first light Rachel dropped me off on site and went to do her own thing with the dog, I spent the next 4 hours in the pissing rain with some of me mates the Asbos waiting for this bird. The weather was bad rain and windy so the bird was a no show. My other plan was to nip down to Hampshire for a long staying Spanish Sparrow and Dark-eyed junco. If these weren't here I may not have traveled all this way for 1 bird. The roads were once again slow, bloody crappy slow middle lane road hoggers, these people need there cars taking off em, don't they no I'm on a twitch.
By the time we reached the Sparrow it was mid afternoon and the rain was still pissing down. I got to Calshot and got to see the Spanish Sparrow straight away as there were a couple of birders and the house owner already there. The down side was the bird was tucked into the hedge with its head firmly tucked into its wing for virtually the whole time. Even a bloke walking up to the hedge didn't move it... It did move a little at times. Disappointing really but a first for me all the same. Time was getting on and seeing as I needed to get on to see the Dark-eyed junco which was illusive at best on wet windy days apparently I needed to give this as much chance as possible. On arriving it hadn't been seen all day except once briefly visiting seed. This didn't bode well. A few people had now arrived and hard watching was needed. Eventually 1 fella spotted it on the furthest fallen tree but no-one else got on it.. Noooooo but at least its in the area. 10 min later a young fella walked up to a mound area a few yards further up and shouted he'd got it we all rushed onto the bank and sure enough there it was, in its full glory a cracking bird another lifer.... Unfortunately it was still peeing it down and the weather was getting me down I couldn't get any decent pics of anything.

A pair of Crossbill landed in the tree which was a nice surprise.

It was getting dark and I wanted another go at the sparrow but when we arrived it had already gone to roost. The original plan was to stop around Southampton for the night but seeing as id dipped the Yellowthroat  and it had turned up later when the sun had come out it  meant we had to head back to Cardiff and back to the same Ibis hotel. So a 2 hour drive back it was time to get some food and bed...
So come Sunday Rach was on strike and she wasn't getting up at the crack of dawn again so we didn't arrive at the Yellowthroat Site before 8am. Rach dropped me off again and I dashed up the hill as the bird was on show wohoooo it was a beauty of a day and a beauty of a bird What a superb Lifer.. .. I Watched this bird for some time as it dashed in and out of the hedge illusive at times and never stopped in the open long enough for decent Digiscoped shots so I had to come away happy with the shots I got. Met few more Facebook buddies and enjoyed the bird some more till rach picked me up at about 11am.

There had been a handful of records in the UK this being the 10th, the latest being Cornwall 2006 when a bird was found Dead.
We had a long journey home so headed of and got back just before 5 so I headed off Owling at Derwent forest where I had great views of 5 Short-eared Owls.

Great finish to a wet but successful weekend away down souff. (south)
Thanks Rach

Saturday, 11 February 2012


The Site for the Owls is here.
Its really Hard to Count the Owls now but theres usually at least 5 in the air or sat in a tree or on a building .

Thursday, 9 February 2012

European Whitefronted Geese

Well being out an about birding yesterday i made the mistake of neglecting the Main area of Soddy Gap. I found out that Tom had found 11 European Whitefronted geese on the field very close to the pond... buggerrr. Now it wasn't the end of the world as id had 2 for 3 weeks on the ponds before Christmas i think it was. The Boss rang me this morning saying jobs now off for this week so i rushed down to Soddy slipping and sliding along the way to find they were still here wohooo nice find Tom, although you missed a couple, there were now 13 and a Greylag. The weather was dull and drizzly so there were no colours or light to get any decent shots so make of these what you will.

On the main pond was a small open bit of water full of Wildfowl. The Long-tailed duck had returned, Goosanders, Mallards, Coots, Wigeon and 40 odd Teal. Snipe over head and a couple of BH Gulls.
Goldcrest and a few Great and Blue Tits in the woodland. The Geese were still there on my way back with a couple of Canada Geese joining them.  I thought about going to see the Owls but the weathers not good for Owls so carefully made my way home.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Iceland Gull and Owls again

Well once again the snow and Ice is preventing me from doing my work so i had another days birding.
I started by meeting Keith at Siddick ponds and then walking around Workington point but it was quiet all round. 14 Purple Sandpipers were on the end of the pier and Stumpy was still about.
I moved onto Parton to try to find the Juvenile Icleand Gull that had been about. No luck originally just an Adult Med Gull.

I was just about to leave when i saw the Iceland Gull fly in from the North circled the point then landed out of sight in the tanks of the Sewage works. As i walked around to get a view from higher ground everything was flushed by workers. I found the Iceland gull on the river outlet then on the sea. It eventually went back to the Sewage works.

Finished my day back at Derwent Forest where the Short-eared Owls were showing well. a Tawny Owl was calling and 2 Shorties and a Woodcock flew over my car on the way home. In total tonight probably 8 Shorties..

Cracking finish to the day.