Thursday, December 25, 2008

Festival of the Cranes - Thursday Workshops

There were two workshops I attended on Thursday at the Festival of the Cranes. The morning workshop was given by Jeff Bouton on Digiscoping - the art of photography through a spotting scope. It was a 3-hour workshop where Jeff could do his one-hour presentation in the classroom and then have everyone move outdoors to try what they had learned in the classroom, such as coupling cameras with scopes via adapters. Many of us did not have all the equipment necessary, but it was fun "sharing" with each other. Jeff also had some extra equipment with him some of us could borrow. Now, if only the weather would have cooperated. ;o) We started out at the big pond near the entrance to Bosque del Apache NWR. There were thousands of snow geese there, and digiscoping would have been a dream. But the wind was blowing quite strongly, and even though the sun was shining, the wind chill factor was less than what all of us were dressed for. After about half an hour at the pond, and those who wanted to stick around had a chance to at least look through some scopes, it was a consensus to try another spot on the refuge, possibly where it may be a bit more protected from the wind. We then went to an area where there was tall grasses to help break the wind a bit, but there were no birds! The birds possibly wanted to get out of the wind, too. The few birds we saw (mostly ducks) were quite far away and seemed to be hunkered down out of the windy areas.

This photo below obviously is not a digiscoped picture, but instead an overall view of what we saw on the big pond. There were snow geese as far as the eye could see. Actually, this photo was taken on a different day, when it wasn't windy.
Our afternoon workshop was about cave swallows. The presenter was Steve West who has been studying and banding cave swallows since 1980 at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Click on the link to learn more about this interesting topic. There's even a photo of cave swallows if you've never seen one. The reason Steve West wanted to band the birds was to collect and record data regarding their migrating patterns. He was curious to know where these birds headed in winter. You can learn more about cave swallows by clicking here and here.


Linda in Erie said...

The digiscope workshop sounds really interesting. I bought a digiscope last year and had a terrible time trying to get photos through it. My point and shoot didn't line up correctly with the scope and adapter. I also found that my camera tripod can't handle the weight of my digiscope and would sag after I focused and let go of the digiscope. I'll have to invest in a better one. I bought mine just after the spring migration last year so I can't wait to see all the water foul coming this spring. I'll be ready!

Lynne said...

I have a frustration level with a spotting scope that I just can't seem to get past. That sounds like a great class though. I'm sure he had lots of good tips and pointers that would be helpful.

Shellmo said...

mary - love the new look on your blog! I have been thinking about taking digiscope lessons - nice to hear about your lessons. The snow geese photo was lovely - so many of them!

Mary said...

I've never used scopes - sounds interesting albeit a bit intimidating!

The snow geese - WOW!

Merry Christmas, Mary!

RuthieJ said...

How cool to see all those snow geese! Will they stay in this area all winter now?

Mary C said...

Hi Linda - a good tripod can make a big difference when digiscoping. That's one thing I haven't purchased yet. One other thing I learned in this class is that one can get by with an inexpensive digital camera. It doesn't need to be more than a 3x zoom, because the zoom isn't used anyway when one puts it up to the spotting scope. You'll have to share your experiences with the rest of us once you are able to get out during spring migration and let us know how it all works for you.

Hi Lynne - this was the first time I got the chance to use my spotting scope, and I had a car window mount to use since I didn't have a regular tripod. And I ran into some frustration with the scope, too. Basically, it takes some getting used to. But then when you want to add digiscoping to it, that's even a bigger learning curve.

Shelley - thank you! If you should take a digiscoping class, do tell about it. I would love to find out what others think about it.

Hi Mary - well, there's always a first time for everything. When you go to West Virginia later this year, I'm sure somebody in the bird blogging group will have a scope. You will be quite impressed with what you can see. As for digiscoping, like I've mentioned before, it does take a while to get the hang of it. One of the things Jeff Bouton did say (and I've heard others say it too) is that one needs to practice, practice, practice.

Hi Ruthie. I think the snow geese will stay for the winter, whereas the cranes will continue farther south. If the corn should be totally consumed, it's possible the snow geese will move on, too.

Ruth said...

Snow geese are so abundant in certain areas yet I have never seen one. We are off their migrations route. It made me chuckle to think you had to go in because it was too chilly! It is above freezing! I have seen through someone else's scope once. I like your new look.

Leedra said...

I had Jeff Bouton's one hour introduction to discoping at the Florida Birding FotoFest in April 2008. Really great photos can come from it, but appeared to be more complicated and more expensive than I was interested in.

Mary C said...

Ruth, you and other northern bloggers can get a chuckle out of us who live here in more moderate climates. We are quite spoiled, and I wouldn't doubt that our blood is "thinner." ;o) I'm surprised you haven't seen any snow geese, but then don't they prefer the northern tundra? And I would assume you live in a "greener" area. Thanks for the compliment on my new look - my daughter (Red) did the design.

Leedra, it sounds like you enjoyed Jeff Bouton's workshop, too (in FL). Funny you should mention about digiscoping being more complicated and expensive. I've thought the same thing until I've seen the prices of new lenses. I think it would be a trade-off.

Red said...

That is a lot of the same bird as far as the eye can see... cool shot :)

Mary C said...

Thanks, Red. I hope one of these days you'll get the chance to visit this place - or possibly we can find a place more locally that might give us a similar type of impression to photograph.


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