Bird Photos with a New Spotting Scope

Black-bellied Plover, some Semi-palmated Plovers, and Semi-palmated Sandpipers.
This and all photos © Todd Klein

Tomorrow is the World Series of Birding. I’m not in it this year, as I have a family event to attend, but I’m still having fun birdwatching, and now, taking photos with my new Swarovski ATX scope. Spotting scopes aren’t always helpful with birding, particularly in the woods, but where you’re looking at distant birds that aren’t moving too fast, they’re ideal. Around 1987 I bought a Bushnell scope which was state of the art at the time, but today’s scopes are vastly better. I’ve long thought about buying a new one, and finally did about a week ago, from New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory.

Scope and tripod.

As I volunteer there, they gave me a great price, but it’s still a large investment. In addition to the scope I needed a new tripod made by Manfrotti, and I wanted an adapter for my iPhone to take photos with it through the scope. Swarovski doesn’t have one for my phone model yet, but they have one with variable size sliders that works okay, but is somewhat difficult to use. I’m gradually getting the hang of it.

Scope with phone mount.

At this point, birds that are standing still are about all I can capture by the time I get the scope on the bird, the phone adapter on the scope, the phone in the adapter, the phone’s camera on and at the right setting, and everything in focus. Fortunately, some birds do stand still! The shorebirds in the top photo are from my first digiscoping attempt at Heislerville, NJ. (Digiscoping is the new word for this, taking digital photos through a scope.)

Black Skimmers in front of Great Black-backed Gulls.

This one is also from Heislerville.

Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Years ago, rare birds and the best places to see them were passed on among birders by word of mouth or by phone. These days, as you might guess, there’s an app for that. eBird is the app, and in addition to being a great way to keep track of your own sightings, you can subscribe to rare bird sightings in your area. Acting on eBird info, today I drove a little north and east to the Ocean City, New Jersey Welcome Center on Route 52, where a large nesting colony of herons, egrets, ibis and other birds can be seen easily from the elevated parking lot. You’re actually above the level of most nests, and looking down into them, making for ideal photo ops.

Yellow-crowned Night-heron.

There are two species of Night-herons in this area, and they’re often hard to find, since they feed mostly at night, but if you can find a nesting sight with good views, the photo potential is great. These are large birds, almost the size of a hen turkey, and beautifully marked.

There were about a dozen Black-crowns and over twenty Yellow-crowns visible from the parking lot, and you could even see the eggs in a few nests, a first for me.

They are amazingly beautiful and graceful birds. We won’t talk about their croaky voices, though, nothing’s perfect…

But the best bird here, and the one that convinced me to make the trip, is this White Ibis, which is rare in New Jersey. It’s been at this nesting colony for a few days with more common Glossy Ibises. This is a WOW shot for me!

I’ll add two more, why not?

I’ve seen them in Florida, but never in New Jersey, and aren’t they stunning? I’m definitely feeling ththat buying the scope and phone adapter was worth it!

One more photo from today, not with the scope, but just the phone camera, because I like it. The first Eastern Box Turtle of the year in our yard, very orange and handsome!

2 thoughts on “Bird Photos with a New Spotting Scope

  1. Jon Babcock

    As you might guess, this filled me with great joy. Those scopes cost more than home repairs, but they can make you really happy! Thanks for jotting about it.

  2. Shawn Galdeen

    So exciting! I’m looking forward to many more beautiful pictures here, what a fantastic scope!

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