Friday, 25 September 2009

Autumn Migration

Despite the fine, sunny, still weather a few birds are appearing locally.
Yesterday I called in after work to the old landfill site at Norton Green. A few chats had been seen over the previous few days, and one Whinchat remained for me.
Little else of note, though my first ever Stevenage Yellow Legged Gull flying over was a bit of a surprise.
Today a rather warm walk along the river Beane (whats left of it) proved to be a good bet when I found a Redstart in the hedge at Aston End.
Apart from that and the local Little Owl, and small flocks of flyover Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Yellowhammer there was not much happening.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Quiet day out in Norfolk

The weather forecast for Sunday looked reasonable, in that we were supposed to get a belt of rain or showers coming up from the continent overnight, to East Anglia with clear conditions to the north and east. This led to a few pundits suggesting that the east coast could have a few migrants arriving.
As there was a fair bit at Spurn and Gib Point already, it looked to me that the best bet was north west Norfolk as this would allow us to head further north if needed, or stay on the Norfolk coast. High tide at Snettisham at 0700 and a Wryneck still present on Saturday night was all we needed for a first stop.
The tide was starting to drop by the time we arrived, but there were plenty of waders in the pit-virtually all Oystercatcher as well as a surprisingly large number of Egyptian Geese. On the rapidly appearing mud of the Wash, many thousands of birds were feeding. Mainly Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank and Shelduck, but small numbers of Plover, Godwits and Curlew too. There were also a few Pintail on the sea. Sadly no sign of the Wryneck, and there were few other migrants in the bushes apart from the odd Chiffchaff.
Undaunted we set off for Holme, and scoured the Paddocks. By now the sun was out, it was clear, warm and very still. Two calling Redstart and a single Lesser Whitethroat was not much of a fall, and about the only other birds present were Dunnocks. The walkers on the coastal path kept calling out "what a lovely day"as they strode past. Had a look at the scrapes, but the Little Stint had gone and there was nothing close to photograph. The pines were very quiet too, and I called in at the observatory where Jed and Sophie were trying to find ways to pass the time-they had ringed one Garden Warbler by early afternoon.
By two o clock we had given up and went home. Luckily the Beers of the World Warehouse off the A10 was still open so I have a few nice beers to try.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Leica Televid Update

Was going over a few blogs last night, in particular one devoted to digiscoping with Leicas. My old Eagle Eye adaptor (which I never really got on with) was lying around and I couldn't help noticing that it was not too dissimilar in size to the 25-50x zoom. I removed all the internal sleeving and discovered that it was a snug fit.
This prompted me to charge up the battery of my old Coolpix 995 and see what would happen. As the only subject matter to hand this evening was a fence post at the bottom of the garden, I trained the assembly on it and rattled off a few shots. I found that I had to zoom the camera in quite a way to eliminate vignetting, but the results were pretty good considering the slow aperture of the lens (about F4.5) and the iso needing to be set to 400, which because of the age of the sensor results in some noise.
With modern cameras, ie better noise characteristics and image stabilisation, this could be a nice set up for casual long range photography. Shame that few if any seem to have a lens thread these days so the old adaptor cannot be used.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Leica APO Televid HD65 first impressions

As mentioned previously, I was very impressed with the performance of the new Leica scopes at the BIrd Fair, particularly the new wide angle 25-50 zoom eyepiece. After some deliberation, I decided to get the 65mm version, which arrived at the beginning of the month.
Some years back, I had tried out several of the smaller scopes, and one that had impressed was the Swarovski. At the time, this had the 45x eyepiece fitted, which I did not realise when I first looked through-the image was so bright, and the field so large I assumed that a 30x was fitted. This got me thinking that perhaps a smaller telescope would suit me now that I was spending so much time with photography-walking with an 80mm class scope on a tripod with pan and tilt heads can be awkward, with various bits sticking out and bumping into legs and thighs. Add a camera and lens and the weight starts to be an issue too. The first step to weight reduction took place earlier in the year when I removed the Gitzo pan-tilt head and replaced it with a BH-55 ball head and this proved to be very comfortable when walking with the tripod over a shoulder. Used primarily for photography, the ball head has been quite good with a scope, though the handling technique is rather different.
The first test of the scope was late one evening, when I had a quick look at a Blackbird in the Rowan at the bottom of the garden. Strongly backlit, there was a lot of detail present, with the fine rictal feathers around the bill being easy to see. I did note some purple fringing around twigs against the bright grey sky, but most of this was eliminated when I took my glasses off. I would always expect some fringing due to diffraction effects.
The first proper day out at Cley was not ideal, being bright and sunny, so not really testing for any optical device. I did note however that observing from the north hide at mid-day, never a good idea due to the strong backlighting (usually a case of guess the silhouette) was quite good, with feather detail in such things as female Teal being easy to see. In fact I never had a problem at all with any of the birds.
At Amwell, I was able to compare it with the older Leica 82mm scope with the original 20-60x zoom. I found that there was little or no difference in resolution, to be expected as substantially higher magnifications would be required to take full advantage of the aperture. It was noted on a Hobby perched at 250m that detail was more obvious in the 65mm scope suggesting improved micro contrast, and that the image was significantly clearer and brighter at equivalent magnifications. In fact I was able to discern leg colour, claws and the eye of a perched Hobby some 700m away. Everyone also commented on the significantly improved filed of view- 2.5 degrees at 25x and a whopping 1.5 degrees at 50x.
The filed of view proved to be of immense benefit on the sea watch at Titchwell, where perched in the dunes I was able to see the shoreline and a lot of sky at 25x, and even at 50x, the shoreline and horizon was visible. Here I was able to compare with a Kowa 823 and 20-60x zoom, which was limited mainly by it's small field-zooming in to 60x and the approximate one degree field hindered observations. The dull grey light should in theory have been a problem for the smaller scope, but again there was little in it. As with the older Leica comparison, the image remained clearer and brighter in he 65mm Televid.
I did encounter one major problem though. The rubber coating seemed to be very attractive to sand, and this also collected inside the extended lens shield where the raised lip at the front made removal rather difficult. There is also a suggestion that the lens coatings may, like the older scopes be sensitive to salt water. The hand book does suggest using a filter, so this may be something to be wary of.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Glossy Ibis and Sea Watching

Yesterday looked very promising for the North Sea coast as a small frontal system had given a northerly airflow after a period of easterlies. With Red Breasted Flycatcher and Greenish Warbler in Lincolnshire, and an Icterine Warbler in Norfolk, the omens looked good.
We started in the Ouse Washes at Sutton Gault looking for a flock of Glossy Ibis that had been present-part of twenty five that had arrived a week or two back. Unfortunately there was only a single bird on the wash and it flew off shortly after we arrived. We did hear about another pit to the east, but directions and access seemed a bit vague. Following another group, and a tramp through playing fields and an old disused wartime airfield found us looking into a deep pit where the six Ibis were feeding. After about ten minutes they flew off back to the wash-apparently they had been doing this all the time.
Pleased to have seen all six (I had only seen three previously in twenty years) we headed off to Titchwell to see what we could find. Thanks to work on the new sea wall, the reserve was rather empty though a small flock of waders held two Little Stints. The sea turned out to be the place to be. Over a period of ninety minutes we clocked up fifty to a hundred Manx Shearwater, Four Balearic and one Sooty Shearwater, one juvenile Sabines Gull along with a lot of Kittiwake, many terns, several Great and one Arctic Skua and an untold number of Gannets. Unfortunately we did not see any petrels or Pomarine Skuas which were reported from nearby Holme.
With our gear and hair liberally sprinkled with sand, we decided to visit Holme and see what could be found in the bushes. The answer turned out to be nothing-either the wind was keeping migrants down or there weren't any.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Colin Gets an Ortolan

On Saturday, we headed to Cley as an Ortolan had been present on Friday-this is a bird that Colin has tried to see for many years without success. We arrived fairly early and could see a large crowd on the East Bank, so headed off to join the queue. The bird did not show for some time, and I was distracted by the pings of the Bearded Tits. The Ortolan did eventually show-a long way off and by peering over shoulders we could see it. Then a couple barged through and despite protestations walked past and flushed the bird. Luckily it returned, landed a bit closer and I was able to get a poor record shot.
We returned to Cley where the scrapes held a small flock of Curlew Sandpipers among the Godwits and Shanks, and six of the Spoonbills doing what they do best-ie sleeping.
Sea watching was not all that good by the time we got to the beach, I saw a few Gannets, terns and a single Arctic Skua. A few Wheatears were along the fences.
There was little of note from the north hide, though a pair of Swallows still had young in the nest bu the door.