The WTTW news program Chicago Tonight ran a fine piece about the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary and its birds on May 24, 2017. The piece featured photos and videos from renowned nature photographer Rob Curtis and commentary from bird habitat expert Judy Pollock. Click the play button below to watch it in its entirety.
My birding highlight today was undoubtedly the pale and minimally marked Snowy Owl I saw at the beach. The bird was roosting on top of a “snow dune” in the western panne when I first noticed it. After a few minutes of looking at and photographing the bird I noticed someone walking almost straight towards it and me from the west, waving his arms. At first I thought he might be a birder or photographer alerting me to the owl, but it became apparent that he was just walking his dog on the beach and waving his arms for exercise. When this fellow and his dog got too close, the Snowy Owl flew about a hundred yards to the southwest and landed on the open beach outside the protected area. The bird remained here until the dog walker turned around and started heading back west. When the guy and his dog got too close again the owl flew back to the north and landed on top of the shelf ice on the beach. I watched the bird for a little while but when I looked back a few minutes later I didn’t see it. This is the palest Snowy Owl I’ve seen anywhere this season, and one of the palest I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing it’s an older male. Unfortunately the photos I took don’t do it justice.
After the Snowy Owl excitement I walked back along the lake and had a group of 5 White-winged Scoters, including 3 adult males, very close to shore near the tower in the native planting area. This has been an exceptional winter for White-winged Scoters along the Chicago lakefront.
As I was leaving Montrose on Sunday I noticed some movement almost directly above me just under the canopy of a tall Honey Locust. When I looked with my bins I saw a juvenile Peregrine Falcon grasping a deceased Northern Flicker. The Peregrine had captured the Flicker and was eating it in comfort under the cover of the canopy. I took a few pics and let the bird eat breakfast in peace.
Digiscoping – The practice of using a digital camera with a telescope for magnification.
In March, 2003, I bought a Fujifilm A303 digital camera to use with my Questar telescope for photographing birds and other wildlife. The Fujifilm A303 is basically a point-and-shoot camera that doesn’t have many bells and whistles, which is just as well – the less time I have to futz with the camera’s settings the more time I can concentrate on taking pictures. Besides, the camera does a reasonably good job of automatically adjusting the Fstop, shutter speed, and other settings.
The most popular camera that birdwatchers use for digiscoping is one of the Nikon Coolpix models. I decided against buying a Coolpix because of the cost and the fact that it’s a big, bulky camera that almost requires an adapter to use with a telescope. By comparison, the Fujifilm A303 is small and using it with my Questar is fairly straightforward and easy: I center and focus the subject in my scope and hold the camera up to the eyepiece and shoot. Unfortunately the resulting images aren’t always stellar so an image editing program such as Photoshop is necessary to make corrections.
The main problem I have with using the camera with my Questar is that there’s a perceptible delay between depressing the shutter and recording the image, a problem that doesn’t occur with SLRs or high-end digital cameras. This delay is most noticeable (and most annoying) when a bird moves out of view just before the image is recorded. Another problem is that the autofocus on the camera sometimes gets confused about what exactly to focus on. This happens, for example, when I’m trying to photograph a bird in a tree and there are branches between the camera and bird. The resulting image has the bird slightly out of focus but the branches in focus. Finally, photographing flying birds is almost impossible – it’s simply too hard to follow a flying bird with the scope and hold the camera at the same time. Despite the shortcomings, I’ve had good results (and good luck) photographing birds and insects with this camera/scope arrangement.
My Fujifilm A303 digital camera died in July, 2007. In August I purchased a Fujifilm A610 digital camera, which is similar to the A303 but has more megapixels (6.3 versus 3.2) and a larger LCD. In November, 2007 I lost my A610 and I bought a Fujifilm A820 to replace it. Hopefully I won’t lose this one.