Bar-tailed Godwit at Chinc – Twice!

During the month of August, I made the hour and a half drive to Chincoteague NWR, twice. The reason for both trips was to see the MEGA – Bar-tailed Godwit. The first trip took place on August 5th, where I met up with studs like Alex Lamoreaux and Tom Johnson as well as a dude doing a Big Year (you’ve all seen the movie, right?) and several other folks I’ve never met before.

Before I started the drive, Alex texted me that the bird was not refound, yet. I decided to make the drive anyway, just to meet up and bird with friends I only get to see every couple of months. When I rolled into the parking area at the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center, I saw Alex and proceeded to shoot the you know what for about fifteen minutes. I then suggested we walk across the road to look in Swan Cove as I saw several large shorebirds in the pool when I drove in. We walked over and started scanning through the birds – “Willet. Dowitcher. Marbled Godwit. Hey, wait, what is that dowitcher-type bird with a bicolored bill? Oh man, that’s it!” We jumped for joy as we drooled at the sight of this European rarity. OK, so maybe we didn’t drool, but I know Alex was close. We watched the bird for over an hour and got exceptional scope looks.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 5 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The second round ensued on August 24th. After a morning of bird surveys, Ben Zyla and I made the trek down to Chinc. Ben was looking to add the bird to his growing ABA year list. Again, we rolled up to the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center and started scanning Swan Cove. A few other birders were there and had already spent several hours searching for the bird. Discouraged and having no luck with the MEGA, Ben did what any sensible birder would do – look through flocks other than the flock of Marbled Godwits we stared at for what seemed like hours. Boom. He found it. The Bar-tailed Godwit was mixed in with a nice, tidy flock of Willets.

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Epic. Ben was stoked, as were the the rest of the bird nerds present. We watched the bird for an hour or so. It took flight several times and flew over to Tom’s Cove, then came right back. Eventually it decided to chill with it’s own kind – Marbled Godwits, and that’s when we hit the road back to Milton.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit and Willet at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Two for two. I consider that a success. Until next time, bird hard my friends.

King Eider at Mispillion Inlet

Last Tuesday, Chris Bennett posted that he had a King Eider at Mispillion Inlet, AKA the DuPont Nature Center. He sent the report out around 2:00 PM, but I didn’t find out until Taj Schottland messaged me about an hour later. Luckily, Mispillion Inlet is only 25 minutes from my field house and Ben Zyla and I were on spot in no time. Chris was still there when we arrived and pointed us in the direction of the bird. Although distant and wrapped in heat haze, we had decent scope looks of our lifer King Eider!

King Eider at DuPont Nature Center (Mispillion Inlet), Kent Co, DE on 13 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We think this bird is an adult male in eclipse plumage. Compare the bird pictured above (I know it’s a terrible photo, but for what it’s worth) to this immature male that Alex Lamoreaux of Nemesis Bird photographed in Cape May earlier this year.

According to eBird, this represents the first August record of King Eider for Delaware. In fact, there aren’t many records for the northeast in August. There are records from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

King Eider eBird Records for August. Credit – eBird.org

This is an exceptional sighting and is the only bird being reported in the east this month, August 2013. King Eiders breed in the arctic and winter along the northern half of the east coast and in southwest Alaska and the Bering Sea in the west. A quick look through eBird records shows about a dozen sightings, give or take, in Delaware, all-time.

It’s an unusual year for sea-dwelling waterfowl with Common Loons, Black Scoters, and Red-breasted Mergansers summering along the east coast. Some of these birds that are showing up now may have failed during the breeding season and dispersed early. Why do you think this is happening? Let us know in the comments!

Again, thanks to Chris Bennett for getting the word out quickly! Since the initial report, dozens of birders have twitched the eider. It is still being seen today, August 18.

Have a GoPro? Phone Skope has a setup for you!

Recently, Phone Skope released adapters for GoPro‘s Hero 2 and Hero 3 cameras. They have an adapter to give you a digiscoping adapter as follows – GoPro Hero 3 + Spotting Scope & Phone Skope C-2 Adapter. They also have an adapter for the GoPro Hero 2. Check it out on a Vortex Razor HD below.

Here’s a bit from Phone Skope on the product: “Simply attach our unique C-2 Pro Skope Kit to your GoPro and then you will be able to connect your go pro to most all optical devices!”

Check out this video on the installation of the adapter:

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for your smartphone digiscoping needs! They make an adapter for most smartphone and spotting scope/binocular combinations. Also, follow Phone Skope on FacebookTwitterPinterestYouTubeGoogle +, and Instagram!

What do you think? If you had a GoPro, would you use it for digiscoping? Let us know in the comments!

Phone Skope Video Compilation!

Here’s a video compilation I made using iMovie for iOS. The video, Phone Skope Birding, is comprised of birds digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for your smartphone digiscoping needs! Also, follow Phone Skope on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google +, and Instagram!

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in southern Delaware!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in Rehoboth, DE on 18 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were first reported on July 15 at King’s Creek Country Club in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are casual vagrants in Delaware with eight previously accepted records.

Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 31 July 2013.

Looking at eBird records (pictured above), Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are common vagrants throughout the eastern half of the country. There was a single bird in northern Maryland during the same time the birds in Rehoboth Beach were present. Golfers at the country club said that there were five birds present, but birders only observed two, max. I was fortunate to see only one of those birds. It took me about a dozen tries and a few afternoons/evening of solid birding to find one. I think only three other birders were able to track down this bird.

 

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks seek refuge in marshes in the southern US, feed on aquatic plants, grains, grass, insects, and mollusks, and nest in tree cavities.

During my visit, I watched the bird from a distance for about five minutes. It was not associating with the flock of Canada Geese directly, but outside of the golf course it most likely was. It spent most of its time feeding during my stay, but also started calling as I was leaving. It was doing a similar call to the recording below:

I was able to obtain a decent digiscoped video from a distance with my iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter (Watch on 1080p for best quality).

This bird was gave me 388 for my ABA Year List and 199 for my Delaware Year List. I dipped super hard on it in southeast AZ and all of my searching/recon in southern Delaware paid off. It is a great addition to my Delaware Life List, which is now at 243. Here’s to hoping more vagrants start showing up in Delaware!

Literature Cited:

Andrew Spencer, XC102174. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/102174.

James, J. D., and J. E. Thompson. 2001. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis). In The Birds of North America, No. 578 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Sullivan, B.L., C.L. Wood, M.J. Iliff, R.E. Bonney, D. Fink, and S. Kelling. 2009. eBird: a citizen-based bird observation network in the biological sciences. Biological Conservation 142: 2282-2292.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-bellied_whistling-duck/id

Least Terns at Prime Hook NWR!

Two nights ago, I took a few hours and birded Prime Hook NWR. I started at Little Neck Rd., moved to Prime Hook Beach Rd., then ended at Fowler Beach Rd. I’ve been ticking Delaware year birds left and right this week. Everywhere I go, I see something new. Little Neck Rd. provided me with facemelting looks at Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Chipping Sparrows.

Great Blue Heron along Prime Hook Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Prime Hook Beach Rd. proved to be extremely birdy, as always. About an hour later, I had 27 species under my belt with only a little bit of effort. A flock of 160 Glossy Ibis flew over, numerous Laughing Gulls were chuckling as they flew by, and Forster’s Terns were abundant as usual.

Forster’s Terns along Prime Hook Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

My final stop was Fowler Beach Rd. I saw a Nelson’s Sparrow there last year. I’ll have to wait for fall migration to see them again. Anyway, shorebirds were very abundant last night. I found 6 species, but probably missed several due to hunger for Independence Day food. The highlight, though, was not a shorebird, but rather a handful of Least Terns!

Least Tern along Fowler Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Check back for more updates from Delaware birding. I’ll be here for the next 2 to 3 years. The first two photos were taken with an iPhone 4s + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for more details on digiscoping with smartphones!

Good birding,
Tim

Review: Phone Skope C-1 iPhone 4s Case

Phone Skope’s C-1 iPhone 4s Case undoubtedly trumps the C-2 Universal Setup I used previously with a Samsung Stratosphere. The adapter essentially acts as a case for the iPhone and is made out of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. The case is slender and fits inside your pocket, which makes it convenient to carry. Here’s a shot of what the phone looks like in the case:

Phone Skope C-1 iPhone 4s Case. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I use Phone Skope’s C-3 Custom Optic Adapter to attach the C-1 iPhone 4s Case to my Celestron Regal 80 F-ED Spotting Scope (review to come). The C-3 is designed to fit specific spotting scopes or binoculars.

Phone Skope C-3 Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The C-3 locks into the C-1 case giving you a complete iPhone digiscoping setup. The C-3/C-1 connection is snug, allowing no play in the adapter. Here’s the complete setup:

A complete Phone Skope iPhone Digiscoping Setup. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I really like the Phone Skope setup. It makes digiscoping easy, fun, and more enjoyable. Prior to my acquisition of the Phone Skope case, I held my phone up to the scope (hand-held), which resulted in blurry photos at awkward angles. Now, I can take high quality videos and photos without even touching the screen. My iPhone sets nicely on the scope and vignetting is minimal, which seems to be a problem with some digiscoping adapters. After reading the iPhone Digiscoping Pro Tip from Drew at NemesisBird.com and the Digiscoping with an iPhone Tip from Sharon at Birdchick.com, I have been able to slam quite a few birds with my iPhonescoping setup. Check out those Pro Tips and you will not be disappointed.

Complete Phone Skope setup on a Celestron Regal 80 F-ED Spotting Scope. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I also have the setup for my binoculars. The setup works well, but is somewhat difficult to hold steady. I find that using the video option on the iPhone works best when using the binocular setup.

Phone Skope iPhone 4s setup on Celestron Granite 8×42 Binoculars. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

With the iPhone setup, I have been able to document rare birds, nesting behavior, and just downright cool sightings. Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com if you’re interested in digiscoping with your smart phone. They can make an adapter for most smart phone/optics combinations.

Here’s a little taste of a recent trip to southeast Arizona with my Phone Skope setup:

Rock Wren at Pena Blanca Lake on 2 June 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Good iPhonescoping,

Tim