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.

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

Lifer Red Knot, finally!

Finally, finally, finally. I finally saw my lifer Red Knot at Prime Hook NWR (eBird Checklist) two nights ago. Actually, I saw 68 of them, some in alternate plumage, but most in basic. Just seeing a handful (give or take) in alternate plumage makes me long for knot migration next spring. Anyway, the birds were distant, but I did take some Phone Skoped shots of the flock.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 8 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 9 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 9 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Shorebird migration is on. Get out and check those mudflats!

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

Birding San Diego – Balboa Park

Balboa Park in San Diego, CA on 2 May 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I arrived in San Diego shortly before 3:00 PM on Thursday, May 2, 2013. I was due to pick Kay, my fiancee, up from the airport around 7:00. I had a few hours to burn, or bird, so I drove to Balboa Park. As I stepped out of the car I was welcomed by several Bushtits, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and California Towhees. I took a nice two hour stroll through the park. This was my first time birding in San Diego, so I wanted to take my time and snatch up all the birds I could before picking Kay up. Migrants were somewhat abundant throughout the park: Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, and Towsend’s and Hermit Warblers all made appearances. I took the opportunity to try my hand at Phone Skoping landbirds as I hiked around the park and was surprised at how well some of the shots turned out. I only saw 25 species, but had a darn good Phone Skope sesh.

Setup: iPhone 4s + Celestron Regal 80 F-ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Western Bluebird at Balboa Park in San Diego, CA on 2 May 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Say’s Phoebe at Balboa Park in San Diego, CA on 2 May 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Black Phoebe at Balboa Park in San Diego, CA on 2 May 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I also found a Great Horned Owl nest. The adult and nestling were not super cooperative, but allowed for the following shot.

Great Horned Owl at Balboa Park in San Diego, CA on 2 May 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Balboa Park–general area, San Diego, US-CA
May 2, 2013 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments: Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.5.3
25 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Western Gull  1
Mourning Dove  1
Great Horned Owl  2
Anna’s Hummingbird  5
Western Wood-Pewee  2
Black Phoebe  3
Say’s Phoebe  4
Warbling Vireo  2
American Crow  1
Barn Swallow  3
Bushtit  4
House Wren  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
Western Bluebird  3
Townsend’s Warbler  1
Hermit Warbler  1
Spotted Towhee  2
California Towhee  10
Song Sparrow  1
Western Tanager  1
Hooded Oriole  3
Bullock’s Oriole  4
House Finch  15
Lesser Goldfinch  10

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13969305

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Be sure to check out Phone Skope on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest for all your smartphone digiscoping needs!

Phone Skoping in the Southwest!

I’ve been in the southwest for well over a month now conducting bird surveys on the lower Colorado River. Despite working many hours in March, I’ve had the opportunity to use my iPhone 4s to Phone Skope birds with a Celestron Regal 80 F-ED (I’ll be reviewing this scope in the near future). I’ve been using an iPhone Digiscoping Pro Tip from Drew Weber over at Nemesis Bird, in which he suggested using an app called StillShot, to take high resolution screen grabs from Phone Skope videos.

Here are some of my best results:

Vermilion Flycatcher at Palo Verde Cemetery in Blythe, CA on 21 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Lesser Nighthawk at the Salton Sea Visitor’s Center, CA on 19 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Long-billed Dowitcher at the Salton Sea (Rock Hill Trail), CA on 19 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Say’s Phoebe feeding nestlings in Blythe, CA on 20 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Vermilion Flycatcher nest in Blythe, CA on 21 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The Moon while watching nocturnal migrants in Blythe, CA on 20 April 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Be sure to check out Phone Skope and Phone Skope Birding on Facebook. Also check out their website for more information on any smartphone/spotting scope combination you can think of!

Marbled Godwits are on the move in the LCRV!

Up now at Birding is Fun!

Marbled Godwit in Cibola, AZ on 10 April 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.