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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hakai Magazine/Wrens in the Forest


It can take special effort, even strutting and shouting, for humans to get attention and assert themselves in a populous urban setting. Turns out the same applies to Pacific wrens in the dense coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia. 

Story by Larry Pynn
Photo John Gordon
       




*****


"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley /Cloverdale
BC Canada

Friday, October 5, 2018

Nikon P1000 Coolpix UK Test






Robin
Nikon Coolpix P1000

Sept 2018 Lincolnshire UK

Anyone familiar with my travel blogs know that most of my UK visits have concentrated on the west of the country with birding trips in Gwent (Wales) and Gloucestershire. I also visited the Farne Islands for the Artic Terns, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.
This time I am in Lincolnshire one of the least populated counties in the UK. The land is flat like the Canadian prairies. Most of the county is only four feet above sea level and there are windmills scattered across the county. Many windmills are tourist attractions, still grind grain or house tearooms where local produce can be bought. There is even an overnight ferry to Holland and Norway at nearby Hull for those who want to extend their adventures. Historically Lincolnshire would have been primarily wetlands, unfortunately most of which all long gone, diked, drained and turned over to large tracts of arable land.
 The Lincolnshire Wolds rise from the flats and overlook the North Sea and the Wash. The highest point is the village of Normanby le Wold, at approximately 551 feet (168 metres) above sea level. The birding up there is better in the springtime when the woodlands are full of birdsong. At this time of the year the best birding is on the coastline.

Frampton RSPB is just south of Boston Lincolnshire where one group of the Pilgrim Fathers set out.
For more

The Pilgrim Fathers

This poster show just a small portion of the county. Note the windmills. At Chapel Point we sea-watched ticking Great Skua, Sandwich Tern, Gannet and Whinchat.

***
 I'm here at the optimum time for migration albeit the much needed easterly winds have all deserted the region, resulting in a distinct lack of vagrants. Easterly winds blow birds from the continent toward the UK's east coast. As it turned out there were south-westerly winds throughout my stay. Even a trip to noted migrant trap Spurn Point with top birders John Clarkson and Phil Hyde failed to produce anything of note. They were two of three Lincolnshire Bird Club members I had arranged to meet before leaving Vancouver. A flock of twenty Tree Sparrows was a highlight for me. Both John and Phil have seen a formidable 500 plus UK birds and the stories about twitches in Shetlands and Scilly Isles were riveting. They went to great lengths to take me to as many locations as time permitted. If indeed there had been anything unusual they would have heard about it. Oh well, there's always next time.


I brought my usual travel kit, a Nikon D500 and 200mm-500mm as well as the just released Nikon Coolpix P1000. 


Below are a few images from the Nikon P1000 taken during my stay. I won't get into technical details as there are many others who do a better job, rather in its place are some in the my real time field examples.
Let me say from the beginning the P1000 does not replace a DSLR in any way. I did have a lot of fun with it and photographed some birds I wouldn't have been able to get with my 200mm-500mm lens.

 I had made arrangements to meet up with a BirdingPal Steve Keithtley who agreed  to show me his patch

Birding Pal Steve Keightley. Nikon P1000
In the distance you can see a breakwater covered in birds. See below for a closer view.


Oystercatchers search for higher ground on the flood tide.
Nikon P1000

There were several hundred Oystercatchers as well as good numbers of Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstones.
Nikon P1000 at 3000mm hand-held.

Knot, Curlew and Little Egret at the mouth of the River Withham.
About 2000mm on the P1000.

One such stop was Frampton Marshes RSPB in Lincolnshire situated just south of Boston. The area is as good as any of the more fabled locations in nearby Cley and Minsmere. Neither were showing any birds that couldn't found in Lincolnshire. That was fine with me as it meant less driving down narrow country lanes and more time birding. Steve had formally been county recorder and was very well connected with everyone we met in the field and through his Bird Guide Ap.
The weather could have been better, strong south-westerly winds kept the much sought after  continental vagrants offshore, add to that torrential rain for the first two days put a damper on my attempts to fully test out the P1000 from the get go. Keeping the camera dry took precedence, only whipping it out when an opportunity arose.

Handling the P1000

 The 24mm-3000mm 128x zoom is a handful. The superzoom is big as any pro DSLR although much lighter. It can be carried all day without any discomfort. At 3000mm the lens is a sluggish F8 and with overcast skies the shutter speed plummeted making shooting handheld difficult. I had to bump the ISO to 400 which is my usual default for birding. Many frames were lost due to the low light especially at maximum zoom or just put it down to operator error.

At 3000mm handheld.

Handheld at 3000mm the Black-tailed Godwits come into view. The results are not very sharp but good enough for an ID.
 There were close to two-thousand five-hundred godwits in the flock.
Nikon P1000

Black-tailed Godwit at close range.


Goldfinch handheld with the Nikon P1000. A little sharper and shot from closer range. There was buffeting rain and wind making it very hard to hold the camera still. I leant against a fence post for stability.

Then the sun came out at Gibraltar Point. 

Steve asked to get a picture of the ring on this Black-headed Gull. The Nikon P1000 quickly trapped the focus and the ring number.
Meadow Pipit at 3000mm

Zoom back to approx 2000mm to capture the flock.


      The marshes at Gibraltar Point provide valuable breeding habitat for Black-headed Gulls, rails and other wetland birds. Marsh Harriers hunt over the adjacent fields and in the Fall Pink-footed Geese begin to arrive. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits can often be seen overhead. I couldn't capture the skylarks on the P1000 resorting the my D500 and 200mm-5000mm.
Later on I did manage to pan a flock of Knot (Red Knot) and the P1000 worked very well but for smaller birds like the skylark it's asking a little much.

Gibraltar Point


Nikon P1000 at 24mm
The Nikon P1000 was much easier to use when the sun came out. I used the Birdwatching program that Nikon have now put on the camera dial. Previously it was via the menu button.

Pink-footed Geese.
Pink-footed Geese can be told apart from the very similar Graylag Geese by the smaller and more delicate bill as well as the darker pattern on the head. Their call is also 'thinner' and more delicate than other geese species.
The Nikon P1000 did a good job of the flock arriving, every shot was in focus. I cropped out half the flock for a better composition.

It is always good policy to photograph signage so as to add information to presentations.
It's easy to forget where and when some pictures are taken.

Avocets are one of the more common birds at Gibraltar Point
P1000 doesn't handle highlights very well. I haven't use the raw file option in Lightroom yet but that should solve most of those issues.


Apart from the Nikon P1000 which I am testing out (at my own expense) I always carry a REAL camera in case there is a "good bird" turns up. Not that the Nikon P1000 won't capture a decent image at close range, it's just nice to have a fully fledged DSLR as back-up.

Then a really good bird showed.


A few days into my trip Birding Pal Steve texted me about a Spotted Crake at Gibraltar Point about fifteen miles from my base in the market town of Louth. I'm told that even some local birders had never seen one so it was an opportunity I couldn't let pass. Before I could make my way there myself I received a call from Louth birder John Clarkson, he was already on his way over to pick me up. We were soon at Gibraltar Point.
 John found the bird in less than five minutes. Rails are quite shy and it took off as soon as we got our bins out. Undeterred we went walkabout on the reserve looking for anything that might have arrived overnight. Overhead John pointed out the V shaped skiens of Pink-footed Geese arriving from the North. We watching Pied Wagtails, both UK sub-species and the European version. We moved to another hide where John pointed out how differentiate between Common and Spotted Redshank. Both are autumn migrants from Scandinavia and Iceland, the latter having a finer and slightly upturned bill. In the air Common Gulls (Mew Gulls) wheel around as did numerous Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Snipe (Common Snipe) were roosting on the edges of the reeds. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits sat motionless, eyes half closed ever ready in the event a predator pounces.


The Predator


While I was scoping the marshes Steve pointed out a Red Fox which I was able to capture in two frames. The P1000 autofocus worked very well. Note the grass in front of the fox, the auto focus wasn't fooled. 
Nikon P1000


*****

A few shots with the D500.


As previously mentioned I decided to use the Nikon D500 and 200mm-500mm for the crake as there were reeds blowing back and forth partially obscuring the view. I doubted the P1000 would have dealt with the erratic movement. Eventually the crake ran across the ditch and for three frames it was in the open. The clarity of the image through the viewfinder and the autofocus response was very noticeable after using the P1000 for most of the trip.
Spotted Crake, similar but not the same species as the Sora. A lifer.
D500 and 200mm-500mm F5.6


Skylark

I tried with the P1000 but had to resort to a DSLR for the Skylarks. This is the type of shot I could have spent the whole day perfecting but alas I only had twenty minutes. 


 Kestrel
D500 and 200mm-500mm F5.6


****
Lincolnshire is one of the less populated counties in England. Housing is relatively inexpensive compared with the rest of the country, ideal for those who like a quieter lifestyle. The whole area was once marshland of which only remnants remain. Hard work by many dedicated organizations, volunteers, government and members of the public have resulted some farmland being returned to its original state. Framptom RSPB is one fine example where birds now return to roost on high tides or while resting during migration.
 I was lucky enough to visit Frampton on three occasions and as previously mentioned is during migration arguably the top wader destination in the UK. During my visits I was lucky enough to observe flocks of two thousand plus Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Spotted Redhank and numerous Little Stints. The latter was a bonus especially after dipping on the Boundary Bay stint earlier in the month.

Back to the P1000 Gallery.


A pair of Little Stint feeding at Frampton RSPB. Nikon P1000
The above image was taken at about thirty metres feet at approx 3000mm handheld. The late afternoon light was very poor but from the thirty of so images I fired off I found this file. There was a photographer next to me with a DSLR who didn't even try to photograph the birds, unfortunately for him they were just distant specks. The Nikon P1000 has greater reach than any scope which are normally used at 60x, the Nikon has a 128x optical zoom. The scope view is clearer but then again it costs twice the price and I am looking at it from a photographers point of view not an avid scoper.
When enlarged, the P1000 files at the 2000-3000mm range can look like watercolours, however just the ability to grab shots like above and then go home and closely inspect the finer details of plumage etc is invaluable.
Still I won't be dumping my DSLR anytime soon. As much as I enjoyed the clarity looking through Steve's Swarovski I did enjoy the P1000 as an added tool to my birding experience. The camera is large but lightweight and although it is taking me some time to figure out how to configure it best I  am very exited about shooting it on a more substantial tripod and head. I am eager to explore the 4k video options, time lapse and other functions when I return home. I'll probably use a big Manfrotto 502 head or similar and Gitzo tripod to make sure I can get the most out of the big zoom. Haze is also a problem but that is true of even high end optics. 


Some signage.

This graphic gives an idea of where the birds that pass through Lincolnshire on migration.

Some Migration routes at the North Sea Observatory


Gotta love this artwork.


Here's a Test:

 Nikon D500 200mm-500mm v Nikon Coolpix P1000



Below are two images of an autumn adult Wheatear that Steve and I encountered on the beach at Chapel Point. 
One was shot on the Nikon P1000 and the other the Nikon D500 and 200mm-500mm. One for the images is taken in the afternoon sun the other in the shade of a wall. I know that's not a fair test. Can you tell which is which? 

For the answer see below.


(Fig1)


(Fig 2)


The answer. 


Fig.1 is the P1000 and Fig.2 is the D500/200mm-500mm

***

For travel I carry the Nikon D500/200mm-500mm in a Think Tank Airport Antidote. Once on location I either carry the Nikon P1000 or DSLR on my shoulder and a pair of Vortex bins around my neck.
The Celestron Hummingbird Scope and small Manfrotto BeFree Live video tripod complete the kit. That way I don't have to leave anything in the car or in a hotel room for thieves to pilfer.


                              (Below) Some more D500/200mm-500mm images.



This Meadow Pipit was feeding alongside Covenham Reservoir. A heavy crop but it allowed me to give some context as the birds would often use the barbed wire fence as a staging point to catch flies being blown off the reservoir. 



Ringed Plover/Covenham
Although I would have rather seen this bird in Campbell River I was more than happy to add this plover to my ever growing UK list. The target bird was a Purple Sandpiper but unfortunately it had moved on overnight.




More P1000 images from Covenham Reservoir.

Goldfinch.
Nikon P1000

Pied Wagtail searching for insects alongside Covenham.
Nikon P1000.

A chance encounter at Cleethorpes.

Knot

I hadn't planned going birding but when Dad and I arrived at the Cleethorpes Promenade I notice a pair of dog walkers allowing their dogs to run amok, flushing a large flock of several thousand waders. They were so far away that at first I thought they were Sanderlings. Without the proper footwear I decide to head off the dog walkers and get closer to the birds. The birds appeared too large for Sanderlings to my surprise the flock comprised about two thousand plus Knot (Red Knot) and a  few Oystercatchers. I hauled out my P1000 and approached slowly, all the time trying to cut off the rampaging dogs. I managed a few shots at between 2000mm-3000mm before the birds were flushed. 

I panned the shot below in the Birding Watching mode which I have used for 90% of the images in the blog.
Knot

After a hard days birding the only thing remaining is a proper cup of tea.

How civilized is this, Reifel are you listening!

Conclusion

The P1000 is not a substitute for a DSLR. The files at the 2000mm range and above will not please some while others will have a ton of fun with this camera/scope combination. At the long end the images when enlarged take on a watercolour look, something that some might want to explore as an art form. I think some images printed on canvas will have a painterly look, something I will be exploring at a later date. 

When the light is good and a  bird is within 30 feet or so as in the Wheatear the P1000 can produce a very decent image. Some of the other P1000 images work well in the blog form as a method of communicating one's travel etc. Some of the images I would have never captured had it not been massive range. One minute I am photographing five-hundred geese and then zooming into just one bird in the flock. Having shot the Nikon P900 since it first came out I will say that at times the P1000 will drive you crazy and other times you be very happy that it's in your camera bag.

Note
I have no connection with any of these commercial links. 




The Lincolnshire Wolds

Thinktankphoto.com

http://www.birdingpal.org

johngordonphotography.com


With great thanks to Steve Keightley, John Clarkson and Phil Hyde.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale
BC Canada





Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Birds on Parade

    Monday Aug 20 2018 Harbour Green Park to Vancouver Convention Centre.

Two years in the making, the Vancouver International Festival of Birds parade was billed as "A Great Murmuration" of bird puppets. A great gathering it was, a flock of two hundred visual artists, closet birders and musicians gathered at Vancouver's Harbour Green Park for the spectacle.
  
Great Gray Owl.

Blue Heron

         The assorted flock began their migration by gleaning, pecking, mobbing (mostly dastardly crows and one Raven) flexing and fluffing their feathers. Overhead Glaucous-winged Gulls swooped and glided effortlessly over the parade, a reminder of their avian grace and agility. 
Just for a brief moment there seemed to be something special in the air and of course on the ground too. 

Whopping Crane


The flock prepares to take off.

Northwestern Crow and Tufted Puffin.

Bald Eagle 

Long-billed Curlew.

Black Oystercatcher.

 I should have brought my Sibley's, any misidentifications are my fault entirely. Here are some pictures for those who couldn't attend either because of work, distance or those unable to breath in the sooty atmosphere that had descended on Vancouver.


Ladies on a roll. 

 Made from toilets rolls, string and tape. Swarovski Optiks watch out!
Birders and  Twitchers (Birdus Twitchus)

Various species were represented by flag bearers. 

A Bald Eagle followed by Anna's Hummingbird.

Baldy the Eagle.
The majority of masks were made with papier mache, some from other household materials, many of the flock had even taken the trouble to learn bird song and calls. 

Red-tailed Hawk.

Whopping Crane close-up.


Following the march to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the opening of the Vancouver Bird Festival/Artists for Conservation Festival participants gathered to witness the unveiling of five new Canadian Post stamps featuring birds.
Opening ceremonies.

Steller's Jay and Canada Goose share the stage.

Canada Post was on site.






The Vancouver Bird Festival runs Aug19-26 in conjunction with the 2018 International Ornithological Congress 
for more information