Sunday, 28 December 2014

Keep Trying

I am still finding my way around the Nikon P300 and experimenting with settings in poor light situations to try and improve the results of my Digiscoping. The seven frames a second capability means there are a lot of pictures taken, but there are usually a couple of keepers.

I was particularly pleased with these Nuthatch pictures, taken at RSPB Middleton as a pair fed on seed placed on top of a short fence post.

Video Grabs

In really poor light or with a constantly moving target taking a video of the subject and then grabbing stills from it is often the best way to secure a record shot. I gave it a go with the Nuthatches, and these results are straight out of the camera with no editing. I used the App "SnapStill" to grab the stills.

Not bad at all for record shots.

A couple of days later, in poor light and at range I tried to Digiscope some very nervous and spooky Goosander on the River Tame. I couldn't get close to them. They also spent very little time in one place or above the surface of the water. An ideal opportunity to try to capture something resembling a record shot using video. As I have said before, it's practicing with these more common birds that helps ensure you have an idea what to do when confronted with something a little rarer.

Video Grab - 60 Yards
Video Grab - Submerge.


I ended up finding a a spot where I could remain concealed from the Goosander in the hope one would move closer to me. Eventually, I got one to within 40 yards. I managed to fire off about a dozen shots before it spotted me, dived, and moved off. This was the best of them.

40 Yards
Some birds are much easier to Digiscope.
40 Yards
As far as Digiscoping with the Nikon P300 goes, I'm learning all the time and enjoying the challenge, and enjoyment is what it's all about.
40 Yards






Saturday, 27 December 2014

DIY Phonescoping

Boxing Day morning I met with Jon and we wandered around RSPB Middleton. The wetland area was very quiet, even common duck numbers were low. A good flock of Greylag did noisily drop in, but that was about the highlight for water fowl.

The highlight of the walk was a pair of Stonechat showing nicely along the fence line near the North Pit. I tried to photograph them, but they had other ideas and kept their distance.

On the way back to the car park, we watched the birds near the Woodland walk feeding on some seed that had been put down. A couple of Nuthatch gave us the idea to practice a bit of digiscoping. Jon has made his own phone adapter and is achieving some excellent results with it.

Jon's DIY Phonescoping Adapter

Some of Jon's Phonescoped results

Jon's pictures from his smartphone are incredible, and most of them were in less than ideal light conditions. Or should I just say the UK's usual lighting conditions.

So many people have told me they would like to try digiscoping, or they have tried it but the results disappointed them. Almost everyone now has a decent smartphone in their pocket, with practice and perseverance, results like the ones shown here are achievable.





Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Bonus Day

Extra hours put in at work resulted in a bonus day off on Friday 19th Dec. I knew about this well in advance, and prebooked a train ticket to Leighton Moss RSPB. Advance booking meant a return ticket for £18, what a bargain. So, the day arrived, and I set off on my train journey, arriving at Silverdale station at just gone 11am. I then walked the remaining 250 yards to the reserve.

I had taken my new Digidapter and a Nikon P300 I purchased off Ebay, and hoped to do a bit of digiscoping during my visit. I had been keeping an eye via the internet on what was being reported and where it was on the reserve. I had decided that I would spend the short daylight hours trying to cross paths with the frequently reported Bittern and Otter family.

The Public Hide
'Al's Alley'


On arrival, I headed straight for the wilder side of the reserve and the Public Hide, where the Bittern has been regularly giving good views in a corridor called 'Al's Alley’ that has been cut through the reeds.

There were already a few birders and photographers in residence on my arrival to the Public Hide. I settled in and started chatting with the regulars. No sign of the Bittern so far today. I enjoyed all the other bird activity around me, but then heard some news that forced me to make a decision. An Otter had been sighted out in front of the Lower Hide. These short days don’t allow the luxury of wasting daylight , so i made i decision, I collected up my things, and headed for the Lower Hide.

The Lower Hide is a fair walk, so I hoped the extra effort would produce the results.


I set up in the Lower Hide with only one other chap in there. He had not seen an Otter so far, but like me was hoping luck would be on our side. I attached the camera to the adapter ready for action and started to scan the large area of water and reeds in front of me. A marsh Harrier was spotted on the opposite side of the lake, easily 300 yards. I thought I would try for a record shot. The light was also poor, so this would allow me to play with the camera and experiment with settings.

I have mentioned before that I categorise my digiscoping into two distinct areas. Record shots, which are just an attempt to record something that is usually very distant or in far from ideal conditions, or sometimes both. This usually results in poor quality pictures but good enough to provide me with a memory of something i wanted to record. Most of my digiscoping falls into this category. Then, there is the more serious attempt at capturing the best quality picture I possibly can, usually of anything that will hang around long enough and allow me to point my scope at it. This is more about photography that birding, but adds an interesting extra dimension to an already fascinating pastime.

So, my very distant Marsh Harrier Shots.

Then, as the light dropped further and a light drizzle of rain fell, an Otter was sighted. In the end, there were definitely two and maybe three. They were just too active to be sure. They were so fast and mobile, digiscoping for still pictures was not an option. Video is a much easier way to capture a record shot of a fast moving subject and is much more forgiving in poor light. I switched the camera to video mode and tried to follow an Otter, trying to quickly focus as it surfaced momentarily and then quickly disappeared again. I succeeded a couple of times to get them in shot. Here are some more record shots. I captured these stills from the video.

By now, word had spread about the Otters, and the hide was quite full with everyone enjoying watching them. The Otters vanished as if by magic, and right on cue the light improved with a bit of sunlight shining through. Some Snipe had been located not too far from the front of the hide, so here was an opportunity to get to know the new camera and attempt to take a better quality picture or two. Here are some of my attempts.

I am very pleased with these and look forward to really getting to grips with the Nikon P300 camera.

As the light was fading, I headed back to the Public Hide. Still no Bittern had been sighted. I carried on to the visitor centre side of the reserve. I purchased a very nice Almond Slice and a cup of coffee and took them to Lillian’s hide. Coffee and cake were excellent. I watched a Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbeds and stayed until the light had gone. I met a very pleasant couple in the hide and we discussed birding, photography and digiscoping. They tell me they will be checking this blog out to see how the Snipe pictures turned out. I hope they decide to give digiscoping a go.

With the light now completely gone, I made the short walk to Silverdale Station to wait for the first train of my return journey. Now that’s how I like to spend a bonus day off.



Sunday, 14 December 2014

Another Weekend

The Nikon P300 I mentioned in my last blog arrived in the week and I have been keen to get out and start using it. Even the weather was on my side with Saturday being a frosty, bright sunny day. I spent the morning on old Warks Moors with Pete, where we spotted a little flock of Redpoll, a Moors site tick. That was a result, however, beyond that, no birds presented a decent photo opportunity for the rest of the morning.

New entry  1

The closest I could get to anything worth pointing the scope and camera at was a distant Kestrel, about 250 yards.


IMG 6491IMG 6487

Later in the day, I called in at the Dosthill side of RSPB Middleton to see if any photo oppotunities presented themselves. I did get a couple of birds pose for a picture, a Stonechat, which I managed to take four very poor pictures of before it disappeared, and a Reed Bunting which was very cooperative. Again, I didn’t uphold my end of the bargain! I really need to get to know this camera and will persevere with it.


It is great to see the new bridge has been delivered and I hope to see it span the river joining both sides of the reserve early in the new year.

New entry  4 DSCN0155

It is strange that I can achieve pictures I am very happy with from my iPhone through the scope, and with an old point and shoot camera using the Digidapter.

I purchase a recommended Digiscoping camera, and my efforts leave much to be desired?

So, it’s time to get my head into the Nikon P300 User guide and start trying some different settings out. I hope to show some decent pictures using this camera on the blog soon.


Sunday, 7 December 2014


I took the plunge and purchased a Digidapter from Paul Sayagh. It only took a week to arrive from the USA, that's even including UK Customs holding it until I paid the import duty.


I say I took the plunge, actually, Mrs Moocher did, as she has treated me for Christmas.

Obviously on arrival I had to unpack it and check everything was ok, this meant I had to assemble the Digidapter. The only camera I have laying about at the moment is an old Panasonic Lumix FS10. It's 12MP and about 3 years old. I took a few pictures just to see how it fared, and even took it along on a little Sunday morning stroll. Unfortunately, the morning was dull and overcast.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to experimenting with a small point and shoot camera through the scope. I will probably try and pick up one of the Nikon P300 range second hand. They are compact, have a fast shutter speed and allow for manual exposure. The little camera I used in this test is fully auto with no manual override.

And in overcast conditions.


Thanks to EBay, I have just managed to secure a second hand Nikon P300 for a very reasonable price and I'm looking forward to experimenting with this camera and trying some HD video too.