Phone Skope Adapter: First Impressions

:: I received a Phone Skope adapter from the company for review; all opinions and writing are my own ::

Even before I got my new iPhone — in September, my first ever cell phone — I was researching digiscoping adapters to use with it and my Swarovski scope. Over the past few years, I’d seen lots of good reviews of the Phone Skope adapter, so I contacted them about their adapters.

Phone Skope specializes in making adapters for digiscoping on a variety of phones and scopes/binoculars; you make your selection based on the smart phone and scope/binocular you have. The eyepiece adapters and cases come in several sizes, so you can choose the correct model for your phone and optics. If you can’t find the correct sizing, custom models are available. Tim at Phone Skope was very helpful and generously shipped out an adapter to me last week to review. I’ve been testing it out and enjoying it very much.

The adapter consists of two parts, the case and the eyepiece adapter. Your phone just slides into the snug-fitting plastic case, then twist-lock the two pieces together and slide it onto your scope or binoculars. It’s that easy!

I keep my phone in a Lifeproof Frē case at all times to make sure it stays safe; I waited a long time to get a cell phone and I spend a lot of time outdoors, so I’m not taking any chances. In order to use the adapter I have to take my phone out of its case. Compared to some other adapters I’ve seen, the Phone Skope adapter does provide some protection for the phone if it’s dropped, which is a top priority for me. I also like that the adapter fits tightly on the scope’s eyepiece. It would take quite some force to knock the adapter off the scope, so I feel comfortable leaving the phone sitting on the eyepiece.

I went on a Sunday afternoon drive to test out the Phone Skope. It was very windy, so it was impossible to keep my scope motionless. However, I’m very happy with the photos I got. So far, I really enjoy the Phone Skope adapter and can’t wait until the Spring to use it to its full potential.

But I’m going to keep testing it and am planning to write more posts on the adapter as I perfect my digiscoping skills.

IMG_0004

Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Phone Skope adapter,  and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

For digiscoping, I use my ATM 80mm Swarovski scope with 20 – 60 zoom eyepiece. I twist the eye cup most of the way as it reduces the vignetting (the black circle around the photos). You can get rid of the vignetting by cropping the photo in iPhoto if you like.

Here’s an un-cropped photo of Canada Geese,

IMG_0004

Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Phone Skope adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

Coming in for a landing,

IMG_0003

Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Phone Skope adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

Tundra Swans,

IMG_0002

Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Phone Skope adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

I found this young Bald Eagle sitting in a dead tree on my drive. I really like this photo, with the eagle taking off,

IMG_0005

Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Phone Skope adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

Fall for Raptors

I’ve been seeing a large number of raptors lately, from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles. This past Wednesday, I drove around looking for raptors and enjoying the colours of fall. The day was very overcast and cool, but I saw some top-quality birds!

This American Kestrel had been hunting around our house for the past few days, finally perching long enough for me to get a photo. The photos are not the best quality, but I love the colours of the kestrel and the trees behind it,IMG_9757IMG_9755

I barely got out of the truck, opting to park on the side of the road most of the time. I live in an area where the county roads have a good deal of traffic at harvest time — combines, swathers, grain trucks, pickup trucks going to town for parts. But the roads are quiet on rainy days when farmers are at home waiting for the fields and grain to dry.

Whether rural roads are quiet or busy, I always park in as much of the ditch as I can when birding with a vehicle, and I never park on the crest of the hill. If I’m driving and see a bird sitting close to the road, I check the rearview mirror to make sure it’s safe to pull over.

Our neighbours often stop to check on me when I’m watching something from the truck, just to make sure I’m not having any trouble. Everyone knows by now that I’m birding/photographing birds, but it’s a very nice gesture and I appreciate the stop very much.

I love birding by vehicle because you can get fairly close to some birds. Ducks and geese are very cautious at this time of year, so watching birds from the truck gives me more of a chance to look at them. I took our new truck as it’s very quiet, excellent on fuel, and has ample room for my scope, two cameras, and binoculars in the front seat.

A Blue-winged Teal,IMG_9761

This summer, the American White Pelicans frequented the slough (pond) across the road. There was only one this time, accompanied by Black-bellied Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mallards, Gadwalls, teals, Northern Shovelers, an adult Bald Eagle; Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese; Ring-billed Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes.

The American White Pelican and a Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9763

In the willows along the road were White-crowned, White-throated, and Clay-coloured Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The birds were very difficult to photograph as they stayed hidden in the branches, like this White-crowned Sparrow,IMG_9774

I left the slough and headed north. A Blue Jay flew out of a neighbour’s yard and there was a Northern Goshawk sitting in a dead tree just up the hill. I was disappointed I didn’t get a photo of the goshawk, but just then, a Great-horned Owl landed in the tree in front of me.

The owl was uncomfortable with my presence so it took off. Fortunately, it landed nearby in the slough just off the road.

The Great-horned Owl flying away,IMG_9775

I quietly got out of the truck and snuck around the slough and got these photos — my best yet of the species!IMG_9782IMG_9784

After five minutes, the owl flew away, scaring a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs on take off,IMG_9789

The most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a Eurasian-collared Dove that flew out of the willows. At first, I though the dove was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then it came into view. I’ve never seen this species before, but their range is moving northward in Alberta so I might be seeing more of theses doves in the future.IMG_9791

The migrating geese enjoy feeding on the combined grain fields. I spent 15 minutes taking pictures with my new camera,DSC_0782DSC_0798

The building on the hill is Chatsworth School, a one-room school house between 1917 – 1953 for all the children in the area,DSC_0816DSC_0817

Playing with the exposure a little bit,DSC_0821

The sun was shining through the clouds,DSC_0829

After an hour and a half, I started heading back home and was passing by our wheat field. On a six-acre section of the field, we’re growing Red Fife Wheat, the oldest variety of wheat in Canada, originally from the Ukraine. This Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in the poplars along the field and there was a Merlin on a fence post.

Red-tailed Hawk,IMG_9803

I took these photos of the Merlin with my Nikon D610 with the 70-200mm lens. I cropped them just a bit,

DSC_0839DSC_0840DSC_0838

All the raptor species I saw on my drive: American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Great-horned Owl, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier.

Peregrine for the Win

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting outside, working on a blog post and enjoying the sounds of the geese and cranes on the slough (pond) across the road. At one point, I looked up from my laptop and saw a good-sized raptor hunting over the cattails in the slough.

I grabbed my binoculars and saw a bird that looked a lot like a Peregrine Falcon. I ran and got my scope and camera to get a better look. It was a Peregrine Falcon and was getting closer.

It eventually flew right over our house and headed west. This is one of the best species I’ve seen around our house and I’m so glad I decided to work outside.

The first time I saw a Peregrine Falcon was back in 2013 in Ontario. This is my first sighting for Alberta, and I can even add it to my “Yard List”.

View my eBird checklist from yesterday here.

Peregrine Falcon!IMG_9821

The same photo, just cropped,IMG_9821

Here’s a photo of the huge flock of Sandhill Cranes that was circling above me as the falcon flew over,IMG_9822IMG_9825

10 Days in the North

Last month, I enjoyed a wonderful 10-day trip to the Northwest Territories (NWT) with 4-H, and even got to do some birding. I hope you don’t mind a little bit of a 4-H detour before I get to the birds I saw!

Back in May, I headed down to Olds, Alberta, to participate in my first 4-H Selections. Selections is a program for senior Alberta 4-H members, from 16 to 20 years old. It’s a little like camp but more about personal development. At Selections this year, there were 103 members at Selections this year who had applied and been chosen for the program.

At Selections, members are scored on their 4-H Diary (members fill out a dairy each year to keep track of their 4-H career, because for every event you attend you receive points — and the more points you have, the higher you rank at Selections). During the program, members are also judged by the group facilitators and peers, and their knowledge of 4-H is tested with a quiz. Everything combined creates a ranking for the program.

At the end of the long weekend, I was honoured to be chosen as one of six members in the Premier’s Award Group. All six of us became 4-H Ambassadors for the province, for a two-year term. I didn’t receive the Premier’s Award, but I am thrilled  to be part of the group of six and to be able to represent 4-H as an ambassador.

At Selections, members are also awarded a variety of trips — for example, to Ottawa, California, Washington, DC, and the Northwest Territories. All of the trips are in conjunction with a 4-H event except for the Northwest Territories trip, which is a camping and agricultural tour. At the beginning of the program, each member ranks the trips in order of personal preference. I put down the 10-day Northwest Territories camping trip as my first choice as I’d never been before, camping is right up my alley, and it was a good time during my summer job to go.

At the awards ceremony, the NWT trip was the last to be awarded and I was over the moon to get a spot with 21 other members.

I highly recommend attending Selections to any 4-H members, as you meet some wonderful new friends and might even get an award or two out of the program.

In mid-August, my parents drove me to Edmonton, where the 4-H members and our chaperones boarded a bus and started the drive north to our destination — Yellowknife, NWT. We camped at each stop — Queen Elizabeth Campground, Hay River Territorial Park, Fred Henne Territorial Park, Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, Last Lake Guest House (absolutely charming!), Tangent Park Campground, and the Carson-Pegasus Campground.

We stopped at Hutch Lake, Alberta on our second day for our lunch break. The lake was beautiful and very clear. The Mallards were certainly enjoying it,

IMG_9214

A view of Hutch Lake,

IMG_9243

We made it!

IMG_9262IMG_9273IMG_9278

Common Ravens are very common in the NWT. I saw them everywhere and because they are important to the First Nations culture, they are very popular in the local art,IMG_9343

On the trip we stopped at a number of waterfalls, one of my favourite parts of the trip. This one is Alexandra Falls,IMG_9299IMG_9301IMG_9312IMG_9318IMG_9319

In Yellowknife, we camped at the Fred Henne Territorial Campground. It’s a very nice campground and the views from the Prospector Trail are beautiful.

Walking the Prospector Trail,IMG_9393IMG_9401IMG_9399

A view of Great Slave Lake from the trail,IMG_9415IMG_9397

The Fred Henne campground was very good for birding. I added Common Loon, Pine Siskin, and Belted Kingfishers to my Year List and three species — Hudsonian Godwit  and Gray Jay — to my Life List. Unfortunately, I was the only birder on the trip.

The Gray Jays were very inquisitive and came close to our campsite,IMG_9402

This Herring Gull was sitting on rocks along the shore of the Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife,IMG_9347

A juvenile Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9353

I’ve seen the Northern Lights before at home, but their vibrancy was nothing like what we saw in the NWT. The Northern Lights are famous for “dancing” in the sky and we certainly saw them do so,IMG_9432IMG_9439IMG_9432IMG_9422

In Yellowknife, we walked around Old Town and did some shopping and sightseeing. On one of the large rock formations, you can see the Common Raven design,IMG_9452IMG_9455

We said goodbye to the city by taking a photo in front of the Yellowknife sign,IMG_9460

We were all sleeping on the bus when we could feel our bus driver slam on the brakes. Looking out the window, we could see a mother Black Bear and her cub — everyone was wide awake at this point and trying to get photos of the two before they disappeared in the trees,IMG_9474IMG_9480Another roadside mammal we saw from the bus was a bull Woods Bison, grazing in the ditch,IMG_9469IMG_9467

We saw this sign about the bison earlier on the trip,IMG_9372

The waterfalls seemed to be situated perfectly for bathroom breaks! We got out of the bus and walked down the trail to view Lady Evelyn Falls.

If you look closely at the middle of the photo, right above the water, you can see two Red-breasted Mergansers flying — another species for my Year List.IMG_9489IMG_9483IMG_9488

The last falls we visited were Louise Falls,IMG_9500IMG_9499IMG_9506IMG_9507IMG_9517IMG_9514

On the way back to Edmonton, we toured historic Dunvegan, near Fairview, Alberta.  The Dunvegan area was first occupied by the Beaver First Nations people. European explorers arrived in the late 18th century and Fort Dunvegan, named after Dunvegan Castle in Scotland, was established in 1805 by the North West Company.

The Peace River,

IMG_9563

We spent our last full day heading to the Carson-Pegasus Campground near Whitecourt, Alberta. When walking around the campground, I saw over 30 Common Loons on the lake. You can view my eBird checklist from the campground here

Sunset over the lake at Carson-Pegasus,IMG_9576

I had a wonderful time on my trip and was sad to say goodbye to friends, new and old, and some new favourite places.IMG_9583

Fall Warblers and a New Nikon

Last month, I received a terrific 18th birthday present from my parents — a Nikon D610 with 50mm and 70-200mm lenses! I’d like to thank my parents very much for my new camera and also my good friend Nicole for her camera expertise and helping me to narrow my choices.

I went for a drive earlier this week with my Swarovski scope and binoculars, and Canon SX 50HS. I was thinking about bringing my new camera along, but the battery was a little low and I wasn’t expecting to see anything close enough to photograph with it.

At the first clump of willows I stopped and rolled down the truck window. I heard lots of “chips” coming from the bushes so I pished for a few seconds and then Palm Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens, and a Orange-crowned Warbler came into view. The Palm Warblers were very inquisitive and came particularly close, so I was immediately regretting not bringing my new camera.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were all over and they were very easy to get photos of as they didn’t move around as much as the other warblers.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler or as some like to call them, “butter butts”,

IMG_9707I was very excited to get this photo since the coverts, alula, and other feathers you usually don’t get to see are visible,IMG_9729IMG_9730There were a number of palm warblers that afternoon. Palm Warblers have bright yellow undertail coverts, and they bob their tails,IMG_9691 IMG_9696After 45 minutes, I decide to head back home and grab my new camera, better late than never. This is the first time I’ve photographed birds with this camera, so I still have lots of learning to do. The second time around, the warblers weren’t as cooperative, but I’m very happy with the shots I got.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

DSC_0688

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

DSC_0680

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

The Orange-crowned Warblers moved incredibly quickly through the willows making it almost impossible for me to get photos. I was able to capture this photo which I cropped just a little,

DSC_0695

Orange-crowned Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

If you have any suggestions/tips for me on taking photos with my new camera, I would love to hear them. Please leave any suggestions in the comments or email me at cnafarm AT gmail DOT com. Thank you!

Birding After Work

I’m sorry for being missing in action for much of this summer on my blog, but my summer job (working for our local agricultural society during the 108th annual Vermilion Fair), and farming, especially looking after my 100 broilers and 100 layers, have kept me very busy. On the up side, I got my driver’s license at the end of June, so I’m enjoying being more mobile.

This past week, I was finally able to get out and do some birding, something I haven’t been able to do for a while. On Wednesday, I brought my camera, binoculars, and scope in work, so when I was finished for the day, I stopped off at the Vermilion Provincial Park to see what was around.

There were lots of gulls flying around the river, mostly non-breeding Franklin’s Gulls, a few Bonapart’s Gulls, Ring-bills, and four Herring Gulls. Double-crested Cormorants were also quite prominent on the river, especially on the dock where many of them were vibrating the muscles and bones in their throats, called gular fluttering, to help them cool down.

On the way back to my truck, I heard a bird “chipping” in the poplars. I was able to see that the bird was an Orange-crowned Warbler.

Here’s my eBird checklist from my bird walk at the park, which included a Ring-billed Gull,

IMG_5112

a pair of Herring Gulls — the front one is a juvenile and I believe the back one is a first winter plumage bird (please add a correction in the comments if necessary!),

IMG_5090

A juvenile Franklin’s Gull, IMG_5108

Double-crested Cormorant and the juvenile Herring Gull, IMG_5077

After evening chores one night this week, I went out with my scope to our summerfallow field to look at some of the wet areas to see if there were any shorebirds feeding in the low spot. I did find a Semipalmated Plover — a year bird for me as I missed the species this spring, and five not-so-solitary Solitary Sandpipers.

I took a few photos of the plover before the resident Swainson’s Hawk flew over where the shorebirds were feeding and scared off the plover. The hawk landed in a bare tree and was immediately harassed by a pair of American Robins and Eastern Kingbirds.

Here’s my eBird checklist from that day, which included the Swainson’s Hawk and American Robin,

IMG_4997

An adult Semipalmated Plover,

IMG_5134

On Thursday after work, I went out for another bird walk around our yard. I first headed to the lake behind our house where I was hoping to find more shorebirds feeding along the lakeshore.

When I walking to the lake, a Merlin flew down and landed on a fence post in front of me until it noticed me and abruptly flew off,

IMG_5291

A Red Paintbrush,

IMG_5312

A juicy wild raspberry,

IMG_5316

There weren’t too many birds at the lake, but there were four adult Eared Grebes feeding their chicks on the lake, and also a group of Savannah and Clay-colored Sparrows flitting about in the bushes. A Killdeer, American Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, and Red-winged Blackbirds flew above me.

My eBird checklist from the lake.

Cedar Waxwing,

IMG_5304

Cattails,

IMG_5327

At the slough east of our house I found many more birds than at the lake: a Great Blue Heron, dozens of American Coots, a Black-bellied Plover, common Goldeneyes, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, Redheads, Savannah Sparrows, a male and female Northern Harrier, Spotted Sandpiper, Pied-billed Grebes, and more.

My eBird checklist from the slough.

I spent an hour watching the birds at the slough until I noticed one of my brothers on our deck, barbecuing hamburgers, so I headed home

This Solitary Sandpiper was feeding in a group of five other Solitary Sandpipers and a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper,

IMG_5337

“BirdWatch Canada” Monarch Butterfly Article

Part of my Young Ornithologist Internship last fall, at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, was a personal research project on the Monarch Butterfly migration at Long Point, which is one of three Monarch Butterfly reserves in Canada.

Instead of a final report, I was asked to write an article for BirdWatch Canada as part of that, I had to learn Excel to help update Monarch data from LPBO from 2007 to 2011. The other part was writing the article based on that data and my fall project, to update an article Tara Crewe wrote in 2007.

Getting the article ready involved a lot of work with a fairly short deadline, but just like the Young Ornithologist Internship, it was an amazing opportunity for a young naturalist to get involved with research and to be trusted with some serious work. I had lots of great support and help from the LPBO staff — Stu, Dayna, Tara, and Janice. My research project article was just published in the Winter edition of the quarterly Bird Watch Canada, from Bird Studies Canada. Here it is! — click to enlarge.

BirdWatchCanadaMonarchArticle