Wild Goose Chase: Wood Sandpiper
The chance to get two life birds in SoCal in the same day led to a literal wild goose chase. On Sunday 3/12/2023, my wild goose chase took over 350 miles of driving and added several year birds as well. The first leg was a 75 minute drive to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. We were able to get into a private duck club at which a Wood Sandpiper was resident. We were only the second guided group admitted. The Wood Sandpiper stayed partially hidden and quite a distance away for more than an hour. It then flew to another pond. When I reached the new location, it was much closer, in more open reeds and better light. These images taken with my 100-400 lens with a 2x crop factor required only slight centering crops and resizing.
Desert Spiny Lizard at Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR Visitors Center elev. -220′
It seems like nearly every trip to the California deserts lately, I encounter Desert Spiny Lizards (Sceloporus magister). They are resident in desert habitats across the American Southwest and northern Mexico and can be anywhere in elevation from well below sea level to about 5000 feet.
In this article, we’ll be covering best practices for using binoculars. Every birder has binoculars, but not every birder knows or understands how to get the best results from them: how to set them up, how to hold them, and how to wear them for optimal performance. Continue reading
Arriving at the Short-tailed Albatross.
Even on the most banal of days, birding is always an adventure. You often miss expected birds and see surprises. Sometimes, a rarity shows up and the chase is on. On Saturday, June 5th a few miles out of San Pedro, California, a fishing boat captain found a bird he did not recognize, so he texted a photo to a friend he knew could help. The bird turned out to be a Short-tailed Albatross!
Goodbye Eagle Optics Rangers. Hello Barska Level ED
Barska Level ED 10×42 Open Bridge
One of the most popular low-cost binocular series in the history of Optics4Birding has been the Eagle Optics Rangers. The Ranger went through several incarnations and improved each time. So, when Eagle Optics closed, we were disappointed to lose the Rangers, and we started looking for a good replacement. In January 2018, we found the Barska Level ED Open Bridge binoculars. Even without a head-to-head comparison, we knew had found our replacement. So, we arranged an evaluation piece from Barska to try them out. Read on to find out why we feel so strongly about the Barska Level ED binoculars. Continue reading
Elegant Tern in flight
Terns at Bolsa Chica
Elegant Terns galore! In late spring and early summer, one of the birding spectacles in Southern California is the colony of terns at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, Orange County. The pretty estuary (as its name translates from Spanish) has been host to twelve species of terns, with Common, Royal, Caspian, Gull-billed, Black, breeding Black Skimmer, Forster’s, Least, and Elegant, and rarities Sooty, Sandwich, and Bridled. Continue reading
Kowa TSN-EX16 Extender
Kowa TSN-EX16 1.6x extender.
Kowa America recently released the TSN-EX16 Extender. The extender is placed between the body of a Kowa TSN-880 or TSN-770 spotting scope and the eyepiece and multiplies the standard magnification by 1.6x. This is analogous to photographic lens extenders that mount between a camera’s lens and body. With the current 25-60x zoom eyepiece (Kowa TE-11WZ) that fits these spotting scopes, the resultant magnification becomes 40-96x!
But what about the historical downsides of extenders? How does the optical quality hold up? Is there much loss of light? What about sharpness and clarity? I took out my trusty TSN-884 and Panasonic Lumix G6 to find out. An accommodating Peregrine Falcon stayed long enough for me to get some test shots. Continue reading
Filigree Skimmer face on
When the dog days of summer become the birding doldrums, some birders turn to other flying creatures. The most accessible of these are butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, all of which require binoculars with excellent close focus. It was unusual recently that a birder birding San Timoteo Creek in Redlands, Riverside County, CA discovered a pair of Filigree Skimmer dragonflies (Pseudoleon superbus). As the species has only recorded twice before in California, we went to take a look. Continue reading
A Mountain Garter Snake captures a California Vole.
We’ve written before about the featherless joys of birding (Desert Bighorn Sheep, Western Zebra-tailed Lizard) – those occasions when being out birding puts us in the right place to see other animals doing what they do. So on a recent Sea & Sage Audubon trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada, we were treated to the spectacle of a garter snake that had just captured a vole.
Gray Thrasher at Famosa Slough August 2, 2015
Gray Thrasher is a non-migratory endemic to Baja California, so when Sunday afternoon on August 2, 2015 was interrupted with a report of the first US occurrence in San Diego, we had to make the 75 mile drive and take a look.
Finding the Gray Thrasher
The Gray Thrasher was found by John Bruin, Lisa Ruby, and Terry Hurst at the southwest end of Famosa Slough. This area has had its share of rarities, including Bar-tailed Godwit. Once we arrived and parked, we quickly found a couple of dozen birders standing around. Others were searching for the bird in other parts of the area. We learned where it had been seen (about 45 minutes before our arrival) and which way it went. Since it obviously wasn’t where everyone was standing, we decided to look around. Just after our fourth pass by a large lemonade berry bush, someone spotted the Gray Thrasher deep in the foliage. Birders surrounded the bush looking for a better angle. All of a sudden, the thrasher decided it was hungry and came out onto the slope to forage in the leaves and twigs only about 15 feet away from us. That was too close for my Kowa TSN-884, but just right for binoculars.