The moon becomes very reddish in color as the total eclipse progresses. Light refracted from our atmosphere dimly lights the “blood moon”.
The first of four total eclipses of the moon was visible late in the evening of April 14, 2014. A blood moon is another name for a total lunar eclipse. The refracted light as it passes through our atmosphere is the only light that hits the moon. In essence, this has the effect of casting a red sunset onto the moon. Going forward, one of the remaining three total eclipses of the moon will occur each 6 months. This frequency of total eclipses has not occurred in over three hundred years. This is a pleasurable and easy event to enjoy with binoculars.
The events are also unique for multiple other reasons. The first reason is because all four eclipses will be visible from somewhere in North America. This first eclipse had the added attraction of also being on the same night as the closest approach of Mars to the earth since 2008. Just below the red planet was the blood moon. A celestial event that will not happen again in our lifetimes. Continue reading
Black-headed Grosbeak: Aliso and Wood Canyon Regional Park, 04/13/13
Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park in Laguna Niguel, California is a wonderful place to go in the spring. Summer resident breeding birds are often perched up and singing. The habitat is a combination of coastal sage scrub with willow and cottonwood riparian areas. A road parallels the creek that runs down the center of the canyon. Late March and early April is the perfect time to visit, because you can see and hear Greater Roadrunner, Least Bell’s Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Therefore, I headed there to try digiscoping with my micro 4/3 format camera through the Swarovski ATX Modular Eyepiece with the Swarovski 85mm Modular Objective. The Chats weren’t in yet. I saw one Blue Grosbeak but it was high in a willow against marine layer clouds – a difficult background to work with.
As luck would have it, I found this Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus posted up and singing. The bird sat low enough that there was foliage in the background. The Grosbeak was so vivid and sang beautifully. Therefore, I immediately decided to take a video. Fortunately, it was easy to mount the camera to the scope, thanks to the Swarovski TLS-APO SLR camera adapter, and I was rolling seconds after I had focused on the Black-headed Grosbeak with the ATX 85 spotting scope.
The pale downy feathers are the Grosbeak’s insulation system. He was fluffed-up because the chill from the previous night had not yet left the air.
We recently got the new Swarovski ATX-85 spotting scope in for evaluation and have really enjoying digiscoping birds with it. In addition to the crystal clear, tack sharp image quality, this scope also has a really well-designed digiscoping options for point-and-shoot cameras as well as micro 4/3 and standard DSLR cameras. Below are a few modest examples.
A Salton Sea Chase
Nashville Warbler, digiscoped with the Swarovski ATX-85
We drove to the Salton Sea, looking for the recently reported Cave Swallows. There we found a group of Nashville Warblers playing in a palo verde tree, easily 70 yards away. In this case, the distance actually helped, as it gave us a few more seconds’ time to get one of these hyper-kinetic little birds in frame for long enough to snap off a shot or two. Most of the shots didn’t work out, primarily because of obscuring branches, but this one did. Now how often do you see people digiscoping a quick bird like a Nashville Warbler?! This picture was taken with a Nikon CoolPix P 300 camera, using Swarovski’s DCB II adaptor and the Swarovski ATX-85 spotting scope.
More Local Digiscoping
Digiscoping a Greater Yellowlegs with the ATX-85
We chased a potential Solitary Sandpiper along San Diego Creek in Irvine early one morning. It was a very gray, overcast morning with a heavy marine layer, so there wasn’t much light available. We dipped on the Solitary but got this very handsome Greater Yellowlegs as compensation. We pushed the ISO setting on the Nikon CoolPix to 800 to stop the motion of this actively feeding bird. Thereafter, everything came pretty easily.
Lastly, given that this is a system new to us, working quickly under sub-optimal conditions, the results were good! We are really looking forward to getting to know it well!