First Coast Digiscoping Trip
We rose before the dawn on Saturday to sport our wares and try our luck on the beautiful grounds of Washington Oaks State Park. The leaders were assembled and waited. In all there were four sport optics reps from as many companies assembled plus international digiscoping talents Neil Fifer and Paul Hackett (who had travelled from Hong Kong, and the UK respectively for the benefit of the cause). We then eagerly awaited our crew of participants. First one, then a second, and finally a third participant... we were then told we would meet 2 more at the park and be assisted by the park naturalist! 7 guides and 5 participants, now that's a first! ;)
Our first stop was to shoot the sun as it quickly ascended into the sky!
digiscoped Rose with morning dew
After which we finally arrived at Washington Oaks and made our way into the woods. In the early morning light under a full canopy, finding co-operative photographic subjects was a challenge, so we spent some time in the gardens reviewing techniques on the more stationary flowers. It was here that Paul ALMOST saw his first North American hummingbird..... it was admittedly close!
Along with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, were calling Indigo Buntings, singing Red-eyed Vireos, and Orchard Orioles. Given the ratio of leaders to participants coupled with the fact that at least 2 in the crowd were not digiscoping, I moved into my more traditional bird guide roll.
while birding I almost captured a Northern Waterthrush feeding on caterpilars in the shade of the oaks, but at 1/10 sec shutter speed, a constantly bobbing tail becomes a blur!
The migrant search was a big success and we got great views of male Orchard Orioles, young and old. The heavily moss-laden oaks provided the perfect spot for singing Northern Parulas which seemed everywhere. We heard Prairie warblers singing nearby and saw a Black & White Warbler. A high, thin "Tsit-Tsit" revealed the hiding spot of an uncharacteristically still Worm-eating Warbler. A male Cape May Warbler gave tantalizing, albeit brief, views as it flit through the canopy of the oaks. The cooperative Northern Waterthrushes performed admirably amidst the oaken leaf litter, while the ever present Indigo Buntings teased us with calls from their hidden leafy perches. "Pit-a-tuck!" a stunning male Summer Tanager called as if to say "look at me". We happily obliged, as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flashed across an opening showing red upperwings. Not what I had expected from this digiscoping trip but great fun all the same! Who doesn't love migration after all?
Great Horned Owl adult with chick
At the buzzer though, a fantastic photo op materializes as we are preparing to load the bus for our return... Someone has located an adult Horned Owl with young along one of the trails! As our time in wonderful Washington Oaks comes to a close, 10 digiscopers jostle to find a fleeting window through which the birds can be seen and photographed. That was a picture in of itself!
typical of FL youth, this sleepy youngster soaks up the sun
We couldn't have scripted a better ending to a wonderful visit to a beautiful park!