Thursday, December 11, 2008

Highlights of 2008: Birthday Lifer!

Bat falcon, Flores, Guatemala. March 3, 2008.

Am I jinxing myself by looking back at some of the year's most enjoyable birding moments before the year is even complete? I certainly hope not.*

One of the highlights from early 2008 was my birthday bat falcon in Flores, Guatemala. The bat falcon is a fairly common raptor in the tropics. In fact it was something of a sore point for me that I had not seen one after more than half a dozen trips to its range in Central America. I'd gotten amazing looks at a larger (and much rarer) relative, the orange-breasted falcon on two different trips to Tikal, but the bat falcon had eluded me.

My pal Jeff Bouton knew this and made it his special quest to add this bird to my list. He succeeded in high style, scoring me a Falco rufigularis on my actual birthday, last March 3rd.
I told this tale here in the pages of Bill of the Birds last March. JB shared his version of the event on his blog, The Leica Birding Blog.

The birthday bat falcon in Flores. It was a very patient bird.

The bat falcon, and being surrounded by friends and loved ones, made my birthday in 2008 a Happy Bird Day.

Gallo and life birds—they just seem to go together.

I believe there was also some beer and ice cream involved, though not at exactly the same time.

I get an ice cream assist while photographing the b-day bat falcon. Image by Jeff Bouton.

*The automatic URL pointer for this Blogspot version of Bill of the Birds went slightly haywire yesterday morning, so some of you may have been mistakenly redirected to the old Blogger BOTB. If that happened, sorry about that. You might want to fix your bookmark by copying the URL of this version. Or just sign up for the RSS feed and brace yourself for a daily helping of BOTB with a side of flies.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Bagging the B-day Bat Falcon

My birthday bat falcon in Flores, Guatemala.

My amigo Jeff Bouton of Leica Sport Optics helped me break a three-year birding jinx by showing me a bat falcon in Flores, Guatemala on my recent birfday.

He recounts the adventure, and in vivid style, on the Leica Birding Blog and you can read it simply by clicking here.

I will be telling my own version of the same story here in BOTB in the coming days. But I wanted to give Jeff a shout-out for his birding generosity and kind words. Thanks JB!

Jeff Bouton of Leica Sport Optics is also a raptor ID expert.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Leica digiscoping set-up. Courtesy Mike McDowell.

Most birders are now familiar with the term digiscoping—using a digital camera to take photographs or digital video through a spotting scope or (less commonly) through binoculars. There are countless websites devoted to sharing digiscoped images (here is a good one from Leica, and one from Swarovski, one from Zeiss, one from Nikon, and another one affiliated with Eagle Optics). There are also online forums where digiscoping's ever-changing technology is discussed and debated.

I learned a new "digi" term at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas last weekend. But before I describe it, let me set the scene for you.

The SHOT Show is held annually in either Las Vegas, Nevada, or Orlando, Florida. It is the outdoor industry's largest trade show, drawing more than 30,000 buyers from retail gun shop owners, to travel outfitters, catalog publishers, hunting club managers, law enforcement, and the military. There to display their wares and services are manufacturers of anything you might need for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, recreational shooting, gun or knife collecting—it's actually impossible to describe the scope of the SHOT Show. It is, some would say, naturally, a very male-dominated show.

So you can imagine the conflict—the torment even—when the SHOT Show's regularly scheduled operating hours conflicted with the year's biggest sports event: The Super Bowl. We're talking thousands of people who HAD to stay in their display booths while the most-watched sporting event in the world took place last Sunday afternoon.

SHOT Show booth operators are nothing if not resourceful. Many of the largest companies at the show spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their booths. Some of this money is spent on the highest-end video display monitors and these are often mounted where passersby can watch a promotional message from the company, or videos of their products in use, or, most often, episodes of the hunting shows they sponsor. So in spite of warnings to the contrary, several of these companies with massive booths and steroidal TV sets tuned in to the Super Bowl. As you might guess, these booths were very crowded during the game.

As I was walking the show aisles, I happened upon the Leica Sports Optics booth where my friend Jeff Bouton was working. Behind Jeff was a TV with a scruffy-looking Tom Petty singing away during the Super Bowl halftime show. The following conversation ensued.

"Jeff! Dude, you guys have the GAME on!" I said.
"No, we don't. That would mean we had an outside video feed. We do not," he replied.
"But how....?"
"It is digi-poaching my friend!"
"You see that massive booth 50 yards down this aisle here?"
"Do you see their huge-screen TV tuned to the game?"
"We are demonstrating the clarity of our Leica digiscoping system by focusing on that screen and sending the image to this otherwise normal TV display in our booth."
"Digi-poaching! Genius!"
"No amigo, merely superior optics doing what they do best!"

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Amazing Rocks of NM

New Mexico has lots of interesting rock formations. Some of them, like Camel Rock (above) near Española, are named for what they look like.

We found a really interesting formation south of Bosque del Apache NWR. It's called Bouton Rock because it looks just like Jeff Bouton, Leica's sports optics/pro-birder dude.

It's a sort of Mt Rushmore of Digiscoping.

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