Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Hauling the Scope

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
"You're not hauling that thing up the mountain are you? You must be mad!"

This is a comment I heard more than once, in a variety of accents, during our Guatemala adventure. Well, perhaps I AM mad, or at least a little obsessed about getting good looks at birds. But I almost always haul a spotting scope along on my birding trips, treks, and tours. Yes it can be hard on the back, shoulders, arms, hands (the hand-pinching tripod is a birding standard) legs, feet, and other parts of the body to haul a spotting scope along on a hike, but all it takes is one or two cooperative birds and all doubts about the scope-hauler's sanity disappear.

My four primary reasons for the always lugging a scope along are:

1. If you need a scope for a tough ID, a distant mystery bird, or to document a rarity, and you do not have a scope, you will hate yourself.

2. Digiscoping. Hard to do without a spotting scope. I am newly re-immersed in digiscoping and find it to be exhilarating.

3. I spot birds. Scope them. Julie sketches. This scores me major points (if the birds cooperate) and forwards the global cause of bird art.

4. Finally, my main reason for hauling my scope along: sharing great looks at birds with others. This just gives me a huge buzz, especially when sharing the scope with non-birders, beginning bird watchers, or kids. It's also very cool to show a lifer to an avid bird watcher through your scope. This is how I've heard some of the most colorful expletives ever uttered by birders.

My back is still a little tight and sore from my 10 days of scope hauling, but I would not trade the looks, pictures, and smiles we got for anything.

Here are a few of the scope-related images from our Guatemala journey (please note: I will feature digiscoped images in future posts).

Special thanks to Swarovski Optik, NA, and Clay Taylor for the loaner 65mm scope. This significantly lightened our load, since the 80mm I own is much heavier and bulkier.

I'd also like to thank Julie, Simon, Marco, Hugo, and Hector for helping to carry the scope along the way.
Scoping a bird in the canopy of the rainforest reminded me of those energetic games of Twister in my youth. We were looking at the Cabanis' (azure-rumped) tanager at Los Andes. Given the crummy overcast light conditions, we could only make out the birds' spotted breasts with my spotting scope.

At Corazon del Bosque, an armed guard (there to prevent villagers from cutting firewood in the reserve) enjoyed looking at a male hooded grosbeak.
Birding Tikal with Marco (left) and Hector (right) was greatly enhanced by having two scopes.

Simon Thompson, of Ventures, Inc, used our scope to sort out the identity of a Hammond's flycatcher at Cerro Alux.

Ana Cristina Prem of INGUAT, organized our trip and was along on every birding hike. Here she's looking at a horned guan on Volcan San Pedro.

Julissa, la Pajarera, scoped out a roadside hawk at Takalik.

At Tikal, our scopes drew a crowd while we watched the orange-breasted falcons, various parrots, and a pair of toucans. Julie was merrily sketching along.

Just when Julie was finishing a falcon sketch, some non-birding civilians "bogarted" the scopes. I was asked to put a stop to this.
In the late afternoon at Tikal, a band (a closet?) of coatimundis came through. We did not offer them a look through either scope.

Ahhh, birding with a spotting scope. Makes BOTB a happy camper.


On March 8, 2006 at 8:30 AM Rondeau Ric said...

A closet, a CLOSET??


On March 8, 2006 at 7:05 PM Zeladoniac said...

Welcome back, and I'm dying to know about your digiscoping setup. Feel free to describe it for those of us contemplating a purchase. Awesome travelogue!

On March 9, 2006 at 10:53 PM Bill of the Birds said...


Will do in a future post....

Ric: Don't act like YOU did not think of the SAME pun...

On March 17, 2006 at 11:18 AM Kenneth Alvarado -INGUAT- said...

It's great to hear from you, my friend!
Again, thank you for a sensational birding. I've never had more fun birding, and I hope we can do it again soon.

I'll be in touch
All the best,