Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

November 1, 2011

Thrill of Birding and Photography

Filed under: Birds, digital benefits, light, rarities — richditch @ 4:49 pm
Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Most birders are thrilled whenever they have the chance to see something new, and the pursuit of “life birds” (those seen for the very first time by the birder) drives most birders to seek out such opportunities. Almost as thrilling is the chance to see rare birds and vagrants to your home territory.

Bird photographers are thrilled when they can get close to their wild subject, and even more excited when they can do so with good early morning light on their subject.

This weekend I managed both with this vagrant Surf Scoter in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

The three species of scoter (Black, Surf, and White-winged) are essentially ocean birds, best seen along the coasts of the U.S. All three are vagrants inland, and are seldom seen in dry central Arizona. I’ve been lucky to see all three here in the past 17 years.

This Surf Scoter was discovered on a large artificial lake in Fountain Hills, AZ, on Saturday October 28, 2011. When a friend emailed from his iPhone that the bird was very close to the edge I drove out to see it hoping for photos. It was staying much farther away by the time I got there so I didn’t bother to take any photos but decided to return the following morning at first light.

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

My plan paid off. There were still two scoters present, and one of them was feeding close to the shoreline where I could set up low to the water. The early light was falling nicely on the close scoter and I took a lot of photos.

Since the light level was low I set my Nikon D300 to ISO 800. It does a better job of minimizing the noise than my D200 does and I feel comfortable using ISO 800 whenever I need it. All shots were taken with my usual bird optic – a Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S lens mounted on a Nikon TC20E matched 2x teleconverter.

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

I got good shots of a couple other species her as well, but I’ll save those for another post. I’ll definitely make more trips to this location to see what else I can capture.



  1. Sounds like a very fun and productive outing Rich, and certainly the type of story that lures us all out to bird and shoot.

    Comment by Chuck Gangas — November 1, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  2. Good for you Rich. I can imagine how excited you were to get these shots – for very good reason!

    Comment by rondudley — November 1, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  3. Awesome! The water gleaming off the bill and head and the light/color on the water is magical.

    Comment by Robert Mortensen — November 1, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  4. Fantastic Rich!

    Comment by Mia McPherson — November 3, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  5. Amazingly cool, Rich! Great shots and what a thrill!

    Comment by Lee Daniels — November 13, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

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