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Garden Birding

Experiencing nature in our own backyard

There are numerous opportunities available right outside our door, in our own garden or in the nearby park to experience nature close-up. There are plenty of lovely, exciting discoveries to make, according to what Gudrun Kaufmann tells us. Digiscoping combines for her, in a delightful way, observing wildlife with the chance also to capture unique moments in pictures.

© Mag. Gudrun Kaufmann

Gudrun Kaufmann is a biologist and has been involved in observing animals and nature from her earliest years. She used an ATX 25-60x65 spotting scope with a PA-i5 adapter for iPhone* 5/5s from SWAROVSKI OPTIK to shoot her photos.

I currently use an ATX 25-60x65 for digiscoping in the garden. The benefit of this spotting scope is that the closest focusing distance is just 6.9 ft / 2.1 m. This makes it perfect for capturing even the smallest details using the macrophotography technique. I have a carbon fiber tripod to provide a stable base. I use an iPhone* 5s as my camera, along with the new PA-i5 adapter.

There are now loads of apps available that enable you to edit photos that you’ve just shot directly on your iPhone®*. This means that you can share delightful impressions immediately with your friends.

Sensible shading

Using the equipment in the right way ensures that the quality of the pictures and videos isn’t too bad either. What is important is to have a stable set-up, especially when filming, so as to avoid vibrations. The easiest way to achieve this is by using a good tripod and the earphone of the iPhone*, which is used as a remote timer. Focus and magnification are obviously set using the spotting scope, while the iPhone* is responsible for light exposure and fine focusing. Photo apps also offer the chance to separate focusing from light exposure.

One problem that users of smartphones are familiar enough with occurs when the light is bright. In these conditions, the image on the display can hardly be seen. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is often helpful with this as it can provide the display with some shade.

Biodiversity in the garden

Birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, snails, countless insects, and plants are among the typical inhabitants of a garden. By creating a biotope or “overgrown corner” and favoring native plants when designing your garden, you can offer a variety of habitat structures and food for numerous animals that inhabit it.

Take up position where the singing is

Digiscoping also allows you to experience and photograph shy animals like birds and reptiles close-up. Nature lovers will have already noticed that birds in particular are rather camera-shy. A House Sparrow can sit there quite nonchalantly in a bush next to the patio, singing away. But as soon as the camera is aimed at it, it disappears. Your own garden is actually a good place for you to tackle this challenge. You do this by memorizing where the Sparrow’s favorite place is to sing. You then look for a good position for your spotting scope and set it up. As soon as the bird has become used to it, it will sing again as usual. If you then go over to the spotting scope and only have to attach your iPhone®*, in most cases, it won’t be bothered by this anymore.

Nest boxes and bird tables, positioned in attractive, camera-friendly places – for both bird and photographer – increase the chances of shooting good pictures. The same is true of bird-baths, but with a word of caution! Proper hygiene must be observed with bird tables and bird-baths to prevent any harm to the creatures.

Incidentally, you can achieve good pictures even with the window closed. If you make sure that the room is kept dark, the birds won’t notice it.

  • © Mag. Gudrun Kaufmann - Brambling
  • © Mag. Gudrun Kaufmann - Common toad
  • © Mag. Gudrun Kaufmann - Wasp
  • © Mag. Gudrun Kaufmann - Common wall lizard

Reptiles are slower in the morning

Reptiles prefer sunny spots. Snakes in particular, just shortly before they are due to molt, spend the whole day, every day, in the same spot, where they can lie for lengthy periods sunbathing. It is best to photograph reptiles in the morning. These creatures need to warm up first, which means that they are still sluggish and slow. If you haven’t already set up your equipment the night before, you should start shooting photos at the farthest distance away possible, and gradually get closer to take them, so as not to frighten the animals.

Up close to the garden’s smallest inhabitants

On the other hand, I think that macrophotography is the best option for taking photos of insects. It is fairly simple to get insects visiting flowers in front of the lens if you focus on a suitable flower and wait for the insect to visit it. But I recommend that you don’t use the spotting scope’s close-up range to the absolute limit to leave yourself with some room for maneuver. Lastly, insects move, and there is often a feeling of great disappointment if there was the chance to photograph a bee in flight in front of a blossom, but the maximum close distance was used for the actual position of the flower, making it impossible to focus.

Nature is amazing and can also be discovered in unusual places. The opportunities for capturing delightful moments in pictures are almost limitless. Enjoy!

*iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc.