A New Camera

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

So on November 16th I finally went out and bought a new camera. There was nothing wrong with the old one except for a deficiency in zoom; while a 30x zoom seemed more than sufficient when I bought it, super-zoom cameras now have up to 83x zoom, and I’ve been thinking for a while that I could really benefit from that extra reach. As I still haven’t spent last year’s Christmas bonus, I decided it was time to go to Henry’s to take a look at their super-zoom cameras. In the end, I decided to go with the Nikon Coolpix P610 because its 60x zoom gives me double the zoom of my Sony Cybershot HX200V, and its image quality seemed much better than the Sony Cybershot’s 50x zoom camera. The price was also good since Nikon had just released the Coolpix P900, its 83x zoom camera; this meant I could stretch my bonus further and get a new scope, too (choosing the Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 spotting scope for its excellent quality). Although switching brands meant I would have to spend some time learning the Nikon’s controls, in the end the only thing I regretted was not getting this camera sooner in order to practice taking macro photos of dragonflies!

I took my camera out to Strathcona Park the next day. Hurdman Park is usually my first choice for weekday lunch-time birding, but with the LRT station under construction, access has become a problem. The path between the old transit station (now demolished) and the feeder trail has been closed, meaning that in order to access it, I have to walk west along the bike path south of the transit station to the bridge, then under that and along the river path to get to the tangles of the feeder trail. I just don’t have enough time on my lunch hour to cover such a large area. In addition, the transitway bridge will be closing soon, meaning that it will take an even longer just to get there with the bus detour. Perhaps when spring migration begins I’ll be able to get out in the morning before work, but until then I have no plans to return.

At Strathcona Park I got my first look at the new footbridge. It will be nice to be able to park at the Rideau Tennis Club and cross over to the Strathcona side, or vice versa; and once the edges of the river start freezing over, it could prove beneficial for getting closer to the diving ducks in the middle of the rapids.

Strathcona Park Footbridge

Strathcona Park Footbridge (Click to enlarge)

I decided to test my camera by photographing a scene across the river. I couldn’t believe how much detail was still visible when my camera was zoomed in at the full 60x zoom. Check out the detail on the fence (both photos can be enlarged by clicking on them):

Strathcona Park

Strathcona Park

I was sufficiently impressed with its reach, though photographing the ducks on the river was more difficult than I had expected – the Common Goldeneyes were actively diving, and I found it difficult to find them in the three seconds they were above the water’s surface with the camera at its maximum zoom. I had better luck with this male Hooded Merganser, which was closer to the shore – note the yellow eyes and completely dark bill which distinguishes it from the female Hoodie.

Hooded Merganser (male)

Hooded Merganser (male)

An Eastern Gray Squirrel feasting on some berries also caught my attention. Note the red crumbs in his fur:

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Click to enlarge)

There wasn’t much else to photograph at Strathcona Park, so I had to wait for the weekend in order to practice using my new camera. I thought there might be some interesting waterfowl in the ponds at Andrew Haydon Park, but all I found were the usual mallards and Canada Geese. I had never seen the park so devoid of waterfowl before, and took a few photographs of the Canada Geese swimming on the pond.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese (Click to enlarge)

A Ring-billed Gull standing on one of the rocks caught my attention, so I headed over toward it to take a few photos. I was impressed by the resulting image, not only because of the texture, but also because I could clearly see the water through the gull’s nostrils (at least in the enlarged photo)!

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull (Click to enlarge)

These two Ring-billed Gulls – an adult in non-breeding plumage and a juvenile – were just chilling out on the lawn. While a lot of birds are ignored because they are common, most of them have a beauty that are worth paying attention to – for instance, can you imagine the excitement a male Mallard would generate if this species only showed up here during migration? We are lucky that they are here year-round, and that we can see them up close any time we want! Crows, chickadees, robins, starlings and gulls are all beautiful in their own way, and can be difficult to photograph – for instance, I am still looking to get a good photo of a starling and a crow. Despite their tendency to live near humans, they are warier than you might think, and the light has to be just right in order to prevent them from appearing a featureless black. Gulls, fortunately, are easier to photograph, and this has become one of my favourite gull photos of the year.

Ring-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gulls (Click to enlarge)

From there I went to Mud Lake to see if I could capture any songbirds. They proved just as uncooperative, moving too fast to focus with the long zoom. Fortunately I found one bird that was happy just standing where she was!

Female Mallard

Female Mallard (Click to enlarge)

A little Red Squirrel in the woods also captivated me as I watched it carrying a mouthful of what looked like wood shavings into a tree cavity. I bet it will have a nice warm nest this winter!

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

This past weekend I spent some time in Stony Swamp to see what was around. The best bird of the weekend was one that eluded my camera – a Northern Goshawk at Sarsaparilla Trail! While walking through the woods I noticed a large bird flying up into the pine trees from the ground. A squirrel was chattering angrily, though I don’t know if the goshawk was interested in the squirrel or something else. I only managed a couple of glimpses of the bird through the pine branches, but I immediately noticed the large size, the large, broad tail, and the dense streaking on its upper breast. What struck me at the time was that it was an accipiter, but that the streaks were not the sparse tear-drops of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I tried to find a view that wasn’t obscured, and at that point the goshawk saw me and flew off deeper into the woods. Again I was struck by the large size and was regretted not being able to get a photo. This was my first confirmed Northern Goshawk at Sarsaparilla Trail, and a thrilling encounter for me.

I didn’t find much else on the trail, but I did manage to photograph some songbirds while I was there. This chickadee was one of a couple taking seeds from an old stump:

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

A male Red-breasted Nuthatch found the seeds at Old Quarry Trail to his liking. I’ve always found the vibrant orange and deep blue combination of the males very striking.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Click to enlarge)

So far I’ve been happy with my camera, though the settings and menus are just different enough from my Sony Cybershot to take some getting used to. The zoom is amazing for its size, and so far I’ve been pleased with the images. I can’t wait to try it out in the spring once the butterflies and dragonflies emerge!

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4 thoughts on “A New Camera

    • Well, the superzoom is definitely easier to carrier around! I’ve gotten used to the menus on the camera and have been happy with my macro photos, too. If you ever get the chance to get a superzoom at a good price, it’s definitely worth it.

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