Taking away the noise

It’s been over a month since my last post, but don’t worry, I have still been birding and digiscoping in the interim. I decided to post a series of files created as I edited a flight shot I took this past winter of a Short-eared Owl that was residing close to my house. Since I digiscope, many of the shots I take do not initially show up on the computer screen accurately representing what I saw in the field. Take for an example this first shot below, the original file with no adjustments. The sun was beginning to set when the owls started flying but it was nowhere near this dark. The compensations my camera has to make to freeze motion thru an extra long lens it was not built to use means that it picks up less light than an SLR with a telephoto lens.

Cropping and lightening up the image results in something more like what I remembered, a blue sky with the underside of the owl catching the final reddish-orange rays of the day. Unfortunately, the resulting image (below) comes out looking very noisy, or grainy because of the extreme lighting adjustments I applied to the photo. I recommend clicking on the image to see a larger view and get a better idea of this noise I am talking about.

It is an identifiable image, but I am going for something that is both recognizable and pleasing to look at. Enter NoiseWare to rescue the day. This digital image noise reduction software does wonders to smooth out that noise while not losing any details in the image. Opening up the above image in the program and running it through the default settings resulted in the image below. I think you will agree that it is a much nicer image.

If anyone has more Photoshop techniques or tricks they know for salvage poorly exposed images like these, please leave some comments.

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The aberrant warbler and a firethroat


Yellow-breasted Chat © 2007 Drew Weber

Point counts have been good as of late. I was in Lancaster County a few days finishing up points in that area and my best find was a very outgoing chat. I had it singing during a point count near Muddy Run Reservoir so I marked the spot on my GPS and returned after my morning counts were finished. I only had to play a few phrases of its song on my car speakers before he popped up again, flying back and forth checking out who was trying to take his picture. Most shots I took were pretty bad but he landed on a utility tower long enough for me to fire off one shot and that is what you see. I had forgotten how fantastically goofy these warblers/tanagers look when doing their display flight. They have always reminded me of clowns.

I believe that chats are going to be separated from the New World warblers (Parulidae) fairly soon. I can’t remember the exact details but I think they will get their own family and be considered the evolutionary bridge between tanagers and warblers. Someone please correct me if my facts are way off.


Blackburnian Warbler © 2007 Drew Weber

In another lucky catch, I managed to photograph this brilliant male Blackburnian Warbler through my binoculars. This is not a method I have ever had much success with, and although its not a print worthy photo, and a little drabber than real life, I believe it captures some of the brilliance of the reddish orange throat these warblers flaunt. Blackburnian Warblers have a ridiculously high-pitched ending to their song and are one of the first to disappear as one’s ears lose those higher pitches. It makes me curious whether even with my good hearing I am missing parts of the song.


Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies © 2007 Drew Weber

At the same place where the Blackburnian was singing, there was a large congregation of 30-40 butterflies all in one clump. If anyone know what they were doing please leave a comment…

Flowing Waterfall

You might think I had nothing to do today, but in fact I saw quite a lot of birds (if you consider that doing anything). This waterfall is off one of the trails near Weis Ecology Center in northern New Jersey.

Birding has been good

With spring migration in full swing now, and no nasty weather to stop it sightings have really picked up. I was lucky enough to go home to Pennsylvania for a day and was able to find 7 species of warbler close to Lake Ontelaunee, one of my favorite places to bird in my county. My highlight was getting very close views at 2 different Northern Waterthrushes and realizing how different they look than the Louisiana Waterthrush. Another highlight was the Marsh Wren, a very good bird for the county.

At the hawkwatch, new birds have been arriving every day. Recently a Field Sparrow has been hanging out with the flock of Chippies behind the lookout, giving everyone great looks.

Yellow-rumped Warblers have been quite common the last few weeks but they are now in their beautiful breeding plumage and are really showing it off. There seem to be good movements in the mornings and evenings so I think I am seeing different birds each time I come up to the hawk watch.

Another new arrival that has really made his presence known is the Brown Thrasher. He just showed up a few days ago and was singing all by himself, desperately hoping for a female thrasher to come along and sing back. He was lucky and was accompanied the following day by someone who could apparently put up with his raucous cries, and possibly even thought they were beautiful.


Other birds recently heard and seen at the hawkwatch were Blue-headed Vireo (if it weren’t for dogs running loose in the park I would have an excellent shot), Warbling Vireo, Prairie Warbler and House Wren.

Warblers are a’coming!

Just to whet your appetite on what’s to come, here is my somewhat poor digishot of a Louisiana Waterthrush. I thought that putting everything in b&w except for the warbler itself would jazz it up a bit. I know that there have been recent controversies about doctoring photos but you have to remember that this is not photojournalism, its closer to art.

Anyway, this bird was neat, entertaining me on a less than exciting morning at the hawkwatch. He/she spent at least an hour, foraging in a flooded yard below the hawkwatch, pulling worms and other exciting food items out of the lawn. Unfortunately he did not sing, but that is something I will be able to hear most mornings this summer as I do my point counts for the PA Breeding Bird Atlas.

Inquisitive Birds

Some days at the hawk watch the weather is less than ideal and the the hawks are not flying. These are the times when it is particularly fun to watch the other local birds behavior. Since I am stationary most of the day, the birds become used to my presence and settle down to enjoy the bird seed I put out for them. Here are some of the looks they give me as they are eating or perched around the hawk watch.



Turkeys at Garret

This morning at Garret Mountain Reservation in New Jersey I came across a group of Wild Turkeys and managed this shot of one of the fine looking toms. There was not anything else new at the park that I didn’t see yesterday but Chipping Sparrows were more numerous. I heard rumors of several Pine Warblers but didn’t come across any in todays meandering.