What did birders do without digital cameras?

Digital cameras are changing how birders watch and identify birds. Gone are the days of taking meticulous notes with carefully crafted sketches of a brown blob that resembles nothing in the book. Now all one has to do is snap a few shots with a digital camera. You can then either zoom in on the image immediately or rather work out the identification at a later stage on your computer. This method is particularly useful for species that are difficult to age, sex or even identify to a species level in the field.

Here’s an example. You’re out birding and see a small raptor flying overhead. Instead of pouring over it through your binoculars trying to scrutinize every feature you casually lift your camera and squeeze off a couple of shots. The image below is a normal view.

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

It’s difficult to get much detail on the image above. However, after some careful manipulation on your computer, voila, one can see all the pertinent id features of this juvenile Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. Key characteristics of this bird can now be viewed with ease.

Black Sparrowhawk

Black Sparrowhawk

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