The Benefits of Taking Video Footage

Hummingbird at Feeder. Photo courtesy of Mike McDowell.

If you own digiscoping equipment and find yourself lucky enough to have a rare bird coming to your backyard feeders, remember to take some video footage. Most point-and-shoot digital cameras on the market today have the capability of recording video stream. The cool thing is, you can make a frame-by-frame analysis on your computer for any diagnostic field marks or behaviors.

Ideal for positive identification

Take this Selasphorus hummingbird as an example. In the Midwest, the two Selasphorus hummingbird species most likely found are Allen’s and Rufous. A careful examination of the tail feathers can help distinguish the two species. With your digital camera set to single, or even continuous, it's very unlikely you'll be quick enough to capture a crucial flit of the tail feathers. Because the shutter speed of the video setting is generally much faster, around 1/1000th of a second, you're much more likely to freeze the action.

In 40 seconds of recorded video, this was the only frame that showed enough detail of the tail to determine the width of R5 (the fifth retrix tail feather), which is strongly suggestive for Rufous Hummingbird. The quality of a video frame will not be as good as a single picture, but taking advantage of video can make all the difference when submitting a rarity to a records committee.

Article and hummingbird photo contributed by Mike McDowell, an avid digiscoper, amateur naturalist, and Eagle Optics employee. Visit Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog.