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Nature Watch and Science

Tall trees and exotic birds: digiscoping in tropical climes

The White-fronted Falconet doesn’t make the photographer’s job easy, as it likes nothing better than to perch in the huge trees in Borneo’s tropical forests, which reach heights of up to 196 ft / 60 m. Azahari Reyes knows this region like the back of his hand and tells us why the long focal length and magnification in digiscoping help produce such exceptional photos.

© Azahari Reyes

Azahari Reyes lives and works in Borneo as a bird guide and photographer. He has specialized in digiscoping and also gives courses on it. He used an STX 30-70x95 spotting scope with a TLS APO adapter from SWAROVSKI OPTIK to shoot his photos.

I started digiscoping late 2007. This enabled me to document the behavior of birds and wild animals in the course of my birding tours in Sabah (Borneo).



Small falcon with a big appetite

I’m particularly interested in the White-fronted Falconet. Its body length of 4.3 in / 11 cm makes it the world’s smallest bird of prey, and its habitat is in northern Borneo. Its main source of food comes from small bird species, such as sunbirds and ioras, as well as butterflies.

  • © Azahari Reyes - White-fronted Falconets
  • © Azahari Reyes - Baya Weaver
  • © Azahari Reyes - Oriental Pied Hornbill
  • © Azahari Reyes - Black-headed Munia
  • © Azahari Reyes - Indigo Flycatcher

Tackling a challenge at a height of up to 196 ft / 60 m

The White-fronted Falconet’s favorite perch is the top of the gigantic tropical trees that can reach heights of between 131 and 196 ft / 40 and 60 meters. As a result, it is a real nightmare for a photographer to catch a shot of the White-fronted Falconet. However, thanks to digiscoping and the huge magnification it offers, photographers can still take impressive photos in such extreme conditions.



The tool for capturing excellent photos

The digiscoping equipment I’m currently using comprises an STX 30-70x95 spotting scope and TLS APO adapter, both from SWAROVSKI OPTIK, along with a Nikon V1 with a minimum focal length of 2430 mm. Thanks to this equipment, I managed to shoot some particularly good pictures during the last stage of the International Borneo Bird Race last year. For instance, I got a photo of one of a White-fronted Falconet pair that was hunting for prey one afternoon (see photo). What a real treat!