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For most of us out there birding, capturing an image of the bird, butterfly or dragonfly is secondary to our identification and enjoyment of it. The line between photographer of wildlife and birder is however quite blurred and many an excellent image have been taken by a birder messing around with a camera. For myself I am a birder who takes photographs and for that to not be an entirely disappointing combination you need to have some kit that does the job.

I’ve mentioned before that I lug around a Canon something or other with the ‘birders’ lens’ the 100-400 attached. I do that because I can get flight shots of dots, record shots of things that need manual focus and moving birds in trees such as warblers. You only have to browse my efforts in these blog pages to see how varied my efforts have been. As well as the big lens I’ve tried digiscoping and seemed to be getting somewhere until my camera proved allergic to hitting a tiled Cuban floor. I’ve tried brackets and sleeves, holding the thing to the lens by hand and just about anything that I thought might work.

My wife has a Canon Powershot 35x optical zoom camera, it fits in your pocket, just about, and I’ve written before about how I have been contemplating shelving the big camera in favour of a back saving sub-compact. I tried it with a Nikon thing and the damn thing would not focus at times for no clear reason. Sandra’s Canon occasionally has the same problem. This is because the camera makers do not test their products with the naturalist photographer in mind and the faults only show up when we find them. Now Canon have upped the ante with their Canon Powershot SX50hs. A camera that offers 24mm-1200mm with the 50x optical zoom.

Last Sunday, Alain Bessette and I wandered St-Lazare sand pits. The light was mostly awful and the day cool and breezy at times. Not the ideal conditions for photography but I’d seen a lot of stuff taken by Alain previously and was interested to see how his $400 camera performed. Below is a selection of the shots that Alain took on the day. Some you would class as a record shot but hey, if you were submitting a Curlew Sandpiper photo as a back-up to a claim you’d be happy enough with the detail in the Semipalmated Plover, a bird that was c45m away.

The time is not far away when a sub-compact camera that has a reliable focus and the sort of optical zoom options a birder wants will be available. I’d fancy the Canon SX50 myself but I have a drawer full of failed experiments and I’m pretty sure that Sandra would (quite rightly) suggest we wait and see what the next one does.

Below are Alain’s shots, Snow Goose, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Semipalmated Plover and some Greater Yellowlegs.

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