Friday 11 September 2009

Description of Acute Paucity of Bird Posts Syndrome (APOBPS), Its Diagnosis, Treatment and Stuff Like That in Relation to a Bird Blog in Sri Lanka

By Amila Salgado
Acute Paucity of Bird Posts Syndrome (APOBPS) is described for the first time. Notes on its diagnosis, complications, implications and possible ramifications are discussed in relation to an affected bird blog in Sri Lanka. Results follow a prospective observational study over one year to formally characterise this condition. A possible treatment is suggested in relation to the Sri Lankan case, based on positive results seen in pre-clinical evaluations and stuff like that.

The Fly
Plate 1 A Positive symptom: This is a Large fly (Order: Diptera) in my home garden 11 Sep, 2009.

Keywords: digiscoping, digiscopy, blogosphere, birding, APOBPS, blog, canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L Lens.

A bird blog is an online journal of bird and birding related stuff of a birder (Salgado, 2007). Bird blogs that strictly discuss birds and birding related matters are essentially rare these days. This is evident from the fact that even the top bird bloggers leaving room to discuss non-birding matters in their blogs (Bergin et al. 2007).

Therefore, the modern attitude seems to suggest that a certain amount of non-birding content is not too unhealthy for a bird blog after all. This seems reasonable given the diversity of "other things" a birder confronts during birding explorations.

However, an recent obserations have have shown that certain bird blogs seem to constantly deviate from posting bird and birding content, leading to the condition identified here for the first time as Acute Paucity of Bird Posts Syndrome (APOBPS). It is characterised by gradual drop in bird posts in blogs that are portrayed to the outside world primarily as bird blogs.

Symptoms and diagnosis.
You open a bird blog and see a frigging dragonfly first, or such thingamajig that have absolutely nothing to do with birds.

Elusive Adjutant young male
Plate 2: A positively positive symptom: Elusive Adjutant Aethriamanta brevipennis brevipennis young male in my home garden, Kaduwela, Sri Lanka.

Other such deviations include posts dedicated to grasshoppers, garden spiders, beetles, shrub frogs, butterflies, snakes, stick insects, robberflies, Leopards and even Blue Whales, for heaven's sake!

Robberfly feeding on a tiny fly
Plate 3: An advanced symptom: Robber fly (Order: Diptera) feeding on a tiny fly (Order: Diptera) in my home garden, Kaduwela, Sri Lanka.

Basically, any bird blog that has less than 65 % of bird and birding-related posts can be taken as APOBPS positive cases.

At the onset of the APOBPS, bird blogs show a high frequency of recurring theme posts such as Macro Monday (Salgado, 2009b), Wordless Wednesday (Ciccone, 2009b) and Sky Watch Friday (Tabib, 2009) in an obsessive compulsive sort of way, with very little or no birding content. Note: the latter used to be called Tabib's Bird Blog when I discovered it.

In extreme cases affected bird blogs carry dedicated non-bird posts in serial-post style (Salgado, 2009c).
Initial investigations confirm the prevalence of APOBPS symptoms increasingly in bird blogs that are linked with affected blogs (Ciccone, 2009a), raising new fears whether APOBPS could grow into pandemic propotions. Studies are currenly under way to ascertain this.

If untreated, APOBPS results in an affected bird blog to transmogrify into one other than a bird blog., i.e. a natural history blog. Its overall implications and visitor traffic needs to be assessed further.

A prospective observational study (or something like that).
Digiscopy has been my preferred method of photographing birds since time immemorial. That's like since 2004. It basically involves the attachment of a digital camera to the eyepiece of a spotting scope, using a homemade adapter or mount and shooting through the lens of the spotting scope to take cracking photographs (Poh, 1999).

This in my case is currently achieved through a Kowa TSN 823 telescope (with 20-60 x zoom eye-piece) with Nikon Coolpix 5100 camera—both married together with custom-made adapters.

So in other words, if I have a bird to photograph in the wild now, I would reach for my digiscoping gear rather than my point and shoot: Panasonic Lumix FZ-18 camera, although the latter has the capacity for achieving decent results as shown in Plate 4.

Serendib Scops Owl
Plate 4 Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmani photographed at night time. Aug, 2008.

Over the years, I have taken some decent shots by means of digiscoping (Plate 5 and Plate 6 - using Nikon Coolpix 4500). Some of them have featured in articles authored and co-authored by me (Salgado, 2006 and Goodale et al. 2008) and authored by others (Lord, 2007 and Ritschard and Schweizer, 2007) in journals and magazines, local and overseas.

Red-faced Malkoha
Plate 5. A Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus with a Giant stick insect Phobaeticus hypharpax prey in the beak at Sinharaja 'World Heritage' rain forest, Sri Lanka. This image was used in an article by me in Forktail - The Journal of Asian Ornithology.
Chestnut-backed OwletPlate 6. Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanononum Digiscoped in Jan 2007 at Sinharaja 'World Heritage' Rain forest. This image was used by Ritschard and Schweizer in 2007 for an article in BirdingAsia 7.

However, as of recently for multitude of reasons I have not been motivated enough to do digiscoping of birds much. In all honesty, I would have loved to have photographed some of those birds seen. But, I simply have lacked the inner drive, the hunger, the killer instinct to bag a photograph of a bird by means of digiscoping.
This accounts for the drought of bird images and bird posts, which has gradually pushed this blog to a APOBPS postive one.

Let me be honest. Birds were my first love—the very reason why I fell in love with nature. It will always be like that. So I always like to portray myself as a birder although with time I have acquired interests in natural history. Okay, without getting too emo, let’s dig deep to the reasons, which have led to APOBPS in Gallicissa one by one.

1. Realisation that digiscoping and 'point and shoots' cannot achieve crisp images consistently as one can using dSLR photography.

Since converting to dSLR (with the aim of doing macro photography) in Sep, 2008, I have been convinced of the sheer capabilities and merits of dSLR photography. In simple, dSLR photography has raised my standards and expectations as a photographer and has opened my eyes to understanding photography a bit better.

After comparing my bird shots with stunning bird images taken by bird bloggers like Stuart Price at Hakodate Birding, I have increasingly realised that digiscoping cannot achieve the same high standards as through dSLR photography.

Lately, this has discouraged me from spending a lot of time over digiscoping birds.

2. Limitations of digiscoping.
During a shorebird trip to Chilaw last month, we encountered a Brown Noddy, a rare seabird that visits the Sri Lankan coasts in bad weather. It was flying low over the rough seas, quite close to the shore. I would have loved to have got a record shot of this rarity; however, such constantly moving subjects are nearly impossible to capture crisply through digiscoping for noodys like us. This explains why I have got no flight shots of birds on this blog.

But take a look at what Stu has achieved below of a bird in flight.

Plate 7. Eatern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis in flight by Stuart Price.

I seriously doubt any digiscoper can match the sharpness of a bird in flight like that. Or for that matter, stills like this .

3. Enjoying bird watching in its purest sense and not bothering to blog about it.

Since getting my Swarovski ELs (Salgado, 2009a), I think have become more of a watcher than a shooter in my birding habits (which I deem as healthy for me as a birder)
Gallicissa is not a photo blog sensu stricto. However, I do like to associate a photo or two with my posts, which explains why there is hardly any text-only posts in this blog. For some reason, I do not feel like doing text-only blog posts. So, with no new bird images at hand, my bird blogging has suffered a considerable setback over the past year or so. Perhaps my attitude towards doing text-only blog posts may change in the future as I mature as a writer, say as Rhythmic Diaspora who hardly includes images in his posts, but simply uses his spellbinding prose and sheer class to create vivid mental images.

Pre-clinial evaluaions have shown the Canon EF 100-400mm Lens (Plate 8) to be a very effective remedy to curb APOBPS. However, with a price tag of over $1,650 $1,700 this treatment remains quite steep. However, as things stand, it may be the only cure for the affected Sri Lankan blog in question, until future evaluations show otherwise.

Plate 8 Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.

Early diagnosis, timely treatment and rigorous field birding may be the only cure for APOBPS positive bird blogs. With proper care they can bounce back to normalcy, of course leaving room for the odd non-birding post or two. Or three.

I would like to thank Stu for lending his image and for his continuous encouragement to seek treatment. As always I am very thankful for all the readers and commenters. Normal service will resume very soon.

Bergin, M., Moores, C. and Finger, C. (2007) About 10000 Birds. 10,
Ciccione, C. (2009a) Twelve-spotted Skipper. Picus Blog Aug, 2009.
Ciccione, C. (2009b) Wordless Wednesday. Picus Blog Sep, 2009.
Goodale, E., Salgado, A., and Kotagama, S.W. (2008). Birds of a different feather. Natural History 117:24-28.
Lord, M. (2007) Pioneers of Asian Ornithology: Colonel W. Vincent Legge. BirdingASIA 8: 84-89.
Poh, L. (1999) What is Digiscoping? Laurence Poh Digiscoping.
Redzlan, A. R. (2009) Belalang kunyit and sky. Tabib's Bird Blog Sep, 2009.
Ritschard, M and Schweizer, M. (2007) Identification of Asian Glaucidium owlets. BirdingAsia 7:39-47.
Salgado, A. (2006) Some observations on the diet of Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus in Sri Lanka. Forktail 22:122-123.
Salgado, A. (2007) What is a Bird Blog? Gallicissa. In a comment somewhere, 2007
Salgado, A. (2009a) What is your binocular? Gallicissa Apr, 2009.
Salgado, A. (2009b) Macro Monday Gallicissa July, 2009.
Salgado, A. (2009c) Dragons in my garden Part 3 Gallcissa Aug, 2009

Citation: Salgado, A. (2009) Description of Acute Paucity of Bird Posts Syndrome (APOBPS), its diagnosis, treatment and stuff like that in relation to a bird blog in Sri Lanka. Gallicissa, September 2009.


Mike said...

You are hilarious, Amila. I should point out that, were you from the United States, your usage of the adjective "frigging" would suggest that you were from my own home town of NYC!

If you're not ready to bite on the 100-400mm lens, might I suggest the 300mm prime? That's what I use. While I sometimes wish for a little more magnification, I do appreciate how much easier this lens is to tote around.

Anyway, great post!

Redzlan said...

Ha..Ha! Very good bird doctor here. LOL.
As for treatment, I doubt the 100-400mm is a strong enough antidote for this. I attended a conference recently and the panel or expert suggested 600mm IS or VR couple with 1.4x extender will be barely enough to kill this virus.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Mike,
Thank you very much.
I've picked that adjective up from my Irish clients. Interesting!

After all those rigorous tests, I have ordered to administer the 100-400mm treatment.
Thanks again!

Hi Tabib,
Interesting, but under the current condition, it could lead to serious complications, potentially life-threatening.

Let me first take the above treatment first and evaluate the results.

Kirigalpoththa said...

This is really fuuny!

Which journal are you goint to publish this? ;)

Stuart Price said...

The 100-400 will cure whatever ails ya..............

Anonymous said...

one of the best posts Amila.
I see that you have skillfully avoided becoming a boring blog. Super cool.

Loved it :)

Sharodindu said...


I found the post very informative with amazing pics.

Thanks for sharing!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Wonderful post!

A most scholarly (and humorous) treatise on APOBPS, my dear Amila. You've certainly brightened my day!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Amila: I love your thesis and the handling of your birding problem. I personaly could care less if you ever show anything less then the beautiful insects and reptiles of your world. If this was a plea for a new lens then so be it. Your wife should surely say YES. You have fairly stated your case and the royalties from this release may pay for the lens.
I love your site the way it is and a fly is so much more when you look at it through your lens.

Texas Travelers said...

LOL !!!!!!

Martha and I were full-time birders for 40 years. The last few years we have been struck by Acute Paucity of Bird Posts Syndrome (APOBPS). It may be terminal. We've exhausted Texas birds and most North American birds.

There's lots to learn about other critters and plants. Something new and exciting every day.

So much to see and do, so little time.

I will read your article more carefully and try to apply corrective action where possible.

Loved the article. Great photos.

BTW, post more insects and other. You do such a great job.

Your Texas friend,

corey said...

Now that was funny.

And I loved the fly shots.

Unknown said...

You are hilarious! I loved the photos included! The eating one - fantastic!!

Larry Jordan said...

Amila, I have loved your blog since I found it many months ago. Your posts and photos are always interesting and entertaining but this post could be the pinnacle of your blogging career!

Owning a Nikon 80-400mm zoom lens, I can concur with your treatment option for temporary relief of your symptoms. However, in my experience, I must agree with Tabib, if you want to cure APOBPS, you will need more. The 600mm lens with the teleconverter should do the trick. Assuming you are still around to enjoy it ;-)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi K,
Thank you!
I hate to loose the hyperlinks that are so essential for a treatise of this nature. So, I will leave it an online publication.

Hi Stu,
Yep, thanks again for your help.

Hi Anon,
Good to hear that and thank you!

Hi Sharodindu,
Thanks, I am pleased to know that.

Hi Pat,
Thank you very much!
I am extremely pleased to know that. I look forward to hear more about your hot air balloon adventure.

Hi Tom,
Thank a lot for your kind words, as always.
I do not have a wife yet, so the decision making process was quite straightforward!

Hi Troy,
Geez, you are excused!

Mine was an extreme case where I found myself in a precarious situation.... With all those years of experience, I am sure you know what you are doing. Thanks a lot for those lovely remarks.

Hi Corey,
Thanks and good to hear from you!

Hi Lisa,
Thank you!
That Robber’s head was about 3mm in width. I think it was shot at 5 times the life size.

Hi Larry,
Thanks a lot! You are so kind.
I am pleased to have your expert opinion on my treatment!
Tabib’s remedy will surely lead to irreversible complications. So, a big NO for that!

Jochen said...

Yupp, as the blog-dad (Charlie) said: I solemnly declare defeat.

Are you really getting yourself a Canon 100-400?
Geez, that's one fierce piece of metal and glass - one day... one day.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Jochen,

Yes, I am. It is expected at the end of this week. And thereafter, I have to think about getting a Lowepro Dry zone backpack....and soon, a Flash...its a vicious circle.

Jochen said...

Wow, good news, I'll be looking forward to seeing such detailed dragonfly eye shots on your blog, only it'll be the eyes of birds (NFF creatures are also still welcome, of course).
Cheers, have fun with your new lens, let us know what you think of it and of course you'll then need a pro backpack, and an improved tripod, and a flash, and and and and and and and and

Unknown said...

Hahaha..............Fantastic justification for a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.
Good thing that there is no wife in the equation ....... as yet :-)

Anonymous said...

Your Blog is Fantastic Gallicissa, and I know you don't need me to say it either :) as it is REALLY OBVIOUS ! ... the truth is, I don't always understand all the bird jargon...but your pictures are simply mesmerizing... and your committment and love for the subject is JUST INSPIRING in any context.

Keep up the FANTASTIC work you're doing. ( I know you don't need me to say this either...but its just to express appreciation for your hard work) :)

PS : I have a small question... pardon me if it sounds a bit duh... but how do you get those dragon flies to hold still like that ? From my experience with them as a child...they rarely ever hold'nt it?

Amila Salgado said...

Hi again, Jochen,
I am so looking forward to it too!
I shall not turn a blind eye for the NFFs, no.

Following such an expensive treatment, Gallicissa will make every effort not to be diagnosed with APOBPS again. Let’s take stock in a year’s time.

Hi Chandanie,
Coming from a “Specialist Physician & Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology”, I am very pleased to have your express approval of my justification!

And that equation,.... yeah.

Thank you very much for your compliments and words of encouragement!

Sorry about all the jargon. This post additionally contains medical jargon and one made up by me!

To take shots like that of dragonflies (with my 100mm macro lens), I need to get less than a foot from them. After studying their behaviours, I have learnt the skills/stalking techniques necessary to get close to them (consistently).

Dragonflies will stay still (perched), when they are feeding, mating and in the mornings when they are trying to dry their wings from the dew. During the midday as some of the sun-loving types use a perch to launch their precision air strikes. And often they can be seen returning to the same perch. The dragonfly shown above is one of them.

Kirigalpoththa said...

Oh yes those hyperlinks are invaluable!

I went thro' your already published article! Good stuff Amila :)

BTW I learnt some good tips from your answers to MTC too. Thanks very much !

Unknown said...

I loved the post! : ) I have the 100-400 and am thinking of getting into the digiscoping world myself. Now if only we could find a cure for Bloggus Interruptus (I am to busy to blog, out birding), then the world would be right! Keep up the wonderful writing and photos!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi again, K,
Thank you! Glad you liked them.

Thank you!
I have come across quite a few cases Bloggus interruptus DBJ.

I hope you will find happiness in digiscoping! I certainly did. My 100-400 is expected in the coming week (finally) and I am very eagerly looking forward to it.

Yong Ding Li said...

This is a good read for all birdingkind!!!! Brilliant and citable content!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Ding Li,
Thank you!
I got my 'treatment' on 28 Sep - a truly momentous day for mankind!!!

Ever since then the weather has been gloomy and terrible. Looking forward to some sunny weather now. Hope Singapore is nice and soggy.

Unknown said...

LOL Amila fantastic post. Loved the "study" of the ailment and possible solution. I know its too late now and I am sure you will be happy with the Canon 100-400mm - but had I read this post earlier I would have recommended the new Sigma 150-500mm OS HSM - good quality, reasonably sharp and cheaper :)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Riyazi,

I am quite content with it, at the moment. It looks perfect as a carry on lens, on walks, especially while guiding birders when I also have to carry so many things. However, I must say that Sigma look very good and I could certainly do with that extra 100mm of reach.

p.s. I am beginging to admire the curves of the Canon 400mm f2.8, secretly.

Ding Li said...

Hi Amila,
Same here...Singapore is raining daily...I guess it has to live up to its name of being a tropical country! I just watched the Anthony Bourdain travel show on Colombo and rekindled lots of nice memories from that trip! The next time i'm here for Sinharaja i'll stay at the Galle Face and eat more hoppers!!

Ding Li

Amila Salgado said...

Hi again, Ding Li,
You should try our hoppers with improvised explosive: lunu-miris and have some Ceylon tea with ginger to wash them down. Off to the rainforest interiors soon. Serendib's Scops Owl is calling these days...

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