April 9, 2016

Red Morph

On an unseasonably cold April morning, I led a Spring Field Ornithology group to the Lansing Center Trail. It had started to snow when we arrived, and apart from a cooperative kestrel and many song sparrows scuttling in the brush, we weren't seeing many birds. When we got to the small woodlot, I pulled out my ThermApp, and was soon alerted to this hotspot:

Having seen many such hotspots by now, I instinctively assumed it was probably just another squirrel, but the binoculars revealed a most pleasant surprise: a red-morph Eastern Screech Owl!

I did not have my good camera with me at the time, so I returned later, after the snow had abated and the sun had started appearing, to take the two photos above.

Meanwhile, here's a random Therm-App image of the road leading to my house, showing a number of Dark-Eyed Juncos foraging by the road.


  1. Hello Suan Hsi Yong,
    Some time ago I want a thermal camera to do the same as you. So I thank to have found someone with this penchant

    My aim is to locate Woodcock during the nesting grounds for further study and monitoring. How far do you think that could detect these birds with Therm-app?

    Another purpose is to locate swift nests in cavities in stone walls, you think it's possible with this camera? What model and lenses can recommend me?

    Thank you very much for your photographs and videos, are excellent examples of thermal images.

    Greetings from Spain.
    Marcos Otero

  2. Hi Marcos,

    The camera to get is ThermApp (http://therm-app.com/).
    It comes with a 19mm lens which can detect a small bird or mammal up to maybe 30m. I also bought the 35mm lens, which roughly doubles the range; although this lens is expensive, I've been very happy with the increased range.

    I'm not sure how well thermography would work for swifts in stone cavities. If there is a "line of sight" to the swifts, then it should work. Otherwise, I don't think the birds would warm the rocks enough to be detected. In contrast, a bird or mammal in a tree cavity often warms the wood enough to be detected. These all become harder if there's any sunshine, because sunlight will warm up tree trunks and rocks, making it impossible to notice warm animals.