As the name implies, “Kowa Scopers” are the first digiscoping-only team to compete in the Champions race! Our goal is to capture images & videos of as many bird species as possible through Kowa’s PROMINAR spotting scopes using a variety of phones, cameras and different adapters. The team of digiscopers hail from the US and the UK and have varying levels of experience with the Israeli birds and desert playing field, so we don’t expect to rival any of the top teams in total species detected. We do promise to have a lot of fun & hope that our new “focus” will provide future teams with a new way to enjoy the Champions event – this may even inspire a whole new competition category making Champions of the Flyway even more inclusive, accessible, and attractive to new teams in future years.
Also, be sure to look for our impromptu digiscoping field workshop held on the scouting days. We will be offering field craft tips for the Champions teams & visiting birders alike, helping you to fine tune your digiscoping!
Meet the Team:
Jeff is no stranger to the Champions of the Flyway. He’s been a huge fan and supporter from the beginning and was a member of the 2015 winning team! Although he hasn’t competed again since, he has organized and sponsored teams and been a loud cheerleader in year’s past helping to spread awareness and supporting sponsored teams annually. He is a manic digiscoping addict with 20 years’ experience of proper digiscoping but has film images of rarities in Alaska taken with disposable cameras through Kowa spotting scope eyepieces dating all the way back to 1989! He has a passion for birding and loves bird races (or “big days” as they are called in the US). Jeff wants to set a high bar in what he hopes will be a new, more accessible way for future teams to participate in the fun of the Champions race day and adds “it’s not about winning or losing, but it’s the camaraderie and fun of the race, while supporting conservation! Jeff is a life-long birder and is Kowa’s Sales & Marketing Manager for the Birding & Nature Markets in the Americas, giving regular digiscoping workshops including one at the upcoming Colombain BirdFair in mere weeks.
Paul Kardos has been a member of the Kowa sport optics team for the past seven years and has been in the sport optics industry for the last twelve in total. He works in the sales and marketing for Kowa USA. When not doing the less glamourous parts of the job, he likes to attend a variety of events to mix it up with people. He likes to tag along on trips with Jeff and others in the industry and has accumulated just enough knowledge of birds to be dangerous.
Rob Wilton has a love of nature and the outdoors which was nurtured from an early age, always out walking with his family, learning about British birds and wildlife. He first looked through a Kowa scope over thirty-five years ago when his uncle who was a lifelong birder and a big influence in Rob’s life, let him try his trusty Kowa TSN-1. Rob is happiest when he is walking along the rugged coastline of his favourite UK location, the Isle of Anglesey situated on the tip of North Wales, usually with a pair of binoculars spotting the rich and varied wildlife that this stunning location has to offer. He has always had a creative streak and trained in graphic design and photography. Combining these skills with his love of nature led to his dream job working in the marketing department of Kowa, where he gets his hands on the latest optical innovations and creates marketing materials for the sporting optics division.
Rob has always enjoyed wildlife photography and became interested in the concept of digiscoping when the method of attaching cameras to scopes was still in its infancy, leading to an obsession to source the most suitable optics, adapters and cameras to connect together. He has owned dozens of digital cameras over the years. These days he uses his smartphone and a Kowa PROMNAR scope as his go to digiscoping set-up and as the technology has advanced, he is still amazed at the level of detail that can be captured and loves everything about digiscoping: the challenges of controlling such extreme telephoto power, the manual processes and techniques involved to capture a great image and the fact that he can keep a respectable distance from the subject without disturbing the wildlife.
Rob can’t wait to experience his first Champions of the Flyway Race and is honoured to have been invited to join the Kowa Scopers Team.
Erik started birding in the Pacific Northwest, where he and his wife, Hannah, spent weekends exploring the national wildlife refuges, state parks, and ocean shores. He followed Hannah’s career bringing them to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas then Florida and now back to Cannon Beach, OR, where they spend their time looking for puffins, guillemots, and more while hosting their podcast: Hannah and Erik Go Birding. Through their podcast, they share their birding adventures and work to expand birding and wildlife viewing around the world. They travel as much as possible and Erik obsessively eBirds along the way. Erik is passionate about inspiring new birders.
Austin has always had a passion for nature (and photographing it.) Growing up amongst optics and birding fairs he had an early start when it came to digiscoping, his digiscoped photographs appearing in both “Outdoor Photographer” and “Wild Bird” magazines. Over the years he developed a strong sense of conservation, and he is extremely excited to participate as a Champion of the Flyway, and to see Israel’s migration spectacle.