Grackle Watching

ACK’s Chris Hackerd, co-owner and VP of Store Operations, recently discovered a passion for bird watching. Follow him through a series of blogs documenting his adventures as he partakes in a series of trips to gratify his newfound hobby. In his first of many, Chris tells us all about how it all got started.

I recently watched a movie, that when it was in theaters, I thought looked like a poor attempt to revive the essence of Steve Martin in the great Three Amigos. It is called A Big Year and the cover reeked of poor slapstick comedy. But when I finally watched it I found myself completely involved in world of birding or bird watching. It was fascinating and I had to learn more.

I spent days learning about the sport, hobby, obsession or whatever you want to call it and now I am hooked. My friends and co-workers think I’m loony, but they’re used to ridiculous stories from me. Usually though, it’s stories that end with “…can’t believe I didn’t get [insert adjective here]” (maimed, dead, broken would be a few good examples). Birds, really? I see birds every day so how could this be exciting? Well it’s the identification of species and the investigation to what I’m looking at that inspires me. My first bird I successfully located was a Grackle. If you’re snickering at me, I get it. My wife was quick to dismiss my excitement at locating a bird that is literally found by the thousands in Austin. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t know what it was and my life never really required me to learn what it was.

I now have a life list I’ve created to catalog the birds I’ve seen. I need a camera with a lens because these dang birds will not sit still long enough for me to figure out what the heck they’re sometimes! Here is a setup that I am considering using. I’ve got the iPhone and I own a set of binoculars so I figured this would be all I need. I also got my son a set of binos as well so he can trail along with me and help! I have pamphlets and waterproof notebooks to keep notes in.

The next step is to incorporate my new passion and my job. I’ve got an opportunity coming up to get on the water in a pedal driven kayak for a few days and I plan to fully engage in my new hobby! Hands free bird watching on the water, I’m such a dork but I like it!

Do you bird watch from a kayak? Any advice or suggestions for a newbie?

Chris @ACK

Product Review: GoPro – Big Video, Small Camera

My first experience with a GoPro was in Colorado during a 5-day ski-trip. I wasn’t using one of them while skiing but rather I came across an amazing GoPro commercial while bed ridden for 3 days battling the flu. Apparently, most of it was filmed using a GoPro and I simply couldn’t believe that this tiny little camera was generating these videos with amazing clarity and vivid colors! The wide-angle lens really added to the overall effect too. I enjoyed the commercial so much that I went on YouTube only to discover an array of awesome videos filmed using a GoPro camera.

It was time to get my hands on one. I knew we carried them but I never looked into buying one assuming it was an expensive product and probably one that may be complicated to use. Once I checked into it, I discovered that not only was it affordable at $299 for the full helmet cam package, it was easy to use. In fact, I was disappointed with myself for not looking into it earlier for all my past year’s paddling trips and work related events.

Finally, I got my hands on one and it did not disappoint with resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS and video clarity that put all other more expensive videos cameras I have used to shame. Best of all, it was so easy to use. As a paddler, I also liked that it came with a waterproof case rated at up to 180ft. It didn’t get wet when I took it out for a first test run on a stand up paddleboard so I gave it a quick under water test in a pool and was pleased with the results.

I like that the camera battery automatically begins to charge when downloading videos to my computer but be prepared, you get about 2.5 hours recording time when fully charged. If you plan to go an overnight paddling trip, consider taking some backup batteries.

Sound quality was good but I just wish it would do a better job when utilizing the waterproof cover. I didn’t realize this was an issue until after I had already filmed several clips. I also wish it had a built in preview screen. Unfortunately you have to download the video clip to preview them. The good news is they do offer an affordable LCD BacPac camera attachment, which provides instant previews, playback and visual control of your camera settings.

I give this product 4 stars out of 5 stars mainly because of the lack of a built in preview screen but overall, for the price, features and quality, I highly recommend this the GoPro camera and look forward to putting it to good use on my next paddling trip.

Here is another great sample video by GoPro featuring a white water kayaking competition. Do you have a GoPro? Tell us how you use it by commenting below!


Yakfishing Addicts Klub Review: GoPro Helmet HERO HD Video Camera

Editor’s note: ACK would like to introduce the YakFishing Addicts Klub to the ACK blog guest roll! Y.A.K. (for short) is a fishery conservation club, promoting proper angling, species conservation and catch and release. They’ll be providing reviews and other articles from time to time. This review features the GoPro Helmet HERO HD 960 Video Camera. ACK carries the HD 1080 model.

I ordered a GoPro Camera for use with the Yakfishing Addicts Klub. Upon arrival of The Go Pro HD Hero 960 Camera I noticed the care that was taken to present a quality product. I’ve never seen a video camera or camera for that matter come is a glossy black box with a clear plastic top where the camera sits as if it were being displayed in a showcase. However, none of that really matters if the product doesn’t do everything that the consumer needs it to do.

I need to assist others on their kayak fishing adventures so my main concern was to get a video camera that was small, easy to use and hands free with the ability to clearly document catches. This thing is ridiculously small weighing in at 3.3 oz and taking up less than 5 inches of space, one cannot find something smaller for the price. The package comes with two additional mounting brackets, a head strap, waterproof housing and li-ion battery.

I was concerned with the 5MP quality as most cameras now have no less than 10.1MP. I field tested both the video and picture functions and was extremely surprised with the picture quality. I can’t see the difference in the photos when compared to my 10.1MP Olympus. There are a few things that I would like to see improved including the battery life from the li-ion which lasted 2.5 hours and that the two additional mounts don’t come with the right adhesive to stick to polyethylene (what kayaks are typically made from). That said, the Go Pro presents a nice package for today’s kayak angler that is looking to capture that moment you’ll never forget.

For more information about the Yakfishing Addicts Klub, click here.

Guest Blogger,
Yakfishing Addicts Klub