Posts Tagged With: new toy

My father always called them field glasses.

 

I don’t know if that was an army thing, or just old-fashioned on his part. But whenever we started out on a drive, he’d ask, “Do we have field glasses?” The answer was always ‘yes’, of course. They lived in their case hanging from the driver’s seat headrest. They watched ospreys and gulls, shorebirds and seabirds, and on one memorable occasion a Snowy Owl.

Eventually my interest in birding deepened and $25 bins from Sears didn’t cut it anymore. So I moved up to these:

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Notice the wear of 25 years, eroded paint, rubber eyecup rotted and replace with a glued-on washer, the adjustable diopter loose and needing to be screwed back on regularly. Even the button with the maker’s name and numbers is long gone.

I’d been saying literally for years that I wanted, needed new binoculars, but every time I had money put aside Real Life interfered. New tires for the car, textbooks, a new roof, new tires for both cars… So I carried my old ones, and waited.

I broke my elbow this winter, broke it badly enough to need surgery, as badly (the surgeon said) as it was possible to break it. Long cold months housebound, and to cheer me Bill said, “I think it’s time to buy those new binoculars.” Well, except that I couldn’t bend my arm far enough to hold them, lacked the strength to lift them, and couldn’t fine-tune the focus with my clumsy hand. But now I had something to look forward to! Just like with my shoulder, I told the PT my goal — get to warbler-neck position by mid April. Slowly, slowly I gained more range of motion. And then on April 13, this happened:

We drove up to Wild Birds Unlimited in Satatoga and spent several hours trying out all the pairs in our price range (and some wildly out — hello Swarovskis!), ultimately settling on Eagle Ranger ED 10x42s. On sale, too!

Of course we promptly had to take them for a test run, so stopped at the nearby Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail, a rail trail running through wetlands and woods.

A pair of Great Egrets stalked the shallows.

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Palm Warblers are among the earliest to come north, but this little guy didn’t want to move into the light.

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So, after six weeks, how do I like them? I’m delighted! There’s been a learning curve, of course — they’re heavier than my old bins, and with increased  magnification, I sometimes don’t realize I’m focussed on a more distant tree! But the amount of light they let in, compared to my oldies, is amazing. I can actually see the colors on a sparrow’s beak and leg! I’m really looking forward to shorebird season and how much plumage detail I’ll be able to pick out. I can tell this will be a long and happy partnership.

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I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

…hopefully with better lighting.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

The New Toy

Things are quiet at Kestrel Hill this time of year. I’m prepping for Christmas Bird Counts — if you need me on the next four Saturdays, sorry, I’ll be somewhere on the road driving veeerrry slowly. The feeders are stocked for Project Feederwatch. And somewhere out there is a Snowy Owl with my name on it…

The most exciting thing to happen recently is an addition to my toolbox. A new camera! Yes, I’ve joined the Canon SX50 collective! Recommended by birders and photographers, this is a leap up from my little pocket camera and it’s going to take time for me to learn all it’s capable of. And the way to do that is take pictures! lots of pictures!

Here’s our pond, all frosted over.

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A chickadee who moved too quickly — but he was 30 feet up a tree! Great zoom!

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Two things I’ve learned so far:

1. The camera doesn’t know what I want to take a picture of. Thus, numerous shots of blurry birds and crystal-clear twigs.

Also, I should wash my windows.

and 2. Timing is everything.

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But I’m pretty happy with this Mute Swan, and two Common Mergansers, all at a distance that would have been impossible before.

At full zoom, I’m shaky. I have to practice bracing my arms against my torso rather than extending them as I’ve been used to do with my old camera. By warbler season, I should be ready!

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, scenery, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Squirrel hands

I’ve bought two feeders lately that actually seem to work at keeping squirrels hungry.

This is an inexpensive Ace hardware store version of a Droll Yankee feeder. At only $12.99 it’s doing a good job at protecting sunflower seed.

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I bought this in the fall at Walmart, of all places. It was a bit pricier — maybe $25?– but it’s hilarious and a bit sad watching the squirrels try to chew through metal. Notice the shiny spots where they tried!

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What mystifies me with both of these is squirrel feeding behaviour. Watch them and you’ll see they use their paws to hold food. But they don’t use their hands to reach into the feeder ports! It seems so odd that they don’t just reach in and scrape seeds out. Wouldn’t that be a valuable tactic for raiding food caches?

*sigh* OK, I obviously need to do some research on The Enemy.

Also, Tractor Supply Store! 25 lbs of thistle seed for only $25.99! That is a tremendous deal! They also carry 50 lbs for $50, but I know if I buy that all the insatiable Redpolls will leave town. A much better buy than the ‘bargain’ price at the supermarket that turned out to be 8% red millet, useless to bird and beast.

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Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Mammals too, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

What to do with bird seed bags

I put out between ten and fifteen pounds of birdseed a week during the winter. That’s a lot of bags.

“But Naomi,” you ask, “as an environmentally conscientious person, whatever do you do with all those non-recyclable plastic bags?”

This:

Birdy tote bags!

Heavy duty, practically indestructible, and fun to show off! The only drawback is I start buying seed not by content or price, but by pictures. “It’s $3 more, but it has Grosbeaks! Must buy!”

Also… I have more than I can ever use. Anybody wanna bag?

Categories: Tools of the trade | Tags: , | 2 Comments

I am a camera

If I am, I’m probably just what I own — a basic point&shoot digital. Nothing fancy, it gets the job done, and I’ve caught the important family moments for years with it. But when I see the guys at Cohoes Falls getting shots of Bald Eagles where you can see every scale on the fish they’re eating, or hummingbirds in flight, I confess I feel… lens envy. I mean, how can you not? Just look at the size of that thing!

(It really is a guy thing, isn’t it. *snerk*)

But long ago, before the digital age, there was this:

Now THAT is a camera. Totally manual, it weighs in at 1 lb 3 oz with the standard 45mm lens. Add a long lens and you’re balancing almost 3 1/2 pounds. It’s been dropped, bounced, sat on, rained on, and generally abused. Together we went to Yellowstone, Alaska, Florida, and all over New England. I took some pretty good photos with it, if I do say so myself. Over the years I accumulated a lot of paraphernalia — lenses, filters, telephoto and macro attachments, and more. All in working condition. All of it outdated and not worth the effort to put on eBay.

I’ve been yearning for a digital SLR for some time now and got my hopes up when I learned of a Sony body which would accept Minolta lenses. Yay! Only, not. It takes new Minolta lenses, not the old ones I own. So, a slightly-better-than-beginner camera and a decent telephoto for wildlife photography — hundreds of dollars, maybe a thousand.

It occurs to me, $1000 will buy a lot of film and processing. So my old friend is coming out of its case, getting a spring cleaning, and I’ll be trying to remember all the techniques I used to play with. I think this will be fun, and I’ll be sure to mention what pictures, if any, come from a 30 year old camera using obsolete technology.

Categories: Bird photos, Tools of the trade, Why? | Tags: | 2 Comments

Birdy thoughts

A gray dismal drizzly day.

Isn’t he a dapper-looking fellow? The White-throated Sparrows are swarming under the feeders now.  I’d love fancy non-reflective glass in this window — the birds come within a few inches for seed on the rail.

A pair (I thought) of Cardinals came to the ledge, and the male kept  driving off the duller-colored bird. I thought that was the female and wondered why he was being so aggressive towards her, but maybe it was young-of-the-year being told to find his own banquet table.

Titmouses (titmice?) make more noise per ounce than any other bird. A little flock comes dogfighting through the trees, whining shrieking and rasping at each other, each one trying to monopolize the feeders.

I hear turkeys calling in the morning, but can’t see the flock. Then I remember it’s turkey season, and what I’m hearing is hunters. We always had to put Autumn’s orange coat on this time of year — a knee-high brown dog dashing through the woods after rabbits is just asking for trouble.

And here’s my new field guide! Of course, my first app would one for birding!White-throated Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Common Crow, European Starling, Turkey Vulture, Canada Goose, Downy Woodpecker, Rock Pigeon, Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Wren, Wild Turkey, Ovenbird, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Mourning Dove, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Blue Heron

25 species.

 

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Species count | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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