Posts Tagged With: tools of the trade

Birding porn

Haha! Got your attention, didn’t I!

After a long day dropping our son off at college, I had time to sit down with the day’s emails. 

First, a big sale from Swarovski! Oh, do I want a really good spotting scope, but there’s no way to justify buying one that’s worth more than the car I cart it around in. So for now I’m just lusting.

Some interesting sightings lately. The last time this uncommon seabird was reported around here, last winter in Buffalo, all my bird list messages went straight into spam folders for weeks. And it’s happening again… Yes, Brown Boobies have been sighted at Lake Champlain!

Bird banders, for convenience while cataloguing vitals as quickly as possible, use four-letter abbreviations: OSPR for Osprey, BCCH for Black-capped Chickadee, EAPH for Eastern Phoebe, and so on. In Brooklyn today, observers found a small sparrowish bird, in markings like a miniature Eastern Meadowlark. The Dickcissel is named for its dry chirping song. And its four-letter code is, of course… DICK. That’s right. While wandering around in a salt marsh, several experienced birders  observed DICK.

Categories: Why? | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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:


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.



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



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.


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

That dorky birder look, now with added eyepatch!

Birders are not exactly fashion plates at the best of times: zip-leg pants, faded tshirts advertising festivals past, floppy hats and those vests with big pockets. Leave it to me to find a way to make birding look even dorkier!

Look fast, these are the only selfies I’m ever going to post:

Now, before you start laughing, (OK, before you fall off your chair, at least) there is a logic behind this. I’ve noticed that when using a scope for long periods, like trying to ID shorebirds, keeping one eye squinched shut got tiring after a while, and that  eye took time to focus right again. So by having it covered, I can keep the eye open. It’s much more relaxing that way.

There are drawbacks, of course — on a day like today, the covered eye is melting in the heat, and it can be hard to focus right away in the bright afternoon light. I have to remove my glasses to put the patch on so when I want to switch to binocs there’s some fumbling around. And of course there’s the snicker factor.

But we’re birders! We wear our khaki with pride! Why not add that ever-so-stylish buccaneer touch to our outdoor wardrobe?

I refound the Little Blue Heron today, but it wasn’t being cooperative for photography. It wandered in and out of cattails and loosestrife, preening and fishing. When it sighted a fish, its whole body became nearly horizontal, and the head and neck swayed like a charmed serpent while the eyes and beak remained locked on target. A few moments of this dance, then pow! and swallow.

Here’s one of the many Great Blue Herons at Vischer Ferry today.


I think this feather is from a Great Egret. What you can’t see in the photo is the delicate motion of the afterfeather, the soft tendrils that tremble at a breath. No wonder they were de rigueur for decades in a lady’s trousseau.


ETA 9/19: I’m not dorky, I’m channeling David Bowie!

Not a birder, AFAIK.

Not a birder, AFAIK.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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