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Monthly Archives: February 2009

25 Feb

Comet Lulin has now been added to my list of astronomy binocular objects. Last night, just before midnight, I stepped out on the patio with my Nikon 10×70 Astroluxe binocular and scanned a couple of degrees to the right and bit below Saturn. Comet Lulin appeared much as I expected – a small faint fuzzy with low surface brightness. Reminded me of our recent Comet 17/P Holmes in its days of waning brightness. Could not detect a tail on Comet Lulin, but it was bright enough, in my opinion, to be seen in a smaller binocular by an experienced observer, …

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24 Feb

What a fabulous weekend for me and my cross country skis. Had about 3 inches of fresh snow to greet me on Saturday morning and managed to get out before the snow plows. Made it the one mile over to the park on skis, right down people’s sidewalks. Once at the park, I managed several trips around the lake, plus some side runs to a wildlife area, in all about eight miles. Best birding event of the day was a Cooper’s Hawk a mere fifteen feet away, sitting on a fence, next to someone’s birdfeeder. Magnificent sight in my Nikon …

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23 Feb

Magnification in a binocular is a relative thing. Most binoculars sold these days are 8x, followed closely by 10x with all the other magnifications lumped, together, following at a distant third. Is there really that much difference between an 8x and a 10x in terms of how much detail you can see? Think about this. In astronomy, when using a telescope, we use a rule of thumb called the magnification double. When you want to see significantly more detail than whatever magnification you are using, you double the magnification. For instance, from 25x to at least 50x and from 50x …

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18 Feb

I have never seen so many Cooper’s Hawks in all my years of birding as I have in the last five years since I moved into these suburbs outside of Chicago. My biologist friends tell me what I already know – the numbers of this very interesting hawk are on the rise. I have no doubt that our local suburban habitat with plenty of trees, parks and, of course, bird feeders – Cooper’s eat mostly small birds and bird feeders offer a great place to hunt them – are a major contributing factor. If you are new to birding, you …

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17 Feb

The ever changing global landscape of the binocular industry makes it tough to predict binocular prices in the future for any specific model, but I expect to see the trend continue of more binoculars produced in China, to keep prices competitive, with fewer and fewer binoculars made in Japan or Europe. Not to worry, there are some excellent binoculars on the market that are made in China, but if you have political and environmental concerns (as I do), it means spending more money to get a Japanese or European binocular. There are still some Japanese binoculars out there under $500, …

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16 Feb

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only birder in my neck of the woods, since I seldom see other birders in my area. That’s not entirely an illusion, but there are one or two. Janet lives near one of our suburban lakes and is a top-notch birder and we always talk birds when we encounter each other on the trail. We are a study in contrasts, to some extent. Like most birders, she just walks the trails and carries a full size birding binocular in the superb Swarovski 10×42 EL. She uses an 8x during warbler migration, but I almost …

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12 Feb

I can be as coldly objective as any person on this planet, especially when it comes to binoculars and binocular specifications and performance. Being objective, though, also implies a commitment to truth and, in that case, I also have to say that when it comes to my personal choice in binoculars, there is also a huge subjective component. I have favorites and cannot always tell you, specifically, why they are my favorites. Compact binoculars are a case in point. I own the very best in the Leica Ultravid, Nikon Premier LX, Swarovski Pocket (Crystal version) and will soon add the …

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11 Feb

I’ve had a love-hate affair with contact lenses all my life. Contacts really come in handy at times, but there are also times I much prefer my glasses. One of the times I prefer glasses is when using binoculars. This may come as a surprise to some, but as long as I am using a binocular with enough eye relief, my glasses make life easier. I use my glasses as a brace to steady my binocular. I just place the eyecups right on the lenses (I have yet to scratch them doing this) and, voila, I have a great support …

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09 Feb

Just for fun, I used a compact binocular on the moon last night to check craters and maria and, no surprise, the 10x compact binocular did just about as well as my much larger 10x astronomy binoculars. Let’s face it, the moon is plenty bright. So now you have no excuse if you’ve been wanting to start astronomy and have been to buy a big, large astronomy binocular. You can use any binocular to observe the moon and, yes, there is a surprising amount of detail to be seen on the moon at typical binocular magnifications. Even more interesting, the …

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04 Feb

I’ve done a lot of birding these past few years on my bicycle, mostly because I always keep an eye out for birds, no matter what I am doing and I bicycle more than just about anything else I do, except perhaps, sleeping. This winter, though, I’ve fallen in love with cross country skiing, so, naturally, I have been carrying my compact binocular and doing some birding on skis. I am happy to report that ski poles make an excellent impromptu monopod for a birding binocular, so the combination of XC skiing and birding is definitely a go. In fact, …

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