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Monthly Archives: June 2009

30 Jun

I rarely, if ever, recommend a compact binocular for birding, though I use compact binoculars for nearly all my birding, these days. Why don’t I practice what I preach? I really don’t need the big binoculars, anymore and find compacts to be a perfect match for my bicycle lifestyle. Compact binoculars work for me because I have over forty years of experience using binoculars and also birding. What little performance I lose with a compact binocular I more than make up with know how. Okay, did I mention that I only use premium compact binoculars? That also helps to bridge …

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29 Jun

A birding friend of mine is currently agonizing over a choice of birding binoculars and I feel his pain. On my advice, he just purchased and received his closeout Nikon Premier 8x32SE binocular and is in love with it. It blows away anything he has ever used. So what’s the problem? He also located a mint, AAA+++ vintage Leitz 8×40 and it will arrive, next week. I have held a Leitz 8×40 binocular in the past and it just oozes quality and Euro ambience. In days past, it was my dream binocular. He can’t afford to keep them both, so …

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24 Jun

I learned my first constellations from my mother and my big sister, when I was still in grade school in a small town in North Dakota. I got more serious about constellations and the actual stars within constellations later when I was in college, still living at our rural home, outside Lincoln, Nebraska. I didn’t know it then, of course, that I would so desperately miss those dark skies, later in my life. Indeed, using a small 60mm refractor in rural Nebraska allowed me to see more than a much larger telescope or astronomy binocular, these days, in the Chicago …

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23 Jun

A friend and I braved the rain and mosquitoes and roamed the depths of a local Forest Preserve, birding binoculars in hand, in search of the elusive Black-billed Cuckoo. In addition to binoculars, we were also equipped with a call tape in the hopes that we would at least hear a response from a Black-billed. With all the recent rain, the foliage off the trail is almost impenetrable, so we felt our best chance, by far, was to hear a Black-billed. After three hours of hiking and searching, though, we came up empty – no sighting or calls – though …

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22 Jun

You do not need a Leica Ultravid HD, a Swarovski EL, a Zeiss Victory FL, a Steiner Peregine XP or a Nikon EDG or any other popular, premium birding binocular to identify birds and get started in birding. In fact, you can identify as many birds with a birding binocular at a fraction of the price of these superb birding binoculars. My old ornithology prof, for instance, used a well-worn, beat up Tasco binocular and he was a great birder. A birding friend of mine uses a vintage Bushnell binocular out of 80s and his life list is over 500 …

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17 Jun

“Where have all the porro prisms gone? Long time passing…” My apologies to one of my heroes, Pete Seeger, but where, indeed, have all the porro prism binoculars gone? The answer is mostly China – the lower production costs of the porro prism binocular versus the roof prism binocular make the porro the king at the low end of the binocular world. At the premium end of the binocular world, it is quite another story. Premium grade porro prisms are in danger of going extinct and that saddens me. Some of the best binoculars I have ever tested, used and …

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16 Jun

Went birding with a friend on Sunday with the goal of adding a bird or two to his life list. Binoculars in hand, we took a walk through one of my favorite stretches of the local Forest Preserve. Our target bird was the Ovenbird, but that one eluded us, though I had seen this warbler species several times this year in the same area. Of course, with all the heavy foliage, we expected this one to be a challenge to see in our binocular. The previous week, I had spotted this warbler, but it flew before my friend could see …

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15 Jun

One of the most difficult bird identification problems for me is not identify birds in the field, it is identifying birds others have seen in the field. In other words, I get, “Hey, there was this bird that had some blue on it … “. There was this bird that was at my feeder … ” Some of the time I nail the ID right away, but as often as not, I just tell them I need more detail, then proceed to show them several likely possibilities in a bird guide. This demonstrates the need to know what to look …

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11 Jun

Summer, for me, means binocular astronomy and what could be more natural than turning my astronomy binocular to the “summer triangle” overhead? That’s the trio of bright stars – Deneb, Vega and Altair – that we see overhead on a summer night. Within that triangle, there are objects for binoculars or telescopes more fascinating than anything to be found in even the so-called Bermuda Triangle. Take the star Deneb, for instance. In my Nikon 10×70 binocular, it is a brilliant white point of light, but, in reality it is a true powerhouse of a star. It is the 19th brightest …

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10 Jun

It’s long been known that binoculars make a great first telescope for beginning astronomers, but a bit less known that even a low power astronomy binocular can be used for that ever popular beginner’s astronomy target, the moon! Even at the relatively low magnification of 7x or 8x, you can identify the dozen or so maria and many dozens of large craters. It’s just a matter of grabbing a binocular, any binocular, and a star map, such as the one on the Sky& Telescope site and head out into the backyard. All the headaches that plague the modern astronomer, such …

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