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Monthly Archives: January 2011

31 Jan

Building another highway to reduce traffic congestion is only a temporary fix, because, as research shows and most urban planners know, the traffic on the new highway quickly reaches capacity and you are soon back where you started. I have recently seen this principle at work in my birdwatching.

This winter, I have had up to forty Goldfinches in our yard at one time and they have kept me hopping to keep my single thistle feeder with its six perches filled. A glance through the binoculars, shows that there is an informal waiting line all day long to access one …

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28 Jan

How much magnification (first binocular number)? This is, perhaps, the most asked question by folks when they are ready to buy binoculars and it is also sometimes a much argued point by fans of one binocular magnification or the other. If we discount 12x binoculars on the basis that most people just can’t steady 12x enough to use that magnification, effectively, that leaves 7x, 8x or 10x as the most popular and common binocular magnification choices. Of these, which is the best magnification?

Some years, ago, I got tired of answering that question, so I set out, once and for…

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27 Jan

Are you carrying more binocular than you need? Probably. In their attempt to squeeze all the latest technical improvements into their binoculars, manufacturers often give us more than we sometimes need in the way of binocular features. For instance, how many of us actually need waterproof binoculars? You expect and need waterproof in marine binoculars and hunting binoculars, of course, but no one needs waterproof in astronomy binoculars – no one does astronomy in the rain. Yet, a good many astronomy binoculars are waterproof. In fact, the majority of binoculars on the market are waterproof, regardless of their intended application,…

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26 Jan

Like so many folks who write about binoculars, I have a tendency to dwell on binocular specifications and features and overall performance and, after all, that’s what most people want to know when it comes time to buy binoculars. What’s the best astronomy binocular? What’s the best birding binoculars? Binoculars are all about the technical details and specific binocular applications, right?

Those aspects are certainly important, yes, but there is another side to owning and using binoculars that is much more subjective. Simply put, it’s just a kick to look through binoculars and enjoy the view, even if you aren’t…

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25 Jan

My winter vigil at the bird feeders continues. As with most folks who feed birds in the winter, I keep watch on the feeders, throughout daylight hours, in the hopes that I will catch a glimpse of a new bird species and maybe even a rare new bird species. Winter may not be the best time of the year to record large number of bird species on a birding list, but it is nonetheless a season of surprises. Some of the rarest birds I have seen were seen in winter.

No, I don’t sit for hours on end at the…

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24 Jan

Saw an old friend, yesterday, on our drive back home from a visit in Milwaukee with my daughter and her new husband. We were somewhere just north of Oshkosh, turning west toward Steven’s Point when I spotted a bird I haven’t seen in years, namely a Rough-legged Hawk. Roughies were a common winter hawk on the open plains of Nebraska where I lived for many years, but this was my first sighting of a Rough-legged since moving to Wisconsin. We spotted the bird in an expanse of open fields with little cover – typical Rough-legged habitat. I suspect that you…

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20 Jan

My first days as a serious binocular astronomer coincided with my first days as an astronomer, in general. I couldn’t afford to buy a telescope, but I did already have binoculars, though they were not considered to be astronomy binoculars, even in those days before giant astronomy binoculars existed. That old 10×40 Tasco binocular was more likely to be found under birding binoculars than astronomy binocular, but it did the job. It was enough binocular for me to learn most of the basics of using binoculars for astronomy.

I didn’t get so called serious astronomy binoculars for another twenty years.…

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20 Jan

A glance at the binocular market reveals that there are, indeed, many players, even if you consider only the players at the source who actually manufacture the binoculars and place various company labels on their binoculars. Yes, at the low and mid-priced end of the binocular market, source optical companies often manufacture binoculars for several brands, even though specifications may be varied slightly to suit individual contracts. This is why so many binoculars in the high volume, low price point end of the binocular market look so similar. Wait! You mean some well known binocular companies don’t actually have a…

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19 Jan

Compact binoculars are always with me, simply because they are, well, compact. Its all about size, as to whether you decide to take something with you or leave it behind and even just a tiny bit more binocular size is sometimes enough to sway your decision as to when a binocular goes with you and when it does not. This “should I take the binocular or not take the binocular” dilemma is often not a rational, carefully weighed decision, either. Often, it’s an instantaneous, spur-of-the-moment, last second, on your way out the door kind of thing and any hesitation on…

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18 Jan

Although I push myself (relentlessly, at times) to excel in things I enjoy, I am not a competitive person. When I compete, in other words, it is against myself and then I can be as ruthless and determined as the fiercest competitor. Put me in a group of people, however, and I’m the one that tries to make everyone get along, be happy and feel like part of the group. I try to actually reduce competition. It’s just the way I’m wired.

This has served me well in birdwatching, of all things. There was a time when I was a…

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