Tuesday, May 07, 2019

It's a Major Award!

I won, I won, I won!
It's not Italian.
It's Japanese!
It's binoculars!
Bird Watcher's Digest is a great magazine that I've subscribed to for a very long time. It started when a lady from church gave me three years worth of issues, I think they were for 1985, 1986, 1987. Somewhere in that mid 80s range. I read and re-read each issue six times at least. Finally, I got a subscription as a gift, and have usually maintained it. One thing that the magazine does every couple of months is have a give-a-way, usually from a company that sponsors the magazine in some way.
Opticron is one such company. They make a variety of binoculars from beginner to advanced. The give-a-way they most recently had was for a pair of Savanna-R 8x33 binoculars.
Let's see what's in the Box!

Nice! Real Binoculars.

Highly portable, perfectly sized.

I've been using them since March 20th. Here's my quick take on them:

  • Weight to quality is amazing. Pretty light!
  • These retail from around 140 - 160. Great price for the quality.
  • Incredibly sharp image for binoculars this price. These produce the clearest image of any binocular I've ever owned.
  • 8 x 33. I'm a big fan of bins where the Objective lens is 5xs the magnification. Granted, lens coating have come a long way since I first started buying binoculars on my own, and these have the brightest, truest color image of any binocular I've owned, I can't help but wonder, how much better would an 8 x 40 be?
  • No locking eyecup position. I'm constantly having to make sure they are adjusted correctly.
  • Diopter adjustment is weird. Every pair of Binoculars has had an easily adjustable diopter on the right lens. I've always been near the limit on the + side. with these, I'm not, I'm close to the middle, but on the negative side. I'm sure that's just how the diopter is calibrated, but I've also noticed that the adjustment is really stiff. That's good in some ways because it means it will hold true, bad because it's hard to dial in. I won't be loaning these out for sure.
These things are a perfect example of why it's important to try before you buy. I've only ever seen this brand and model online, and nothing said really suggested that these things are must haves. It  took a chance drawing to put them in my hand. I'm so thankful to have them! They've become my first choice for binoculars to carry when I go birding, and until I get a pair of 10x50s, they will remain so.

Here's the takaway:
1. Bird Watcher's Digest is a great magazine, if you are a birder in North America, and you don't subscribe to it, you really should. They give great reviews, interesting species profiles, and all the latest environmental and birding culturally relevant news. In addition to that, their give-a-ways are legit, I know because I won!
2. My days of being a porro-prism guy are over. Technology has advanced, and these roof prisms are just too comfortable to hold and use. I love my Bushnell Waterproof 8x40s, but they are old in every since of the word. Old design, old prisms, old coating tech, and just plain old. 
3. The Opticron Savanna-R 8x33 binocular may be the perfect intro-to-birding binocular that a young birder could get. It's perfectly sized for smaller hands. It's not crazy expensive, I've seen some specials as low as $120. 

I hope you give Opticron a chance. The Lebron James of Birding Optics Ben Lizdas recommends having a compact binocular for quick trips. These are better than adequate for that task. There's also several models to choose from at Redstart Birding.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Q1 in Review, Spring is Here, The Rest of the Year at a Glance

all four letter codes should conform to the latest ABA list located here:

The Year List resets, everything you see is new on a macro enough level to notice.
I started this year thinking about the first time I saw many of the birds I saw last year. In 2018 I ramped up my birding activity, getting eBird lists submitted every month, closing out some gray bars on some of favorite local places. I even did a sort of Big Day on my birthday!
I've already told a little bit about my adventures on New Year's day. I did have other sightings though, including some really good birds around Lake Morton.

A nemesis bird from last year was Green-winged Teal, One had been spotted on Lake Morton late in December, and a birding buddy said he thinks it's the same female that's been there over the last three years. On New Year's eve I went and tried to find it. No Joy. I did find other birds, but the GWTE was not one of them.
That changed New Year's Day! I found her hanging out on the southwestern side of the lake, looking all tiny in a group of domesticated "muddled ducks". Further around the lake, I found a couple of Blue-winged Teal, which was nice too. Those were the highlight birds of the day, but Q1 has given me many species at Lake Morton. American White Pelicans and Double-crested cormorants abundantly filled the lake in crazy numbers throughout the winter, especially for the DCCO. Immature AWPE persists so far this year. While fewer in number (usually between 3 and 9), they are on the west/northwest side of the lake, along the wall bordering the lake. Sometimes I see them on the east edge too. Some water birds have been conspicuously absent from the lake this winter, notably Northern Shoveler, and the BWTE have been sparse. Also, no Gadwalls near me. I've made up for it in Passerines though, adding Blue-headed vireo to the Lake Morton list, as well as spotting several in other places around town. One songbird I've noticed an uptick in observances (especially on my part) has been House finch. I've noticed a flock of 6+ birds running around downtown, and it seems to have broken up into pairs. I hear males singing almost daily, and several have been hanging around females, gathering bits of spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) for what seems to me to be nesting purposes.
Another goal I've had, especially since receiving a spotting scope from my parents for my birthday, is to find something besides a Laughing or Ring-billed gull on Lake Morton. Other reported gulls include Herring and Bonaparte's. So far, no dice. I've seen HERG at Lake Hollingsworth, but I've never seen a BOGU, not even at the beach.The search continues.
Migration is heating up locally. A Summer tanager, and pair of male Indigo buntings appeared on a recent morning foray to Holloway Park. Reports from Ft De Soto are amazing too. Check out the picture of the Chestnut-sided warbler Polk county Local Roberta Blair took on 4/16: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55061821 
Another one of Polk Counties finest birders (and nature photographer) Ed Rizer also had some great pictures, but you have to go to facebook and find them.
I hope to hit the local patches again this weekend, we shall see.
I leave you with the following two photographs, both are of the same nest of Brown thrashers in my yard. I feel honored that this family is being raised here. There was a bit of a scare Tuesday with a Cooper's hawk, and there's the constant threat of neighborhood cats, but I hope these birds make it! Just look at how fast they grow!
April 15th

April 13th

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year's Day, with a Royal Touch

What a great start to the year! Even though I went to work, I think I managed to get 46 species so far. I might go outside and see if I can scare up the barred owl that lives behind the house. I'll detail more about that later, first I need to be a little sober and serious. Not all has been well, I did get involved in some shenanigans.
I got out of work a couple hours early, and with wifely blessings went to a local lake where I know Herring Gull has been reported. it's also the sort of place where you can reliable see Caspian and Royal terns. The first Royal tern for this year for me was an injured bird, and this is where the shenanigans begin.
Here it is!

As Seen through my Binoculars
 Poor thing was just laying there on the ground, so I reached out to a local animal rehabilitator and over all cool lady. Despite being out on a call (injured Sandhill Crane in Davenport), she told me to bring the bird by her house where her husband left me a box to put the bird. I dropped it off and eagerly awaited the news for the extent/ cause of injury.
Poor thing has a broken shoulder joint that can't be repaired, so it will be euthanized in the morning at a local vet. These sort of injuries are common with the species and can be caused by hitting something, like a car or another bird.
There was at least one other Royal tern at Lake Parker today, and I saw a Caspian, but this one is a little special you know. I got to hold it, care for it, do it a little good before it returns to the dust from which it came. I'm glad I was there, and it's not feeding a feral cat.
Good Bye Friend
The bird passed away in the night, asleep, warm and as comfortable as we could make it.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Ready, Retooled, Renewed

An Update
The ol' steed got an upgrade, new spokes,  new tubes, and a tune up.
Even better,  I got some birding accessories.
The Scope on the bicycle handlebars is a Roxant, 12-36 X 50, and came to me as a Christmas present from my parents with an attachment that will allow me to take pictures through the scope with my cellphone. Both are available on Amazon, and are relatively inexpensive. The clamp came as an after accessory from my Dad. Quality wise, the setup works for what it is. There's some chromatic issues with the image, but I've seen worse out of more expensive glass. With it, I checked out some little brown jobs that turned out to be some lifer sparrows (Vesper to be exact), so it's pretty much the best Christmas present ever. Now I have a reason to check out some of the ducks on Agricola Rd here in polk county. Terns on buoys at Lake Hollingsworth are no longer a mystery. I took the picture above on a Sunday morning excursion to see the terns. I scoped a couple of Forster's and some Royal's. Didn't get to all the buoys either, will have to work harder next time. Excitement builds as I continue to bird. There's big things planned for next year, and it will take a lot of work to make them all happen.
The Lowdown
I'm ready for next year, it's tomorrow after all. I'm ready to see new birds, and some of the regulars as well. I'm also ready to go new places, more to say about that later.
I'm retooled with necessary gear. It's hard to bird without optics, and this new scope will do the trick for helping me see new things, and document them as well. I also hope to retool and review what I'm using as well.
I'm renewed in my purpose for birding. The world has so many wonderful things to see and understand. I want to share them with my kids, who will add their own perspective, and find their own purpose for enjoying creation, and all the lessons it's here to teach us. I want to share what I'm learning, that there is beauty in odd places. There's so much here to see and do!

Come with me to the future!
Let's go see some birds!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


The birding has been good in August, September, and October so far in Polk county and other places I've been.
We went to a wedding the weekend of August 24th to St Augustine. I woke up early every day and went birding. I saw wave upon wave of Little Blue Herons one morning, and had a generally good time Birding in St Johns County for the first time since starting eBird, indeed, since my college days.
I made my first trip out to the Avon Park Cut Off Rd Sod Fields. There I saw many righteous shorebirds, including a group of White-rumped Sandpipers, and insane numbers of Least Sandpipers.
A trip this last Saturday (Oct 13th) yielded some good birds at Saddle Creek park, including a Yellow-bellied flycatcher I'm trying to confirm. That trip will be worth it's own post.
I'm going to do a big day on the 26th , and am starting a facebook page to track it.
It's an experiment.
Feel free to join me, either at a particular spot or for the whole trip. I'll be leaving early morning, and back to Lakeland by 5pm. Not sure where we will be visiting just yet. There's reports of a Double-toothed Kite in Hernando county though...