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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 10:16   #1
Egrets Ivadafew
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Rule 3 when buying binoculars

OK, so my dad's dementia degenerated to the point where I gave up work and brought him to live with me, which I guess makes me a full time carer. This means I'm tied to the house, which means my birdwatching patch consists of my back garden (100ft long, south facing, with deciduous and evergreen trees, furthest treetops about half a mile off). Everyday I scan the garden, at all times of day, day in-day out, same view, same trees, same birds (I know we forum members live for our birds but trust me, there's only so many times you can get exited about a Wood Pigeon!). Studying, and studying, and studying the same scene, and I start to notice things, mainly what a vast effect light has. And not in ways I would have predicted. For example, saturating sunshine at midday should produce the best light, correct? Well no actually, I find it brings density to the shade, and silhouettes the distant trees (this being a facing sun), whereas in the evening the low sun ignites everything (with it's own colour when there's a red sunset). Leaf fall through the autumn also 'increases' light, as does soaked shrubbery after rainfall.
I'm sorry if this is glaringly obvious to experienced binocular users, but can I therefore suggest Rule 3 when buying (Rule 1 being, don't buy blind, go and look for yourself, and Rule 2, compare several bins side by side).
Rule 3 -take your existing bins (or the ones you use most) and use these to compare. I say this because it's going to be pot luck with regards to light when you make your choice (the sun bouncing off the water at the Birdfair makes every binocular in the optics tent a 'wow'), and a comparison with your 'right hand man' bins may be a more accurate test.
End of lecture from a novice.
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 10:29   #2
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I feel like you’ve just written a condensed version of my past four weeks of binocular selection process!

As I sit at the window looking at a wood pidgeon with my Leicas
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 13:41   #3
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Bringing your current binoculars with you while shopping is great advice.

Light conditions can make a great binocular seem not so great and an average binocular come across as well beyond it's price point.

I used to be into high-end audio....I kinda still am just not so much. I learned really quickly that it was important to bring your own music with you because dealers would always play the best track available. I always relied on Dire Straits "Sultans of Swing" or Pat Metheny "First Circle."

REALLY sorry to hear about your dad. Awesome of you to take care of him full time. I'm sure it's not easy....
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 14:43   #4
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Egrets, I echo Chuck's words. Good on you for looking after your Dad. I am sure best wishes go to you and your Dad from all on BF.

You are so right about light (and so is Chuck) and it can be changing by the minute and can make comparing binos really tricky. But another way of looking at it is if you need to search and scrutinise and agonise over whether a difference exists then it probably isn't important when using bins for nature observation.

If you can afford bird food then this can massively increase the variety of birds in your garden and if you can't (it can be expensive) then at least dig over a small patch so it is disturbed earth. This will at least bring Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and quite possibly Song Thrush.

Good luck

Lee
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 18:35   #5
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Hi Egrets, I also commend you for looking after your Dad. That will alter one's life patterns immensely.

Your description of the changes of time of day and season are well put, and describe what painters notice when they go about it outside. Look at Monet's haystack and cathedral paintings as a sort of affirmation of what you're noticing.
What seems to be static, is actually changing all the time. And those changes are artifacts of enormous processes...

It is interesting that optical effects in binoculars, such as veiling glare, have their counterparts in nature, which is the character of illuminated atmosphere in front of a shadowed space, something that can be aesthetically beautiful whether observed, or painted, but is (rightfully) considered an irritating hindrance in an optical device.

I second the idea of a feeder as well as a birdbath. In addition, if you haven't done it already, familiarize yourself with the bird calls you're hearing, as often there are birds that won't visit a feeder, but are hiding in plain sight, so to speak. If you can identify them through their song, you can go looking for them. There was a Nuttall's Woodpecker that nested in a redwood in our backyard that I could hear regularly, but really had to track down to ever see, as it rarely landed in the yard.

With regard to further corrupting your optics acquisitions, you might also consider a small, portable scope for viewing closeups of something interesting. I keep an 80mm refractor handy for that purpose. It works for everything from hawks to hummingbirds, as long as they stay perched for a bit. Plus it may extend your reach well beyond the yard in daylight, and into the universe at night. A view of the rings of Saturn, the crescent of Venus, a shadow transit of a moon across the disc of Jupiter, or following the terminator line on our own moon, is always worth a look.

I suspect you'll make the best of it, as you've already noted the ceaseless change of light. The addition of birds as a trigger of sorts, as well as the optical devices, can enlarge even the smallest of spaces. Just tracking a bird as common as a chickadee as it works its way through a tree makes that space take on an entirely different scale. Immersion in nature is beguiling and rewarding. Tools such as binoculars and telescopes just make it more possible.

Bill

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 21:06   #6
Canip
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by Egrets Ivadafew View Post
OK, so my dad's dementia degenerated to the point where I gave up work and brought him to live with me, which I guess makes me a full time carer. This means I'm tied to the house, which means my birdwatching patch consists of my back garden (100ft long, south facing, with deciduous and evergreen trees, furthest treetops about half a mile off). Everyday I scan the garden, at all times of day, day in-day out, same view, same trees, same birds (I know we forum members live for our birds but trust me, there's only so many times you can get exited about a Wood Pigeon!). Studying, and studying, and studying the same scene, and I start to notice things, mainly what a vast effect light has. And not in ways I would have predicted. For example, saturating sunshine at midday should produce the best light, correct? Well no actually, I find it brings density to the shade, and silhouettes the distant trees (this being a facing sun), whereas in the evening the low sun ignites everything (with it's own colour when there's a red sunset). Leaf fall through the autumn also 'increases' light, as does soaked shrubbery after rainfall.
I'm sorry if this is glaringly obvious to experienced binocular users, but can I therefore suggest Rule 3 when buying (Rule 1 being, don't buy blind, go and look for yourself, and Rule 2, compare several bins side by side).
Rule 3 -take your existing bins (or the ones you use most) and use these to compare. I say this because it's going to be pot luck with regards to light when you make your choice (the sun bouncing off the water at the Birdfair makes every binocular in the optics tent a 'wow'), and a comparison with your 'right hand man' bins may be a more accurate test.
End of lecture from a novice.
Thank you for your post - being what you call an „experienced binocular user“ (that’s at least what I think), I liked every bit of it and fully agree with you.
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 22:24   #7
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As a carer myself, I sympathise with your situation. Our garden is far smaller and the environment distinctly urban so the potential for home-based birdwatching very limited indeed (although that didn't prevent me getting Honey Buzzard & Red Kite over the garden on consecutive days this spring). My advice to you is to try to get as much support in place asap instead of waiting, as I did until you feel you need it only to be told that there was a 12-month wait. Said support (six hours twice a month) lasted less than six months before the experienced care support worker went back home to Mexico and I was informed there was nobody with sufficient experience was available to take over. The irony of the situation - not getting help because the person I care for was too debilitated - was not lost on me. I'm currently in the process of setting up 3 hours support every week (luckily we reached the top of another organisation's waiting list just as the support from the first agency was pulled). The lifesaver has been my local AgeUK dementia unit that provides support 5hrs a day twice a week (costs split between me & social services). This has allowed me to get out birding locally at least once a week which has been a great help. Personally, I find birding in company rather than alone helps which is where a couple of friends have been a great help. I'm also fortunate that I have several excellent and varied birding sites within 20-30 minutes of home. I know that support these days is very fragile and not always easy to organise but I urge you to explore the possibility of getting a few hours break so you can get out in more bird-friendly habitats. I know you don't need me to tell you to look after your Dad but don't forget that you need to look after yourself too (easier said than done, I realise). Good luck to you both.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 01:09   #8
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Sometimes #1 and #2 are all you are going to get. I grew tired of letting local retail decide what I was going to own. Their combined selection is slim and fails to offer much of the interesting and wonderful glass. Hail BirdForum for opening the doors to so much more. It's taking a risk - sometimes it pays off, sometimes it don't. My current four primary pair were all acquired this way.

Chill... "Money for Nothing" over and over on the Vandersteens!!!

CG

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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 01:44   #9
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Chill... "Money for Nothing" over and over on the Vandersteens!!!

CG
... read as I'm listening to Miles Davis on the Vandersteens.

Cheers,

Bill
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 09:48   #10
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Good on you both, Egrets and John: truly selfless decisions to make.
On the rule 3 thing: what might be difficult is taking your own bins to compare, and walking out - with your own bins! It can happen - that the best for you was the one you chose originally. A brave decision to make, but perhaps not as brave as the ones you have already made. Hope you get some MEGA in your gardens this Autumn!
Good luck
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 09:50   #11
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Forgot the audio point:
I always used 'The Nightfly' by Donald Fagen - particularly the hi-hats and shakers on 'IGY' for 'interpretation of top end...'
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 10:52   #12
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Good on you both, Egrets and John: truly selfless decisions to make.
On the rule 3 thing: what might be difficult is taking your own bins to compare, and walking out - with your own bins! It can happen - that the best for you was the one you chose originally. A brave decision to make, but perhaps not as brave as the ones you have already made. Hope you get some MEGA in your gardens this Autumn!
Good luck
Paddy
Unlike Egrets I didn't have to give up work (retired) or move (I care for my wife) so it wasn't really 'a selfless decision' on my part at all but a matter of basic necessity. A mega is unlikely to turn up in my garden any time soon but it is galling that having traipsed fruitlessly around Bockhill Farm (Kent) yesterday in search of an eastern vagrant and planning to do so again tomorrow, a Radde's Warbler decided to turn up there today!
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 11:44   #13
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Egrets... your post is deeply humbling and to discuss optics, or even the birds we view through them, seems almost trivial given the magnitude of such circumstances. If time and ability allows, planting shrubs etc. known to attract birds might draw in more birds to your area without the use of a feeder - I have enjoyed observing birds at the latter, but providing bird feed may be an unwanted expense. Suburban gardens with large numbers of small birds can attract some more dramatic visitors such as sparrowhawks - Birdforum member ChrisKten has many impressive photos of sparrowhawks that hunt in his smallish (from what I can gather) London garden. I have seen them in urban areas myself, but never on the hunt, and it would be quite something to see them attempt to capture prey at close quarters.

When I was at Birdfair the conditions were quite changeable - more overcast in the morning but a mix of sunlit and cloudy conditions in the afternoons. If you hung around the display marquee long enough you could look through the binoculars you wanted in both sets of conditions. The sunlight bouncing off the water, when it was sunny, I myself didn't think added to any wow factor, but served as a good test of how glare-affected the various binoculars were. I have to say the location of the big display marquee was excellent - those seeking tiny critters in the reeds closer in could do so, while those intent on using their binoculars over greater distances could search for soaring buzzards and gulls much further afield. Ironically the two most interesting birds I saw (a hobby that flew quickly over the lake and an osprey hunting the area in front of the InFocus tent) were both viewed through my own binoculars rather than the display models. I agree having binoculars that you were familiar with at hand, to compare against the display models side by side, was invaluable. I did see quite a few other visitors walking around with their own binoculars, including a Zeiss 8x56 Dialyt - I should have asked to have a look through those!
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 13:03   #14
Egrets Ivadafew
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Guys, can I thank Chuck, Lee, Bill, John, Paddy, and Patudo for your kind words. I joined Birdforum to converse with birdwatching folk, it's obvious to me now that I'm also conversing with decent folk.
John, thanks also for your guidance. I'm not going to harp on about my situation because people want to discuss birding. However, when I first moved dad in, I didn't realise how little help there was out there, or, to quote Bette Davis ''Old age ain't for the faint hearted''. My wife has been awesome, and even though she works full time, she helps enough for me to have a couple of hours Sunday mornings to escape with the bins. I'm hoping to zip off to Clumber Park this Sunday to take advantage of the influx posted elsewhere, and try and bag my first Hawfinch (I'm still not convinced they exist!!). Weird how being denied a trip out birdwatching actually intensifies the experience when you actually do go. Our hobby is precious to us.
With regards to the garden, I do have feeders but, despite using a good quality mix, I've found the birds (particularly finches) have dwindled away over time to leave a small flock of House Sparrows, the usual Robins and Blackbirds, etc, and of course the Wood Pigeons (bless em).
Bill, having looked up Monet's Cathedral, and Haystacks, I can see exactly what you mean, the light doesn't just vary, it changes the whole landscape/atmosphere/mood (the winter haystacks actually make you feel cold).
As for the music, here I feel I can payback you gentlemen for your kind words by educating you as to what music actually is ;-). By which I mean of course The Smiths ( for those of you who haven't been baptised yet, if The Smiths were a pair of binoculars, they'd be a Victory SF with built in night vision and image stabilization). Any track is good but may I draw your attention to 'How soon is now' or 'What difference does it make'. Play as loud as your eardrums can stand, aka give those Vandersteens some much needed exercise!
My work here is done
Thanks again

Bill
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 14:54   #15
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Egrets
The lake at Clumber is my favourite place to take binos I am reviewing. There is always a good selection of waterfowl at the right distance and the light can relied upon to test CA etc.

The only place I have seen Hawfinch is at Castor Hanglands Reserve, which has a great variety of habitats including a pond. We have also seen Crossbill there too.

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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 16:24   #16
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Just found it in Where to watch birds. Even nearer. Thanks.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 21:43   #17
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Vandersteens huh? SWEET!

I have Definitive Technology 8060s. Not Vandersteens but they get the job done!
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