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Most difficult birding situation - optically

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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 19:42   #1
Patudo
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Most difficult birding situation - optically

Hey all,

Apologies if this question has been asked already, but I'd like to ask what is the most difficult situation you regularly come up against in your day to day birding (or on a fairly regular basis) - glare from direct sun or reflected sunlight? Locating and picking out small/tiny targets in amongst foliage? Identification of subtle details at distance? Do you choose your binoculars with these challenges in mind, and have the difficulties you regularly face influenced you towards purchasing binoculars with particular optical qualities or specifications?

The answer in my case is both, but I'd love to hear other experiences and opinions.

Cheers,
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 19:51   #2
Maljunulo
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Back lit by the sky, such as raptors on tops of utility poles etc.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:07   #3
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One place I do a fair bit of birding, and a place I use for review comparison purposes is the White Lake Unit of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. The north edge of the unit is the Oregon-California border. The viewing of the unit is to the south of Stateline Rd. There is a nice parking area there. The view is over water and looking south under the sun. The sun light over the water often looks like looking at a sea of Christmas lights. This can be very challenging situation. Add the mirror reflection of the 14,000+' Mt Shasta superimposed over hundred to thousands of waterfowl and raptors and poor binoculars are worthless.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:12   #4
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Some typical difficult situations:
- difficult light (flare, backlit, etc.) - my Ultravid is pretty good, newer bins would perhaps be slightly better with this
- follow birds through foliage - again my UV is not bad, but more FOV would be better, e.g. Zeiss SF, or FL 7x42
- Birds high up in canopy with bin uncomfortable to hold - stabilisation would probably help
- Birds too far away - more power or stabilisation would be good
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:22   #5
WJC
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Originally Posted by dalat View Post
Some typical difficult situations:
- difficult light (flare, backlit, etc.) - my Ultravid is pretty good, newer bins would perhaps be slightly better with this
- follow birds through foliage - again my UV is not bad, but more FOV would be better, e.g. Zeiss SF, or FL 7x42
- Birds high up in canopy with bin uncomfortable to hold - stabilisation would probably help
- Birds too far away - more power or stabilisation would be good
Backlighting ... hands down!

In Western Washington, we had clouds (Nah, really!?), hills, and trees. Here in Southern Idaho's high desert country, the sun has ways of getting in your face 24/7/365 no matter which way you're walking or driving.

Bill
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:29   #6
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The "difficult" situation I face most routinely is getting on birds quickly when given only a fleeting opportunity, such as sparrows flitting through grass, shrubs, and weeds, only popping into view momentarily, or warblers doing the same in forest or shrubland (especially in fall). I like a bin with easy eye placement, fast precise focus, wide FOV, and sharp field edge to edge. My favorite birding bins (e.g. Swarovski 8.5x42 EL SV) handle this sort of situation very well.

In this land of wide open spaces, many backlighting problems (e.g. shorebirds, ducks on water, raptors in silhouette) are more an issue for scopes than bins, because these birds are often seen scanning with a scope, or going from bins to a scope (which is often possible) is a good first step to trying to deal with backlight.

The most annoying problem that I face is seeing birds in forest canopy when there are many small breaks in the canopy (bright spots of light in the view) coupled with rain or extremely hot and high humidity conditions. In these cases it always seems that my eyeglasses and bins are fogging and that everything is lurking in the dark with a veil of back-lit fog between it and me. In those situations, I prefer a bin with a big exit pupil and water repellent lens coatings (e.g. Swarovski 8.5x42 EL SV, but maybe I need a Noctivid for its putatively superior contrast and ability to tame stray light! :)

A third problem I have for bins in day to day birding is combining birding with butterflying. For that, I need a close focus bin that has quick but precise focus. For that, I use Zeiss 8x32 FL.

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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:31   #7
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I guess this calls for my "infamous" sheep story. The most difficult situation I have come across was looking at Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. You are at the bottom of a steep canyon and the sheep are high above you on rocky ledges. When the sun is over you you are almost looking into the sun to see the sheep. I had liked my Swarovski Habicht's 8x30 because the on-axis view is great but that day I tried to use them to see the sheep above me and the whole FOV was totally covered with flare. I tried the Canon 10x42 IS-L's which I fortunately had in the truck. I could easily see the sheep with very little flare. The Habicht's went on Ebay the next day never to return. The Habicht's were a good friend but they let me down when I really needed them. I think looking up at steep angles with the sun overhead is obviously one of the hardest situations you will ever come across.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 20:52   #8
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Trying to ID birds in canopy flocks in the rainforest. The backlighting is horrendous and you're looking at asses and chests of 4" birds from 40-50m below that are moving quickly. Even more fun is trying to get someone else on the correct antwren or dacnis or the like when this is happening.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:08   #9
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Dennis - that picture is great...it’s exactly as I imagined your ‘infamous’ goats on slopes story. Tricky viewing no doubt.

I’m having a particularly tricky time viewing in thick subtropical rainforest...forest so thick and closed in that it’s almost claustrophobic. The canopy is very high, but there are various sub canopies. There’s a particular tiny darting bird I’m trying to ID which is barely an inch in overall length. One of these birds was flitting about in the thick foliage about four feet in front of my face and I could barely observe it with the naked eye so I’m wondering if the whole endeavour isn’t futile.

When viewing or searching for a target in this forest there is a general sense of mass information overload which seems to somehow kill a binocular’s FOV and general usefulness. If the known target is stationary/static then the viewing in low light with decent bins can be great. I was viewing some colourful fungi and the image was superb, but this was pre spotted with the naked eye.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:19   #10
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Rathaus,

You need an "alpha" 7x42 to see that little bird close up. It has great depth of field, a wide (generally 8º) FOV, and a large bright 6mm exit pupil. Right now both Leica and Nikon have 7x42s in their lineup.

Bob
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:38   #11
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I guess this calls for my "infamous" sheep story. The most difficult situation I have come across was looking at Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. You are at the bottom of a steep canyon and the sheep are high above you on rocky ledges. When the sun is over you you are almost looking into the sun to see the sheep. I had liked my Swarovski Habicht's 8x30 because the on-axis view is great but that day I tried to use them to see the sheep above me and the whole FOV was totally covered with flare. I tried the Canon 10x42 IS-L's which I fortunately had in the truck. I could easily see the sheep with very little flare. The Habicht's went on Ebay the next day never to return. The Habicht's were a good friend but they let me down when I really needed them. I think looking up at steep angles with the sun overhead is obviously one of the hardest situations you will ever come across.
Dennis,
Your Canons will be even more flare resistant if lens hoods are fitted.
I've been very pleased with these:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
They weigh very little, are cosmetically unobtrusive and are also protective in foul weather.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:41   #12
james holdsworth
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Others have mentioned it - rainforest [or humid, misty temperate forest] canopy viewing - even a bit of veiling glare muddies the image enough to be troublesome. The HT is the only bin I have that works really well in this case and many other very expensive options have [for me] really fallen flat in this environment.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:43   #13
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Rathaus,

You need an "alpha" 7x42 to see that little bird close up. It has great depth of field, a wide (generally 8º) FOV, and a large bright 6mm exit pupil. Right now both Leica and Nikon have 7x42s in their lineup.

Bob
Cheers for the suggestion Bob, I’ll definitely give that a go. I have the last of the Zeiss BGATP 7x42 and find them to be a stunning glass....but the one area (apart from water resistance) they fall short against more modern glass is a lack of very close focus. For some reason I haven’t tried them in this forest. I’ll give them a go. I can pull a close focus of roughly 4 metres using these bins.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 22:49   #14
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Rathaus,

You need an "alpha" 7x42 to see that little bird close up. It has great depth of field, a wide (generally 8º) FOV, and a large bright 6mm exit pupil. Right now both Leica and Nikon have 7x42s in their lineup.

Bob
I use an 8x42 most of the time, particularly in the tropics. However, I generally find myself wishing for a 10x42 more frequently than 7x42, for canopy birds. I know some birders in the tropics carry scopes for canopy flocks but to me the hassle of a scope is way too high. I do occasionally carry 10x in the forest when I know I'm going to be looking for a canopy species.

I think a lot of finding birds in the tropics is knowing the behaviour of various species and groups and types of birds so that you can pick them out. That said, finding something like a perched Spadebill, Manakin, or particularly Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin even when it's within 10-15' can be maddening at times.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 23:31   #15
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I have always wondered why expensive and prestigious binoculars don't come threaded for standard filters (and lens hoods) from the factory.
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 23:55   #16
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I have always wondered why expensive and prestigious binoculars don't come threaded for standard filters (and lens hoods) from the factory.
Those would no doubt help the Habicht 8x30 M.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 00:13   #17
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Dennis,
Your Canons will be even more flare resistant if lens hoods are fitted.
I've been very pleased with these:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
They weigh very little, are cosmetically unobtrusive and are also protective in foul weather.
Those no doubt would help flare even though the Canon is pretty good stock. Will it still fit in the case without removing them?
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 00:40   #18
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Those no doubt would help flare even though the Canon is pretty good stock. Will it still fit in the case without removing them?
They will still fit and the zipper still closes. Just note that one has to buy two of them, as they are usually sold to photographers for their lenses.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 03:26   #19
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Backlighting ... hands down!

In Western Washington, we had clouds (Nah, really!?), hills, and trees. Here in Southern Idaho's high desert country, the sun has ways of getting in your face 24/7/365 no matter which way you're walking or driving.

Bill
Yeah, strong backlit birds and getting any detail facing them. It sounds like I wouldn't be very happy with all your sunlight Bill! I'd be living in a cave or hole there!
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 06:43   #20
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Sunlight glancing off the tops of tiny waves on the distant sea, dancing like dozens of street lights making it impossible to see if that shape is an otter or a seal, a shag or a cormorant etc etc. Its not flare or glare its optical confusion.

Lee
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 16:37   #21
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My biggest optical problem while birding is during overcast, cloudy winter days. It seems most days are that way during this time of year. It is right now in fact! Lighting is terrible and so is bird ID. There is usually some distance from me where I can ID a bird and a little more distance no ID is possible because the color/markings are gone. I first tried to help that with a Meopta B.1 7X50..that's not really enough magnification though. Maybe a 8 or 9 X50 or so might help. I kicked around the idea of an FL 8X56 but decided it would just be too large/heavy for general birding. An HT 8X54 might just be the ticket.....though I think a 8.5 or 9 X50 would be about perfect....splitting hairs I know!
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 16:48   #22
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Night owls

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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 17:13   #23
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Too heavy, not enough mag.
Try a 10X50 EL
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 17:34   #24
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Hey all,

Apologies if this question has been asked already, but I'd like to ask what is the most difficult situation you regularly come up against in your day to day birding (or on a fairly regular basis) - glare from direct sun or reflected sunlight? Locating and picking out small/tiny targets in amongst foliage? Identification of subtle details at distance? Do you choose your binoculars with these challenges in mind, and have the difficulties you regularly face influenced you towards purchasing binoculars with particular optical qualities or specifications?

The answer in my case is both, but I'd love to hear other experiences and opinions.

Cheers,
Patudo
For me it was always close ups in thick brush. Fortunately I found a pair of Eagle optics 6x30s with a really wide FOV and a close focus of 3 ft. They closed them out long ago but they are optically pristine and do well when you're in the thick. Now that EO is gone they are doubly a collectors item and Vortex still covers the forever warranty.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 19:40   #25
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