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Field glasses optional

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Old Sunday 26th May 2019, 17:05   #1
tenex
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Field glasses optional

OK, it's a stretch to make this relevant to a bino forum... but I recently came upon an old copy of Roger Tory Peterson's "How To Know The Birds". I almost said "classic", but even people I've seen using his field guides say they never read it. I really liked it, for a historical perspective (first published 1949, this is a later edition with exciting full color plates!) but mainly as an example of how to write something like this, with an engaging style, a focus on basics, and keeping attention on the birds and their lives. Birding can get pretty technical today -- Sibley's "Basics" book is half about feathers(!), and then there's eBird and data collection and sonographs -- so this little book seemed curiously refreshing.

P.S. Ted Floyd has a quite different (more modern, as just described) book out now with the same title, which is what got me curious about the original.

Oh, almost forgot the bino tidbit! Peterson opined that "field glasses" are entirely optional... and then recommended 8x, which struck me as odd because I thought those hardly existed back then.
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Old Sunday 26th May 2019, 17:13   #2
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I think it is quite unusual, though when I first started watching birds and field craft, note taking, sketching and bird calls were all equally important. Probably became interested at 9 years old ( 1964 ). not getting binoculars till I was about 14 years of age. Good old Observer Book of British Birds was my treasured possession, even now.
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Old Sunday 26th May 2019, 18:19   #3
Sancho
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I think it is quite unusual, though when I first started watching birds and field craft, note taking, sketching and bird calls were all equally important. Probably became interested at 9 years old ( 1964 ). not getting binoculars till I was about 14 years of age. Good old Observer Book of British Birds was my treasured possession, even now.
I still have my old 'Observer's' too! The Irish names for birds (where I could find them) are written in my eight-year old handwriting at the the top of each page,
and I lost the little plastic case. I also have the Peterson, Mountfort and Hollom
Collins Guide that I saved up for and took a bus ride into Dublin (alone) at age ten to buy...that was a massive step up! (Both the new Field Guide and the lone bus-ride; my Mum would have killed me if she'd known, maybe now I should break it to her, fifty years later)

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Old Sunday 26th May 2019, 22:52   #4
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Hi Tenex,
I don't think it's a stretch at all.
I was just thinking about the field glasses optional topic the other day. Birding as a kid I would see a few without optics but they would always have notebooks and field guides in hand.
Between the ages of eight and forty-five I was an avid birder sans optics of any kind. I had the notebooks and field guides of course but never felt the need for binoculars. The field guides themselves were handed down, donated or borrowed so I don't recall much about who wrote them. The first field guide I purchased in my early twenties was I think Petersons Birds of North America.

The peepers back then must have been in top form since I'd never noticed a problem with seeing or identifying a bird. Until, at forty-five when my optometrist uttered for the first time the words “I think you're going to need glasses”
These days I'd take the perfect vision over fancy optics any day. The compensation to aging eyes is, well, fancy optics, which are of course helpful for their intended purpose but also fun in themselves as objects' d'art.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 12:32   #5
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Ears and eyes make for a good birding kit.

Walking around our neghbourhood we hear Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Great Tit and Chiff Chaff far more fequently than we see them. And flying high the screams of Swifts catch our attention and you don't need binos to recognise that sickle-shaped flying wing.

On the Western Isles of Scotland we hear Red-throated Divers cackling long before we see them arriving at the loch and without binos their outline in the sky is immediately recognisable as are the White-tailed Sea Eagles that often land on a crag on the north side of the loch. We haven't heard them but their huge wings and big head with that huge beak and looking almost tail-less separate them from Golden Eagles.

Meanwhile all around us there is the constant piping of Oystercatchers, as often out of sight as within it, and the occasional cronk of Ravens and if we are really lucky we might hear the call of a Greenshank.

Confine yourself to what you can see through binos and you are missing half the fun. And even if you are carrying binos and intent on adding ticks to your list it doesn't mean you can't enjoy bird sounds and the distant views of familiar species.

Lee
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 14:23   #6
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As amazing (to us) as it is, I find the humann eye to be sadly "underpowered" when it comes to small objects at relatively great distances.

Even up close, so much more is revealed by good optics that I am always surprised by what I see.

Maybe I'm just odd.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 15:15   #7
Gijs van Ginkel
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Tenex, post 1,
In 1949 binoculars existed already more than a century, the first one is from around 1822. But perhaps Peterson points to prism binoculars, which were already made around 1860, but came into full swing from 1895, so more than half a centry before 1949.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 15:28   #8
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Ears and eyes make for a good birding kit.

Lee
Agree wholeheartedly, but somewhat enviously. Starr Saphir, the best birder I knew, used her ears for most of the identification work. She knew all the individual call notes and chips, so the visuals were largely icing on the cake.

Sadly, good hearing does not have a lifetime warranty, especially for former shooters. Ear protection is a worthwhile investment.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 15:39   #9
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Hi Gijs,
I thought that the binocular came in the 1600s just after the telescope.
Maybe Dutch.

Regards,
B.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 15:50   #10
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As amazing (to us) as it is, I find the humann eye to be sadly "underpowered" when it comes to small objects at relatively great distances.

Even up close, so much more is revealed by good optics that I am always surprised by what I see.

Maybe I'm just odd.
If you are odd then that makes three of us because me and Troubadoris use optics to look at more or less everything including lichens and mosses, insects and flowers and life in fresh water and salt water. The view through binos of small stuff that is close-by is better than with the naked eye, we find. Of course while you are doing this, or walking or picnicing, you don't have to neglect what your ears or naked eyes can perceive.

Lee
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 15:54   #11
james holdsworth
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There are many days of field surveys where I may not lift my bins for long stretches, as it's all birding-by-ear....but I would still never go anywhere without them.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 17:28   #12
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Tenex, post 1,
In 1949 binoculars existed already more than a century, the first one is from around 1822. But perhaps Peterson points to prism binoculars, which were already made around 1860, but came into full swing from 1895, so more than half a centry before 1949.
Gijs van Ginkel
Hi Gijs,

I think Tenex referred to 8x pairs which were indeed far less common back then, especially after WW2 during which the majority of production was 6x30 and 7x50 pairs for military use.

Joachim
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 20:19   #13
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There is no question that even with perfect eyesight optics do enhance the experience. I just marvel at how really good our eyes can be when we're young and healthy. I don't regret all those years of birding without bins and I still would've have said yes to a top notch pair of binoculars even back then.

One of my Tico (Costa Rican) friends has uncanny visual acuity. His knowledge of the local species and their habits obviously contributes to any positive id and does underline and helps his visual abilities, or so I believe.
Still, we've seen him spot and identify with his naked eye a Hepatic Tanager in a thick tree line across a valley a half kilometre wide. When we get our bins on it, its tiny but identifiable so he's not making it up. I imagine when he put his bins on it he would see even more detail but the point is eyeballs (and brains) are amazing when working to designed specs.

These days I'm trying very hard to bring my “birding by ear” skills up to snuff. Working here in CR I mostly go out with much younger birders and who are almost to a person some scary good birding by ear birders. Hence my attempts to improve my audio memory and call skills. I'm pretty sure I'm getting better but I'll never be in the same camp as the locals. At least I'm not embarrassing myself anymore with constantly asking what bird is making that interesting call when its only a common TK (Tropical Kingbird) My friends are always amused but gracious about it.

Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 21:25   #14
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I find the 'problem' with birding by ear is, you can never switch it off! Years ago I sat down with the excellent cassette series 'Teach yourself bird songs and calls' (or something- UK published), and learned all I could. Invaluable stuff, adds a whole new dimension. But the eyes can be averted, while the ears can not, so when out walking with family or friends, I find myself constantly distracted, and they find me increasingly odd.
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 21:46   #15
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Sancho, hilarious but true,
When out and about with my none birding friends they know I've heard a bird when my face becomes even more vacant than usual.

Funny how one can tune out an important conversation but not bird calls.
Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 22:35   #16
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Sancho, hilarious but true,
When out and about with my none birding friends they know I've heard a bird when my face becomes even more vacant than usual.

Funny how one can tune out an important conversation but not bird calls.
Cheers,
Bryan
Easy, that is because birds are more important than conversations.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 07:08   #17
Gijs van Ginkel
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Binastro, post 9,
In 1608 Hans Lipperhey invented the (monocular) telescope, it is wel documented and there are studies to show how he could obtain good images with the low quality lenses of that time.
As far as I know it was F. Voigtländer in 1823 who came up with the first production of binoculars, using the same optical construction principle invented by Lipperhey.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 07:17   #18
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[ I find myself constantly distracted, and they find me increasingly odd.[/quote]

Me too, although nowadays it's the occasional raise of an eyebrow when out and about shopping. Though the Peregrines in Chichester meant I lost her and the granddaughter for half an hour whilst they found a coffee shop. Both can now readily identify calling Falcons in West Sussex.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 20:18   #19
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Gijs, I meant only (as Joachim guessed) that I thought 8x was uncommon back in the 1940s. When growing up in the 1960s I only had or saw 7, 10, 15x. Unfortunately we weren't birders, I only came to it later in life. I'm enjoying the stories of those who started early. What caught your attention? I think it wasn't only birds that I wasn't noticing...

I suppose the necessity of binos is a relative thing. There are lots of long open views here. Just yesterday I saw a brown raptor atop a tall chimney at an abandoned site in town where there used to be a prairie dog colony, now sadly extirpated. Pretty far away, couldn't get a good front view, had no bino with me and felt frustrated. The fact that here it's 95% likely to have been a Red-Tailed Hawk only makes it that much more interesting when it's not, and I couldn't be sure, and don't like not knowing.

I'm not very good with birdsong yet. It's frustrating because I have excellent recall for melody, even rhythm, but most birds are a different story.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 21:21   #20
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tenex, post 19,
Already from 1908 quite a few 8x binocular models were produced eg. by Busch, Goerz, Hensoldt, Leitz and Zeiss.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 22:16   #21
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Gijs, I meant only (as Joachim guessed) that I thought 8x was uncommon back in the 1940s. When growing up in the 1960s I only had or saw 7, 10, 15x. Unfortunately we weren't birders, I only came to it later in life. I'm enjoying the stories of those who started early. What caught your attention? I think it wasn't only birds that I wasn't noticing...
I wasn't around then, but the impression I get is that 7x was more popular in the States back in the day, whereas 8x might have been more popular in Europe. 8x30 certainly has long been popular amongst European manufacturers. Allbinos has an informative page covering Zeiss's 8x30 Deltrintem and variants that were first made in the 1920s, and Leitz's 8x30 porro first appeared, it would seem, in 1927. I'm not so familiar with 8x40s, but these were definitely produced by Zeiss (and probably by other European manufacturers) and, post-war, in Japan. Later on there were the classic 8x40 and 8x32 Leitz Trinovid roofs and the 8x30 Dialyt. Peterson's recommendation of 8x matches my own (meager by comparison, I hastily add!) experience very well.

As to whether "field glasses" are optional - well as the replies above illustrate, for some types of birding, they are, if one's fieldcraft is up to par. Mine isn't, and being able to take a closer look at the birds greatly enhances my enjoyment of the day, so binoculars are most definitely essential for me. The birding I do most often can't be done without binoculars. The building that one pair flies from is over one kilometre from my vantage point.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 22:59   #22
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Easy, that is because birds are more important than conversations.
Etudiant,
Thats what I keep telling my friends but they're very sniffy about it and almost always never laugh.

Growing up in the 60’s on the cold Canadian prairies we had a lot of WW II military surplus porro binoculars floating around. Those things were brutes, huge, heavy and they seemed to have a will of their own which fought you every inch of the way. It might explain why birding without optics was a happy option for small hands. They were cheap to buy and were often new and unused.

In fact as I recall the Canadian military had a brick and mortar outlet on the local military base where one could buy just about anything. One summer in the late sixties I was poking around this outlet with a friend who on a whim bought an original boxed and unassembled WWII Triumph motorcycle with sidecar for a song. At least it was cheap enough that an enterprising teenager could afford one. Every square inch of that thing except the tires were painted green.

I couldn't tell you now what make the porros were at that outlet but they came in a fashionable green as well.

Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 23:11   #23
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Etudiant,
Thats what I keep telling my friends but they're very sniffy about it and almost always never laugh.

Growing up in the 60’s on the cold Canadian prairies we had a lot of WW II military surplus porro binoculars floating around. Those things were brutes, huge, heavy and they seemed to have a will of their own which fought you every inch of the way. It might explain why birding without optics was a happy option for small hands. They were cheap to buy and were often new and unused.

In fact as I recall the Canadian military had a brick and mortar outlet on the local military base where one could buy just about anything. One summer in the late sixties I was poking around this outlet with a friend who on a whim bought an original boxed and unassembled WWII Triumph motorcycle with sidecar for a song. At least it was cheap enough that an enterprising teenager could afford one. Every square inch of that thing except the tires were painted green.

I couldn't tell you now what make the porros were at that outlet but they came in a fashionable green as well.

Cheers,
Bryan
Canada had a pretty substantial binocular industry during WW2 and subsequently. They even produced Leica derivatives under license, think REL was the designation. Not sure any of that survives today...
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 23:30   #24
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Canada had a pretty substantial binocular industry during WW2 and subsequently. They even produced Leica derivatives under license, think REL was the designation. Not sure any of that survives today...
Be fun to have had the foresight to snag a "still in its packaging" pair back then. Unfortunately I didn't.
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Old Thursday 30th May 2019, 13:10   #25
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One could buy a complete Spitfire for £10 surplus. Minus guns.
Many aircraft were just tipped over the side of the carriers to save having to pay for them.

There are many REL binoculars, still low price.
Unfortunately no Avro Arrows.
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