Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, April 9, 2007

Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders


It came today!! My copy of Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders. It's wonderful, and even if it's a little creepy and weird to think there's any way anyone can figure out who "America's Top Birders" are, it's pretty darned exciting for me to be included as one of them.

One disclaimer: The description about me is no longer accurate, since I'm no longer working at Binoculars.com nor am I the writer of Birderblog now that it's been sold. Also, in the part where I talk about children's binoculars, I gave some specifications but no specific model. Since then, I've found the perfect pair of binoculars for children and for families--the Leupold 6x30 Yosemites. I am no longer working for an optics company, and even when I was had absolutely nothing to gain from recommending one brand over another--I never got paid on commission or to do sales. But these Yosemites are PERFECT for kids--great range of interocular distance perfect for the tiniest faces with close-set eyes, their parents with wider-set eyes, or anyone in between. They have crisp optics, and are lightweight with really rugged construction. I can't imagine a better-designed pair of glasses for kids. Some people think 6x is just too small for magnification, but guess what--I was using Leupold's 6x Katmais in Florida when I got a perfectly good look at a distant Kirtland's Warbler--I could see its bright yellow underside, streaked sides, the subtle markings on wings and back, and the broken eye ring, and watch it wag its tail. For the same size binoculars, 6x is brighter and has a wider field of view than 7x or 8x, and has a better depth of field, making it easier for beginners to find the bird in the first place while it's at least marginally in focus, and make it easier to hold steady.

If I were rich (and apparently THAT's never going to happen! I can't even hold a job!) I'd buy a pair of 8x32s in a top line. Right now I have a splendid pair of 8x42 Nikon Premiers, which are fantastic, but since I so often carry two cameras around my neck, I like using something smaller for most use, and couldn't afford top of the line. If I couldn't afford really good ones, I didn't want to get 8x, because the one rule about optics I'm pretty sure holds all the time is that the less you can spend, the lower the magnification you should get so you don't lose too much optically.

I never had a chance to check out the new Leupold Golden Ring 8x32s, but they look really wonderful. Unfortunately, like the other top names, they're way out of my price range! My Katmais cost less than a quarter of what the Golden Rings cost, but I'm glad I bought them before I knew I wouldn't be working--otherwise I wouldn't have been able to justify even that. I tend to loan out or give away my extra binoculars, and never have quite enough to share when leading my spring warbler walks, but at this point, I'm pretty happy to have two nice pairs, giving me an emergency auxiliary backup pair. And--what a relief!--I don't have to evaluate optics anymore!! I've always preferred to keep my focus on birds.

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