Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeing Through New Eyes

I had a visual revelation last weekend during a birdwalk with Bill Fenimore of the Wild Bird Center in Layton - what a difference new optics makes for a birder's enjoyment, particularly one with my sometimes questionable eyesight! Bill was generous enough to let me take a pair of binoculars (8x42) from the store to try in the field as we visited the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, and while the walk was about two hours long (during which time I added the western sandpiper and lesser yellowlegs to my life list) it only took a few minutes for me to be sold on the new optics. My old binoculars were also 8x magnification, but their field of view was much smaller and the lenses were smaller, admitting less light and creating a much poorer image. I had a blast with the new binoculars, and promptly bought them when we returned to the store. Should anyone in northern Utah need new optics, or any birding supplies for that matter, I can't recommend Bill Fenimore highly enough - his birding knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm are unmatched.

Back in my own Orem backyard, I hadn't had my new binoculars for more than three hours when I spotted a raptor soaring over the yard. I promptly grabbed my new eyes and managed to identify my first raptor on the wing - an osprey. How glorious!

Even more backyard news - I have another species to add to the backyard list, a female downy woodpecker. While it's not a new species on my life list, it's an exciting visitor to the backyard, especially considering that we have no large trees. What I've learned from the brief observation of this guest, however, is that downy woodpeckers love black oil sunflower seeds. At least, this one must, to show the tenacity to cling to an upright sunflower head and munch away.

Thus, it's been an exciting week. New birds, new binoculars, and a whole new avian world to see. Let's get looking!

Need to learn more about binoculars to choose a new pair? Check out my latest About.com article!

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