Bird brained stories!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Joy and frustration while birding in the winter...and NEW binoculars!

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A belted kingfisher...relative of the kookaburra, laughing over the river. He taunted me continuously as I hiked the marsh wetlands. I'd been out for a joyous first ski through the woods in Hixon Forest, accompanied by Downy, Hairy and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, along with the expected Chickadees, Juncos and White-Breasted Nuthatches for companionship as I enjoyed the solitude on the trails. I was tired and sore, as I knew I would be, but the day was too perfect to head back home to the confines of my closed up house. I hadn't been out birding in almost two weeks, and I had brand new binoculars.

My husband and I went out for dinner a few days after I received the acceptance notice from Cornell. I'd been debating the purchase of an iPod, mainly for birding, and the only place around that still had the iPod mini I wanted was the Evil Empire, known outside our household as Walmart. In general, I don't like to shop big box and chain stores anyway, but that's another topic. To help me get over my mixed feelings, my husband pointed out that showing up at the Cache House in Arkansas with that 20-something binocular from Kmart would not be a good thing. I hate to admit it, but my non-birding husband was right!

So, I went shopping. I probably should have waited until I could get someplace like Eagle Optics in Middleton to really comparison shop, but I wanted instant gratification. Also, I was concerned that the non-birding husband might change his opinion before I could drop the bucks on a decent choice. I visited the local Wild Birds Unlimited store, where the woman who helped me treated me like some goddess because of the Ivory Billed thing, and even gave me a bag of free birdseed! I like that! Bird Goddess! Now, if I could just get a deep discount on the seed I buy. I chose the Audubon 10 x 42 Equinox binocular.

My trek into the frozen wetland was my first real field experience with them. Wow! Viva la difference! I still need to work out the fine tuning for my eyes, but it's minor. The fact that I even need to fine tune binoculars is a novel one. I was amazed by the clarity I obtained and the magnification power.

I was not, however, finding many birds. Well, I kind of expected that. I kept reflecting on the complete transformation. In spring and summer, the place teems with waterfowl, waders, blackbirds and any number of perching birds, but today I was seeing very little. Still, what I was seeing was clear. Puffed up Mourning Doves not inclined to flush. Ever present Cardinals and Chickadees. In the bottomland off the bridge away from the trails, I had great looks at Brown Creepers. The Brown Creeper is to my mind an amazing practicioner of camoflauge. Their high thin squeaks can be heard, and localized, but until a piece of "bark" begins to move up the tree trunk, they are invisible.

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