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Monthly Archives: January 2008

31 Jan

With Groundhog Day coming our way, you might want to think about a suitable spotting scope for old Marmota monax (groundhog). A spotting scope is actually the preferred optic for this very specific application, as it allows you to safely keep your distance. After all, you wouldn’t your presence to scare the groundhog and send him scurrying back down his hole. Getting blamed for six more weeks of winter is no fun. For magnification, keep it on the lower side, the better to see the action. I will be using my Kowa 663 spotting scope with the 20x wide angle …

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30 Jan

Below zero this morning with a nasty wind, but the sky was clear and the moon bright. As I rode my bicycle down a road the bisects part of one of our local forest preserves, I could hear the hoot of a Great Horned Owl. Now, that sound is a winter classic if I ever heard one. Over the years, I have taken many pics of this magnificent raptor with all sorts of equipment combinations – SLR cameras with long telephoto lenses and spotting scopes with an assortment of cameras. My favorite shot, though, was taken with an old Televue …

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29 Jan

Riding a bicycle as my only means of transportation means I have to be ever conscious of size when choosing my optics. There is only so much size and weight you can manage on a bike, especially on the road bikes I so love. This means that, as much as I would love to get back into SLR cameras and photography, I will no doubt go the small digital point and shoot camera route again this spring for my camera. Small digital point and shoot cameras are so darn good these days, I have a hard time not using one …

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28 Jan

Getting quality pics in digiscoping is very much the same as getting quality pics in any other type of photography – it’s the lens or, in this case, the quality of the spotting scope optics. The digital camera used is much less of a factor. The best spotting scopes for digiscoping are models with ED objectives or other high grade glass objectives, just as the best camera lenses are models with ED glass or other premium performance materials. By the same token, spotting scopes with high grade glass objectives do not come cheap, just as quality camera lenses do not …

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25 Jan

Like most birders, I have been eagerly awaiting spring and, since I will do nearly all my birding from a bicycle this year, I need to find an ultra light spotting scope, but one that offers premium performance. So far, my first choice is the Kowa 603 with the Kowa Z9B, 20-60 zoom eyepiece. At 25 ounces, the Kowa 603 is about as light as it gets in a 60mm spotting scope and optics are terrific. The spotting scope will go in my messenger bag and a lightweight tripod will go on my bike rack. With my cyclocross bike, there …

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24 Jan

The sight of Orion and Canis Major in the evening sky tells me it is winter as surely as the crunch of my bicycle tires on the snow and ice of our streets as I pedal to work. For me, winter is a solitary time. My astronomy sessions are simple things – just me, my binoculars and the wonders of the sky and, as for my bicycling, the sight of another biker braving the elements is a rare, but pleasant thing. Despite the feeling of permanence that temperatures in the single digits bestow on the landscape, I know that I …

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17 Jan

“The best telescope is the one you use the most,” is a saying we use in astronomy to warn people that size and weight of their telescope are features to be considered, carefully. While telescope size, in terms of the diameter of the lens or mirror remains the primary factor in telescope performance, that same size can work against you if it is so large as to make you hesitate to use your telescope. Horror stories in amateur astronomy abound concerning ambitious astronomers who purchased a jumbo telescope, then stopped using it because they couldn’t deal with the time and …

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16 Jan

One of the issues we experience when using optics in cold weather is the extreme change in temperature that our binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras or even telescopes experience as we go back and forth between cold air outside and warm air inside a car or house. Not only does this cause condensation to form on the equipment, it also is very hard on seals, which may lead to internal fogging of optics (a good reason to opt for waterproof models – they have better seals). One of the tricks I learned long ago to combat moisture condensing on an optic, …

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15 Jan

Okay, it’s a bit early to be thinking of spring migration, but most birders will be thinking along those lines, soon. By late February, most locations begin to see a glimmer of the waterfowl movement and by March this group of birds is very active. If you’ve been thinking of adding a spotting scope to your list of birding tools – and you should if you want to get serious about waterfowl and shorebirds – this is the time to start shopping. Later in spring, many of the popular spotting scopes used by birders are in short supply. By shorebird …

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14 Jan

Some Long-eared Owls made the local news in the Chicago area. Seems a group of them have stopped for the winter in a park in the downtown area. This is a real treat for area birders. I have yet to brave the traffic and travel to the city to see them, but can’t think of a better reason to make the trip. Although I have seen Long-eared Owls several times in Nebraska, it has been a long time for this secretive owl species. Odd as it may seem, the downtown area, along the lakefront, is an excellent birding spot. Anyone …

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