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Monthly Archives: August 2008

28 Aug

I am constantly amazed at how many Cooper’s Hawks I see as I pedal through the suburbs. Years ago, had I been asked to predict which raptor would be the most frequently seen when moving to the Chicago area, I probably would have responded with Red-tailed, or perhaps Kestrel, even Sharp-shinned, but not the Cooper’s. Mostly I see the Cooper’s as it flies and darts from backyard to backyard and only now and then is there time to actually get it in the binocular. What I have been seeing in the binocular, recently, are immatures (no surprise, there), but I …

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27 Aug

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t see deer, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, rabbits by the score and other wildlife normally considered to be nocturnal in their habits. Guess it’s life in the big city, free of predators and plenty of conditioning to the presence of humans that makes these animals feel so safe by day. I’m not so sure this is a healthy thing from an ecological point of view, but it certainly provides some photo opportunities for anyone willing to pack a digital camera. Really little need for long telephoto lenses, either. I’ve had deer refuse to move …

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26 Aug

I know how rare it is for birders in this area to use a spotting scope, simply because I see very few of them with a spotting scope and also because I have get so many people who think my spotting scope, mounted on a tripod, is a camera. I have to explain it is a spotting scope and, of course, I gladly give them a peek at whatever bird happens to be in the scope. Guess this is largely an east versus west, forest versus open country kind of tradition when it comes to birding, but still surprised more …

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25 Aug

Trains have always fascinated me. They’re big, bold, colorful and found everywhere, which makes them perfect subjects for a digital camera. In the past, I used to use 35mm film SLRs to take pics of trains, but these days, a digital camera is just too darn cost effective to ignore. With digital, shoot, review and shoot some more and all without a concern for film and processing costs. As for lenses, leave those big telephotos needed for wildlife photgraphy at home. A normal 50mm lens will do fine for most shots and a zoom telephoto 70-200 will handle anything in …

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21 Aug

As a backyard astronomer, I use a weather forecast, not just to see if the sky will be clear, but also to check when the moon will be rising and setting. Next to a clear sky, knowing when the moon will be up is the most important piece of information I use when planning an observing session with my astronomy binocular or a telescope. Of course, if I want to observe the moon, it needs to be up in the sky, but, like most astronomers, I don’t want the moon up in the sky when viewing other objects. Light pollution …

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20 Aug

When is the best time to do astronomy? Anytime the sky is clear! Seriously, though, each season brings a whole new batch of things to see with a telescope or astronomy binocular and I can’t really say which season is my favorite. Much depends on your location, too. Spring is the best season for hunting galaxies, but that game really needs a dark sky and a fairly large telescope if you want to see any numbers. If you are stuck in the big city with light pollution, your galaxy hunting will be over in a hurry. In other words, astronomy …

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19 Aug

I know from my experience outfitting hunters with binoculars and spotting scopes, that a lot of them are, or soon will be, in the field, driving the back roads as they scout for game. The usual technique in open country is to use a spotting scope mounted on a car window mount. For this type of work a straight body spotting scope is more convenient and easier to use than an angled spotting scope, but you can still use an angled spotting scope, of course. As for the window mount, any spotting scope will fit any car window mount, but …

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18 Aug

Been trying to find a hard case of the proper dimensions that would work for spotting scopes. So far, no luck. Out of all the dry boxes we carry, when you get a case of the proper length, you also get something too wide to be practical fit for the usual spotting scope. Same for a small telescope. Been trying to get the manufacturers to give this some thought, but no success, so far. For binoculars, the situation is a bit better. In the past, I have used a Pelican Protector Small case with good results for full-size binoculars. It’s …

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14 Aug

Nothing aggravates like a cheap tripod when you are doing serious work with a camera, spotting scope or astronomy binocular. You find an object, center it in the field of view, lock the tripod head and the weight of your instrument causes the cheap tripod head to flex and sag. Bingo! Your target is no longer in view. You try again, this time over-compensating. Still not there? You try again and … Hey, tripods may not be the most glamorous piece of equipment, but only beginners make the mistake of trying to save a few bucks by using a cheap …

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13 Aug

Did a shoot out with a Nikon Fieldscope 60ED, now supplied with a 20-60x zoom eyepiece, and a high end, 65mm European model, which I will not name, but the European model is $600 plus higher in price by the time you add an eyepiece and case – both standard on the Fieldscope. No surprise that both scopes were impressive, but the results prove, yet again, what I have always claimed: the Nikon Fieldscope ED belongs right up there with the pricey European spotting scopes. The slightly smaller Nikon Fieldscope wasn’t quite as bright, but I scored it higher for …

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