Why Bird?

Why Bird?

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Moseley, Bruce
So why do you want to watch birds? Or, if you're already a casual observer, what is it that's motivating you to dig more deeply? Perhaps it's a muse—a guiding genius, a source of inspiration—impelling your involvement in a truly joyful pastime.
Many bird watchers have found not only inspiration but a renewed appreciation for all things natural—an awakened interest in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the natural world.
But why birds? I can only speak from my own experience. I suppose birds manifest qualities that appeal to an inner sensibility: beauty, freedom from earthbound fetters, majesty in the case of the eagle, childlike gregariousness in the case of the chickadee, artistry in the case of all—each bird a unique assemblage of colors and brushstrokes from the ultimate Artistic Palette.
But there are other reasons for birding. Perhaps you're an artist or photographer. A beautifully composed picture in your scope or binoculars—a shy Purple Gallinule stepping delicately across a lily pad as the rays of the rising sun dance over the water—can certainly bring inspiration. Or perhaps you enjoy the expansive intellectual pursuit of a new natural-history discipline. Or you may simply appreciate the camaraderie of fellow birders, the caress of the elements, or the exercise inherent in the sport. Whatever your reasons for a new or renewed interest in birding, you're sure to find this pastime richly rewarding.

Through the Looking Glass

New-technology binocular prices may be falling, but if you want the very best, you'll still be looking at the Leica and Swarovski binoculars. However, the quality gap between these high-end standards of excellence and midlevel binoculars has narrowed considerably in recent years. The new technologies of phase-coated prisms, aspherical lenses, and the like have apparently lost their exclusivity and are now available in binoculars at prices that were unheard of in the optics world until now.

Ten years ago the rule of thumb was that if you wanted a good-quality binocular, you didn’t look at anything under $200. That’s over $300 in today’s dollars. Within the last year, however, new lines of lifetime-guaranteed binoculars have been introduced by Audubon, Vector, Vortex Optics, and other companies that shred that old rule. My personal experience is that these companies know there is stiff competition in the optics world and so they are falling all over themselves to give you first-rate service.

Consider the Audubon Equinox HP, introduced early last year. It's a fully multicoated, phase-coated, waterproof binocular with aspherical lenses and premium glass, and would have sold at well over $500 just two years ago. Now it's just $250. Or try out Eagle Optics' new Talon binocular. It's waterproof, nitrogen purged, fully multicoated, and has phase-corrected prisms (for a brighter image). This is the lowest-priced fully multicoated binocular on the market today. Its 8-power version is just $180. There's even new competition for the high-end binocs: check out the new Stokes DLS Vector binoculars at less than half the price of a Swarovski.

The best way to decide on a whether a binocular is right for you is to look through it. Look through several binoculars side by side. Find someone that knows about binoculars and ask lots of questions. Remember that in optics, you pretty much get what you pay for, and right now, if you're careful, you can get a lot for what you pay.

-David Mann
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