A year after the 2020 pandemic, we have learned many things. Patience, solitude, resting, minimizing, and how to have fun again. Let’s face it, our usual daily grind is busy – too busy. It took a world pandemic to slow us down. To make us look at what’s important, and… at what we have been missing.
My husband and I had searched for kayaks for two months last summer. We were fortunate to find a pair while we were in the midst of quarantine, and we were able to ‘leave the world pandemic’ for a couple of hours as we paddled our cares away without a mask, breathing the untainted air. There is just something about nature. I have always been a nature girl.
Well now, I have picked up another hobby – a new (old) hobby. Birding!
Since I was little, I have loved birds. Fascinated by their song, and by their flight. I remember checking out books from the library about bird-watching. I could only see with my naked eye, and I lived in the city, so I wasn’t too successful in seeing them up close in their natural habitat.
Fast-forward to my 50s, I am now in my happy place – the country. I am surrounded by nature and less than an hour away from LBL – Land Between the Lakes.
My next door neighbors are cornfields and wildlife. The fields are flat and meet the woodlines a thousand feet away. I don’t do very well seeing anything that far without everything blurring together.
I have a few bird-identifying books, to get to know birds I am not familiar with, who come to feed on suet and feed I have provided. Then, I got the idea of watching them up close. Now is the perfect time in my life to pick up a childhood fascination that brought me joy.
So, I researched binoculars online and read several articles that told what type of binos I would need for birding and seeing wildlife. I also read reviews from customers who purchased whatever brand I was looking at and kept researching for about a week, figuring out the pros and cons of each brand I was interested in.
I finally decided on the Celestron Trailseeker ED 10×42 model. Weighing wanting to see far, with wanting to have a lightweight set; I started to go with the 8×40, but I thought if I got the tripod adapter that would relieve the weight if I got the lens with better FOV (field of view).
While waiting for my binos to arrive, I located my Army backpack that my son Andrew gave to me when he served. I used it when I lived in New York and was a member of Nassau Hiking Club. Then when I moved back to my home of 30 years – Chattanooga, I used it with Lookout Mountain Hiking Club. Since I moved to my birthplace of Murray, Kentucky seven years ago, my backpack has been stored in my closet, so I was excited to get it back out.
I re-familiarized myself with all the pockets of storage and visualized what I would put in each one, for my bird-watching outings. I could fit my tripod, binos, my Cannon camera, and the harness that comes with the binos and still have room.
When I researched binoculars, I looked into binoculars with a built-in camera, but after reading reviews, decided against it. I declared to myself this would not always be about getting the perfect photo of a bird to post on social media – it would be just about the moment. Being alone with God, nature and wildlife.
And since, I can’t take pictures of all I would see (without packing my good camera with zoom lens and practice handling my binos and camera together) I thought I would write about my birding experience, and give a picture with words.
You will find future Birding Blogs in the Nature section of this website. I might get lucky and get a few photos on well-planned outings, but sometimes, I just want to step out into my back yard and see what I see right here.
I have never liked reading directions – which is a good thing, because my new binos didn’t come with any.
As a novice birdwatcher, I had to look up online how to focus the lenses to fit my eyesight. It was as if I were hearing an eye doctor asking me which view is better when the lenses are switched. Covering my right lens first while I adjusted the diopter lens, and then uncovering it and using the focus wheel to set the objective lenses. Easy! It took all of five minutes to get to know the lenses and how to focus my binoculars for my eyesight – as well as adjusting them to fit the width of my eyes which was just folding the binos in until I saw clearly.
I was ready to see my first bird up close!
I knew I had a beautiful Cardinal that has lived in a hedge in my back yard for the last four years. I have a few Tufted Titmice that I just recently learned about, and I have seen Mocking birds, and a redheaded Woodpecker and some type of doves. I’d practice with them.
As I got a clear vision of the close-to-me trees, I realized I could not see clearly further out by the far off fields and woodline. Ahh… I would have to move the focus wheel again. That was easy. I gazed out and practiced looking up close, turning the wheel, and looking out far, and turning the wheel. It’s kind of like learning to drive – you just have to get the feel of it as you do it.
I spied a little round bluebird with a brownish colored breast. It was so precious and little. It would flit through the bare tree from branch to branch until it flew off. Then I saw an immature Tufted Titmouse. It was different from the adults – it’s crown was not as sharply pronounced. Then I saw a mockingbird and saw her making her call.
For my first time viewing them closely and using the binoculars, I felt as though I’d been let into the secret garden to witness something not everybody gets to see. I heard the woodpecker, but he hid very well, and I never caught him in my view.
There was a chilly breeze that kept me from staying out too long without a jacket, so I went back inside. But I kept my binoculars handy. I went back out later and didn’t see any of my little birds, but I saw four huge vultures. I understand that most do not share the same appreciation I have for vultures.
I think they are beautiful with their pretty, bald pinkish heads and quail-shape body (only bigger). And their black color is beautiful. I love all blackbirds. When the vultures perch, they hunch over and look as if they are shrugging their shoulders. When they fly, they soar so beautifully and as graceful as an eagle.
What I learned in my observation, is that they change their flight pattern by tipping the very tip part of their wing (which I think of as fingers). I saw him bend that first phalange while keeping the others straight, and he turned. Then I saw him point both wings downward as he hunched his shoulders upward, and he dropped a few levels as if he was parachuting, and then spread his wings back out to soar back to the bare, dead, oak tree.
Ahh… what a great first day of birding!
But my adventure didn’t end there. I knew that Celestron had binoculars with 15×70 FOV for stargazing, but I doubted mine could because I didn’t get the Skymaster. But even so, I wanted to try looking at the stars to see if there were a difference. I may not have seen the stars the way I would with the Skymaster binoculars, but it still made a difference in how I saw the night sky!
I was amazed! I looked away from the view in my binoculars to see what I could see with my naked eye, and then back through the lenses. I knew we had a lot of stars out, but without looking through binoculars, they looked spread out and not half as many as when I looked into the lens. A million stars popped out of the sky and came a little closer to the earth. Wow.
I had a great first day – and night with my new hobby. My hope is to see deer or foxes or coyotes or rabbits. That would be fun. And of course, I will take my binoculars out on hikes as it gets warmer, for more adventures.
There are so many opportunities for adventure no matter how small scale. We just have to look around us and decide what we’d like to do, and do it. And, don’t worry… if you don’t have the opportunities to do the things you would like to right now, just keep dreaming – God will bring you to it. (For the first half of my life, it seems I was busy just keeping my head above water) but in the right time, when our hearts are ready to receive the gifts God has for us, it will be perfect!