Pretty Ballsy There, Mr. Starling

Lately I have had to get my bird cam fix with alternatives since my favorite Decorah Eagles picked their ‘away nest’ and we can’t watch them raise their babies this season. The Cornell Ornithology Lab has several bird cams up right now, including this Red-Tailed Hawk nest cam.

I was watching the cam out of the corner of my eye as I was working on other things and then all of a sudden a European Starling lands just above the incubating parent (I haven’t become familiar enough with the hawk parents to tell them apart without them being next to one another). Pretty ballsy move there Mr. Starling, considering how close you are to a predator. Pretty ballsy indeed.

Ballsy European Starling

Empty Nest Syndrome

I am sad that the Decorah Eagles camera will be turned off on June 3oth. All three babies have successfully branched and D12 & D13 have successfully fledged (with D14 I’m sure to be close behind).

 

Soon they will not be spending much time around the nest and we will not be able to follow their antics day-to-day. Every time this happens I find myself with empty nest syndrome. I will need to be supplementing my eagle fix with other nest cams that are currently available. There are several nest cams through the Cornell Ornithology Lab that I am probably going to keep up with, especially now that my eagles are ready to head off into the world.

One nest cam in particular I am interested in is the Osprey nest cam based out of Lolo, Montana. I don’t know a lot about Ospreys in general and am looking to expand my knowledge of them as I watch their babies grow up. They are incredibly striking looking birds with their dramatic black and white plumage and black eye stripe.

For those of you who have never seen an Osprey in action, here is a compilation video of Ospreys fishing.

That Magical First Flight

Another one of the bird cams I follow has three ready to fledge baby red-tailed hawks. Today the Cornell Ornithology Lab bird cam caught on video one of the three’s first ever flight, as well as the reaction of its sibling. What an amazing moment to catch on camera! The successfully fledged youngster looks so proud as it sits high up in on a tree branch.

 

 

Personally I am amazed at how different species seem to fledge at different times. Sometimes I feel like the eagles are dragging their feet (so to speak) when other babies like the red-tailed hawks are fledging before them, having hatched after them. Very, very interesting.

P.S. I saw a conga line of four mallards crossing the street this morning. They were perfectly single-file, and used the walkway to get up to the sidewalk instead of jumping the curb. Made me smile. 🙂

Super Zoom Eyes

I have been thinking about purchasing binoculars as an investment towards improving my skills at birding. Currently I have been borrowing a friend’s pair when we go out on birding excursions together, but ultimately I know that I would want my own pair for use any ol’ time. I had absolutely no idea how many different brands and styles of binoculars there are until I started researching what I might want to purchase. I have been scouring the internet for advice on the “best binoculars for birders.”

Well I gotta tell ya – even though the guides tend to say buy whatever you can afford as an investment that is a lot of money. Budget constraints are making me want to keep my overall binoculars investment $300.00 or less which I still see as a considerable amount of money. I have a feeling it will be worth it though in the long run to invest in something that will last even with heavy usage. And maybe also survive being dropped in a puddle or something.

Doing research has helped me to understand the different criteria one should consider when purchasing a pair of binoculars. All of this information at once is a bit overwhelming but I am finding the more I read the more I understand so I just dove into the various articles online that I could find. An older but informative article from the Cornell Ornithology Lab helped me out a lot. The five main criteria they recommend people should consider are:

  1. Budget – what is your bottom line? How much are you willing to spend (or not)? While up front the cost may be a lot, the article advocates that it is worth investing in a decent pair of binoculars for quality and durability.
  2. Level of zoom (10x, 8x, 7x) – I think I am going to opt for a 10x with a wide angle of view to be able to keep up with birds flitting quickly through the treetops. The 10x gives you higher zoom and the wide angle lens setup helps you not have such a restricted area of view. I would love to be able to see a bird’s markings more clearly, which will help with identifying the species at greater distances (i.e. like with waterfowl on a lake).
  3. Features you’d want on your binoculars – some people use tripod mounts for their binoculars, others might want lens caps, waterproof coating, etc.
  4. If you wear eyeglasses while birding  – *points to face* this was a big factor for me so birding would be comfortable but at the same time I didn’t want to lose clarity when viewing through the binoculars.
  5. Testing as many pairs as possible before deciding – This lets you actually get a feel for what you like and don’t like before you spend your money. For me this one is going to be a bit trickier since I have only used my friend’s pair of binoculars (and a super old WWII era monstrosity I used years ago that doesn’t count for birding purposes) so I may be purchasing a bit on faith unless I buy the binoculars in person at a store nearby. Though I have been considering a binoculars trip to a Gander Mountain or something, just to see what they have.

I am leaning towards purchasing a Nikon brand pair of binoculars (mostly because my camera is a Nikon D40 which I have been very pleased with). They seem to have a decent reputation in the binocular realm as well as the camera so I figured I would look into it. Though I am open to other reputable brands should I be swayed by the product’s quality (and yes, maybe price).

The model I am considering is one of the Nikon Monarch 3 series of binoculars, probably with the 10x level of zoom. But we’ll see what I ultimately end up with. Purchases like these see me mulling it over in my head repeatedly until I am satisfied that I am making a decent purchase for the money I am paying. I will probably be mulling everything for a while before I end up buying anything.

Any suggestions?