Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Getting closer to the birds

This photo of the BBs’ binoculars evokes several parables but they won't be recorded here. Parables are so smug. What the binoculars represent is a middle-class tendency towards higher technology and reckless expenditure.

The Praktica pair (8 x 21) in the centre are quite small, a gift from Mrs BB to help explore France before we bought the house there. On the left, the Pentax (10 x 24) were a gift from me to Mrs BB also for use in France. Twitching was in full flow when I bought the RSPB (10 x 42), having just stopped short of going the whole hog with Leica. Two factors worked against Leica: half an hour’s comparison left me incapable of detecting optical values twice those of the RSPB which were half the price. Also, the hideous Bill Oddie uses Leica.

The figures rating binoculars are confusing and subjective. The initial figure represents magnification but is something of a chimera. Going much beyond 10 means "binoc-shake" is so predominant the binoculars are unusable. The second figure is the light-gathering ability (42 is quite high) and thus the clarity of the image. It was this that proved impossible to assess between the RSPB and the Leica. In fact the RSPB have allowed me to stare straight into the eye – perhaps even the brain – of a teal.

“THE REST IS NOISE” By the time it gets on to atonalism and beyond it's hilarious. This is the period when composers made music (sounds?) out of anything, provided it wasn’t tonal (ie, tuneful). Pierre Boulez bullied and fell out with everyone and now does a good job conducting other’s (tonal!) stuff - Wagner in particular. Atonalism moved on to minimalism and goodness knows what. One quote: “The tenuous situation of classical music in America was (for Partch) not a deficit but an advantage. In one essay he wrote, ‘There is thank God, a large segment of our population that never heard of J. S Bach.’” Sheer fun.

Novel progress 21/1/10. Ch. 12: 2389 words. Chs. 1 - 11: 48,792 words. Comments: Just broached the idea on which the whole novel was based.


Avus said...

It is always my Practika 8x21 that accompanies me, slipped into a pocket. The heavy (and shakey) 12x50 hangs in the lobby unused.

The Crow said...

I have a pair similar to your Praktica which I use to spy on the crows who visit the trees in my yard. Of course, they're also good for spying on the one neighbor who - I am convinced - is a mafioso on the lam.

I read too many mystery/crime novels.

Plutarch said...

My experience with binoculars is that the more powerful, the more I want them to be even more powerful. The closer you get to the object observed, the more I feel the need to be in touching distance of it, to examine it under a microscope perhaps. A defintion of human greed perhaps.

Julia said...

I have an ancient 8x30 Mikron, the best Christmas present ever from one of my great-uncles, a part time birder. His brother, the full time birder, would never look at them but they saw me through many a bird hunt along the coast of the Carolinas and we use them now to check out the hawks on the rooftops around Prague.

Now when we go back to the States, I borrow binocs for our traditional hunts, and my great uncle still comes along, as irascible as ever but still best at figuring out the furthest birds on the fly. (Or so he says ;-).

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Horses for courses. If you're going for an undemanding stroll (or especially a bike ride) the lighter the better. But if you're intending to spend an hour or two in an RSPB hide then big magnification is better.

The Crow: Our Praktica now sits on a little table near the French windows, instantly available for any new visitors to the bird table. I long since lost interest in spying on the neighbours; those that aren't white-collar criminals are, happily, paedophiles.

Plutarch: This is part of the parable I mentioned. The more you've got, the more you want. Equipped with a Leica one looks enviously at one of those telescope things on a tripod.

Julia: How evocative that phrase sounds "a bird hunt along the coast of the Carolinas". As to identification, the key is to speak with certainty. "That's a grabwot." none of this "Could it be... I think it is..." In the hides there is hushed worship when someone speaks out with confidence.

The Crow said...

"...those that aren't white-collar criminals are, happily, paedophiles."


Rouchswalwe said...

My little pocket binoculars are fine for sudden flightings, but now you have me drooling for something heftier.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: British irony. Despite the fact that ninety percent of the world neither understands it nor appreciates it, we persist. One small step for mankind and there we go - arse over tip.

RW (zS): I mentioned looking into the soul of a teal. But the giddiest moments are those when you gaze into the all-seeing eye of a raptor.

Julia said...

My family has a farm close to the ocean in South Carolina, and it's a wonderful bird sanctuary, so we go out in the winter and do bird counts with the fish and wildlife people sometimes, and other times just see how many different birds we can spot in a morning. I love the bigger coastal birds as I've got a much better chance of really knowing what I've seen than when I spot a warbler on the wing.

Plus a heron is about as close to a dinosaur as I've ever gotten.

Lucy said...

Oddly, I've never owned a good pair, despite birdwatching from about the time I could talk. We too bought a pair when househunting in France, something to do with sme advice from books on the subject about being able better to scrutinise roof timbers, which was rubbish. However, they aren't much cop, and whatever I'm trying to look at has usually scarpered by the time I get them focussed. A friend I sometimes walk on the beach with has a good pair, but telling knots from dotterels at a distance is still difficult, and really better done by observation of their movements. The zoom on the camera, with further zoom on the screen, has sometimes identified things for me subsequently, for example a sandwich tern on the coast in Finistere.

Completely concur about the odiousness of Bill Oddie.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Your camera and Mol are obviously the more important addenda to your improving walks; binocs would be added clumber. I agree about movement being at least as important as plumage when it comes to identification but in any case from your talk of dotterels vs. knots you are playing in a far better twitching league than me.

Lucy said...

Actually, I think I meant dunlins, or sanderlings. My wader skills are sadly lacking...