Powering Down


Last week I mailed by trusty binocular to the repair center in Rhode Island to have the focusing mechanism upgraded. The original mechanism is very slow, causing me to miss a lot of birds. The new mechanism will be faster. So for the next few weeks I will be using my back-up binoc, which requires an adjustment on my part.

I have always used 10-power binoculars. I like the extra “reach” I get with 10X, especially when looking at distant shorebirds on mudflats, hawks in flight, and seabirds at the coast. The glass I am using now is 7-power, and the world looks smaller.

There are advantages to a 7X binoc. Since it doesn’t magnify as much, it provides a wider field of view, making it easier to find birds in heavy cover. The image also tends to be slightly brighter in a 7X glass and there is less magnification of any shaking in my hands, so the image is more stable. (If you ever want a demonstration of just how much your hands shake, take your binocular out at night and focus on a single star. You will be amazed at how much that little point of light jumps around. Luckily, our brains filter out much of this movement when we are watching birds.) I bought this 7X binoc for pelagic trips. The movement of the waves combined with a vibrating diesel engine make 10X binocs practically useless.

Despite these advantages, I still miss my 10X binocular. Yes, the 7X glass provides a clear, bright, stable image. And yes, a smaller image might force me to look harder at subtle details. But I like the full-frame views afforded by 10X. I like being able to count the four primary tips projecting on the wing of an American Golden Plover and seeing the leg feathering on a Rough-legged Hawk. Call me weak, but I like the extra power. Maybe it is just a guy thing.

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