Monday, February 3, 2014

Cley Spy “Garden” pan-listing 2014 Part 1

Scrub at the top of the Cley Spy meadow.
Inspired by Gail Quartly-Bishop (@gailqb) starting the #gardenlist2014 on Twitter and @Susie_WFE taking up the challenge, I have started compiling a list of every identifiable species in our hay meadow. The area is around half an acre, consisting mostly of wild flower meadow and includes a pond and some low scrub at the far end. This may not technically be a garden, but is a relatively small area with great potential for some interesting species of all kinds.

Pan-listing (identifying and recording everything you see) is a great way to broaden your natural history horizons and makes it possible to find interest in just about anything in your garden or local patch. So what ever the weather or when there are no birds about, there is always something new and interesting in almost any location.  I myself hope this exercise will be a great way to improve my knowledge of groups of organisms that I have not looked at in detail before.

So far I have jotted down this year's bird list and a few plants and animals found on a quick scan. Hopefully many more to come time, weather and ID skills permitting.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
  1. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) – A nice start to proceedings, feeding on the seed mix we put on the ground.
  2. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  3. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
  4. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
  5. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) – Over the winter we have had a flock of over 150 of these talkative finches.
  6. Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
  7. Great tit (Parus major)
  8. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  9. Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus)
  10. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
    Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) – A young male occasionally causes a bit of stir amongst the next species when he zooms in.
  11. House sparrow (Passer domesticus) – We are fortunate to have a good flock of these chirping away in the hedges and on the buildings around the yard.
  12. Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) – A bit exciting this one, a cracking male drifted across the field delighting the customers who were testing binoculars at the time.
  13. Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
  14. Common buzzard (Buteo buteo) – Our local population is starting to display over the woods on the hill in preparation for spring.
  15. Blackbird (Turdus merula)
    Blackbird (Turdus merula)
  16. Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
  17. Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  18. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
  19. Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
  20. Feral pigeon (Columba livia)
  21. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  22. Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
  23. Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
  24. Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
  25. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

    Now for the plants...
  26. Common reed (Phragmites australis)
  27. Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
  28. Dog rose (Rosa canina)
  29. English oak (Quercus robur) – These were planted around ten years ago along with some hawthorn at the top of the meadow.
  30. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  31. Wild strawberry (Potentilla vesca)
  32. Alexander (Smyrnium olusatrum)
  33. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
  34. Colt's foot (Tussilago Farfara)
  35. Weld (Reseda luteola)

    And the animals
  36. Common frog (Rana temporaria)
  37. Brown rat ( Rattus norvegicus) – One dead in the middle of the meadow. Part eaten by something...
And one more this morning singing its heart out in the clear blue sky...
   38.  Skylark

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Top five alternative uses for binoculars

It is easy to think, especially somewhere like North Norfolk, that birdwatchers are the only people who use binoculars. In fact there are a whole world of applications that optics can be put to, enhancing almost any outdoor pursuit and even some indoor ones. Below are five of the more frequent uses our customers purchase binoculars for aside from birding.

1: Entomology

Many of the most beautiful insects are not easily approached, and so a good close-focusing binocular is very useful to fully appreciate them and aid identification. As a rule a minimum focusing distance under 2m (6'6”) is suitable, but the closer the better. 8x32s tend to be the best for this, and some particularly good examples are listed below.

Vortex Viper HD 8x32 with an outstanding minimum focusing distance of 0.9m (3').

2: Aircraft spotting

Here power is important, with 10-20x being a good range to consider. A very competent model for this purpose is the Opticron Oregon 15x70. This is no lightweight and needs a steady hand being so powerful, but with practice does the job well. As an alternative that is lighter and smaller is the Hawke Naturetrek 12x50, offering slightly less magnification but with better optical quality.

3: Sporting events

A day at the races or a cricket match can be really enhanced by seeing the action up close. Almost any specification will do for this, but probably the best bet is an eight or ten times magnification with a reasonably wide field of view. For the sake of size and weight, compact binoculars can be a good bet in these circumstances. Most sports take place in reasonably good lighting conditions so the light gathering can be sacrificed for portability.
A good all-rounder for most sport and races is the Swarovski CL 10x25 which is small, light, stylish and has great optics.  A budget alternative is the Hawke Frontier 10x25 which performs exceptionally well for its size and price.

4: Art, architecture and theatre

There are features of historic buildings and paintings in galleries that can only be fully appreciated by getting a bit closer. A small binocular is a very good way of doing this without attracting the attention of security guards or carrying a long ladder around with you. There are many mediaeval churches in Norfolk with intricate carving high in the roofs or at column capitals, the beauty of which can by seen with binoculars. We also occasionally supply surveyors with binoculars and scopes for inspecting hard to reach parts of buildings.

At the theatre a decent compact binocular is a great way to get the most out of a performance even from the cheap seats.  Fancy gold and mother of pearl opera glasses are, in fact, just low magnification compacts, so an 8x20 (e.g. the Leica Trinovid) would do the job very well.

5: Hiking and hill walking

Binoculars can be a real boon when out in the hills, not just for examining a spectacular view in greater detail, but also as an aid to navigation. Being able to positively identify landscape features indistinct to the naked eye can be a real boon to ascertaining your location on a map. In this environment weight is the most important factor, so a compact binocular with a lens diameter less than 30mm is the best bet. Typically compact binoculars are available in 8x and 10x magnification and the usual factors apply, i.e.10x brings objects closer than 8x, but produces a narrower field of view and a less bright image than 8x.
A good recommendation for a good image, low weight and a wide field of view is the Vortex Diamondback 8x28.