Enjoying Winter with Small, High-Quality Binoculars.

Enjoying an early sunset at Loch Lomondside, Balmaha,  Scotland, December 30 2020.

A work begun January 2 2021

It’s taken no less than two and a half years for me to settle on the binoculars that I wish to use in the long term. In this time, I have bought in, tested and rejected the vast majority of instruments, finding fault with their optics, mechanics or both. Some of those instruments were mechanically quite sound but proved deficient in critical optical tests; others displayed the very opposite. These experiences have collectively shaped my philosophy about binoculars for personal use, and it is admittedly quite different from the conclusions I have garnered regarding astronomical telescopes. Because telescopes are relatively simple devices, the best bangs for buck are clearly Newtonian reflectors, where one does not need to invest a great deal of money to acquire very good optics. My three regularly used telescopes – all Newtonians – deliver brilliant, high-resolution images of the heavens when properly collimated and acclimated to the environment I set them up in.

Yet, in comparison to my binoculars, my telescopes are now used far less frequently. Where typically I would employ a telescope for a couple of hours every week, my binoculars are employed for timescales at least five times longer- at home by the window watching the birdfeeders, or during long walks out of doors and also at night. And because these small, portable instruments are used so frequently I quickly concluded that it pays to invest in the best instruments that deliver everything I could possibly wish for in a binocular. These instruments are both made by the world-leading optical firm, Leica; a little Trinovid BCA 10 x 25 and a larger Trinovid 8 x 32 HD, featured below:

My two instruments of choice: the Leica Trinovid BCA 10 x 25(left) and the Trinovid 8 x 32 HD(right).

They are both light weight and easy to transport, they have excellent build quality and are designed for prolonged use, even under the harshest of outdoor conditions. Built to last, they will likely outlive this author if properly cared for. They also deliver excellent images, rich in contrast and accurate colour fidelity, with great control of glare and internal reflections. And while both fall a bit short of Leica’s flagship models, the Ultravids, these Trinovids provide 95 per cent of the performance of the former, so here, yet again, is a classic case of diminishing returns; you have to fork out considerably more to gain that last five per cent in optics and ergonomics, which, with my average eyes, I can well do without. The Trinovids have a pedigree that goes all the way back to the 1950s, unlike the Ultravids, which are relatively recent additions to their product line. In this capacity, the ‘Trinnies’ are more thoroughly tried and tested by binocular enthusiasts, not just from my own generation but also from a generation once removed from me. Of course, you don’t need to take my word for that. You will hear this from enthusiasts who own instruments from both of these lines. Check out this link as an example in point.

The 8 x 32 is a brilliant general-purpose binocular with a superb close focus of under 1 metre and a field of view of 124 metres @1000m, while the smaller, pocket-sized 10 x 25(with a field of 90m@1000m) provides an extra magnification boost when the need arises. Because both instruments do not make much demands in terms of size or weight, I can and often do take both of them along with me on general walks. This blog will describe some of the wonderful things I enjoy glassing with these instruments during the short days of Winter.

Enjoying the Magical Light of a low Winter Sun

Sunlight is a precious commodity in the bleak mid-Winter. God gave us sunlight to sustain living things by providing electromagnetic radiation that fully penetrates our atmosphere, providing both light and heat. But while we take such things as sunlight for granted, it is really a miraculous event, as the laws of physics and chemistry could well have prevented that light from penetrating all the way down to the surface. Sunlight lifts the spirit, strengthens the immune system and allows to us to see amazing details. The low altitude of the Sun at this far northerly latitude(56 degrees) creates wondrous light shows, bathing trees, hills,  streams and snow covered open fields in magical light. The 8 x 32 Trinnie serves me best during these short days, its larger objective lenses drawing in a good amount of light to the eyes.

Winter is also a great time to start birdwatching, as the trees where many birds take refuge in are much easier to pick up in the binocular, as they are devoid of leaves. Red breasted Robins, blackbirds and Blue tits are very commonly observed on my walks, and they also seem to be quite undaunted by human passers by. But the cruel frosts of Winter can make life difficult for bathing birds such as mute swans, ducks and geese, which sometimes get into a spot of trouble when the pond freezes over. Culcreuch Pond, a mere half mile walk from my home, is one of my ‘local patches,’ a place where a variety of habitats are provided for our feathered friends. During the cold snap of early January, I was anxious about the swans in particular, as they have been known to get trapped by ice on the water’s surface. Luckily, they were sensible enough to move elsewhere before the ice got the better of them. When milder conditions return, so hopefully will this monogamous couple, which together successfully raised 6 strapping cygnets this past season.

A nearly fully frozen over Culcreuch Pond, with Mallard Duck and a couple of Mute Swans( far right) preparing to leave temporarily.

The low Winter Sun also illumines the walls of Culcreuch Castle beautifully. The castle holds a special place for my family, as we had our wedding reception here some 22 years ago come the end of April next.  I often spend many idle minutes glassing the stone masonry of the castle on sunny afternoons, with its many nooks and crannies, and enjoying the glint of reflected sunlight from the hardy moss and lichens that eke out a living from the bare stone. There is history here too; the oldest parts of the castle dating back to Norman times (12th century). In the months ahead, God willing, Swallows and Swifts form Africa and southern Europe will roost and rear a new generation of these avian super-migrators.

Culcreuch Castle bathed in weak winter afternoon sunshine. January 2 2021.

 

 

Pure as the Driven Snow

A fresh fall of snow: Fintry, January 8 2021.

The second week of January 2021 brought very cold temperatures to our shores, when temperatures struggled to get above -6C during the day and plummeted to -12C at night, making it the coldest spell we have endured in about a decade. But we were also graced by a decent fall of snow which transformed the landscape into a winter wonderland, albeit for a brief few days.

While my sons enjoyed a few hours of sledging, my wife and I took ourselves off out to enjoy the frigid air in brilliant winter sunshine. There is something magical about enjoying the great outdoors during these conditions, when just a few inches of snow changes the valley into a bonnie, white desert under a cobalt blue sky. It’s during these conditions that one appreciates the larger focus wheel of a mid-sized binocular, which is easier to negotiate with thick-padded gloves on, though I was quite surprised to discover that even the small focus wheel of the 10 x 25 Trinovid can also be used reasonably productively under such conditions, and thus shouldn’t be a deterrent for those who use such a diminutive instrument.

In such an environment, even dull greys become quite intense and snow covered trees become especially colourful. One may not imagine that targets that are normally perceived as ‘white’ take on entirely different hues with snow on the ground. Take, for example, sheep foraging on the meagre vegetation available on the hilly crags. I was very surprised to discover that their thick woollen coats would render them almost invisible under such conditions. But quite the opposite is true; those woollen white coats show up as decidedly yellow under such conditions, making them quite easy to find and follow.

Even at the end of the first week in January, the increase in day length is quite perceptible and very much appreciated. It’s especially important to get out during these short but very cold days as even the feeble sunshine does wonders to keep one’s spirits high, now that the entire country is once again under these economically crippling, pseudoscientific lockdowns. Thankfully, the vast majority of the locals venture out without wearing masks, although it is occasionally distressful to see the odd mask-clad  soul struggling to get about and visibly frightened out of his/her skin. The Scots are canny people though- they’re not easily swayed by the cock ‘n’ bull propaganda constantly being beamed into our houses by the government. Even a short walk stimulates vitamin D production which has been shown in several studies to help protect against the Rona virus. During winter, I also take a few antioxidant supplements such as N-Acetyl Cysteine, a modified, sulphur-rich amino acid that has been shown to keep the lungs from clogging up and acts as a powerful protector against respiratory viruses. Indeed, ever since I started taking such a supplement during winter, I have not suffered a bad cold in nearly two decades! I also take extra vitamin D and astaxanthin(another powerful antioxidant) during the winter months, which helps keep one’s joints moving well. All of these supplements are available cheaply and without prescription. And true knowledge is power!

The bird feeders in my back garden are especially lively during these cold, snowy days, which I can enjoy from the comfort of the warm indoors, using the 10x glass to get up-close and personal with each subject. Starlings, which are rarely seen ’round these parts, make the most of the fat ball crumbs dropped by the hyperactive tits that swarm the feeders at this time of year.  Such harsh conditions often invites larger animals too, such as grey squirrels, which venture down from the conifer trees in the copse to the west of our home.

And up at the pond, the snow and ice provide some advantages over the usual grass and mud-covered tracks that make identifying some of its inhabitants, such as these laid down by a resident moorhen.

Birding is not always about looking up and about. It can also pay dividends to look down to the ground from time to time.

The effects of a snow covered valley on the night sky are especially pronounced. The  reflected light, even with the Moon out of the sky, greatly diminishes the glory of the winter stars. I was astounded by the darkness of the sky once the snow cleared from the valley, as if I were peering into another heavens altogether! Such is the power of the gentle snowflake!

Divine Light

One of the great tragedies of the modern world is that the vast majority of human souls, working in great cities strewn across the globe, never get to see the true splendour of the sky after dark.

God made the stars not only for signs and seasons but also to display His supreme power;

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

It is my firm belief that the emergence of towns and cities is one of the principal reasons why so many of their inhabitants have lost much of their sense of the divine. Furthermore, I feel very fortunate to live in a place where much of the majesty of the heaven is still manifested, and my binoculars are the ideal tools to explore its manifold wonders.

God made the Sun to rule by day and the Moon to rule by night, with both serving as masterful timepieces to orchestrate the fantastical rhythms of life in the Earth’s biosphere. But with the advent of human global civilization, science is yielding some alarming facts about the effects of artificial light on its various biomes. For example, recent studies suggest that the alarming decline in insect populations might well be attributed to the encroach of street lighting, and an even more extensive study has provided very compelling evidence that LED lighting is responsible for the decimation of coral reefs. These findings are completely at odds with the usual mantra of “climate change” parroted by environmentalists – for the most part, pagan to the core –  as well as those who worship at the altar of the new green religion.

Though valiant efforts have been made to raise awareness, both of light pollution in general, and to reversing its effects in some restricted cases, I’m not entirely sure whether much, if anything, can be done to reverse these worrying trends.

Birding Milestones

As a novice and only half serious twitcher, I have made some good progress finding new birds to add to my list of ‘conquests.’ On my river walk, for example, I discovered a patch of rather over grown bramble bushes where one member of the smallest species in the British Isles – the Goldcrest – hangs out. This tiny creature, barely 9cm long, betrayed its presence by virtue of a conspicuous yellow crest on the crown of its head, bordered by a prominent black stripe on either side. The fact that it was a yellow crest and not orange revealed to me that this was a female. Since first sighting it back in November, I have visited the same patch several times and have been lucky enough to glass this rather rotund bodied marvel a few times since with my trusty 8 x 32. And on one occasion, I was fortunate enough to observe her hovering over the same brambles, stalking its lunch or some such.

The aeronautical displays of the tiny female Goldcrest astounded me. Human aeronautical engineers have only recently been able to to design drones that only very clumsily approach the gracefulness of hovering birds and other flying creatures. And the same is true of the ubiquitous blue tits that frequent the birdfeeders in my own back yard. Birds are marvellously designed animals that abundantly display the power of their Creator who spoke them into existence. Of course, evolutionists will conjure up some just-so, cock n’ bull story that they evolved from therapod dinosaurs or some such, but there is no compelling evidence that even a single species emerged in this way, just like aeroplanes and drones must likewise have intelligent designers, and all are merely examples of reverse-engineering from our ongoing study of bird and insect flight.

On the dull, overcast afternoon of January 13 2021, I bagged yet another raptor. Glancing out of my front window across to the trees in the swing park, my eye caught the outline of a bird perched on one of the higher branches of a leafless Sycamore tree. Reaching for my 10 x 25, I could see that it was rather a large bird, about the size of a fully grown Woodpigeon, but with long, square-ended tail feathers. I called my wife, a far more experienced birder than myself, while scrambling to deploy my big gun, a Pentax 20 x 60. With its back to us, the 10x magnification wasn’t quite enough for us to identify the creature given the misty air we were peering through, but our luck changed as I was taking the caps off the objective and ocular lenses of the big bin, and it turned round facing us some 35 yards away in the distance. The 20 x 60 gave us an amazing view, its off-white belly adorned with dusky horizontal striping. But it was its ferocious stare, golden coloured talons and hooked yellow beak that finally convinced us that we were watching a female Sparrowhawk! After a few minutes, she took to flight, displaying her broad, rounded wings, which the RSPB handbook had alerted us to look out for.

What a wonderful distraction from an otherwise ordinary Winter day! And who says a 20 x 60 is too large to use as a birding binocular? On this drab afternoon, it made all the difference between vaguely suspecting and actually confirming a new bird of prey had paid us a visit.

Cool or what?

 

The Great British Garden Birdwatch

The last weekend in January will be a weekend of birdwatching. The RSPB is organising a nationwide backyard birdwatch. No cancel culture here folks: everyone is welcome to take part. Well, I’ve done my little bit to advance the cause of birdwatching by gifting binoculars to a few of my next door neighbours, so they will hopefully be participating too.

The idea is fairly simple; you just make a note of all the different kinds of birds that visit your garden. Of course, I expect Blue tits to dominate the scene, as they always do, but I also expect lots of curious Robins, blackbirds, Great tits, Long-tailed tits and even the odd Wren and House Sparrows, but no matter how many times you look, nature throws up a surprise, so it will make for an interesting weekend. Once completed, the data can be posted to a central data base where it can be analysed to reveal trends over time. This is my second year participating and so it should be fun!

Recently, I’ve started collecting some books by avid birdwatching celebrities. Two of them are by comedians; Bill Oddie and Bill Bailey; they’re good reads and very funny as you might expect, but sadly, they’ve succumbed to the propaganda of the evolution lunes. “These birds evolved this trait and these other birds evolved this way,” yada yada yada, and so on and so forth. My eyes glaze over when I read such bunk, but such is the level of deception among non-scientists, not only in the British Isles, but right across the world.  Never mind, maybe some day I’ll write a book that correctly attributes the properties of birds to their rightful Creator. But will anyone buy it? I mean, facts don’t really matter anymore do they?

In our post-truth world, facts will never change the brainwashed. They just don’t want to know!

After a weekend of family birding, we finally got to submit our tally to the RSPB website. As well as the usual suspects; Blue tits, Long tailed tits, Blackbirds, Song thrushes, as well as the odd House Sparrow, Starling, Coal tit and Treecreeper, I finally got to see a new(for me) bird; a colourful Nuthatch, gorging its way through the newly filled monkey nut feeder. Though my wife is well accustomed to seeing Nuthatches at her work at the nearby University of Stirling campus, where she would often send me close up pictures of one feeding just outside her office window, there is nothing quite like seeing a real life bird in the flesh, as it were. Mind you, it never stayed for long; just a few minutes feeding and then off it flew on the wings of a cold January wind. Perhaps it will visit the garden again soon? Time will tell.

A local boy, who hangs about with my two sons, was astonished at the number of birds he saw at our feeders and wondered why his own bird feeders were not as busy as our own. Then it dawned on me that it could well be due to the small wooded area of common ground just beyond the confines of our back garden, where many birds hang out and eventually make their way over in search of a free meal. In contrast, his bird feeder lies in the wide open, well away from the protection of trees. We suggested that he might have better luck moving the feeder closer to the hedgerows at the edge of his family property. He said he’d give it a try!

A Cold Winter

Compared with the last few years, this winter has been on the cold side. Many nights in December and January have been at or below freezing and sometimes the temperatures have fallen into negative double figures. Nor have we seen the last of the snow, as we enter the short month of February. Furthermore, it’s been very cold in many nations during this 2020-21 winter, a fact that may at least in part be attributed to a very inactive Sun that has only recently come alive again. Many of my students and new acquaintances I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with over the years have asked me  what I think about ‘climate change.’ They are often surprised to learn that while I do accept that the Earth is warming, I would never go so far as to become alarmist about it. I’m suspicious of so-called scientific ‘consensus.’ Why? Because the word consensus is a political concept not a scientific one.

Climate alarmism is a cult and I put those folk in the same box as I place evolutionists and militant vegans; annoying, generally uninformed and weaponised only with selective knowledge. And while I readily point them to some relevant literature that challenges their world views, they generally never follow up on any of it

As a Bible believing Christian, I understand that we have been given a clear mandate from God to properly steward the planet, but ultimately our Creator has resoundingly stated that humans will never be granted the opportunity to bring this world to an end:

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”

Genesis 8:22

Yep, God and God alone, will decide that time for us.

He will end humanity’s tenure when He’s good and ready, so why all the alarmism?

Take a chill pill man!

And climate has always changed. Sometimes it was hot- very hot – such as when the magnificent dinosaurs roamed the planet – and we have had several ice ages. And in the days of the Romans, the climate was warmer than it is today, and humans certainly didn’t cause that. Indeed, I recall some of the Augustan poets eulogising the fecundity of the Italian countryside and how it delivered two or more harvests in a single year!

Nor do I believe that we must take drastic measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, certainly not in the way presented by those creeps at the World Economic Forum, who outline a truly dystopian outlook for humanity. Let’s get one thing crystal clear; those folk hate humanity. Why else promote measures to aggressively reduce global populations?

No, God clearly intends to have a very large family of redeemed humans in the New Creation. People chosen from all the nations of the Earth:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

Revelation 7:9

 

Yes sir, God’s got an awesome plan, watching over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12)

 

Let’s trust His good judgement!

 

Digibinning

With the inclemency in the weather continuing into February, with constant sleet, snow and rain, glassing out of doors is challenging to say the least but there are always new things to do and learn. Recently, I have developed an interest in so-called digibinning, that is, taking images through my binoculars with my iPhone.

I bought a new adapter for my tripod – the SnapZoom -that allows me to stably mount an assortment of binoculars on;

The SnapZoom binocular mount.

It’s simplicity itself; a horizontal platform that one places the binocular on and a simple strap that clasps it in place. I needed it because the 8 x 32 Trinny  doesn’t have a stalk to allow me to mate it with a regular binocular tripod adapter. But I also like the simplicity of the SnapZoom because it is so quick and easy to use, and it accommodates all of my binoculars, from the largest to the smallest.

I also purchased a neat little iPhone adapter mount that can be attached to the eye cup of a wide range of binoculars enabling me to take images through them. It’s a a bit fidgety but very easy to use once you get the hang of it.

The iPhone adapter that can be affixed to the binocular eyepiece.

My first results were very encouraging. Shown below is an unmodified image of a tree carving located some 100 yards from my front door as captured by the 8 x 32;

A tree carving, as imaged through the 8 x 32 Trinovid.

This gives you some idea of the bright and sharp images served up by this binocular. But it can also be used to provide an objective way of comparing the images generated by different binoculars.

Here’s an image taken through an inexpensive 8 x 42 binocular costing about £70.

An image taken through a budget-priced 8x 42 binocular retailing for about £70.

Now compare the above to an image taken through the Leica Trinovid 8x 32  below costing ten times more:

An image taken through the Leica Trinovid costing £700.

As you can see, the Trinny serves up a brighter, sharper and more contrasted image for sure, but is it ten times better?

I dunno.

 

Deep Freeze

Sunset, Culcreuch Pond, February 10 2021.

The second week of February 2021 has continued to see 10-year record low temperatures in Scotland. The night of February 10 is believed to see the mercury fall to -20C further north, but down here, just north of the central belt, it will fall to a relatively balmy -13C. Much of central Europe and North America is also in deep freeze. The snow fall in Germany, as well as having no wind nearly caused widespread electricity blackouts – surely a dangerous thing in these cold days. The cause? Germany’s over-reliance on renewables; solar and wind power in particular. Only the coal burning power stations saved the day – a stark reminder that these green technologies can let a nation down. France, in comparison, with its many nuclear power plants – suffered no such outages. All of this goes to show what the best available science tells us. A truly green economy will continue to rely on fossil fuels, hydroelectric and nuclear power if it is to be maintained in the long-term. And the best way to turn developing countries green is to lift their citizens out of poverty, by generating cheap sustainable electricity supplies so that they don’t have to resort to raiding forests and grasslands for many hours a day, gathering enough fuel to make their next family meal.

In these cold spells, farm animals need a little more TLC.

The Trinnies perform brilliantly in the cold. I have now had them operating for several hours, well below zero, and over several days. The mechanics work flawlessly. Their ergonomics increases in value, after trusting then verifying. Moreover, the quality of the images they serve up are  nothing short of breath taking! On the afternoon of February 9, my wife and I went for a walk round the castle grounds. Just as we reached the castle itself, she alerted me to the sight of a hovering Buzzard passing right overhead. Luckily I had the little 10 x 25 with me for extra reach. Soaring less than 80 yards above my head, I enjoyed a magical few seconds imaging this magnificent creature with its dark banded wings outstretched, passing right over my head! For a split second, I saw its extraordinarily dark and acute eyes looking right back at me, its hooked beak standing out starkly against a bright blue sky. What a way to see the world!

The Leica Trinovid 10 x 25 is right at home on a snowy winter day.

So, even on the coldest days, there are miracles worth witnessing with a small, quality glass.

The Gemini Hour

The evening sky in mid-February is one of my favourite times of year to enjoy the binocular heavens. With the snows now gone(and creating a new, ten-year low of -21.5C) from our shores, the true majesty of the winter night sky has returned. A beautiful, waxing crescent Moon graced the early evening sky, displaying wonderful earthshine through the 8 x 32 Trinovid. By 9pm local time, Gemini lies on the meridian, with mighty Orion still prominent but sinking lower into the southwestern sky. The intensely bright belt stars of the celestial Hunter are painfully beautiful in the 8 x 32, surrounded by a blizzard of fainter suns comprising Collinder 70.

Auriga, Taurus, Perseus and Cassiopeia form a grand procession of starlight, from southwest to northwest, and are considerably easier to enjoy, owing to their lower altitudes, which entails less neck strain while glassing. The placing of Perseus in particular in the north-western sky makes observing the beautiful Double Cluster and the Alpha Perseii Association particularly enjoyable to glass with my 32mm Leica.

Just a little off the southeast of Castor & Pollux lies the comely Beehive cluster(M44), jewel of Praesepe in Cancer. Though the objectives of the Leica glass are small as stargazing binoculars come, its impressively high light transmission gathers enough celestial photons to really make observing its numerous stellar components very worthwhile. The endearing Pleiads & Hyades are still well placed for exploration, as are numerous Messier open clusters that stand out well against a dark and transparent sky – M35 in Gemini is very prominent, M36, 37 & 38 can be enjoyed in a single field coursing through the heart of Auriga. M34 in Perseus stands out well also, as does M52 which shows up as a roughly kidney shaped misty patch over in Cassiopeia. And to top it all off, looking over in the east, the sprawling Coma Cluster (Melotte 111)  begins to take up a commanding position, a sure sign that Spring is on its way.

A walk by the river bank reveals myriad tender Snowdrops, now in full bloom, and even the Daffodils are beginning to poke through the frigid soil, though it will be many weeks yet before their radiant yellow flowers grace our eyes.

Rambling in Balmaha

The Conic, overlooking Balmaha, Loch Lomondside.

Every once and a while, we get incredibly mild and clement days during the Scottish Winter, and Sunday February 21 proved to be one such day. Gentle southerly winds brought warm air over the British Isles and temperatures responded by rising into double figures(11C). But while we normally associate such mild spells in Winter with rain and cloud, today was bright and sunny; the perfect day to go for a short family drive within our region and visit the picturesque Balmaha,  on the shores of Loch Lomond.

A choppy Loch Lomond on a mild and bright Winter afternoon

This is a favourite tourist spot irrespective of the time of the year, but owing to the Pandemic, we were greeted by far less overseas visitors. The Conic, which rises some 361 metres above the eastern side of the Loch, is perennially popular with hill walkers and provides fabulous views of the surrounding countryside for miles around. Though we’ve climbed this hill many times over the years, we decided we would do something a little less strenuous this time round, and simply enjoy the beautiful ancient woodland surrounding it.

Magnificent trees are great glassing targets.

The 8 x 32 Trinnie is the ideal instrument for exploring forest terrain, serving up stunningly beautiful images of  trees, burns, leaflitter and all manner of fungi, lichen and  moss that set the scene ablaze in a verdant riot. Forests have always been associated with sacred spaces, even in pre-Christian times, and to me, they are places of deep contemplation. I can’t help but think that God created these places to calm the human spirit, packing them full of life so that we might wonder after Him. For thus says the Lord God;

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

Psalm 50:10-11

Alas, there were few birds to see this afternoon, save for the odd Robin, Pied wagtail and Wood Pigeon. Perhaps it was because it was a Sunday, which brings more people to these places.

Beautiful freshwater burns flow gracefully across the forest floor.

After enjoying a lengthy ramble along well trodden pathways, we ended up taking a look around the village of Balmaha. Arguably one of the most visited sites is the statue of Tom Weir(1914-2006), one of Scotland’s best loved ramblers. But he was much more than a rambler. Weir was also an accomplished writer(as was his sister, Molly), broadcaster and evangelist for the great Scottish outdoors and its conservation; much like a 20th century John Muir. I fondly remember watching many of his TV shows, which ran for years and years on TV. There probably wasn’t an inch of Scotland he didn’t walk over or comment on! To say he’s sorely missed would be a gross understatement!

Tom Weir(1914-2006) suitably attired for the great out of doors. Note his trusty little Porro prism binocular, which accompanied him everywhere, round his neck.

Balmaha is a glasser’s paradise, that’s for sure.

I’m very glad I had my 8 x 32 with me to enjoy the scenery!

At home in the forest.

Investing in Quality

The Trinnies have served me well this winter, performing flawlessly under often harsh conditions, whether in rain or snow or ice. Their brilliant, bright images are the result of constant upgrading of their coatings which transmit a very high percentage of the light they collect, rendering them extraordinarily efficient instruments. I already mentioned, the 8 x 32 achieves 90% efficiency with the little 10 x 25 being not far behind. Indeed, I recently stumbled across a most interesting article by a German optics enthusiast who has documented the steady increase in light transmission of Leica binoculars over several decades. .According to his measurements, a 1978 pocket 8 x 20 had a transmittivity of only 55%, but by 1998 these same beauties were delivering light transmission values of 85 or 86%. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if my recently acquired 10 x 25 is a few percentiles higher still!

Sunset, Culcreuch Pond, March 1 2021.

My visit to the pond on St. David’s Day revealed some more curious visitors; a few Common Gulls enjoying a dip in the water, and a pair of Greylag Geese with their prominent orange beaks. It will be interesting to see how long they stay, as my birding handbook informs me that these are migratory species that winter here in the UK before moving back to Iceland and northern Scandinavia in April and May. The Corbies have now become much more vocal, as they begin to build their nests in the conifer trees to the west of the house.

We have now reached March 2021, the end of a long and cold winter here in Scotland. It’s been a tough season, what with the lockdowns, the very long nights and the bitter cold, but the Sun grows stronger every day, rising higher in the sky on its sojourn northwards.  The vernal equinox is just weeks away and by month’s end we’ll be back in good ole British Summer Time (BST). What will the Spring and Summer bring? Only time will tell! One thing’s for sure though, the little Trinnies will continue to accompany me on my outdoor adventures!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

De Fideli.

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