Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

C-watching at the Birdfair

I made a rare excursion to the Birdfair today. I have to say that it would not make the top ten of my 'must do this every year' list if I had one. I go irregularly, and only if compelled with a reason. In the past this has been to check a product out or to help out on the LROS stand. Once, and I still can't remember why, it was to play (badly) in the exhibitors football tournament.

Anyway, this year I decided to use the Birdfair as an opportunity to check out some new bins. I couldn't go on Friday (work) or Saturday (family stuff to do), so this morning I headed out early into what turned out to be a gloriously warm and sunny day.

I dropped in to the LROS stand a couple of times through the day, chatting with Paul Riddle, Alan Pocock, Ben Croxtall and Steve Lister. Good to pick up the newly arrived Annual Report - I've enjoyed getting back into writing for that eight years after I resigned as editor and we'll soon be starting again on the next report. It was also good to say hello to Iain Robson on the Birdwatch Northumberland stand, though he'll be gutted to have missed the Toon pasting Villa. I'm sure there were other bloggers about but I didn't recognise anyone.

Inbetween chatting and milling about, I managed to grab a couple of pints of Birdfair Bitter and do a bit of C-watching (Celebrities, Cretins and Capital Cs). A steady passage of Celebrities included Packham, Baker, King and Dilger, along with lesser known birding faces like Lindo + a hanger-on with video camera. Cretins included far too many wholly inappropriately dressed visitors such as those in cream slacks and bowling shoes (in the mudfest), whilst there were too many Capital Cs to mention, mainly with expensive bins hanging from their necks whilst still in the case.

Anyway, onto the main business for me. The porro-prism Pentax 8x40 bins that I've happily used for c16 years are, quite frankly, knackered. They are in no way nitrogen purged/filled or waterproof which is kind of useless for winter which is when I am most likely to be birding. I had a budget which precluded anything decent in the Leica, Zeiss, Kowa, Nikon or Swarovski range. I know you get what you pay for, but I also don't pander to the theory that owning expensive bins makes you a good birder. I've seen far more complete cocks with expensive bins than I care to mention.

I had in mind the Opticron Verano range, but when I tried them I was disappointed. They just didn't feel right to me, being almost too light and the focus adjustment felt a bit clunky. I tried some Bushnell bins and struggled to see them as being any better optically than my old bins. Steiner Skyhawk bins were picked up and put down quickly - the diopter adjustment is on the wrong eye.

I then went to the In-Focus stand to get side by side comparison. I tried a few different pairs, including the Opticrons again. However one that I hadn't considered before was the Hawke Frontier ED 8x43. I was immediately comfortable with them, maybe heavier than most comparable bins but still lighter than my old ones and I preferred the weight compared to others I tried. The image was bright and clear, and when I tried them against a very expensive pair of Nikons I couldn't see any difference optically - other than the Hawkes had much better close focussing! They are waterproof, phase corrected roof prisms and have multi-coated ED glass. At £299.00, they were in budget and I felt they were great value at that. I doubt they will last me a lifetime, but I reckon I'll get easily 10 years out of them.

Before I left at 4ish, I had a quick walk down to Harrier Hide, nothing exciting to see - Little Egret, Green Sand and not seeing plastic Ospreys being the highlights.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am sure you'll be very happy with yer Hawke Frontiers mark...they sound pretty good tho i've never looked thru a pair...

I checked out the new nikon edg bins...a snip at just 1700quid....wot a fuckin joke...how much...!!!!? Still..if you got the dough....etc...

If i had to change me nikon32 bins...[which were cheap before prices went arseole up]..i'd consider the new kowa's....close focus...lightweight...i was impressed...and they cost about £500...not bad when you consider 'other' prices...

All the best...

Beastbloke....

Ipin said...

Aye, good to put a face to name and all that Skev!

I was gutted indeed to miss the game, up coming holidays mean it will be October before I see the toon at home this season!

thedrunkbirder said...

I was talking to Beth from the local LRWT group and she'd bought the same bins and I have to say I was very impressed... the gloom on Friday gave a good chance to have a look at them in poor light and they held up pretty well.

So when are we going to get out and see if you still know how to use them?

John Hague said...

Ah, the football. Do you remember LROS beating the mighty Brazil team 1-0? An early goal from the Argentinian striker Fray Bentos and some ferocious tackling from midfield and defence and a heroic display from an inspired Drunkbirder in goal kept the Brazilians at bay.

A result that stunned the birding world? Not!

Stewart said...

Mark did you do your very best to torture roppa at the bird fair? Should've. We do.
He's a canny chap really and makes the worlds best marmalade!

Skev said...

Colin - £1700 is probably £800 for the bins, £400 for the name and £500 for the celebrity endorsement!

John - yes, beating Brazil was the highlight. However I also seem to remember that we had footy boots/trainers and at least one of them played in loafers .... I really can't remember whose idea it was though. I think the footy is defiunct now?
I can remember how to use bins, just can't remember what I'm looking at ;-)

Stewart - standing in those stuffy marquees is probably torture enough, that and camping on Lagoon VI ..... No marmalade was offered.

John Hague said...

Most Brazilians playing in loafers or even clown shoes would piss on most English teams... they learn their football in the streets and on the beaches you know!