Birdchick Podcast #229 We're Back!

  It's winter so of course we talking about owls. Here's an article that I did for Audubon with tips on how to search for Northern Saw-whet Owls. The politics of reporting owls...there are definitely more northern species of owls in the northern US this year, but the locations are being kept on the down low this winter. Even eBird has put owls on the sensitive species list so you can't use it for exact locations.

Vogue did an article about bird watching...and it isn't terrible...

Non Birding Bill's other podcast: Aging Poorly.

One of the reasons we stopped podcasting is in this post. It's hard to have a snarky birding podcast when the news is often terrible. But we're back for now. Thank you for your patience. 

 

Birding In Troubled Times

I'm not racist. 

I never imagined I would need to make a statement like that, but when the leader of your country says words and supports groups that blatantly are, I feel I need to make sure people know this. Especially the many friends I’ve made all over the world.

The chestnut-sided warbler migrates to the United States to raise their chicks, then heads to "shithole" countries like Haiti and El Salvador every year. 

The chestnut-sided warbler migrates to the United States to raise their chicks, then heads to "shithole" countries like Haiti and El Salvador every year. 

I hesitated to put this up because I was worried about starting a political argument in the blog, something I try to avoid. And then I thought…since when is stating clearly that you believe in equality for all people a political statement?

Countries, like people are complex AF. They can show unknown beauty, teach you things that cannot be learned in a book or classroom, they can bring you unimaginable joy and they can make you irrationally angry. They can also break your heart.

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I’ve been in countries that I’m sure the current President of the United States would term “shitholes.” Though I have not been to the countries he specifically stated were "shitholes" many of the countries I've been to share some particular characteristics with his list: people of color and for some, extremely poor living conditions. I generally like to keep things neutral in the blog because I want to focus on birds and wildlife and I think no matter how much we disagree with each other politically, we can find commonality in nature. In the past when I see things I struggle with while out birding, I tend to leave that as a story I only tell friends over dinners and drinks. I think I need to stop that.

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For example, Honduras was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been too. I loved the people I met, the terrain was breathtaking (literally and metaphorically) and the birds were outstanding. However, the poverty was overwhelming. Every animal I saw was emaciated. You could see the rib cages of dogs, horses, cows—even pigs. Imagine that, my fellow US citizens, pigs so thin you could see their ribs.

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While I would stay in my cozy lodges where my daily choice was bird watching, a massage, reading in a hammock, writing, sketching, or snorkeling, some families around us were living in shacks with tarp roofs struggling to survive. Children were out there who couldn't go school because they were needed to go through the streets and search garbage bins to find scraps to sell or eat just so their family can survive. Yes it can be argued that the tourism dollars I bring with me helps, but will it help the individuals I saw? Highly unlikely.

And this is not the only country that has that kind of “shithole” existence going on. Perhaps you’re thinking I might next bring up Cuba or Guatemala living conditions I witnessed. Nope. I’ve seen similar shithole existences right here in the United States. I saw it right in our capital of Washington, DC last October—people living in tents around monuments or within site of the White House itself. I see it daily in Minnesota. Right now, someone is living in a tent on property adjacent to my apartment building’s complex. The current temperature outside as I write this is -13 degrees Fahrenheit. He is a white male living in that tent in the United States.

If you’re reading this and you voted for Trump, I don’t care what policy or tax break or health plan you thought he would fix for you. Can’t we agree that this overtly racist attitude is intolerable, unacceptable and a total embarrassment? And if you think it’s ok, I would encourage you to book a trip somewhere out of your comfort zone. Learn more about the countries you don’t understand. Most people aren't out to "get us." They want a little piece of stability to spend time with family and friends and pursue their happiness.

The thing that’s incredibly frustrating for me is that the news gets overwhelmed with these immature comments and we are missing actual changes that affect us all right now: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge could be taken from us for a useless border wall that is for show and not action. The Eminent Domain process was ignored on private property when the federal government started work on the wall on private property owned by the National Butterfly Center in Texas.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been relaxed a bit so killing birds for construction is ok. The Bundy family who tried to take federal land away from the US people by high jacking Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is free because federal prosecutors botched their case. As of today the federal government is about week away from a shutdown…something that almost happened right before Christmas. The government was less than 48 hours from a shutdown but no one noticed because, “Oh hey, the president said something insane again.”

So, in case it wasn't obvious...I'm not a racist and I don't think any of what is going on right now is ok. And as I struggle with daily outrage fatigue, the thing that is getting me through this  is watching birds. And Jameson.  

Las Terrazas Birding

After some fun times and barely birding in Old Havana, we met up with our main guide in Cuba, Hiram Gonzalez (pronounced "ear rahm" not they way we say Hiram in the US). Hiram is quite possibly one of the last people to see an ivory-billed woodpecker alive in Cuba. He's an ornithologist who specializes in endangered species on the island. If Zapata wren is your goal--he's the one you want to know to see one. 

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He's also one of the most colorful guides I've ever gone with. How often do you go out with a guide who points to your endemic lifer with his half finished cigarette? He speaks very good English with a heavy accent. It took me a minute to figure out that "janky bird" was giant kingbird. At night, he'd join us at the bar and school us in birds and the better rums. But he was always so excited to show us his birds which I'm sure he'd seen more times than I've seen a cardinal. Ever time he would exclaim, while wildly flailing his cigarette, "Look AT dat!!!" 

Male Cuban martin.

Male Cuban martin.

We headed towards Las Terrazas to a plantation to get some of those Cuban endemics we'd been reading about so much. On the way we stopped for gas and got a lifer: Cuban martin. We  had martins zooming over the roof of our hotel. Even though it was April, I wasn't sure if there still might be some male purple martins on the island and it's impossible to tell male purple martins from male Cuban martins. But at the gas station there was no doubt.

Female Cuban martin in a nest cavity, check out the wasp nest above her head. 

Female Cuban martin in a nest cavity, check out the wasp nest above her head. 

Unlike purple martins, Cuban martins nest in holes in buildings--not the houses and colonies people in the United States have trained martins to use. These martins were using any hole or gap in the gas station. Cuba is know for several species that are endemic--spend their entire lives on the island. But martins fly away in winter and only breed here so their considered a breeding endemic. Kind of the way golden-winged warblers would be considered a breeding endemic to the North America. 

We continued our journey and at the first stop in Las Terrazas, it was the "holy-shit-new-birds-everywhere" sensory overload time. That lovely point where you are afraid to focus on just one bird because you might not see the other new bird right behind you ever again. Many of the endemics we saw on the first stop ended up being birds we would see almost every day like Cuban trogon, Cuban tody and Cuban green woodpecker...getting actual photographs of them was another story.

Our very first bird was the Cuban national bird, the Tocororo or Cuban trogon. As we were watching Cuban oriole and Cuban green woodpecker flew over--to a nest. 

Our very first bird was the Cuban national bird, the Tocororo or Cuban trogon. As we were watching Cuban oriole and Cuban green woodpecker flew over--to a nest. 

Cuban green woodpecker. 

Cuban green woodpecker. 

The farm to see grassquits!

The farm to see grassquits!

Clouds and mist moved in as well giving things a mysterious air. After our initial stop we headed to a nearby plantation where they were setting up to feed their chickens. However, domestic fowl are not the only birds to see. This is the spot to get cracker jack looks at grassquits. 

Cuban grassquit. 

Cuban grassquit. 

I could show you images of grassquits but it's far more fun to watch video of them happing around. There were far more yellow-faced grassquits than Cuban grassquits but we got ample looks at both. These are now considered to be part of the tanager family and are related to Darwin finches. 

I tried to get a picture of Flat Michelle with the grassquits, but they were having none of it.

I tried to get a picture of Flat Michelle with the grassquits, but they were having none of it.

So a local farmer was happy to oblige instead. 

So a local farmer was happy to oblige instead. 

Horned Guan Death March

This post was updated December 19, 2017 when I noticed many of the photos were gone after transferring the blog from Wordpress to SquareSpace. I also updated some of the text. It was originally two posts and now I've condensed it to one.

Yowie Horned Guan

This particular toy at the top of this post is a replica of a horned guan. You can get them from knock-off Kinder Eggs called Yowies—which for whatever reason are legal in the US. I was going to just buy the eggs until I got my guan, but the chocolate is nasty. Rather than going the traditional route of purchasing several inedible eggs, I found someone on eBay who already had the guan and for the price of one Yowie egg I had the guan sent directly to my home. To people who say this is cheating...I say, "Bite me."

A horned guan is one of the rarest birds in the Americas. Imagine a black and white bird the size of a turkey that has a bright red horn on its head that lives in the trees on the side of a volcano. Even if there weren’t only 600 or so of these birds left in the world, they're are still an amazing sight.

If I truly understood what was ahead of me to see a guan, I don't know that I would have gone for it. There were tales from some of my buddies on the bird festival circuit that it was a horrific climb. I had heard of well-known, great birders, who I considered to be physically fit, having to crawl that last part of the trail just to see. Here's Julie Zickefoose on NPR and on her blog or Bill of the Birds on his horned guan search. I think a part of me thought that was just a bit of exaggeration--birders have their fish stories too.

The hike up Volcan San Pedro was saved for one of our final days of birding in Guatemala. Our group had been mentioning it to each other, "Do you think you're going to be able to do it?" or "Sharon, do you really think you can take your scope up the volcano, I'd leave it here."

I heard that previous male birders had brought their scopes, so I thought that I should be able to do it too. I didn't get very scared until the day before. I had found some wifi at our lodge in Los Andes and put up a status update on Facebook: Sharon is nervous about tomorrow's climb up the Volcano to see the horned guan. I got a comment from Chris Benesh who works for Field Guides--travels all over the world to show people birds. He was also on the same Ivory-bill Search Team I was on. I considered to him to be very physically fit. He left a comment to the effect of the climb being the toughest he had ever done, it was brutal, but the got the guan.

Okay, if Chris called it brutal, maybe those stories of birders panting and crawling to the top weren't just exaggerated fish tales. I decided to be all Scarlett O'Hara about it and, "I'll not think about that right now, I'll go crazy if I do. I'll think about that tomorrow."

We had one more field trip planned at Los Andes to look for some mannikans, I opted to take the afternoon off, relax a bit so I could be fresh the next morning. The next day was a rough schedule. We had to be ready to go by 4:15 am, take a bus to Lake Atitlan where we would take a ferry to San Pedro for the climb. The hike up to the guan was going to take four hours, who knew how long the hike down would take.

Gulp.

Initially, all went well. We arrived at Lake Atitlan and watched in amazement at how the locals used the water. As we were loading our ferry, one man drove in his tuk tuk (tiny taxi car) into the water for a wash, another drove in his truck, a couple of people were bathing in the nude right on the water's edge.

Volcan San Pedro...were we really going to climb that?

Volcan San Pedro...were we really going to climb that?

We boarded boat, marveled at the beautiful volcanoes that surrounded the lake and laughed as the cool water sprayed us as we hit waves. Outside the boat we looked to pad our species list with lesser scaup, brown pelicans, and ruddy ducks. As we approached the other side of the lake, we watched in amazement as Volcan San Pedro loomed over us. Yes, we would be climbing this extinct volcano. Hugo, our guide tried to alleviate our fears since many of us were not accustomed to this altitude. In his quiet, spanish accent he said, "Yes, we will go slow. It will be slow, slow walking, then looking at birds, slow, slow walking, then looking at birds."

I felt some comfort in this. Perhaps the four hours was not all climbing but just such a slow pace of birding that it would seem steep, but not be that bad.

When we landed in San Pedro, I saw more tourists here than in any other town. Peddlers were ready for us, a Mayan woman greeted us with a basket full of baked goods. I looked at the steep streets in front of us and wondered if we were going to start right away, but our local guides and hosts Irene and Ana Christina said that a bus was coming to take us.

Our "bus" was a pick up truck and they ended up corralling ten birders like livestock in the back to take us up to the horned guan preserve.

Our "bus" was a pick up truck and they ended up corralling ten birders like livestock in the back to take us up to the horned guan preserve.

Birders looking for horned guans

I love this photo. We’re all so happy, so giddy, so blissfully unaware of the horrors and sweat that awaited us. That’s me with Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds, Jen Sauter, Hugo our guide and even a part of Rick Wright. It was all just an exciting adventure then.

This poor guys was carrying what appeared to be recently washed blankets up a steep road. 

This poor guys was carrying what appeared to be recently washed blankets up a steep road. 

We began our drive through the narrow cobblestone streets of San Pedro, up and up we went. We passed many locals taking the route on foot, many carrying piles of goods on their backs. What is it like to be acclimatized to this?

Horned Guan Preserve

We arrived at the reserve for the horned guan. We readjusted our packs with our lunches and our bottles of water and began the trail. The day was sunny, the birds were numerous and we made some stops.

We found a spot loaded with western tanagers (more of those North American breeders). I was excited to get the rufous-capped warbler. I had actually seen one of these earlier in our journey, but was the only one who had. I was glad others got to see it and this time I even got to digiscope it. We also got great looks at this ginormous squirrel cuckoo—it was much bigger than the black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos I see. And so beautiful too—reminiscent of a brown thrasher.

Rufous-capped warbler.

Rufous-capped warbler.

As we stopped for all of this birding, I started to think, “This isn’t so bad.” I have short legs and I was not used to the elevation but was doing ok. I did lag behind the group but always managed to catch up with enough time to rest along with them before pressing forward. I felt that I could do this.

The relentless trail to the guan...five hours of this nonsense. 

The relentless trail to the guan...five hours of this nonsense. 

But then we didn’t stop for birds anymore and the trails became much steeper. It was switchback after switchback. It was dry and the volcanic dust made for powdery walking conditions. I toiled up the trail and as my pace slowed, the sound of our group ahead became more and more faint, I realized I was losing ground. There was another person named Mel in our group who seemed to struggle with the climb along with me. I was grateful for the company and to not to be the pokiest of the little puppies.

This guy booked it past me like the switch backs were nothing. 

This guy booked it past me like the switch backs were nothing. 

Local farmers loaded with burdens of fire wood, corn or coffee moved swiftly passed us on the trail. Many looked to be twice my age which made me feel worse. I bike ride, I lead nature hikes, I haul bee equipment and this trail was turning my legs to jelly. It was relentless in its incline. I was desperate for a flat surface. The high elevation and lack of oxygen didn’t help either. Life in Minnesota rarely exceeds 850 feet. The trail starts at about 5000 feet and has a change of over 4000 feet.

The gorgeous views on the climb. 

The gorgeous views on the climb. 

After much sweat and panting my slow friend and I caught up to the group at another resting spot. I hoped that we were half way up and was saddened to learn that we were only a third of the way, with another three hours to go. It was at this moment that Gustavo from Neblina Tours told me , “I’m having trouble staying balanced on this steep trail. Would it be alright with you if I took your scope and used it as a way to balance myself on the trail?”

One of our guides Hugo on the left. Gustavo on the right holding my scope...note how much equipment he was carrying besides my scope. 

One of our guides Hugo on the left. Gustavo on the right holding my scope...note how much equipment he was carrying besides my scope. 

It was lie. He carried more on this trip than I did: he had two massive field guides besides his binoculars, lunch, water, recording equipment, etc. I knew it was a lie and I was too sweaty and tired to care. I gratefully accepted his offer and continued my slow lumbering walk up the trail.

We eventually made it to a halfway point. I sat on the floor of the observation deck and used the wooden railing to prop my head up and looked out at the beautiful view. I was seriously questioning my life choices. I was not forced to do this, I signed up--willingly. What’s worse is that I could have stopped at any time. I could have just stopped walking on the trail and said, “No more, I’ll wait here in the shade, watch some foliage-gleaners and pepper-shrikes and wait for you on your glory walk down the trail after seeing the guan.” One of our group already had given up the trail due to a bad knee. It was the honorable and safe thing to do. But I willingly continued. Quitting this steep upward battle was never an option to me.

I looked at our group and said panting, “This is like hitting yourself with a hammer because it feels so good when you finally stop.”

We laughed and Hugo warned that we should probably save our oxygen.

Jen soon joined Mel and I as those lagging behind now and two of us practically held on to each other to stay upright. Ana Christina from the tourism board sensed our waning resolve and anytime we  paused she would call in her sweet Spanish accent, “Jen, Sharon, come on, the horned guan is right up here.”

We fell for it once and scrambled up, but realized she was really a cloud forest sprite beckoning us forward. It worked. At every switchback we would pause to try and get some order to our respiratory system, Ana Christina would be another switchback ahead of us calling, “C’mon Jen. C’mon Sharon, horned guan is waiting for you.”

We finally reached the horned guan appropriate elevation. I sat in the dust. Gustavo smiled and pointed out how dirty my face was. Fuck you, Gustavo. Part of our group rested, while the rest did an initial search.

The exact moment I realized I hated birds and that I may need psychological help. 

The exact moment I realized I hated birds and that I may need psychological help. 

I took a picture of myself at this point. I wanted to remember forever the exact moment I realized how much I hated birds and that I needed psychological help. What the fuck was wrong with me. I had heard how horrible it was and I kept going, for what? For the high of seeing one rare bird.

No guan. We needed to go higher. Fuck everything.

We paused once more. Optimism was fading in the group. A few still held out some sweaty hope, but the rest of worried that we’d been talking too much or paying more attention to our body and foot aches and completely missed the turkey sized tree chicken that was our quarry. One guy even said, “You know, we could go all this way and not see it.”

This was the first time in my life I ever felt the deep, gutteral desire to throat punch someone.

Then an anxious whisper came from above us, some crazy asshole in our group was still climbing and went two switch backs up…and found the guan. All of us suddenly forgot body fatigue and dashed up the switchback—where had this new-found energy come from?

Horned guan foot.

Horned guan foot.

The light broke through the trees and…all I could see was a bird foot. Fuck you, bird. I was going to count it, but if this was all I’m going to get of you. Fuck you.

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Finally, a little head poked out. I saw the horn, the little red horn where the guan gets its name! And the crazy yellow eye! At first we thought there was one guan, but there were two…and then a whole flock of about 7—they vocalized, they displayed, they flew! My little head exploded in awe as I realized I was watching what is arguably the most endangered bird in the Americas.

Horned guan in all its crazy glory. Alas, this was back when I was digiscoping with a point and shoot. Oh the photos I could get  now with a smartphone. 

Horned guan in all its crazy glory. Alas, this was back when I was digiscoping with a point and shoot. Oh the photos I could get  now with a smartphone. 

And after all of that, we had to go back down! Certainly it would not take the five hours that it took to get up to the guan, but it would still take time. My legs are only used to flat surfaced and had been trudging uphill for four hours non stop. And now I had to go down, something I still wasn't used to. Every muscle in my legs vibrated at any moment I stopped. I kept going, but the decline and volcanic ash still caused me to slide and fall. Every time I did fall, a large cloud of dust preceded me, causing Hugo to cross his arms and shout, "Safe!" as if I were a baseball player sliding into home. Fuck you, Hugo.

Gallo Beer

Some way, some how we made it back down the trail to our meeting point, our water bottles depleted. Ana Christina took us to a local watering hole for some refreshments to wait for the ferry. In our dehydrated state, we should of have had water, but it wasn’t safe for the American to drink so our only option was beer. Giddiness soon set in with most of us, especially for me--I NEVER HAVE TO DO THAT CLIMB EVER AGAIN. It occurred to me that a horned guan is a bird that I will only see once in a lifetime and I had a pang of pity for guys like Hugo and Mel who would have to lead a tour here again and take people up that volcano. Those poor god damned bastards.

One of the many Mayan ladies who sensed our fatigue and tipsiness and used the opportunity to relieve us of many quetzals in exchange for their exquisite and colorful textiles. 

One of the many Mayan ladies who sensed our fatigue and tipsiness and used the opportunity to relieve us of many quetzals in exchange for their exquisite and colorful textiles. 

We finally crossed the lake and checked into our next lodge. I took a very long shower with my scope and binoculars to clean off all of the volcanic dust. By the time we were settled and clean it was 8:30pm when we sat down for dinner of squash soup, homemade tortas, fruity drinks and rich dark Guatemalan run.

I've only ever seen this hot sauce in Guatemala. It was as tasty as it was hilarious. 

I've only ever seen this hot sauce in Guatemala. It was as tasty as it was hilarious. 

We discussed the next day's birding. After getting our stuff together at 4:15am that morning and birding almost 12 hours, I was delighted to hear that we were meeting at 7am for breakfast before birding (we'd get to sleep in).

Mel said in a panicked voice, "Hey that means we won't get birding until 8 - 8:30 am, anyone for starting earlier?"

Goddamn lister was already on the quest for more birds.

Hugo our guide said, "Well, it's whatever you want..."

There was a pause, I could tell by some in the group that they needed the rest as much as I did but didn’t want to look like the weenie and say no. I myself have no problem saying no.

"I gotta say that I'm not in favor of that idea and would rather sleep in and rest after today."

Mel looked disappointed, but I felt a palpable wave of relief come across the table from everyone.

So I look down on my little plastic horned guan that ordered from eBay, I think you can understand why I don't think it's cheating to go through loads of technically edible chocolate to get my little souvenir of the day I realized my limits in birding. 

Changing Binoculars

This summer I had the heartbreak many of us experience with our binoculars...moisture inside the lenses. Who knows when I did it--park service canoe program or on a plane coming home from Hungary. Considering they had been used almost daily since 2005 and I'm rough on equipment that was a hell of a good run. Fortunately, being Swarovskis they have a great warranty and something like this can be repaired with only shipping from my house as the cost. 

My first truly great pair of binoculars. I love you old ELs, dings, scratches, sunscreen and bugspray stains and all. 

My first truly great pair of binoculars. I love you old ELs, dings, scratches, sunscreen and bugspray stains and all. 

I contacted the repair office to get a tracking number and sent them in for treatment. Swarovskis have a lifetime warranty. I've sent my old ELs in for what I thought was a realignment about 9 years ago. That's when I learned I had a minor astigmatism and hello, glasses! Even though they didn't need to be repaired, the team completely refurbished and cleaned them. When they were returned to me it was like having a brand new EL. I could tell they were still mine though by the dings along the hinges. Oh the times those bins have been tossed in a backpack for last minute birding runs, dropped on the floor, dragged across mud when I wriggled under electric fences or fell along with me when I slid down mountainsides or volcanoes. The lifers they brought to me, both expected and unexpected...that time a dear, sweet Brit named Mike Watson ran into me early one morning on the boardwalk at Biggest Week and said, "Hey, Shaz, fancy a male Kirtland's? It's just right here." 

"Get the F*CK out of here!"

His face and the lifer were priceless. 

Swarovskis are a tough piece of equipment. I have put these binoculars to the test on many continents. There was even a point at a meeting at Swarovski Headquarters in Austria a couple of years ago after the new versions of the ELs were out and a staff person noticed the state of my old ELs--good, but well worn and well loved. He said, "I'd really love to see you with a fresher pair. We've upgraded them since that model."

I politely declined the offer for an upgrade. I know it's an inanimate object but those 8x32 ELs was been with me almost every day in any sort of weather condition, every sort of mood. They've known temperatures from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -32 degrees Fahrenheit. They've known the thrill of a sociable lapwing in Kazakhstan and the agony of missing resplendent quetzal in Honduras and Guatemala. They gave me my first glimpse of a Zapata wren in Cuba and my lifer Syrian woodpecker on the border of Israel and Syria. They have helped me enjoy waxwings and purple finches chowing down on crabapples in my yard and give me a crisp view of woodcocks illuminated by flashlights. We've seen some serious shit together. 

Because of my relationship with Swarovski, I knew when my old ones were sent in for repair they'd be noticed. They were...as was all of the equipment I've been loaned over the years. "LOOK HOW OLD YOUR STUFF IS, LET'S UPGRADE!" If you've ever seen the movie Moonstruck, it's kind of like when Cher's character stops into the salon to take out a few grays in her hair and the stylist goes nuts and they give her a complete makeover. 

One of my favorite things on the Swarovski 8x32 ELs was how perfectly they fit my right hand. The first time I held one, they felt like they were modeled just for my hand. I loved being able to use them one handed.

One of my favorite things on the Swarovski 8x32 ELs was how perfectly they fit my right hand. The first time I held one, they felt like they were modeled just for my hand. I loved being able to use them one handed.

I dug out all of my Swarovski boxes from storage and found my old EL box from years ago. I poured a glass of Talisker Storm, put in some Harry Nilsson and toasted them and all the adventures they gave me. They grew with me as I grew my blog which led to my writing and speaking career. I carefully packed them in to the box. I had hoped that maybe I hadn't trashed them too badly and maybe we could turn them into a contest like we did years ago and I gave away my old scope. Despite asking, I have not heard. I suspect that the scratches on lenses and worn hinges have deemed them recyclable. 

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

And then my new 8x32 ELs arrived. And let me tell you that was a painful two weeks. I have a back up pair of bins--which are not bad. They are a great mid price binoculars but once you've gotten used to using a pair like this on the regular, it's hard to go back. They arrived just in time for me to go to an event with the Lorain County Bird Club in Ohio.

One of the first birds that I tested my new Swarovski 8x32 ELs on was an immature red-shouldered hawk. 

One of the first birds that I tested my new Swarovski 8x32 ELs on was an immature red-shouldered hawk. 

I got to take the on a trial run on a cloudy and misty day which is where you can really see the difference between mid-price binoculars and Swarovskis. Holy cow. My old ELs were fantastic...but the new edge to edge clarity and they way these worked with my glasses was stunning. This new pair fits in my hands perfectly. I need to dirty her up a little bit, give her that fantastic field-worn look, but I think we'll get along fine. In the meantime I'll enjoy that new binocular smell and christen her with some fantastic winter specialties. Maybe in January I'll take her on her first trip to Sax Zim Bog. 

For those who are into the whole unboxing trend, Non Birding Bill made an unboxing video of the ELs.