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sycamore key

Sycamore Keys

Sunday, 18th March 2001, West Yorkshire

sprouting sycamore seedsycamore sprouting THEY ARRIVED in Britain from southern Europe at some time during the middle ages and they're still spreading with the aid of their little helicopters. The wings of these Sycamore seeds were standing vertically on a garden lawn, pushed upwards as the seeds sprout and the radicle, the embryonic root of the seedling, makes its way down into the earth. As the seed takes in water it swells, bursting out of its seed-case and leaving the empty capsule to blow away or rot down.

Binoculars - watching v. walking

binocularsWhen I first started birdwatching I decided to go for a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars. I felt that the extra light-gathering power of the 50 mm object glass and the extra magnification of the 10x made it worth the extra weight.

But most of the walks I make aren't solely for birdwatching, so a few years ago, when I chose a new pair, I went for these smaller, lighter, 8 x 42s. The field of view isn't as great, the light-gathering power is about the same but of course there isn't quite the same degree of magnification. As my hands aren't rock steady that isn't such a loss; 'camera shake' becomes more of a problem as you step up the magnification. Of course, for best results I'd use a telescope on a tripod.

But when it comes to walking, especially a long trek like the 30 mile Cal-der-went that I tackled a couple of years ago, even the weight of a pair of 8 x 42s becomes a bit of a bind. golden ploverSo I travelled light, but, sure enough, when we reached the moors, a golden plover appeared and perched 20 yards away on the heather.

'I wish I'd brought my binoculars now!' I said to my friend Martin.

He reached into a pocket of his haversack and took out a small pouch about the size of a packet of cigarettes and unfolded a tiny pair of binoculars, which were remarkably good optically and picked out all the plumage details.

Moral; The smallest pair of binoculars that you actually take with you are more useful than the heaviest, most powerful pair that you always leave at home.

By the way, when I chose these, I asked a no-nonsense bird painter friend of mine to come along and give me advice. In my price range, it came down to two optically identical pairs of 8 x 42s. These traditional black ones, or, for £20 extra, a 'designer' pair of rubber armoured binoculars in a soft dove grey. I could just picture myself standing out from the crowd of birdwatchers with a pair like that.

'I wouldn't pay the extra for those,' advised my friend, 'they're the kind of binoculars that posers wear!'

Related Link

My favourite place locally to choose binoculars is In Focus near the railway viaduct in Denby Dale. You can test out and compare a variety of binoculars either on the view down over the village (people in Denby Dale must often have the feeling that they are being watched), or take a close look at the birds that are attracted to the array of feeders that are on offer.

In Focus also have shops at several bird reserves and wetland centres;

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Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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