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Getting started with birdwatching and binoculars

Getting started with bird watching

New medication has me waking early. Normally I would lie in bed and try fitfully to get back to sleep, or I would get up and grab my phone and start going through emails.

Recently though I have been making a cup of tea and sitting on the deck with a pair of binoculars that used to belong to my father in law. He had three pairs - two were modern lightweight plastic pairs and stay in the car, but these more old fashioned ones have a beautiful pale leather case and had been hanging on the coat rail by the back door for the past year.

I have never been able to get the hang of binoculars - I was shown by various adults in my pre-teen birdwatching club stage, but couldn’t get focus and always ended up with two fuzzy circles hovering around and never quite meeting.

So my 5 am aim has been to learn to use binoculars properly, to practice when nobody is looking, so that eventually I can birdwatch when out walking and tell buzzard from kite, so that I can watch a bird skimming over the loch and know what it is.

In the end my problem with the binoculars turned out to be a very straightforward error, I was simply holding them too close to my eyes. Given a small patch of grass to concentrate on, slow and steady hopping birds on the grass, I could take time to look and focus and track, to get used to the weird hyper reality of birds through binoculars.

And now I realise that I don’t need to wait until I’m out walking to use the binoculars. The back lawn birds are fascinating and if I stay still on the deck they aren’t bothered by me at all.

A fat freckled song thrush fledgling, head cocked to listen, pulling worms from the ground and beating them into pieces on the grass; an older robin following behind to snatch up the leftovers. Two goldfinches close together methodically combing the gravel for fallen angelica seeds. A peewit, jerking back and forward over the grass, every so often leaping into the air like a figure skater - there is no obvious reason or rhythm - maybe it is simply joy in the morning.

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eve milner

Same frustration with binoculars!!! How reassuring
'Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed' by Simon Barnes is my favourite bed-time reading