Monday, November 23, 2015

Reader Rendezvous: Fabulous small group birding trips for 2016!

The good folks at Bird Watcher's Digest (BWD) came up with great idea a couple years back. They wanted to offer intimate, weekend-long, small-group birding opportunities for their readers. Smart, right? Many of us attend birding festivals, where we are part of the hustle and bustle of field trips, workshops, and a whirlwind of talks and classes with birding experts. And that's all well and good--though sometimes we may feel overwhelmed with all the choices, and with all the crowds. Reader Rendezvous serves up something different--something utterly appealing.

Owls With Al guides Sparky Stensaas (L) and Erik Bruhnke (R). Photo by Bill Thompson III.
The team at BWD plans everything for its participants from scouting and choosing bird-rich locations and hot spots to arranging transportation, meals, special rates for lodging, and fun evening activities. Looking for new birding areas to explore? The experienced birders on the BWD staff carefully select from some of their favorite places: environments and habitats you may never have thought to explore. Previous Reader Rendezvous events include Owls With Al in northern Minnesota, Birding Valhalla, and Warblers & Woodpeckers in West Virginia; Birding Basics & Beyond in Florida, and Optics Opstravaganza (proudly hosted by Eagle Optics) in Wisconsin. You can view the photo scrapbooks for each of those events here. And by the way, no birding experience is required. Many of the rave reviews and words of praise for these Reader Rendezvous events have come from beginning birders!
Green Jay photo by Erik Bruhnke
Now approaching its third year, Reader Rendezvous just keeps getting better! Three exciting events are planned for 2016. First up is March 11-13, the Texas Bird'em Tour: McAllen, Texas. Ah, yes--South Texas! As the event's webpage states, "There are few, if any, birding regions in the United States that can rival the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the sheer diversity of bird life and the dizzying allure of unusual bird species." While this Reader Rendezvous offers a chock-full itinerary, the region has so much to offer, that specialized pre- and post-trip extensions are available to add on. Read about costs, meal plan, detailed schedule, and other helpful planning tips here.
Haven't birded in south Texas yet? You're in for a real treat--but more than that, you'll be astounded at the birds and other wildlife you'll experience there. And if you have been to the Rio Grande Valley, you know: it's worth going back, and often!
Black-necked Stilt photo by Mike McDowell
Register soon (but don't wait too long!) for this tremendous opportunity to bird with the experts, fatten your life list, meet new friends, and taste some of that good, down-home, South Texas cuisine. Most of all, you'll get a taste for a wonderful small-group birding adventure at the Texas Bird'em Reader Rendezvous!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

There are few, if any, birding regions in the United States that can rival the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the sheer diversity of birdlife and the dizzying allure of unusual bird species. - See more at:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour: November 4 – 13, 2016

Have binocular, will travel: that's the M.O. of lucky birders who have the time and budget for birding trips and tours in exotic locations around the world. More and more, these birders look for tours that contribute to bird conservation in these destinations. Ideally, this sort of eco-tourism benefits both the host country's economy and its ability to preserve and set aside bird habitat. It's a win-win. If you're looking for an opportunity like this, along with a bit of friendly competition, you'll definitely want to consider the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour.

Keel-billed Toucan photo by James Adams

The Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour is an exciting endeavor, and the first of its kind. Besides reveling in the amazing diversity of bird life in Honduras, participants will be joining one of 5 teams--each led by a well-known leader in the birding industry. A grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded for conservation initiatives in the name of the team who records the highest number of species! Other tremendous prizes will be awarded, too--thanks to generous sponsors of this unique event. Eagle Optics is proud to be one of these sponsors! See the list of prizes and the conservation projects that will benefit from them here.

Crested Bobwhite photo by Alex Alvarado
As the tour website states, "The concepts of birding and conservation in Honduras are relatively new; having arisen in large part from growing avi-tourism and a number of national and local bird watching clubs that have developed over the past decade.  Today despite all our successes, there are still countless areas, habitats, species that are in need of further research and protection.  In addition, there is a greater need than ever to join Hondurans in embracing their natural world, and to further education."  The size and scope of the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour can and will have a far-reaching impact on the country's 5 selected conservation initiatives. What an opportunity for participants to make a real difference! No special birding knowledge is required. Find out how to reserve your spot here.

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird photo by James Adams
The list of tour leaders, one for each of the 5 teams, reads like a Who's Who of the birding world: Richard Crossley, Jeff Gordon, Bill Thompson III, Tim Appleton, and Adam Riley. Registered participants will be assigned to a team, though individual requests to be on a desired leader's team will be considered. And then--what is a tour without an expert local guide? This tour provides the best and most knowledgeable local guides available.

To say the least, you'll be in good hands, folks. All you have to do is register, pull out the map, dream about the thrilling itinerary and gracious accommodations, and get yourself there next November. Here is your chance to be a part of the most ambitious eco-birding tour ever!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Light and dependable: Swarovski's CT Travel Carbon Tripod with DH 101 Head

When planning an outdoor adventure, we concern ourselves with variables: timing, destination, equipment, and everything in between. We scour the weather forecast. Make a checklist. Add this sweet  to your list's optics column, and there will be one less uncertainty; one less worry.

This tripod kit could easily be nicknamed Ready, Set, Go, considering how simple it is to pack along, carry, set up, and use. Carbon fiber and basalt construction makes the CT Travel Carbon Tripod so lightweight, sturdy and dependable, you won't dream of leaving your scope at home or in the car. Hand-friendly lever locks allow you to quickly extend and close the 4 sections. It folds down to a tidy package under 20" in length (when you remove the center column), small enough to pack in your trunk or hand luggage, yet will extend to a viewing height of 71.6", taller than you'd expect for a "travel-sized" tripod.

The DH 101 Tripod Head has a pleasing smooth and fluid-moving mechanism. The tilt and pan movements can be adjusted and set individually, and there is an integrated leveler for ease in setting the tripod on uneven terrain. You can attach your scope one-handed, no problem; the positional stability prevents even the smallest movements and is perfect for observing or digiscoping.

Comfort, ease of use, and impeccable construction details typify Swarovski's thoughtful workmanship. Swarovski makes outdoor adventure easy. You will need to pack your own lunch, though!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The New Family of EL Binoculars from Swarovski

We didn't think the Swarovision EL Binocular could get any better. But, this just out: our friends at Swarovski have made some wonderful improvements to the EL family of binoculars! Read the press release below to see what's new:

Cranston, Rhode Island – SWAROVSKI OPTIK announces the release of the improved EL binocular family with SWAROVISION technology. With the inclusion of the new FieldPro Package and other features, users will enjoy the best EL's yet. In the U.S. and Canada, the new EL Family will be available in November 2015.

Features of the EL Family are to include the new FieldPro package that has enabled SWAROVSKI OPTIK to enhance the binoculars in terms of comfort and functionality. The new rotating strap connector with a cord adapts perfectly to any movement. The bayonet catch enables you to fit and switch the carrying strap and accessories very quickly. With a simple turn of its quick catch button you can rapidly and silently adjust the carrying strap to the right length.

The objective lens covers now fit into the overall design securely attaching to the body of the EL. A softer and more slip resistant designed focusing wheel can be used more easily by the user with the same accuracy even in the toughest conditions. The new diopter adjustment lock function ensures that your personal settings cannot be changed accidentally.

SWAROVSKI OPTIK NORTH AMERICA Regional Sales Director, Greg Enos, said of the new EL Family, "The improvements to the already amazing EL Family will surpass any expectations of new and previous users of SWAROVSKI OPTIK optics."

-Dean J. Capuano, Communications Manager
2 Slater Road, Cranston, Rhode Island 02920

This video shows these ingenious binocular enhancements in action:

Our contacts at Swarovski tell us we can expect these new, improved EL binoculars in late November, 2015. If you have any questions, be sure to contact us at Eagle Optics!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Midwest Birding Symposium, Sept. 10-13, 2015

Registration has begun for the 2015 Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS) in beautiful Bay City, Michigan. It's a jam-packed week of  speakers, activities, and of course, birding! Clear your calendar, friends, and get alongside one of the Great Lakes for fall migration!  The 2015 MBS will once again be a highlight of the birding year.

Historical and culturally vibrant Bay City is located along the Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, 120 miles north of Detroit. This location was selected for all the right reasons: a great stepping-off point for field trips in birding hotspots at the many parks, wildlife areas, and natural habitats in the area; an 18-mile river trail; boat rides and cruises on the bay in the evening; and, the city is home to the country's largest antique mall. What's not to like?

The list of speakers and trip leaders at this year's MBS is not only impressive--it reads like a Who's Who of the birding world: Dr. Pamela C. Rassmussen, Kevin Carlson, George Armistead, Sharon Stiteler, Alvaro Jaramillo, to name a few. You'll be listening to, learning from, and walking alongside some of the most respected experts in ornithology with subjects such as  birding by listening, wood warblers, gull ID, birding ethics, managing a NWR wetland, digiscoping, and much more. Attend a multi-media presentation by Josh Hoss that chronicles his Big Green Year, where he saw 200 species while traveling only by bicycle! Or meet John James Audubon, as portrayed in a special program by Brian "Fox" Ellis. View the current list of scheduled programs here.

This year's MBS is hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest, Michigan Audubon, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy,and Go Great Lakes Bay. These organizations, and the MBS hosts, have teamed up to plan an unforgettable symposium for all, so don't miss the chance! Participants may stay at the Doubletree Riverfront, right on the Saginaw River. It will be a Midwest fall migration experience to remember! Fabulous birding, informative and entertaining programs, sparkling Lake Huron, new friends, and crisp bright September weather.

Eagle Optics is a proud sponsor, and will have a presence, along with many other quality vendors, at the MBS Birders' Marketplace. Stop and see us for expert optics advice, and a try-before-you-buy binocular, spotting scope, or tripod.

The 2015 MBS: It's like going to bird-watching camp!  Register today. We'll see you there!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recalling Shorebirding off Cape Cod

(Reprinted from Sept. 2013)
I had the opportunity to travel to Swarovski's U.S. headquarters in Warwick, Rhode Island earlier this summer. After a day of meetings with several other birding bloggers from across the U.S. and Canada, we were treated to a day of birding on South Beach, just off Chatham on Cape Cod. It was a fabulous day with new friends and LOTS of shorebirds!

Our morning began early, of course (if there's anything I've learned about birders, it's that they're up before the sun when they're motivated). On a picture-perfect day, we spilled out of the van and on to the beach in Chatham, at the elbow of the flexed arm that is Cape Cod's shape.

Loaded with binoculars, scopes, tripods and other assorted gear, we assembled and waited for transport to the South Beach area of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.  Soon our taxi boat picked us up and whisked us across the channel--a 10-minute ride.



Above: Rob Lancellotti of Swarovski, one of our terrific hosts for the day.  As you can see, there were smiles and anticipation as we motored out, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Cape Cod coastline.

Slipping in to the cool water, we waded in to South Beach.  Before we even got there, some of these crazy cats set their tripods up right in the water to view the first birds of the day.

I'll have to admit I was humbled by the birding knowledge and skill of my comrades. I was definitely the rookie of the group, even though I've been birding for years. But that didn't matter one bit. I was welcomed in to the fold, and I learned a lot from this talented and generous group of people. All I had to do was shadow these guys (and gal) and absorb as much as I could.

Above is Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik: our intrepid trip leader, tireless tour guide and local birding (and food) expert. A Connecticut native, Clay now lives in south Texas.  He helped each of us find numerous life birds, and genuinely celebrated every single one with us.  This guy is, in one word: focused. And that's not just an optics pun, folks.

Photo by Drew Weber

We were the only humans on South Beach for most of the day. Gloriously, it was just us, the birds, sand, and waving sea grass. Curious Harbor Seals would bob up to peek at us from time to time.

I started noticing Horseshoe Crabs--whose eggs are a major food source for shorebirds--on the shore. Many of them weren't home, their empty shells evidence of their propensity for molting. They can live to be 20, and will molt several times before they reach maturity. Some of these discarded shells were huge! I found a weathered and windswept grand daddy shell that resembled a helmet, and wore it on my head for part of the morning. My Norwegian heritage must have been emerging--fortunately, no one in the group questioned me on this.


Our friends from Swarovski brought a wheeled cooler filled with sandwiches and water and dutifully pulled it through the sand to our lunch spot (I did NOT make these tracks!) I'm pretty sure they took time out to eat, but as quickly as possible, got right back to looking for lifers.



Part of the fun was entering our sightings, right on the spot, to the eBird website.  We saw 48 species for the day. You can view our list here. If you haven't tried eBird yet, learn how to share your sightings here.

After several hours of roaming through the sand, it was nice to just sit and relax. I let myself be distracted by the shells, rocks, and surf as the sun began to descend.


At around 4:30, the tide came in, allowing our taxi boat to return for us. Tired and happy, we returned to the mainland with memories--and friendships--to last a lifetime. Thanks, Swarovski!


Photo by Sharon Stiteler

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

NEW VIDEO: Optical Quality 101

If there's one thing our customers struggle to understand, it's why one binocular costs $100 and one costs $500, but on paper--they look exactly the same. Why shell out the extra bucks, many wonder. Is it worth it? What differences will I see in the binocular image?

In an effort to help you see the differences between an entry-level and a higher quality binocular, we present the video, Optical Quality 101. It's an excellent way to see and learn how certain optical characteristics affect your viewing experience. These characteristics include:
Center Resolution
Edge Sharpness
Field Curvature
Chromatic Aberration
Brightness & Contrast
Color Tone

So whether you're shopping for a binocular or just want to up your level of expertise, we invite you to have a look. As always, if you have questions or comments, please call us at Eagle Optics.


Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.