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Birds, Bees & Black Leopards

Posted on - 17th April, 2010 - 6:02pm | Author - | Posted in - Opinion, Recreation, Wildlife and Conservation

The First Butterfly of the Year by Tony WorrallIn my last article I gave ideas as to how to create a wildlife oasis in ones very own back garden and I was pleased to hear some of the success stories but now we are reaching the time of year when a great variety of birds will abandon city life and head off to a more rural surrounding. Yes, it’s the breeding season and it’s all beginning to happen out there.

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Here’s a good idea, get yourself a reasonable pair of field glasses; or binoculars as I prefer to call them, and because of a recent change in the fashion for these things the old style are readily available from charity shops. The ones I refer to are black and made out of metal, the newer ones are made of a compound much lighter and are invariably coloured green. However, the wildlife won’t give ‘two hoots’ as to the quality or style you (the observer) are using or the fact you paid about £4 for them. Now the next bit isn’t very important but helpful with your choice, try to get ones that say 8×30 or maybe 10×50. This is the reason why, the first number in the first example; number 8, is the amount of magnification they have as indeed is what the 10 means in the second example. The second set of numbers refers to the area they cover, either 30 times or 50 times. I know this may not make sense the way I have written but try reading it again.

Now for the scenarios: Imagine you spy with the naked eye a large black cat skulking in the far forest. Your heart thumps as this could be one of the many Black Leopards known to have been sighted in West Lancashire in the last 15 years (I kid you not, over 40 per year). It may be hidden in the undergrowth amongst the ferns, trees and shadows and as far as you can guess it‘s not moving but where has it gone? With masterful pride you bring to your eyes the 40×10 field glasses which you paid £1,500 for. Now because the scope is only 10 and the magnification is 40, you get a perfect view of an oak leaf on which is sitting a ladybird. A tiny hand movement to the right and; as what seems to be acres of scanned forest zip by your eyes, the same happens when you move up and down and side to side, it’s hopeless. The binoculars are far too powerful and only cover a small area, additionally a tiny hand shake makes it impossible to fully understand the picture because it jiggles about all the time. These are fine if you want to see Elvis on the Moon and you strap them firmly to a tripod but useless for wildlife situations.

Now imagine the same Leopard sighting but this time you have a pair of 2×90’s. Hardly any difference in the magnification but you can see half of Lancashire through them if that’s any good. I do hope you understand what I mean. The Leopard could be dancing the cha-cha-cha whilst wearing a ‘sailor beware’ on its head but you won’t get an eyeful with 2×90’s.

Next comes the training, take yourself to the park and practice focusing in on stationary objects; trees and the like, take great care to avoid focusing in on courting couples, KGB Agents, persons getting dressed in the privacy of their own rooms and other situations that may be misconstrued.

On most field glasses one of the eye pieces turns so it can take care of the fact our eyes are odd, I don’t mean different colours or the fact they may be located one on your chin and the other on your forehead but what I do mean is they have different strengths and therefore must be catered for. This is how to use them. Place them to your eyes and scan the area until the side without the turning eye piece is clearly focussed on an object and then using the same object turn the turning eye piece until both are clear. In the middle of the field glasses is a round wheel with tiny teeth and this is the distance focussing device. This allows you to get a clear image at different distances.

Spring Time is Here by Tony Worrall

Phew! That took some doing; it’s not easy directing ones writing talents into an operating manual. Now for the best bit, get out and see what’s happening in the Real World. Swallows are arriving, other summer visitors are getting in on the act as the Chiffchaff announces it is back by its wonderfully repetitive call of “chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff” and the Willow Warbler fills the air with its cascading, sweet, tear jerking song. To me, these are the first signs of summer and fill me with hope of a good one. Frogs, toads and newts are spawning, birds are nest building, lambing is still going on and the trees are coming into bud. What a lovely time of year.

Now go back to town get yourself one or two good books from a charity shop, nothing too grand and cumbersome, perhaps something on the lines of a pocket guide to British Wildlife, and equally one about birds will do for your first adventure into the wonderful world of nature.

By the end of the year I expect you all to know the difference between a Chiff-chaff and a Chaffinch and identify at least 50 native birds. I can’t help that last bit, it’s the teacher in me.

Lastly, may I bring your attention to an experience I had with the Ranger Department in Blackpool last week? I told them of a problem in their area involving a protected species of newt, Larry and his crew excelled by their actions. Full marks to Blackpool Borough Council’s Countryside Rangers. If you have an environmental issue you need help with. Give me a shout!

Image Credit:

The First Butterfly of the Year by Tony Worrall

Spring Time is Here by Tony Worrall

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