Today was a special day- the 11th Annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival! And not only is this one of my favorite days of the year, it's extra-special to me this year because it's the tenth time I have participated. I work as a volunteer at one of the birding stations, helping people find and identify birds.
I have been doing this for a decade. When I realized that, I almost couldn't believe it. I had to count the years on my fingers, but yes, it really is true. I started going to the Bird Festival in 2007, so this is the tenth year.
The corollary to that, of course, is that I have been living in La Grande for a decade as well. Yikes. A lot has happened, not least of which is that Emma, who had just turned three when we moved here in the fall of 2006, is now as tall as me.
But I digress. This weekend was the Bird Festival! And you know, sometimes the Universe Provides.
I have wanted a spotting scope for years and years and years, ever since I took Ornithology in college in 1993. Off and on, of course, as my birding activities waxed and waned depending on where I was in life. But spotting scopes are pricey, good ones anyway, and there were always other things that were higher priority. Two years ago I made room in my budget for a good pair of binoculars, and that was enough. But still, the lure of a spotting scope was there.
This past Wednesday, a friend at work said that she was clearing out unused things from her house as she prepared for retirement, and could she give me this spotting scope she found? She said she didn't know anything about it other than it was at least 20 years old, and didn't know what condition it was in. But if I wanted it, I could have it.
Ummmm....YES THANK YOU!!
It's a Bushnell Spacemaster II, and it's in great condition. It's nothing fancy, but the optics are fairly good and everything is still in alignment. It came with a tabletop tripod, but that doesn't really work for birding in the marsh, so I got a full size tripod with a pivoting head on Friday.
Sweet! I have a spotting scope!
I put it to good use this morning at the festival. I was at my station from 6am to 12 noon, and in that six-hour stretch I saw 77 species of birds. That's the same number of species as I saw last year, but this year I saw everything so much more clearly! A lot of the time at my station is spent scanning out across a pond to identify distant ducks and shorebirds, so having a scope with higher magnification than just handheld binoculars makes a big difference. And beyond just ticking species off a list, being able to see the birds more clearly really adds to the enjoyment. You get to see the feather patterns, the eye colors, the behaviors, the whole package.
I also tried taking pictures through the scope. This is a killdeer, which is a roughly robin-sized bird, photographed from about 80 feet away. Considering this was taken with an iPhone just held up to the eyepiece (I don't have one of those brackets that attaches the phone to the scope...yet...), and the picture cropped after uploading, this is pretty amazing. It's not perfect, but you can see the raindrops on her back.
I love birds. I love the Bird Festival. I love Ladd Marsh.