A Little Ramblin'
Of binoculars and bites.
As an outdoor writer, companies will sometimes send me products to review and test for readers. I've had two such products from Alpen Outdoor Optics for along about six months now, and both I believe will be of interest to those who like to watch birds and wildlife.
Alpen Binoculars have long been a staple of hard-core birders, both internationally and here at home. For many years now I have used the top-of-the-line Ranier 10X42 glass and they are exceptional. But they are on the heavy and bulky side and I don't cotton to lugging them around if I have much hiking to do.
So I also have a nice pair of Apex 8X32 glass that is quite comfortable for those short hikes of an hour or two, especially when I carry them on a chest harness to relieve the weight on my neck.
But as I get longer in the tooth, I found myself perusing the outdoor catalogs for an even lighter and compact glass for those long, long days afield. Most of them that are of good quality also carried a quality price tag, however, and that was much more than I could afford.
So it was with great joy that I opened my package from Miss Vickie from Alpen and there were these pocket-size binnos in the Wing line in 10X24 (product #599). I was really delighted because 10X is the one that I prefer above all others.
The Wing line, as the name suggests, is targeted for bird watching within a medium price range. And while this pair comes with a heavy-duty nylon case, it fits into my pocket just as well as hanging lightly from my neck.
This pair was bright and sharp and easy to adjust to my old eyes, and over the months I've carried them a bunch and watched tiny sparrows from as close as seven feet out to big old wild turkeys at 200 yards.
They are fully coated with high-quality, light-gathering PXA phase coating and weigh but eight ounces. They have not failed me once. And like all Alpens they are waterproof, and guaranteed against anything. That's right, no matter what you do to them, Alpen will back it up with repair or replacement. That, my friends, is the best dang warranty in the optics field for half the price of comparable products.
The Wings line also comes in 8X42, 10X42 and 8X20.
The only complaint I have is with the wide neck strap that distributes weight quite nicely, but makes my neck sweat like crazy. I will probably order a chest harness for them because of that fact, unless I decide to carry them in a shirt pocket.
The other Alpen product is a #728 15-45 spotting scope with a table tripod, heavy nylon case and 45-degree eyepiece. I wanted one to use when sighting in rifles, and the bullet holes on targets were clear and sharp through the glass at 100 yards.
But I quickly found that I needed a ground-standing tripod for maneuverability, and I had trouble adjusting to the 45-degree eyepiece; I just couldn't get comfortable with it. I found that I prefer the straight eyepiece.
Where I found the glass to really shine, though, was for backyard birding. I set the outfit up on a table on my back porch, where I had visibility up to half a mile of unobstructed viewing.
There was a new nest of baby ravens at 200 yards that I endeavored to spy on daily. I found the glass to be somewhat lacking when it came to this range, as far as optical clarity and sharpness, but under 100 yards it was great for viewing all manner of wildlife, at a very affordable price. I watched birds from 17 feet at my bird feeder, up to 100 yards at collared doves and quail. This is quite a good outfit for you who don't venture away from home but still want to watch birds.
These scopes are waterproof, dustproof and shockproof and yes, covered by that same great warranty. They too have multi-coated lenses and industry standard BK4 lenses.
By the way, if you order direct (877-987-8370) from Alpen and ask for Diane or Rita, and mention my name, Miss Vickie (she co-owns the company) says that you will receive the "Larry Lightner" discount! Or you can go to the local Alpen dealer in Silver City, Copper Country Sporting Arms (across form the post office).
Ramblin' on, this past August I spent many days sitting in a blind near several springs and watering places and watching birds and other wildlife. It was quite hot and sunny, so I nestled back under a bushy oak tree or two to be in the shade.
I set up a camouflaged umbrella as a ground blind and for part of the time, set my butt down on a legless stadium seat to wile away the hours, my Wing binnos hanging from my neck. At first I was comfortable but after three hours things came unglued.
Let me say at this point, don't do this! Use a chair with legs!
You see, under said tree lay a thick, two-inch carpet of leaf matter in various stages of decay. In this carpet were various types of insect and critter life. To be exact, ants!
There were three types I could see: quarter-inch black ants, eighth-inch brown ants and tiny piss ants, the latter of which brought me no small amount of agony.
Along about three hours into my "sit" I felt a bite, then two, on my right wrist — there were two piss ants gorging on my flesh and it stung! Of course, they went to ant hell pretty quick-like.
The trouble was that their kin had found a highway up my legs, under my pants and underwear, and had deposited bites on the soft flesh of my waist and groin. Yikes, but that itched!
I came away with three red welts about a quarter-inch in diameter. They weren't chigger bites because those have a white center atop the red mound and when you scratch them, they burn white-hot!
When I scratched these bites, they just burned all the more — a word to the wise. At home, I stifled the itch with a goodly dose of "Sting-Eze" and that was that, or so I thought.
By nightfall, though, I seemed to have ant bites from my knees to my neck, and boy did they itch. But I observed that there was no tiny bite hole in their center and I quickly determined that what I was experiencing was hives! I was having an allergic reaction to the piss ant bites and this was far worse than the bites themselves. By the time they ran their coarse I had about 24 hives on my body, even on my scalp.
Let me say that it takes great personal fortitude not to scratch hives!
To add to my misery, the hives gave me the "crawlies"; I felt as if tiny unseen critters were moving all over my body from head to toe. A careful visual exam proved that was not the case, but the mind is a powerful enemy sometimes.
It is now three weeks later and all I have is dull lifeless mounds to remind me of the hives, but for the life of me, I cannot get over the "crawlies."
By the way, a web search revealed that there is no cure for the hives; ya gotta let 'em run their course. But I did stumble on some degree of relief not found on the web; I coated each mound with stick deodorant, and that helped.
So the moral of this story is: Don't ever lie or sit on a bed of decaying vegetable matter, no matter how comfortable and inviting it appears.
Keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you too!