It's hard to believe I've let so much time go by before commenting on a long walk I took in a pouring, drenching rain with Mike Freiberg, Nikon's friendly and knowledgeable Birding Market Specialist; Derek Lovitch, author of the "Tools of the Trade" column over at Birding magazine; and Pete Dunne, director of the Cape May Bird Observatory and a regular columnist for Birder's World. It was June 6, a Friday, and we were at the beautiful Los Tarrales Reserve in Guatemala.
And man, did it rain. My passport is still curled up from the soaking.
Pete, Derek, and I were among the lucky group that my friends at Nikon invited to Guatemala to field-test their spectacular new EDG binoculars while looking at Violet Sabrewings, Laughing Falcons, Blue-crowned Chlorophonias, White-winged Tanagers, and other marvelous birds. We visited three of Guatemala's best birding destinations: Finca Patrocinio, Los Andes, and Los Tarrales, and we loved it.
Much of the trip has been well chronicled by other participants already. Ben Lizdas, for example, sales manager at Eagle Optics, has a great photo of Mike staring up into the canopy at Los Andes (where we looked for but didn't find a Resplendent Quetzal) and of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl that did a bit of successful hunting in the trees near the estate house.
Mike himself posted an incredible photo of a Horned Guan, the bird that gave Los Tarrales its reputation. He took it on the slopes of Volcano San Pedro. (That's Mike holding the scope above. Derek is on the left.)
My buddy Amy Hooper, editor of Wild Bird, posted moody, charming photos of the beautiful landscape, insects, and children we came across at each location.
And Derek, the owner of the Wild Bird Center of Yarmouth, Maine, and a regular blogger as well as an optics reviewer, posted a lengthy, fun description of our travels here. He told me his review of Nikon's EDG binoculars will appear in an upcoming issue of Birding.
Pete's very favorable thoughts about the new binoculars are already online. He not only exposed his 7x42s to the pouring rain while we hiked at Los Tarrales (and deliberately so) but also, back in New Jersey, knocked them off his desk onto the floor, jump-shot them into his office recycling bin (a swish from 10 feet away), and then took them outside and hurled them, oh, about 100 feet. The results of his tests? Alignment fine. No mechanical problems. "I’d say it’s a pretty tough glass," he concludes.
It wasn't raining when we started out, mind you. Mike knew exactly where we could find a Long-tailed Manakin nest, and it wasn't too far away. We could go see it and get back in time for our farewell dinner. So we set out. And we did see manakins, and the nest.
And the next day, Saturday, after drying out, we piled onto planes and headed home. For Pete, this meant a connection in Charlotte onto a flight to Philly, and then a long drive to Cape May. He and Linda, pictured below, must not have reached home until after midnight. And they must have been tired the next day.
But you'd never know it from the "Birder at Large" column Pete turned in to me the following day (Monday). Other commitments on his calendar meant he had only Sunday to write it. And so he did.
And what a charming, wonderful piece of writing it is. You can read it in our October issue. -- C.H.