From Our Readers
After flashing online through the (truly amazing) Top 100 bird photographs from your photo contest, I could not understand how Rob Palmer, the photographer of the bald eagle about to take the European starling in flight, did not win first place—until I read that he had already won the grand prize with his even more astounding photograph of two sparring bald eagles! Despite his second photo only receiving Honorable Mention, Mr. Palmer should be congratulated for taking the two best bird photos of 2009.
As a non-computer, very senior citizen and the widow of an artist and photographer who would be in total awe of the special Audubon Photo Awards issue, I wanted to make a comment in appreciation of the quality of photography and production of the publication. I am very blessed to receive Audubon, as well as Smithsonian and National Geographic, and am constantly amazed and appreciative of all the wonderful publications. And to realize that this glorious magazine is made in America—not in China, Japan, etc.
I am disappointed to see that Audubon recognized in its Top 100 List and on its table of contents page the photograph of a bald eagle taken in Homer, Alaska, where there has been a major winter eagle feeding operation for more than 25 years. The eagle in this close-up was almost certainly a fed, habituated bird photographed on the Homer Spit. Fortunately, the City of Homer banned eagle feeding last year, though some clandestine feeding continues.
Your photo awards issue is a prizewinner, with wonderful pictures. I have a small camera store and have been selling photo equipment since 1941. In a tally of your winning pictures, I see Canon users outnumber Nikon users by two to one. I also found that many of the winners have $7,000 cameras, and almost all use a 500mm lens, which is another $5,000. Almost half use a 1.4 teleconverter, adding another $500. If you have to spend some $12,000 to win a photo contest, I think it would be easier and cheaper to draw pictures as Audubon did. Just a thought.
Editor’s note: Many readers have inquired about purchasing prints of our photo contest’s winning shots. Because the photographers retain rights to their work, we suggest that you search online for their names and websites, from which you can order their photos directly.
John O’Hurley [“Garbage Man,” Field Notes, January-February] states that his company, Energy-Inc., uses “one truckload of garbage [to] produce enough electricity to power 500 homes for one year.” That claim is fantastically inaccurate. If we assume that a truckload is 10 tons of usable garbage, then each house gets 40 pounds of trash per year, or 1.75 ounces (about a quarter-cup) per day. I doubt that his company has found a way to unleash nuclear power from garbage.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Einhorn is correct. In our interview, the statement “One truckload of garbage can produce enough electricity to power 500 homes for one year” was inaccurately worded. As Energy-Inc. engineer Kim Kirkendall notes, one truckload of 12 to 15 tons of garbage can power 500 homes per DAY. If one truckload was recycled each day for 365 days, it could power 500 homes for a year.
Susan Cosier’s response [Green Guru, January-February] to the question on how best to deal with animal waste—by putting it in plastic bags for landfilling—was just about the least green solution imaginable. With millions of gallons of toxic landfill leachate contaminating the environment daily, how could adding to the mountains of waste ever warrant a moment’s consideration? Was any research done on composting or digesters? As a Finger Lakes region resident all too aware that upstate New York is now the landfill capital of the Northeast, I found it exasperating to think such ill-conceived advice might encourage people to further contribute to the problem.
Susan Cosier responds: Although it may seem counterintuitive that bagging your pet waste and putting it in the garbage is the eco-friendliest option, most experts agree that it’s the best way to avoid contaminating groundwater and spreading disease. According to the Conservation & Environmental Studies Center, “Modern sanitary landfills are constructed to prevent leachate contamination of groundwater or surface waters. The bottom of the landfill is lined with impermeable layers, and the leachate is collected and treated before being released to the environment.” Composting dog poop is an alternative, but most backyard piles don’t reach temperatures high enough to kill lurking parasites, so before you try it, check out the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s recommendations.
EYE TO EYE
I recommend one further criterion when it comes to binoculars [“The Audubon Guide to Binoculars,” November-December 2009]: Close focus capability may not be particularly important for birds, but if the purchaser has any interest in insects or herps, the prospective purchase should focus to no more than six feet and preferably closer.
Alexander “Sandy” Kunzer
Docent, Friends of the San Pedro
River and Ramsey Canyon Preserve
Sierra Vista, AZ
The binocular guide advises against buying image-stabilized binoculars “because they are heavy, give up a lot brightness, and have a much-reduced field of view.” For many of us, that’s bad advice. My birding pals have tried to call my attention to details on birds that I couldn’t see with my 8.5x44 binoculars. A 10x42 image-stabilized pair changed that; I now see the details. Yes, they’re heavy, but I do a lot of my birding from the car or through my back window.
Binoculars have no advantage over monoculars, except for availability, and many disadvantages. For example, monoculars are less weighty and have no alignment problem or a hinge in the middle.
Ute Park, NM
Wayne Mones responds: There is no product that does everything equally well, but for butterflies and dragonflies, Mr. Kunzer might consider finding a pair of Pentax Papilio binoculars, which are inexpensive, weigh almost nothing, and fit in a pocket. They also have a clever way of overcoming paralax problems at close focus. The model Mr. Rogers mentions is no longer available, so I can’t check the specifications, but I’m reasonably sure that they weigh at least a pound more than Nikon’s new state-of-the-art EDG binoculars—fine for birding from a car but probably not for carrying around one’s neck or shoulders. When you’re next in the market for binoculars, take a look through a pair of 7x42’s and see if they work for you. Regarding monoculars: Most birders would much rather bird with two eyes than with one. Since binoculars are far more popular, that’s where manufacturers put their energy and where you’ll find the best birding optics.
In “Sacred Sea” [Journal, November-December 2009], about Siberia’s Lake Baikal, we incorrectly stated that the nerpas found there are the world’s only freshwater seal species. In fact, there are three other freshwater seals: the saimaa, which lives in Finland; the iliamna, from Alaska; and another Russian species, the ladoga.
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