We have taken our family to the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train since my children were little tykes. Not only is the event a fun way to dance off that Thanksgiving meal, it is a community-wide opportunity to give back.
It is always important for my kids to remember while making that second turkey sandwich; some families may not have had enough food for firsts.
Since 1999 the Holiday Train has offered free concerts and a festively decorated train to help raise food and cash donations to local food banks. This year Tracey Brown, formerly of award winning country bank The Family Brown, has taken on the US section of the tour. Each stop is about 45-minutes where communities can put on their own unique twist. » Continue Reading.
Before being introduced to First Night Boston years ago, New Year’s Eve celebrations were always a bit of a letdown for me. New Year’s Eve seemed to be a search for something better with enough alcohol to make waiting for the ball to drop remotely palatable. After experiencing First Night Boston, I knew if I were to leave the comfort of my home it would be to welcome in the next year surrounded by art, music and quality events. We have since gone to First Night events in Burlington and Binghamton and most consistently, Saranac Lake.
Last year was the first time my family attended a First Night celebration in Saratoga Springs. Traveling through Saratoga Springs and making the stop was one of the best New Year’s Eve decisions to date. All First Night celebrations offer families an opportunity to bring in the New Year with creative events and hands-on activities. » Continue Reading.
Minerva, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.
Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. » Continue Reading.
The 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs.
Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.
Northup was born a free man in what is today Minerva, Essex County, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. » Continue Reading.
During the holiday season of 1945, a most unusual conversation was taking place in the Adirondacks. It was a pivotal year in the twentieth century―history’s worst war had just ended, and an effort to prevent future wars had resulted in the formation of the United Nations, which officially came into being on October 24. The groundwork had been laid earlier in San Francisco, where delegates from fifty governments joined forces and drafted the original UN charter.
The next order of business was to find a home for the new alliance, referred to widely then as the UNO (United Nations Organization). Since San Francisco hosted the charter conference, it was considered a favorite in the running. But as the process played out, northern New York was abuzz with the possibility of being chosen as permanent host. » Continue Reading.
For the first year Schroon Lake will be offering its own version of First Night full of family-friendly activities.
According to the Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce the Schroon Lake First Night celebration started in 2003 as part of the Schroon Lake bicentennial. The event was then held again in 2004 to end the bicentennial year. It was resurrected in 2011 as an opportunity to provide a non-alcoholic event for families. Committee Co-Chair Sharon Piper says, “This is a nice way for families to celebrate together. There will be fun crafts for kids. They can make a New Year’s hat when they aren’t listening to the band. We really tried to provide activities to keep everyone engaged. Our event will also wrap up after the fireworks so families can get home safely.”
Sylvia Fletcher and the Magic Trunk will host three performances, 5:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. There will be ongoing craft stations, face painting and refreshments.
The sock hop will be held at the Schroon Lake Central School gym and truly no shoes are allowed so wear your cutest socks and dance to the classic rock band, “Loose Connections.”
To join in the community spirit there will be a stroll from the school to the park at the conclusion of the sock hop. (It is only a few blocks walk to the park so dress appropriately for the weather.) At the Schroon Lake Town Park enjoy a luminary display, hot chocolate and a bonfire at 8:30 p.m. Fireworks will commence over the lake at 9:15 p.m.
Piper says, “We encourage everyone to come, people from out of town to the second home owner. We hope to provide an opportunity for families to enjoy some fun together.”
The cost for the event is $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children (4-18) with children under four admitted free. There is a family rate available. The goal for the admission is to help offset the cost of the event while still keeping it affordable for families.
The Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce hopes that this event will become an annual tradition for all. This year’s event will be hosted at two venues, the Schroon Lake Central School and the Town Park. The committee is working on light refreshments available for purchase during the event while all other activities are included with admission.
There will be a program to let participants know the schedule for all events. (Look for special offers and coupons from local businesses in the program.)
A new book, The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865-1913 by Steven A. Riess, fills a long-neglected gap in sports history, offering a detailed and fascinating chronicle of thoroughbred racing’s heyday and its connections with politics and organized crime.
Thoroughbred racing was one of the first major sports in early America. Horse racing thrived because it was a high-status sport that attracted the interest of both old and new money. It grew because spectators enjoyed the pageantry, the exciting races, and, most of all, the gambling. As the sport became a national industry, the New York metropolitan area, along with the resort towns of Saratoga Springs and Long Branch (New Jersey), remained at the center of horse racing with the most outstanding race courses, the largest purses, and the finest thoroughbreds.
Riess narrates the history of horse racing, detailing how and why New York became the national capital of the sport from the mid-1860s until the early twentieth century. The sport’s survival depended upon the racetrack being the nexus between politicians and organized crime.
The powerful alliance between urban machine politics and track owners enabled racing in New York to flourish. Gambling, the heart of racing’s appeal, made the sport morally suspect. Yet democratic politicians protected the sport, helping to establish the State Racing Commission, the first state agency to regulate sport in the United States.
At the same time, racetracks became a key connection between the underworld and Tammany Hall, enabling illegal poolrooms and off-course bookies to operate. Organized crime worked in close cooperation with machine politicians and local police officers to protect these illegal operations.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
The National Guard Bureau will surveying old National Guard rifle range in Ticonderoga, Malone, Glens Falls, and Saratoga Springs for the presence of environmental poisons this summer. The ranges are among 23 former New York Army National Guard training sites used between 1873 and 1994.
The program is being conducted worldwide to address human health, safety, and environmental concerns at former non-operational defense sites. This includes over 400 sites in 48 states and two territories formerly used by the National Guard. The training sites in New York vary in size from 3.7 to 939 acres. Currently, the New York National Guard has three training sites located in Guilderland, Youngstown and at Camp Smith, near Peekskill. Soldiers also train regularly at Ft. Drum, near Watertown.
Current property owners are in the process of being asked to allow contractors on their property to conduct this check which although mandated by the Department of Defense Military Munitions Response Program, will only include soil samples from a depth “less than two to three inches.” The survey will also a visual inspection and checks with hand-held metal detectors. According to a press release issued by the Guard, “the inspectors will collect the samples with disposable plastic spoons, which are about the size of an ice cream scoop.”
A preliminary assessment to identify locations, research historical records, land usage and past incident(s) in the area was completed in 2008; this summer’s site inspections are expected to collect additional information, data and samples necessary to determine if following actions are warranted.
About the sites:
The Malone Small Arms Range was used from about 1895 to 1985. The range was approximately 43 acres; the range layout and boundary are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used there. The former range is located on state land, redeveloped for a correctional facility, northwest of Malone.
An older Ticonderoga Small Arms Range measured about 406 acres and was used from about 1950 to 1973; the newer one measured 105 acres and was used from about 1986 to 1994. The layouts and boundaries of the ranges are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used at them. The former ranges are located between Vineyard Road and Corduroy Road.
The Glens Falls Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1955. The range was approximately 876 acres; the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on forested, municipal property north of Peggy Ann Road.
The Saratoga Springs Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1951. The range was approximately 100 acres; the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on residential properties and forested land east of Weibel Avenue.
Anyone who has documents, records or photographs of the range are encouraged to contact Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 786-4579.
Photo: New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, conduct weapons training at the Guilderland Weekend Training Center.
“Lake George is rich in musical history, having been home to Marcella Sembrich, Louise and Sidney Homer, among others, and by the late 1950s, people wanted to bring the magic back,” says Tom Lloyd, recounting the origins of the Lake George Opera.
Lloyd, the owner of Adirondack Studios, is the son of the Lake George Opera’s legendary director David Lloyd, and was himself a technical director, artistic director and acting managing director when he was still in his 20s.
Earlier this fall, Lloyd addressed a gathering of Lake George Opera supporters in Clifton Park, a kick-off to the organization’s celebrations of its 50th anniversary.
Two weeks later, the company announced that it was changing its name to Opera Saratoga, severing its links to its origins on the shores of Lake George. “For several years, the Company has considered a name change to reflect its permanent residency in Saratoga Springs. The Company has been producing opera at the Spa Little Theater for the past fourteen seasons and considers the lovely, intimate theater to be its home. The time has come, as the Opera celebrates the accomplishments of its history, to fully embrace its home and increase the public commitment to its community and surroundings,” a statement from the company said.
Lloyd acknowledged that he has mixed feelings about the change in names, but he concluded, “the organization should probably be named for the community that embraces it, and that seems to be Saratoga. Let’s hope it will lead to increased funding.”
For those who hoped that some way would be found to bring the Lake George Opera back to Lake George, its 50th anniversary was to have been an occasion to re-affirm its historic links to the lake. Instead, it’s an occasion to reflect upon the past.
Tom Lloyd provided that retrospective in his talk to the Friends of the Lake George Opera in November.
In 1962, tenor David Lloyd was in Colorado, performing with soprano Jeanette Scovotti, both names huge in the world of opera.
“Jeanette had to leave Colorado and go back to New York, where she and her husband Fred Patrick were starting the Lake George Opera,” said Lloyd. “She said something to David, David spoke to Fred, and by the next summer David had signed on as artistic director.”
Fred Patrick, born Frederick Susselman, was a baritone who had graduated from Julliard, where he had met Scovotti.
He was also a friend of Armand McLane, a singer who was familiar with Lake George and its musical associations, who believed that there was still an audience on the lake for opera.
Patrick may also have been familiar with Donald W. Johnston, who had started the Studio of Song in 1951.
“The Studio of Song didn’t make it, but Fred Patrick saw its amphitheatre in Diamond Point, and saw its possibilities,” said Lloyd.
Legend has it that the theatre, at the corner of Rt. 9N and Coolidge Hill Road, was a building in total disrepair. Patrick rebuilt it himself on summer weekends, when he wasn’t on tour or singing in New York.
Among the new company’s first productions was an English version of “Carmen,” with a libretto by Patrick himself.
In fact, when the singer scheduled to perform the role of Escamillo fell ill, Patrick sang the role.
Reporting on the Lake George Opera’s first season, the New York Times called Patrick “a jack of all trades.”
“Mr. Patrick keeps his budget down by doing the chores himself. He feels that his company must be versatile. He plans an apprentice program, which should help out backstage,” the reporter noted.
According to Tom Lloyd, the Lake George Opera’s versatility was its defining characteristic, and made membership in the company the valuable experience it was.
“The singers didn’t just sing, they did everything, including costuming, lighting and set design,” said Lloyd. “Fred always had a handful of bus tickets, and if you weren’t willing to work, he’d hand you one and put you on a bus back to New York. He was so committed, and he expected you to be, too.”
That collective spirit informed the apprentice program envisioned by Patrick. By 1967, a young singer would be taking classes in the morning, painting sets in the afternoon, and applying her own make-up in the evening in preparation for a stage appearance. The program is now the second oldest of its kind in the country, and one of the most selective.
Equally important to the future of the company was Patrick’s vision of an American company performing operas in English.
David Lloyd and many others associated with the Lake George Opera had studied with Russian-born pianist, conductor, and stage director Boris Goldovsky at Tanglwood.
Goldovsky, explains Tom Lloyd, trained artists to be actors as well as singers.
“Like stage actors, opera singers needed motivation and characterization if they were to become good performers,” said Lloyd.
Singing in English made singers better actors, David Lloyd said in 1967.
When a singer knows that his words are understood, David Lloyd said, he works harder to make his gestures and expressions suit his language.
Fred Patrick died at the age of 37 in 1965. By then, David Lloyd was the company’s managing director. Under his tenure, the Company gave its first contemporary and American operas, Menotti’s The Telephone in 1965 and Robert Ward’s The Crucible in 1966, and four world premiere productions: David Amram’s Twelfth Night and Robert Baksa’s Aria da Capo, both in 1968, The Child by Jose Bernardo in 1974, and Alva Henderson’s The Last of the Mohicans in 1977.
In 1964, the company moved to the Queensbury High School.
“The disadvantages were that it was a high school, with all the stigma attached to that,” said Lloyd. “The advantages were that it was enormously accessible, classrooms could be used as rehearsal halls, there was plenty of parking and it had an 876 seat theater.”
Unlike today’s three week season, when two operas will be performed, Lake George Opera seasons in the 1960s extended for an entire summer and featured more than fifty performances of at least seven operas.
The Queensbury High School was meant to be a temporary home. Fred Patrick had dreamed of building a theater on Lake George, and working with officials in the administration of Governor Hugh Carey, David Lloyd nearly accomplished that feat.
“My Dad’s effort with Hugh Carey was inspired. He almost had the State ready to donate Green Island to the Opera when the Sagamore was in disarray. It would have become a real destination festival like Santa Fe if that would have happened,” said Tom Lloyd.
It has been said that the Opera’s board of directors, then dominated by Glens Falls residents, vetoed the idea on the grounds that Bolton Landing was too remote to attract an audience.
In 1998, the company moved to the Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga State Park.
This summer, the newly-renamed company will celebrate its 50th anniversary with performances of two operas staged in Diamond Point in 1962.
And that, so far as we know, will be the last of the Lake George Opera Festival.
Photos: Lake George Opera production of The Bartered Bride, 1996; Lake George Opera Festival founders Jeanette Scovotti and Fred Patrick (photo taken at Chalet Suisse, Warrensburg). For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror
First Night celebrations offer families an opportunity to bring in the New Year in a healthy fashion. Originating in Boston over 35 years ago, First Night originators wanted to provide non-alcohol related New Year’s Eve festivities. The arts centered event grew from a small community celebration to what now showcases Boston’s diverse culture and art. There are now 200 similarly modeled celebrations worldwide. In our part of the world, Saratoga Springs and Saranac Lake are two such sanctioned events.
For the fifteenth year the First Night Saratoga’s button gets the recipient into all 35 First Night venues and 70 First Night performances and happenings. Events start at 6:00 p.m. at a variety of locations and continue through midnight. Jackie Marchand, Saratoga First Night coordinator says, “ This is the first year that Saratoga Arts is presenting First Night. The YMCA presented the event for fourteen years and wanted to continue to focus on their fitness programs. The Art Center’s Executive Director felt it was a good fit for an art institution to take over and continue to make art accessible to all.”
“There are new programs to look forward to this year, “ says Marchand.” The theme is ‘Live Creatively’ so we are presenting art in all its forms. There will be something for everyone from film, music, comedy, dance and even interactive visual art.”
Marchard gives one such example of interactive art. Ghost Train, a digital graffiti installation originally featured at Burning Man 2010, is a projected New York City subway train where participants can use an “aerosol can” to tag designs onto the train. Light is used rather than paint.
CDTA buses will run all night for free along the route. There are plenty of parking lots in the city as well as on street parking. The fireworks will bring in the New Year from Congress Park at midnight. A DJ will do the countdown and provide music onsite while people are waiting for the fireworks.
Saranac Lake will celebrate its fifth First Night that continues the tradition of providing non-alcoholic, family-friendly, visual arts oriented activities to all. The $12 button is available at a variety of locations while children (12 and under) are issued a special button allowing them access for free. Opening ceremonies are at the Harrietstown Town Hall at 5:45 p.m.
Puppet shows, storytellers, live music and performers are just a few of the 42 activities at over 12 venues around Saranac Lake. All performances end near midnight so participants can make it to River Street to watch “the snowflake” drop for the New Year’s countdown and welcome fireworks over Lake Flower. There is a community bus available to various locations for $1.00/ride.
However you choose to spend your New Year’s Eve, I wish you a healthy and safe celebration. Happy New Year!
“As a young man, I was chasing a dream. As I got older, I realized the ultimate gig was a mile down the road, playing with and for my friends and then going home to my wife and kids. That’s really making it.”
That’s local legend Rick Bolton’s idea of a successful career in music, and by that definition, he’s made it.
From playing in garage bands on northern Lake George, where he traveled to gigs by boat because he was too young to drive, to touring out west, only to return home and help launch a thriving music scene in Saratoga, Rick Bolton has led a life in music and found the music that reflects his life. “I grew up in Hague,” he recounts. “When summer hit, we got some culture, but not not enough to hurt us. I buried myself in my room in winters and learned to play guitar. I listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and I worked backward toward the music’s roots. I got lucky. I was exposed to old time guitar players, banjo players and fiddlers, here and in northeastern Vermont where I went to college. That’s the music that makes sense to me.”
Those traditions have found their way into the music he’s been playing for the last forty years, with bands like the T-Bones, northern Lake George’s favorite dance band, Rick Bolton and the Dwyer Sisters (which includes his wife Sharon and her sister Molly) and Big Medicine, which will perform in Lake George Village’s Shepard Park on July 28.
“I’m a tavern singer, I make no bones about that, but I love playing town concert series,” said Bolton. “You have a chance to mix it up with towns people and tourists; they’re better venues than taverns for playing original tunes and trying different takes on cover material. They’re always a lot of fun.”
Bolton characterizes Big Medicine, which consists of Jeff and Becky Walton, Tim Wechgelaer, Arlin Greene, Mike Lomaestro and Bolton on guitar, as “classic Americana; we cover a lot of bases – swing, rhythm and blues, rock, folk.”
Musicians younger than Bolton and from such unlikely places as Brooklyn and Somerville have re-discovered the acoustic roots music that Bolton has been playing for most of his life. In fact, they’re popular draws at the concert series in Shepard Park.
Rather than disparaging the young bands’ grasp of the traditions or resenting their intrusion upon fields he’s tilled for decades, Bolton welcomes their enthusiasm.
“It’s awesome, they’re bringing they’re own influences to bear on the music, just as we did, and they’re taking the music back to the garage, where it started,” says Bolton.
Although Bolton still has his day job with Warren County, he’s performing nearly every night with one band or another.
“We had 27 or 28 gigs scheduled for July, and June was just as busy,” he said. Bolton has lived in Saratoga for the past twenty years. In the last six years, he says, “the music scene has just taken off.”
“Sooner or later, a place just gets touched,” he says. “It happened to Austin, Texas, it happened to San Francisco. I can envision the same thing happening to Saratoga. Within blocks, you can hear jazz, acoustic folk, blues or rock. There are a lot of influences, conducive to vibrant original music. There’s a definitive Saratoga style, and there’s an audience for it.”
A sampling of that Saratoga style can be heard soon on “Saratoga Pie,” a compilation of Saratoga bands that Bolton has helped produce as a benefit for the Saratoga Center for the Family.
“There’s a lot of money for the arts in Saratoga, but often places that serve people don’t get the attention they need. There are battered women and abused children in every town in the Adirondack Park, but people never talk about that,” he says, explaining the purpose of the album. “They need our help.”
As Bolton describes it, Saratoga’s music scene is not that different from Hague, where, he says, everyone knew everyone else’s business, but everyone looked out for one another.
That’s probably why Bolton’s happier there than if he had stayed out west. He may be “only in it for the beer,” as the title of a recent CD puts it, but he’s made a full, rich life out of it.
Friday March 5 brings the musical legends to the Capital District. Dave Mason and Leon Russell are playing a show together at the Hart Theater at The Egg in downtown Albany. Dave Mason was a founding member of Traffic and recorded with other legends such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. Leon Russell has been touring since the 60’s and has been featured on more studio albums by major artists than you can shake a stick at. The same night, Richie Havens is at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady. Richie is of course most famous for his performance at Woodstock in 1969. If you’ve never been to Proctor’s, this would be a good night to go. The theater is absolutely beautiful and luckily has been saved from the wrecking ball more than once. Thursday, March 4
Classic Rock / Reggae influenced Fingerdiddle is at Trapper’s Tavern in North Creek from 7-10pm. This is a fun two-piece band with a guitar and drummer. Look for them sometime Whitewater Derby weekend as well. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finger-Diddle/185969906157 http://www.copperfieldinn.com/events.asp
Red Molly will be playing two shows at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, one at 7pm and one at 9:30pm. Caffe Lena’s website says they are “Called “a cross between the Dixie Chicks and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou’” this hot NYC trio blends their voices on irresistible songs by Gillian Welch, Iris DeMent and Hank Williams, adding in bluegrass standards, old-time southern gospel, and classic American tunes. You simply can’t hear them without falling in love.” Tickets are $20 at the door. http://www.redmolly.com http://www.caffelena.com
I wouldn’t miss the Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios tonight. Always an interesting and fun night out. The performances are kept to a two-song or seven-minute maximum so the night moves along at a comfortable pace. It’s a great way to support local musicians and poets, and this one has the lovely Celia Evans hosting.
Staying inside the park Saturday night, I’d see Lissa Scheckenburger and Bethany Waickman, also at BluSeed. I know Bethany. She plays the guitar the way I’d like to. Even though it’s a drive, if I were in the mood to really move my body (and because I missed the 20 Main gig) I’d check out Capital Zen in Saratoga Springs. The energy that comes through on their recorded stuff must be even better live — I love a hot bass line.
Thursday, February 25th:
In Saranac Lake, Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios. Sign up at 7 pm and the show starts at 7 :30 pm. Celia Evans is hosting.
In Ellenburg Depot, ALASH, Throat Singers from Tuva will be giving a performance at The Northern Adirondack High School Auditorium. This is located at 5572 Route 11. The doors open at 6:30 pm and he show goes from 7 – 9 pm.
In Plattsburgh, Viennese Romance , Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival will be held at 7:30 pm at SUNY. For more information call: (802) 846-217 or email: email@example.com.
In Canton, Urban Verbs: Where Hip Hop Meets Life will be performed at St. Lawrence University. Held from 7:30 – 9:30 pm this show explores the blur between music, poetry and daily life. For more information call: (315) 229-5659.
Birdwatching is one-third knowledge, one-third patience, and one-third having the right equipment. Carpenters have all the right tools for their line of work, woodcarvers have the sharpest tools, and doctors, well they BETTER have the right tools! All said, they need these instruments to get a job done. In a similar way, birdwatching, whether it be from your home, car, or the trail, should be no different. You want the right equipment to see the best and clearest image. So I’m going to walk you through the specifics of binoculars and what features might be best suited for you. Hmmm, is Santa’s list still growing? Once during a Christmas bird count along Lake Champlain we had to identify some ducks bobbing in between the waves way offshore. Binoculars of a lesser quality struggled w/the identification. A steady hand helped but it was clearly some top-notch binoculars that saved the day. My point here being the better quality binoculars showed us a clearer image and allowed us to figure out what we were looking at.
So lesson one-if you can afford better optics, then do so. But what are better optics? I can list all the brands that charge over $1,000 for binoculars(from here on known as “bins” or “binos”) but we don’t need to go that far. There’s plenty of good stuff on the market under $600.
First let’s look at some details. A most-common question asked is what are the numbers on bins(7×35, 8×42, 10×50)? The #7(or 8 or 10) refer to the magnification of the image you see w/the bins. My pair of 8’s magnify what I see 8 fold. Good but a 10x will be stronger(but will it be better remains to be seen).
The number after the “x” refers to the size(in mm) of the objective lens(that large lens at the end of the binos, opposite where you look through). So my 8×50’s have an objective lens size of 50mm. This is bigger than a 35 or 42 objective lens and it helps in allowing more light to come into the bins. It can also give me a much wider view of a tree, a line of ducks, or a group of hawks circling overhead.
Certain disadvantages come with owning a pair of bins with higher magnification. One factor is weight. More glass lenses in a binocular can really add up in weight. That’s OK if you want to weightlift and bird at the same time. Most of us don’t. So manufacturers came up w/lighter materials. This helps those of us w/coffee addiction and the inevitable “shakes”.
But one thing to consider is more is not always better. A 10x bino will magnify 10 times but if you’re a shaky hand, that shaky image is magnified! Many birders enjoy a middle-of-the-road size of 7x or 8x.
With advancing technology there are a number of things that bins manufacturers have put into their products. Many lenses are now “multi-” or “fully-coated” which means they are covered with something that decreases the amount of reflection inside the tubes holding the lenses. This in turn gives you a clearer and sharper image.
Waterproofing binos has also come a long way. Many companies have “nitrogen-purged” or “nitrogen-filled” products which prevent water from collecting inside the lenses. It also helps prevent that internal condensation on lenses that appears when you bring cold binos inside a warm car!
Looking at prices. I mentioned earlier if you can pay for more then do it. A very good pair of bins can run from $200-$500. Some lesser-priced bins can offer good quality but their life may not last as along as a $300 pair. They may also not have all the good features you should look for in binos.
Some names to consider(there are many out there) are Bushnell, Nikon, Vortex, Eagle Optics, Pentax, and Kowa. Higher priced bins are Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss. Many birders have found the Nikon “Monarchs” model to suit their needs. You can find this brand priced around $275-$300, depending on the magnification. But if that’s too high I would look over all the Bushnell models out there. Some are very good at just over $100. Check out B and H Photo & Video
Finally I’ll mention the difference between a standard size pair of bins with that of a compact pair. Just like cars there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Standards are larger as well as heavier(but becoming quite light w/all the new tech advances). Compacts(great for hiking, canoeing, kayaking) are light and small and fit anywhere, but some lack in quality what they made up for in decreased size. Don’t buy the compact bins that have a 9x or 10x magnification. They loose quality as that number goes up. To have good magnification/clear image you need lots of glass which many compacts can’t offer you.
Well, by now you’ve taken your Fathers WWII binos out of the case and as you look through them you suddenly feel dizzy or drunk! Chances are the big chunk of glass(called a prism) in those monsters has cracked or shifted and giving a blurred double-image view. That can be remedied by replacing the prism, but at that cost you may as well invest in a new pair!
So, invest in what you can afford; look for fully-coated lenses; make sure the bins are waterproof; and find a magnification to your liking. But the best advice to you is to handle the binos before purchasing. Shopping online may be cheaper but your hands are not wrapped around the bins, weighing them, feeling them, and your eyes are not looking at a crystal-clear image. Stop over to Wild Birds Unlimited in Saratoga Springs and handle some binos there!
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the ducks, referred to earlier bobbing on Lake Champlain, where lesser scaup. Catching the differences between greater and lesser scaup can be tricky. Greater scaup is slightly larger and seems to show brighter white on their sides as opposed to a duller gray on the sides of the lesser. In flight look for more white in the wings of the greater.
Photo: Brian McAllister. Those compacts are great for kayaking/canoeing!
In a mad rush of holiday cheer, too many side dishes and the turkey/tofurkey debate, it is easy to forget that some people will not have an argument over the necessity to recreate meat-shaped products out of tofu. Those and many others will be wondering where their next meal will be coming from.
For the 11th year the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Holiday Train will be pulling into over one hundred towns in seven states and Quebec raising awareness for local food pantries.
The northeast sector of the tour starts Thursday, November 26 at Rouses Point at approximately 11:00 pm. Each stop is a little over a half hour. Crowds will be treated to live entertainment as well as a festively decorated train, free of charge. All that is asked is a donation to the local food pantry. In addition, to providing the gaily lit-up train and live bands CFR donates funds to each stop’s food bank.
The US portion of the tour is hosted by Prescott a brother (Kaylen) and sister (Kelly) duo hailing from the Canadian musical legacies Family Brown (award winning country band formed by their grandfather, uncle and mother) and later Prescott-Brown (their parents’ award winning band). Prescott’s own style has them performing at such venues at the Ottawa BluesFest and welcoming their first cd, “The Lakeside Sessions.”
Singer/songwriter Adam Puddington will take the stage with his own unique brand of music lightly influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Blue Rodeo. Other musical guests will be Sean Verreault best known as part of the blues rock band Wide Mouth Mason and Milwaukee native Willy Porter’s blending of folk music rounds out the program.
Local food banks will be collecting non-perishable food items and donations at each location so all the audience has to do is stand back and enjoy.
Each event does take place outside so dress warmly. Some locations have vendors set up to sell hot refreshments but it is not something to count on. The focus is on the food pantries and making sure their shelves are stocked for winter.
So for whatever reason you are thankful, take an opportunity to kick off the holiday season with a lively concert and a contribution to a food pantry.
Northeast Schedule Thursday, November 26 Rouses Point – 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Rouses Point Station
Saturday, November 28 Binghamton – 8:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., CP East Binghamton Rail Yard, Conklin Ave.
Sunday, November 29 Oneonta – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Gas Avenue Railroad Crossing Cobleskill – 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., Cobleskill Fire Department, 610 Main Street Delanson – 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Main Street Railroad Crossing Schenectady – 9:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Maxon Road Monday, November 30 Saratoga Springs – 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., Amtrak Station Fort Edward – 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., Amtrak Station Whitehall – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Amtrak Station Ticonderoga – 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Pell’s Crossing, Amtrak Waiting Area, Route 74 Port Henry – 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Amtrak Station, West side stop Plattsburgh – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Amtrak Station
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