We moved in to our house in Sandy, Utah at the beginning of September and me being a bit of a procrastinator, I still had a one huge box in our garage I needed to go through. So after lunch I dragged the box into the basement and started organizing. Trash, old license plates, binocular case, lacrosse balls, slippers, Frisbee golf disk, lamp, jump ropes, gaiters (damn! I needed you 2 months ago), old CDs, posters, and the list goes on and on. The box in question was about 3’ square and 3’ tall, so it could hold quite a bit of junk. As I neared the bottom of the mess I saw a small black pouch, and as I grabbed it unlocking the clasp, there was my first pair of binoculars.
Nikon Travelite III—a plastic set of 7x20 pocket binoculars that my dad gave me when I was 12 years old. Before this set I had always struggled with a pair of 10x50 Bushnell’s that he kept in the pickup truck along with a Golden Guide to birds. But the Nikon’s were my first pair, and they were the perfect starter set for a young birder. I only used them for about 3 years before I was given a pair of Nikon Attaché (the predecessor to the Nikon Monarch), but in those 3 years, those binoculars saw a lot of birds.
They traveled to Wyoming where they saw my first Lazuli Bunting and Cassin’s Finch. They made a trip to Nevada where Phainopepla and Crissal Thrasher filled the view. They traveled to numerous spots along the Wasatch front, and into the High Uintas Wilderness Area where Pine Grosbeak, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Western Tanager were all firsts. They made it to southern Utah where they saw my first Gambel’s Quail, Black Phoebe, and Great-tailed Grackle. That little pair of binoculars was responsible for my first 280 or so species of birds—and responsible for keeping my interest piqued and helping me learn a lot about birds those first couple years.
They were a good pair of binoculars—but I outgrew them in my needs as a birder, and my size as a person. I placed those binoculars in a closet, where they stayed till I think 2005, when I let Colby Neuman use them as part of a Halloween costume—ironically the costume was of the stereotypical birder. And since then they have been tossed from one box to another, finally they will be put to rest in a box with a few old t-shirts, where they will hopefully remain for a long time—a memory of my first few years birding.