Saturday, 21 April 2012

LondonMoWatch 2012

The acceptable face of birding
Just got back from LondonBirdWatch 2012 with the Mo, an excellent day out. OK, so I missed Lesser Whitethroat, Sand and House Martin on the patch, but there will be more. But this bird fair is only once a year - and I understand that it will be annual. Anyway, for an innaugural event it was pretty slick, with a good variety of exhibitors, and seeing as it was being held at Barnes WWT, a fantastic array of plastic ducks for the camera-toting masses. First up was a talk about Mo and Natalie M, presented by Simon King. It was pretty good, though strayed off-topic quite a bit with Peregrines and other wildlife - a shame, but got to keep the punters happy I suppose. Very engaging man Simon King, a genuinely nice guy. Whilst Dave was busy signing autographs outside, I made for the exhibitors tents...

In an unexpected diversion, Simon uses the force to lift an X-wing out of the Sheltered Lagoon
I lingered around one of the book stalls for a while, and so safely tucked in my bag for some bedtime reading is a short tome on Costa Rica. Make hay while the sun shines I say. Then I went upstairs to the optics tent. Waddamistakeatomakea. Leica was witlessly absent, but the other manufacturers were there in force. Oh dear. The various stall holders were only too happy to hand me pair after pair of sickeningly expensive binoculars, let me weigh and play with various enormous lenses, and generally encourage gross financial negligence. I was introduced to the MD of Swarovksi by Chris, the event's genial organiser, and had a great chat with him about the placement of decimal points, before trying out seemingly every pair of bins they make. I won't attempt a series of optics reviews here, suffice it to say the new SLC HD range are superb and I want a pair. If that decimal point could just move slightly to the left....

Mo attempts to hide from hysterical fans
Next up the Canon stall. Ah. They had the new series II telephotos on display. Ah. The new 500mm is a toy compared to the one I have. The new 600mm weighs less than 500mm I have. They are sharper (allegedly, this is perhaps spin, as how that is actually even possible I've no idea), they are much lighter, they have a more-effective image-stabiliser.... and they are available next month. They are also obscenely (and I really do mean that) expensive. They also had a 5D Mark III on display. I want one of those too.....

The Gitzo stand made me laugh. Or was it cry, I can't remember. I tackled them on the subject of my rusting tripod and how really it wasn't on, and how I was unimpressed that a 500 quid tripod had 5p bolts on it. What would they like to do about it, I innocently enquired.

"Did you use it near salt water?"
"Yes, I am a birder."
"Ah, that's not covered."
"What, using the tripod outdoors?"
"No. We can repair it, but it will cost you."
"It already cost me £500."
"Yes, but it will cost you more."
"Great, please let me buy more of your products!"
"Really? Well there is this new travel tripod which is very strong yet very compact, and only costs £800."
"What a great bargain! Can I use it near the sea?"

I would like to invite Swarovski to buy up Gitzo, and perhaps teach them a thing or two, or perhaps just something, about customer service. I'm thinking of writing a song.....

Although I had discussed with Dave one of us staying outside the optics tent with all our credit cards, and then swapping over, in the event we both went in together. However I am pleased to report that sheer will power meant my wallet remained firmly closed. There would have been some serious explaining to do back home. No Dear, we are not having any more famliy holidays until 2022, and I want you to start growing alfalfa in the back garden. Had I been weak (and filthy rich), I would have exited the other end of the tent with a bill in the range of fifteen grand. Add on a trip to South Georgia which took my fancy, a nice fleece and a bit of birdseed, and the total would have topped twenty. You can see why they decided to hold it in South-west London! Very dangerous indeed. How much is a kidney worth?

And finally, a visit to the Wetland Centre wouldn't be complete without a wander round the pens. My year list is now well over 250.

If anyone is wondering whether Canon's 70-200 II zooom with a 2x converter on it is sharp.....

And no visit to SW London would be complete without one of these.

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