Intro: Handsfree Bird Watching
Bird watching is fun. It's probably one of the best accepted kinds of voyeurism, I think. You're observing without disturbing or interfering and the overall result is just a great mental satisfaction - unless that dirty bird you're looking at is flying too fast, the wind is too strong, you're getting angry since you don't have a clue what it might be and you really have to pee.
Set aside that, bird watching is really fun, though. Following soaring Honey Buzzards on their migration journey over the mountains, drowning in the complete chaos of a Fulmar colony, heartbeating when Peregine falcons dive on a swarm of race pigeons - haha - or just cool down looking at a Green woodpecker piling a nest of ants in your garden.
But, bird watching doesn't give you physical satisfaction. In contrary, it can be freakin' painful! Staying hours & hours with your binoculars glued to your face is devastating for your neck & shoulders - if you don't agree you've definitely never done it - and so a few years ago a clever Finn - male or female - came up with a device he/she called 'the Finn-stick.'
To call it like that, it must have been a man. Just guessing.
The Finn-stick is no more than a mono-pod attached to your binoculars. You hold it in both hands and that's all. No more pain in neck & shoulders. You're just looking like a complete idiot - you choose.
A while ago I was thinking that this tool is helpful, definitely, but it's lacking ambition.
So I started thinking how I could get the binocular-experience a lot more comfortable.
Totally handsfree bird-watching.
The challenge was on.
Step 1: Why, in the First Place?
Why would someone want to have his/her hands free while observing something?
To stop the pain, like I already said.
The first keyword is 'getting old'.
The second is 'comfort'.
And to hold a beer, for example.
Or better, to hold TWO beers!
Or a counter - a small tictac-ing counting device - ànd a beer.
Endless possibilities, if you start thinking.
FREE HUGS, and birding!
Birdspotting AND pee-ing - no more nasty jokes style 'you just missed the Wiggled warbler!'.
My device had to take birding to a whole new level.
Photo credits: daddy-the-real-belgian-birder
Step 2: Inspiration
If it's good for the army, it's definitely good for us.
For years, binoculars integrated in military helmets have become standard in most countries.
But, bird watching with a german helmet on your head is not done - unless you're observing from the downside of a heavy populated seabird-cliff. Rocks can fall, but rocks are not the biggest problem with seabirds...
In my opinion, the civil device the most close to the solid military helmet is the worksite helmet.
But, imagine for one second what would happen to your reputation - and that of your children, and parents, and future generations - if you'd arrive on a birding spot with a pair of binoculars fixed to such a yellow helmet.
Imagine that moment.
Yep. Not done. Either.
So I choose the soft version of the woksite helmet aka the worksite 'cap'.
It's like a usual cap, but slightly pvc-reinforced. It's not brick proof, but I'm sure it's bird-poop-proof.
And that was exactly what I needed.
Step 3: Prototyping
Fixing binoculars to a worksite cap is quite easy: sticks & zips.
Fast & furious. Let's go birding.
Step 4: Not So Heavy Metal
If you're happy with the prototype: enjoy the feeling.
If you want a bit more hardware, you'll have to gather a fistful of bolts, an large aluminium plate & a few pvc pipe attachments. And such a cap, of course.
Cut, grind & drill the plate & assemble the whole - probably the worst set of instructions ever.
I'm not giving you a plan & I'm not teaching you how to work aluminium. There are thousands of different bino's, hundreds of caps & more than 6 billion head-sizes.
So every pair of plates will be custom. What's really important is:
(1) the vertical distance between the center of the bino-objective and your eyes (depending on the type of binoculars)
(2) the horizontal distance between the attachment-bolt-axis and your eyes
(3) the shortest way to the nearest bar - always important for a lot of reasons
Once you've got those 2 variables right your creation will do the job.
If not: use the third.
Step 5: Reflections
Some of you might wonder why there's so much material on the backside of this thing.
Balance. That's what it's all about. Too much weight on the frontside will make the whole thing tilt forward and result in thousands of nasty comments in the section below.
Solution: a bolt & some heavy washers fixed to the plate (not on the pics since my bino's are really light).
It may look weird, this setup, but so did google-glass and nobody feels stupid anymore.
About the birding experience: you have to build it to believe it.
It works great. Even a lot better than I expected.
If you need to spot for longer periods without focal adjustments than this is definitely the tool you need.
This summer. Raptor migration in the French Pyrenees.
Can't wait to rock it.
Runner Up in the
Hack Your Day Contest