Last week’s column on binoculars mentioned that ten-power or stronger optics can be difficult to hold steady and that’s why I prefer eight-power binoculars. Reader David Walker suggested that I consider using binoculars with an image stabilization system. Using gyroscope technology, a push of a button steadies the image. I do not own such a pair, but I have used them and they do work. Walker has had a pair of Canon 10x30s with image stabilizers for 10 years. 

He says, “I love these binoculars. They are the perfect size, easy to focus, and with the push of a button the image is stabilized and stops shaking.”

So if for any reason you have trouble holding binoculars steady, consider a pair with an image stabilization system. This does increase the price of the binoculars, but it’s a small price to pay for a steady view.

• I’ve already received multiple requests for my all-season, no-melt peanut butter suet, so here’s my favorite recipe, courtesy of Martha Sargent, a birder friend from Alabama. I get requests for this recipe each winter, so I’m happy to reprint it. Your woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and blue jays will love it.

 Ingredients: One cup crunchy peanut butter, two cups “quick cook” oats, two cups cornmeal, one cup lard (no substitutes here), one cup white flour, and one-third cup sugar. Melt lard and peanut butter over low heat, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into a cake pan about one-and-a-half inches thick. Cut the blocks to size, separate them with wax paper, and store in freezer. To make the suet even more irresistible, feel free to add sunflower kernels, peanuts, and/or raisins.

• Ohio’s North Coast, the southern shore of Lake Erie, is one of the country’s premier birding destinations. In fact, in May it can be argued that it rivals Cape May, N.J., as the best birding spot in the country. But unless you attend the Biggest Week in American Birding (May 8-17, 2015, biggestweekinamericanbirding.com) or have a birder friend who lives in the area, it’s difficult to know exactly where to go, and precious time can be lost finding your way around.

The publication earlier this year of the Lake Erie Birding Trail Guidebook solves that problem. This 232-page summary of 88 popular birding areas spotlights destinations from Toledo to Conneaut. In addition to birding hotspots and species lists, the Guidebook includes notes on park shelters, restrooms, and online resources.

To order a copy of the book, send a check for $20 (ppd.) payable to “Ohio Sea Grant,” Attn: Nancy, 1314 Kinnear Road, Area 100, Columbus, OH 43212 or call 614-292-8949 to pay by credit card.

• If you’re looking for a conservation organization to support and you love owls, get to know the Montana-based Owl Research Institute (owlinstitute.org). For more than 20 years the Owl Institute has been conducting long-term field studies of many species of owls. Last summer’s snowy owl nesting study marked its 23rd year, making it the second longest study of its kind in the world. Other field research includes barn owls (10 years), flammulated owls (7 years), northern hawk owls (9 years), boreal owls (20 years), northern saw-whet owls (29 years), northern pygmy owls (29 years), and long-eared owls (27 years).

The Owl Institute offers opportunities for volunteers and interns to work on various projects. And this spring there should be live owl cams set up at nests of great horned, long-eared, and snowy owls.

• Finally, consider participating in a Christmas Bird Count this year. The 115th CBC runs from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, 2015. Volunteers devote an entire day to counting all the wild birds they can find. Local leaders determine the exact date for local counts. Visit www.audubon.com, and click on “Find a count near you.”

The CBC was one of the first attempts to engage the public in conservation, and it has become the longest running citizen science program in the world. Though skilled birders form the backbone of CBCs, beginners are always welcome. CBCs are a great way for first-time birders to learn how to identify birds in the field and make real contributions to science.

— Dr. Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at www.watchdognetwork.com. Visit Scott’s website www.drshalawaycom or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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