Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Visitors from Afar, Optics Musings

Clay Taylor (who is the pro birder for Swarovski Optik North America) one of Julie's birding pals from her days in Connecticut and his daughter Grace came to Whipple for a visit yesterday. It's always great to see Clay to catch up, talk about birding, birds and butterflies we've seen lately, and other topics of interest. But it was really cool to meet Gracie, who is perhaps the nicest 13 year old we've ever met, and who looks like she could be our Phoebe's sister.

We see Clay many times each year at birding festivals around the country. In fact he told me that in his job for Swarovski,in one recent year, he had some event or other on 42 weekends. That's busy!

If you've been to a birding festival in the past five years, you've surely seen Clay either in the Swarovski booth, giving a program on digiscoping, or out in the field leading a trip. When Swarovski hired Clay as its fulltime representative to the bird watching world, it changed how optics companies market to us. Of course it helped that Swarovski came out with its high-end EL series of binos not long after hiring Clay. The ELs became a runaway success, propelling Swarovski into the lead in the birding optics race. There are now many other high-end binocular models vying for the top spot with the ELs, so it's hard to say any ONE model is IT. But isn't that a good problem for us bird watchers to have?

Today most of the major optics manufacturers have birding reps that are actual, knowledgeable birders. These companies are finding that having an actual birder in the field helps them sell product, keeps them in touch with changes in the marketplace, and generates new ideas and innovations for future products. I'm sure you know at least some of these pro birders: Jeff Bouton for Leica, Stephen Ingraham for Zeiss, John Riutta for Leupold, Michael Freiberg for Nikon, and the small army of birders (Mike, Ben, Katie, Sharon) that Eagle Optics employs--they're all out there regularly offering advice to optics-hungry bird watchers.

These optics companies have also supported birding festivals by being sponsors, by buying vendor booth spaces, and by offering programming. It's all good for birding and a lot of this can be traced to Clay Taylor's years of "being there" in the field with the rest of us. Thanks dude!


At 12:24 PM, Blogger Rondeau Ric said...

And Clay is a wonderful diner companion!


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