Flashlight versus Night Vision. This past week Mary and I had the opportunity to photograph Lesser Prairie Chickens in Kansas. The first morning went well. The blind, situated on the edge of a lek, (the strutting ground where the male and female chickens get “hooked-up”) was located about one hundred and fifty yards from the road where we left our cars. So as not to disturb the birds viewers must be in the blinds before dawn. When the sun crept over the horizon, and even a bit before, we were able to see about sixteen males “strutting their stuff” to four females. It was very entertaining and I managed to get some great pictures.
The next morning was a bit different. The weather forecast the night before had predicted high winds, cold temperatures and rain. When I awoke at 4am the next morning guess what? The wind was howling, the temperature was about 30° F. and while it was not raining yet the sky looked ominous. Despite the forecasted weather we had agreed the night before to go out. This was our last chance to photograph the prairie chickens and the first chance for two “Brit” birdwatchers who had come over from England specifically to see the chickens do their thing! We parked as we had done the previous day beside a barbed-wire fence, loaded up our gear and in the face of some very nasty weather, (it’s raining now!) led by one of the guides, we started off across the prairies to the blind.
We were just at the point where I was saying to myself “We should be there by now” when I looked off to my right and there about fifty yards away silhouetted against the dim skyline I could see the shape of the blind. Our guide in the meantime is plowing ahead with the two Brits behind him, looking for the blind with his flashlight. Rather than use a flashlight I was using my “night-vision” to navigate.
The problem with flashlights is that they limit your vision to the area that is illuminated and, as our guide found out, it is very easy to overlook what you are looking for. Night vision, the use of your peripheral vision on the other hand enables you to see better than you might expect. Rather than looking directly at an object look slightly off to one side of it. It takes about thirty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the low levels of light at night but once adjusted and using your “night vision” it is amazing, even on a moonless night how much you can see.