In the column “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior. Here’s a question from our February 2014 issue:
I have had a pair of rubber-coated binoculars for 15 years. The coating has gotten sticky and comes off black all over my hands. What causes this, and what can be done about it? — Sharon Weaver, via the Internet
Binocular armoring varies in composition depending on the make and model. Some types are more prone to breaking down. A common cause is exposure to bug spray, so be careful about touching binoculars if you have applied insect repellant to or with your hands.
The degradation can’t be reversed, but you have a couple of options. First, contact the manufacturer and see if the problem is covered by the product’s warranty. If it is not and the damage to the armoring is limited to a small area, you might be able to patch over it with a self-setting silicone rubber product. You’ll still have to take precautions against re-damaging the surface with chemicals. Finally, optics have come a long way in the last 15 years; consider a new pair that suits your needs without turning your hands black!
About Julie Craves
Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. She writes about her research on the blog Net Results, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds.