The sun was fairly bright (some thin clouds) today so I took the scope outside and tried it out there. Good news: an improvement from the through-the-window view. Here's what I got, before the battery up and died on me:
This is just the bird feeder, and the focus is fairly sharp. It's difficult to really fine-tune it, but I have some ideas to fix that. Meanwhile, a few birds showed up, including the little downy:
This one is just from about 25 feet away on full optical zoom (8X).
Then I put the scope on him:
I don't have photoshop to really take care of the contrast, etc. but for an unretouched photo through a homemade scope, I don't think is really too bad! I am definitely going to trim back some of those branches so I get a better view. I hadn't really decided where to build my blind until today; the spot back by the basement door has good views of all three feeder sites and the marsh. So now I'll make some thoughtful pruning decisions and try to give myself better views of each feeder without sacrificing the cover that the birds like. I also have to set up another feeder--a split log that I'm planning to drill holes in for suet, as well as hollow out a shallow bowl for seed.
I also saw a white-throated sparrow, who sat still on a little branch for ten solid minutes--which was really frustrating because I had no battery to take a picture of him as he posed. But he was beautiful; I like the little touches of yellow around his eyes.
I feel a lot better about the scope, but there's still some work to do. I guess that's pretty much the story with just about everything in this life, though, isn't it?