First off, let me get this out of the way: Mike McDowell, who had some great advice for me on tripods, noted that I'd misidentified some birds on the blog. No yellow-rumped warblers, and what in the world was I thinking when I called that sparrow a swallow? I've gone back and fixed both. I'm embarassed about the "swallow" thing, but bummed about the yellow-rumps. I thought I had a new lifebird. Oh well.
Now to the tripod talk. Mike had recommended a micro-fluid head (specifically a Bogen 3130), and I'm very tempted. The best price I could find online is $79.00 which, for a Bogen fluid head, is stellar! However, I'd still have to get the legs unit, which would likely drive my total over-budget. But....
I also spoke with a local camera shop owner, who showed me some of the SLIK fluid heads. I could likely get one of those (probably the 504QFII) for about $120. So--I think I've narrowed it down to this one or the Bogen 3130 head and a tripod-to-be-named-later. Depends on the dollar total, I guess. The thing is, I'm no professional photographer nor will I ever be, but I do want something that will work.
Still blushing from the bad bird-IDs. Please forgive a beginning birder.