How To Use A Spotting Scope For Birding

how to use a spotting scope for birding

Being among the most popular leisure time activities, birding is indeed relaxing. It’s an interesting recreational occupation which can actually bring you numerous new skills, mostly those you can apply if you need to survive in the wilderness.

It usually starts as a hobby, but the more people get involved and in love with it, the more complex it becomes. The first phase is just naked-eye observation and the next thing you find yourself looking for more information about how to use a spotting scope for birding.

Our brief guide gives you the answer to the question and some more practical bits of advice along the way. Read on to find out why a good spotting scope is so important, and how they can enhance an already great experience of birdwatching

DON’T MISS: Our 5 Recommended Spotting Scopes

How to use a spotting scope for birdwatching?

From a birder’s point of view, could you name any experience more precious than an extreme close-up view of a rare bird in the wild?  That’s what scopes can give you, and if you really want to catch the very moment at its most memorable form, you need to learn how to use this item.

Each scope has two main parts, eyepiece, and the body. They are generally divided into two categories- angled and straight. In addition to this basic set, you can also use a tripod. All of these parts have their own important role in the overall observing birds’ activity.

Speaking of using the scope based on the configuration, it’s completely a matter of personal preference. However, there are some occasions where one turns to be a bit more convenient than the other.

Those who have just entered the world of birdwatching mostly opt for straight spotting telescopes, because they are slightly simpler to use. Moreover, they are very convenient for observing birds from a car window.

Angled ones have a more comfortable observing position and it is a good choice for those who like to view birds in the company. That’s because it takes just a few simple adjustments so that people of different heights can use it.

Tripod comes as a handy addition as it allows you to fix the scope in one place and have free hands. As long as it’s a sturdy and stable one, you can enjoy observing birds without any worries.

So, using this gadget is actually quite simple. It all depends on your previous experience and the environment. You just adjust it to your own preferences and enjoy the view.

Telescopes vs binoculars

Binocs are usually the first gadget observers buy when they want to get a better view of tiny feathered creatures. They are excellent and very practical for day-to-day activities, as they are usually lighter than scopes. However, the more the passion grows, the more you want the view to be clearer and closer.

Then you realize that no matter how quality your binoculars are, they simply cannot manage to give you what you want. That’s why watchers take the next step and start looking for scopes. Once you discover how extraordinary this tool is, it will become a gadget that follows you all the time, not the one you pull out for special occasions only.

The first major advantage scopes have over binocs is magnification range. Telescopes are used for long-distance observation, and that’s beyond the reach on any binoculars, no matter how well-equipped they are. Even an average quality scope gives you the chance to enjoy watching every single feather and detail and admire it.

In addition to this, the scope has amazing performances in open air spaces. This is because it allows you to observe feathered creatures from a safe distance without scaring them away. Speaking of outdoors conditions, binocs cannot give you a good view under low light conditions. On the other hand, with a scope, you get a brighter, clearer and perfectly magnified image.

If you need to stabilize your scope, then use a tripod and get even more. As you could see, magnification is something we have mentioned several times, and it’s indeed a crucial factor for the ultimate experience.

Compared to binoculars, telescopes are the tools which allow you to enjoy the view without disturbing birds, particularly some sensitive species or those which are on the nest.

Still, we would like to point out that binoculars are still a number one item for those interested in birding buy. Let’s call it a logical phase. They certainly give more than one can see with his/her naked eyes but are not enough if you are interested in the more detailed picture.

Here’s something to tease you. If you want to get an even better experience than this, why don’t you try digiscoping? It’s a method of taking pictures or videos through a spotting scope using a digital camera (click here to see our article on point and shoot cameras). So, you see it’s actually a really simple way to capture those memorable moments and preserve them.

Here’s a great video for beginners on binoculars, scopes and digiscoping – it’s really useful!

What to look for when choosing a spotting scope?

Like with buying any other tool or gadget, your personal preferences play a significant role in choosing process. But there are always those specific features that also help you define which one is the most suitable for you.

Speaking of telescopes, here are the factors to take into consideration when buying:

1. Magnification and diameter

These numbers are indeed important as they determine how close will you be able to observe a bird. The more the better is the logic. However, do know that the larger the objective the bulkier a gadget will be.

2. Field of view

For those who enjoy watching on some open and wide fields, this specification is of great importance. This is also significant for viewing fast moving objects.

3. Straight or angled

We have already discussed on occasions where these give the best performance.

4. Tripod

If you are interested in digiscoping, this gadget is a necessary part of the equipment. But it also comes as useful in every situation where you need free hands while observing.

5. Size and weight

As this is something you will be carrying all around, you certainly don’t want it to be too heavy or bulky. Some additional features make these two characteristics increase, but you also get some positive changes.

6. Price

Buying the most expensive one certainly doesn’t mean you will get the best gear possible. On the other hand, if you are not ready to spend money on a quality gadget, then don’t expect a spectacular experience. Try to find balance.

These are just basic factors to take into consideration when looking for the right telescope. The more experiences you get, the more personal your likes and dislikes will become. But always take time to do brief research and go through some users’ reviews, because they can be useful.

Final thoughts

Once you discover how wonderful this gadget is, you will wonder how on earth could you ever manage without it. Some people see it as a recreation, the other call it a sport, but it’s a fact that birders are all around us. There’s that interesting joke which directly hits the point- you either know a birdwatcher or if don’t, just take a look at the mirror and you will see one.

All in all, we really hope that our guide on how to use a spotting scope for birding was of help. Now you know why is this gadget so important and which “superpowers” it has. Therefore, wait no more, go outside and look for some beautiful birds to observe.

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