Your Guide To Birding Using A Spotting Scope

Spotting a rare bird and being able to see it in minute detail, is an incredible privilege, but one that’s easily attained with the help of equipment such as the Celestron hummingbird

Binoculars are a popular choice for amateur birders, and provided you choose the right level of magnification, can still help you see birds in all their feathered glory, from quite a distance. However, for the ultimate view of a bird, a spotting scope is an essential piece of kit. Providing you with remarkable magnification for such a lightweight and compact device, they are a birders best friend when it comes to simply admiring birds in all their splendour from afar, or identifying them correctly for your records. 

Spotting scopes explained

While they resemble a regular telescope, spotting scopes operate with a system that uses an image-erecting prism, making them a closer family member of the monocular. With many spotting scopes able to provide the user with 60x magnification and more, they are second only to the very most powerful pair of binoculars. 

Designed as a viewing device for terrestrial purposes, you can still get some great views of the night sky with a good quality spotting scope, making them a fantastically well-rounded instrument for birders and novice astronomers alike. 

Birding using a spotting scope – how to:

  • support your spotting scope

being able to see birds and other objects up so close, from so far away, does mean that a spotting scope must be supported by a tripod in order to give you a more comfortable viewing and all-round user experience. However, as most spotting scopes are relatively lightweight, you should only need a small tripod. 

  • choose between straight or angled

when buying a spotting scope for the first time (ideally after having read a Celestron hummingbird review), one of the first things you’ll need to think about is whether to choose a straight or angled configuration. Typically, amateur birders opt for a straight scope as it’s easier to locate and track birds with, but there’s no denying that an angled scope can give the user a lot more comfort. 

  • select the right objective and eyepiece

 if you buy a spotting scope with a fixed eyepiece, its magnification and objective diameter will be displayed as part of the product name, while ones that come with eyepieces that can be changed, will mention only the size of the objective. As is the case with binoculars, the bigger the objective, the more power the scope has to gather light. That said, a heavier lens with more glass usually costs more and won’t be as convenient to carry around with you or transport from location to location. 

In terms of the magnification of the eyepiece, while some brands come with interchangeable ones so that users can choose from fixed magnification or zoom eyepieces, others do not. For birding, zoom eyepieces are generally deemed to give the user the best experience, as zooming out to create a wider viewing field and locate a bird, before zooming in to get a closer look, is a real bonus. 

To conclude 

As you would when buying a pair of binoculars or a telescope, it’s important to test out a spotting scope before you go ahead and buy it, and it also pays to learn how to use one for birding, before you reach for your wallet or purse. 

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