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Outdoors Activities: Focus on best binoculars for you

Outdoors Activities: Focus on best binoculars for you

Most bird watchers want a pair of good binoculars and perhaps a compact spotting scope for  longer distance bird watching. From time to time I am asked about birding optics gear.

An obvious start point is your budget. If money wasn’t an issue, it would be much more easier. Premium optics generally mean better resolution, contrast and durability.

Swarovski products are very good, however their best binoculars are more than $1,000. I am satisfied with the $300 Bushnell 10 X 42 Excursion binoculars that I used.

Another variable to consider is the magnification. A pair of 8X binoculars results in a smaller, brighter image. It is easier to find birds with these. A pair of 10X binoculars however is better for birds that farther away.

If you are at an “optics” or binoculars store, try a number of products. You will then have a clearer sense of the different magnifications, the different models, and how the products feel.

Another consideration is how the binoculars feel against your eyes. If you wear glasses, do the binoculars work well? Are there eye cups that work well for you?

Pay attention to warranties, reviews, and weight of gears. I will sometimes be in the field for eight hours so I don’t want a product that will literally be “a pain in the neck.”

There are similar considerations in field scopes. Scopes are used for longer distance birding. Some birds you won’t even see without a spotting scope and if you are studying sandpipers or waterfowl some distance away, binoculars may not provide the detail that you want.

Again, set your budgets, try different products, check product reviews and ask fellow birders for recommendations.

There are additional considerations when shopping for scopes. You will need a tripod on which to mount the scope. If you want to try digiscoping (CCT) photography, some products will be better than others.

A number of London retailers such as Forest City Image Centre in downtown London, Wild Birds Unlimited on Springbank Dr., and Featherfields in Hyde Park carry lines of optics.

Michael Malone, owner of Pelee Wings, told me last week “This is a great opportunity for the public to field test outdoors hundreds of the latest binoculars and field scopes, to quiz the experts on what best suits their needs and budget, and to take advantage of sale prices.”

Malone ascribes to the old “you get what you pay for” adage when it comes to optics. He said there are generally three broad categories for sports optics, $250 and less for standard grade glass, premium to $1,500, and professional at $1,500 and up.

Like so many hobbies, you can spend several thousand dollars on gear. You don’t have to though. My gear was hundreds of dollars, not thousands. Whether you are watching your feeders or out in the field, the great thing about birding is that it really is very accessible.

Find binoculars, monoculars and spotting scopes that let you get closer to nature. Visit us at

Nature notes

Princeton institution Press has released Ten Thousand Birds, a guide via Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny and Bob Montgomerie, who’s with the biology college at Queen’s school in Kingston. The e-book is a comprehensive update on the post-Darwin historical past of ornithology. This scholarly but obtainable 500-web page work focuses extra on chook science than birding as a recreation. Having written about the history of hen looking at in a January column, I was particularly keen to learn more about dozens of colourful figures comparable to Britain’s David Lack.