Tag Archives: binoculars

Young woman and man birding

Crowdsourcing Advice for New Birders

We posed a simple question to our Facebook followers: “If you could give one piece of advice to a beginning birder, what would it be?” With over 170 replies, here’s just a sample of what they said.

Patience is Key

“Walk slowly. And when you think you are walking slowly, walk slower.”

“Patience, learn common birds first and their songs or calls. Expand your bird vocabulary slowly. I stress patience, it can take years to become proficient, but it is well worth it.”

“Learn to be quiet and patient in one spot — take the time to watch and listen to what is happening around you.”

Binoculars & Cameras

“Get a good camera and take photos. You will want to capture the experiences and variety of birds for later.”

“Listen, watch and take notes and always have your binoculars and/or camera ready.”

“Get the best pair of binoculars that you can afford. Also, get a field guide and/or a bird ID app.”

Field Guides & Apps

“Get the Merlin app from the Cornell Ornithology Dept. You can id the bird from a photo, sound, or just what you see. There are different packs to download depending on where you are in the world. It is really cool to find and record a bird.”

“Buy a good field guide, learn what birds are in your area, a good field guide will help you learn what to look for (wing bars, bill shape/length etc). Learn from others, bird walks are great.”

“Buy (or borrow from a library) a physical field guide like Sibley. Read the useful introductory materials, but also just page through it. Get a sense of the different groups of birds. Apps are nice and handy but they don’t let you browse and compare the field guides do­ — and they don’t tell you anything about useful field marks.”

Browse bird books and guides from the Mass Audubon Online Shop.

Tips & Tricks

“Behavior and location are at least as important as color for identifying a bird, if not more.”

“Find a bird you love and let that be your anchor. For me, it’s Red-tailed Hawks. Spending time watching them has allowed me to learn about other birds, too.”

“Listening is much more important than seeing. Learn a few basic bird calls and you’ll be better off than memorizing pictures of birds you often only hear.”

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“Talk to those around you (especially the ones with big scopes and nice cameras). I find the birding community is very friendly and happy to share their knowledge and any pointers.”

“I love birding alone. The solitude and being immersed in nature is healing. However, I think I learn as much in one morning with experienced birders as I do alone in 6 months.”

“For a new birder look everywhere as you walk along the trails, back roads, and even in your own backyard. The birds are not always in the open so keep looking up and down. You will be surprised by what you will see. And also go with a friend so you have multiple eyes to search with. Also Mass Audubon is always there to help with classes walks and to answer questions.. as my Father always said look, listen, and enjoy nature!!!”

Learn About the Bigger Picture

“Learn which birds are native and which are introduced invasive species. Learn why some species are now threatened and how you can help by making changes in your yard (native plants and reduce/eliminate pesticides).”

“Plant native plants! Specifically, host plants for moths and butterfly caterpillars. Caterpillars = baby bird food. A study that Doug Tallamy cited is that one clutch of chickadees ate 6,000 caterpillars. If you want birds in your yard, plant native trees, shrubs, and plants.”

“If you plant it, they will come. Consider planting native plants!”

“Don’t use insecticide, weed killer, rodent killer. They’re harmful to predator birds.”

Take an Introductory Program

“Join a bird walk — Mass Audubon often sponsors these as do local bird clubs. In the beginning, you will learn the most being with others that will give you pointers and help you with the basics. Or go with a friend that knows more than you do. Once you know what’s common in your area you can strike out on your own. I started as a child and I studied bird ID cards and field guides for hours and hours. As an adult, though, I think being part of a group would be most helpful.”

“Take Mass Audubon’s Intro Series!”

Check Out Mass Audubon’s signature online Beginner Birdwatching Series begins September 23. Or, browse upcoming in-person Mass Audubon bird walks.

Don’t Give Up!

“Birding is a lifelong learning process and is filled with delight. Persist! AND behave as if the birds’ lives depend on you, because they do.”

How to Buy Binoculars

You’re ready to take the plunge and buy a pair of binoculars and you might think to yourself, “How complicated can it be?” That is, until you start to notice the dizzying array of available brands, features, and prices. Before you get overwhelmed, check out this basic primer on what you need to know before buy (and learn how to save 15 percent!).

Binoculars are marked with a set of two numbers that indicate their power of magnification and the diameter of their objective lenses (we’ll get to this in a minute). If a pair of binoculars is marked “8×42,” the first number indicates that they will magnify the object you’re looking at eight times larger than its actual size.

A common mistake made by first-time buyers is thinking that bigger is better. While it’s true that greater magnification provides a larger image, it can also make it difficult to maintain a steady view of what you’re looking at. The average birder uses a magnification power of 8 to 10, which affords a good amount of detail without the shakiness experienced at higher magnification levels.

If magnification determines how much detail you see, the diameter of the objective (aka front) lenses determines how well you see it. Think of it like this: the wider the objective lenses, the greater the light-gathering ability, which ultimately translates to greater detail and clarity.

You can identify the size of the objective lenses on a pair of binoculars by looking at the second number in our 8×42 example, which refers to the diameter of each objective lens in millimeters.

Field of View (FOV)
This measurement tells you how wide the area is that you can see through your binoculars. Of course, the more you can see, the easier it is to follow a fast flying bird, or catch movement off to the side.

Field of view is measured either in degrees or in feet per thousand yards and, like magnification and brightness, is usually marked right on the binoculars.

Eye Relief
For those who wear eyeglasses, this may be one of the most important features to consider when selecting binoculars.

Eye relief refers to the distance (in millimeters) between your eyes and the part of the binoculars you look through at which you can still maintain a full field of view. Since eyeglasses necessitate a space between the eyes of the user and the binoculars, those with glasses will want to look binoculars with at least 15mm of eye relief. If it’s not on the box, ask the salesperson.

Not all lenses are equal. High-quality lenses are made from superior glass and prisms and have better optical coatings that maximize the amount light directed to your eyes, making images appear brighter and clearer. The quality of the coating on binocular lenses is actually one of the things that distinguish top-of-the line optics brands from others.

Above all, your binoculars should “feel right” to you. Take a minute to focus on objects near and far. How easily are you able to make adjustments? Can you hold them up to your eyes for a minute or two without feeling overly fatigued? Can you carry them with ease? Binoculars are an investment that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, so take the time to choose what’s right for you!

Still have questions? Contact us at the Audubon Shop.

Ready to start shopping? Be sure to swing by The Audubon Shop’s Optics Fair at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln this Saturday, September 15, where representatives from the top optics companies will be on hand. Plus, Mass Audubon members will receive 15 percent off all binoculars and scopes!