Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gear and the Birder

Just what are the essentials for the novice birder? Two essentials are a pair of binoculars and the field guide. This is true for backyard birders who largely want to enjoy the birds that come to feeders or birdbaths and for those adventurous souls who take to the field. The field guide is an inexpensive compliment to binoculars which require a bit more consideration.

The field guide—now, that might be a misnomer for those around home birders. Really, this is a resource which helps one learn to identify the birds, wherever they may be. The best guide is one that fits the individual birder’s needs and is easiest for him to use. There is no secret formula. Once you’ve found the one you like, keep it handy and use it often. At first, one should concentrate on just trying to identify the family to which the bird might belong, blackbirds, orioles, finches, woodpeckers, wrens etc. Believe me, it is a significant and meaningful first step; not a difficult one.

A good pair of binoculars is essential to improving one’s ability to identify. One can spend any amount of money on binoculars, but one should avoid a cheap pair. We enjoy a time when there is much competition in the optics industry that there are numerous models and types of binoculars. This may have led to confusion for the consumer, but it has also led to increasing quality in optics.

For the beginner, lower magnifications (7x, 8x) are best primarily because they offer a greater field of view. The field of view is the linear feet viewable at 1000 yards. The large field of view is especially important to the novice birder in locating a bird. Higher magnifications help with detail which the more experienced birder may wish to enjoy.

Other aspects of binoculars one should consider include the ease and quickness of focus, the amount of eye relief, weight, closeness of focus, and water and fog proofing. Some of these are self explanatory. However, eye relief is a term worth defining for viewers that must wear eyeglasses. Eye relief has to do with how far images are projected from the ocular lens to their focal point. Eyeglass wearers need 14-15 mm, at minimum. Close focus may be a consideration if one looks for butterflies as well as birds. A close focus of 4.5 to 5 ft is excellent. Water and fog proofing is better accomplished by the newer technology, the roof prism, because focusing can be accomplished internally.

The novice will find that it takes only a couple of items to begin enjoying this pastime. Now, go grab a field guide and your binoculars and happy birding.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home