Spotting Scopes

When is time to get a spotting scope?

Once you have become proficient with binoculars you may find yourself at places where binoculars do not provide sufficient magnification to see birds at a distance such as on the other side of a lake or at the beach.  This is where birdwatchers use a second important kind of optic  – the spotting scope.

Whereas binoculars magnify an image 8 – 10 times, a spotting scope magnifies an image 15x to 60x!  Thus, they must be stabilized with a tripod. Spotting scopes are a significant financial investment. Spotting scopes range in price from $600 to over $3,000 and the tripod can range in price from $150 to over $700.

There is a dramatic difference in the quality of the image provided by an economical vs an expensive scope and so it is essential that you try different brands and models out before making this investment.   Caution: if you buy a more economical model, the image will be smaller, not as bright, and probably not as sharp.  The most economical alternative is to find birding friends who have top quality scopes and tag along with them!

If you are getting a spotting scope, make sure you invest in a good tripod as well.  Expensive optics are of no use if the image is moving around because of a flimsy tripod.  Birding at the coast where it is almost always windy requires a heavier tripod than if one is only birding at sites protected by the wind.  Thus, chat with spotting scope owners about their tripods as well as their scopes.