Monday, September 9, 2013

The right tool for the job. Part 2: Countryside, wetlands and woods.

A barn owl. One of those special encounters on a walk in the countryside.
This is where the majority of us use our binoculars most of the time, either visiting a reserve, walking the dog or just doing the rounds of your local patch. When birding in these habitats, and woodland especially, never underestimate the benefit of a wide field of view in preference to higher magnification. It can be very frustrating trying to keep up with agile and fast-moving small birds such as migrant warblers at relatively close range in hedges and trees. 7x or 8x magnification is best for both light gathering and field of view.

Sharp, bright and wide,
the Celestron Granite 7x33 ED
The ultimate all-rounder is probably the 8x42. These generally have the best compromise between magnification, brightness, field of view and low weight. In recent years more birdwatchers have been going for 8x32s, which have many of the advantages of 8x42 but are lighter in weight. Whilst 8x32s may not be as bright, they have sufficient light gathering for most situations, especially those at the top-of-the-range (e.g. Swarovski's EL 8x32) and are so light weight that you feel more inclined to have them with you all the time.

The wary ring ouzel. a species best
 viewed with a scope.
As always a good scope can be a useful addition to you binoculars, and again the compromise between weight and performance must be made. There is little point in having a technically brilliant piece of equipment that is too heavy for the purpose you want to put it to. To get the best ratio between size, weight and performance a 60mm or 65mm scope is the specification to go for. Whilst zoom eyepieces are tempting for their flexibility and maximum magnification, you will often get a wider field of view and a brighter and sharper image from a fixed magnification eyepiece. Both have their advantages and it generally comes down to personal preference which is best suited to you. Many top-of-the-range scopes now have wide angle zooms available, the best of which give you the best of both worlds.