Binoculars 101 for a Closer Look


On my first foray into birding, I proudly remembered to grab a set of binoculars to fit in with the “real” birders.  Rather than my antique binoculars making me part of the group, I actually set myself far, far apart from the group.  The leader politely offered to lend me an extra pair that she had in the car.  Apparently, there are things to know when selecting the perfect pair.  Another part of this unknown world of birding.

Yet, even with the better binoculars, I was at a loss to locate the darn bird through the lenses.  My initial preference was the spotting scope.  A trusty leader was quick to locate the bird.  All I needed to do was line up for a look.  Yet, could I see myself packing this large piece of apparatus?  Probably not.  

I resolved myself to buy binoculars.  Clearly this was something that would take some research.  The question 8 X 32 or 8 X 42 or 10 X ? or something else?  How much to spend?  What brand?  The most pertinent learning.

The first number is the magnification.  The 10 may provide better magnification but it is hard to hold your hands still enough to benefit from the increase in magnification.   May this is something like yoga, where balancing on one leg comes from practice.  

The second number is the size of the lens.  Bigger number.  Bigger lens.  Heavier to carry but captures more light, important if you live in a temperate rainforest with many overcast days and large conifers providing maximum shade.   I did discover a work around from my birding buddies. There is a strap that goes around your back so that the strap from the binoculars doesn’t dig into your neck.  Available on Amazon. Very serious looking!

Gull with a yellow beak with black circle around it.  Yellow legs.  White chest.  Gray back.  Black tips on tail feathers.  Eyes are not dark but yellowish therefore this is a Ring-billed Gull not a California Gull.  So much to know.  Up until this year, I called them all seagulls.  The consumer of my not yet finished fish and chips at Jericho Beach when I wasn’t on guard.

Big bird on the top of a very tall Douglas Fir at Spanish Banks.  A Blue Heron.  Usually, I sight these birds further away in the ocean or in a man-made water feature in a golf course.  With the binoculars, the bird stretches to full height and enters the realm of magnificence.  His beak open and closes like he is singing his heart out, although he is too far away to hear a sound.  

I have learned that like anything, I have to practice with the binoculars.  I need to be looking at my target spot before I raise the binoculars to my eyes.    Then I have the best chance of discovery, and the best chance of the sense of awe that comes with each new discovery. 

Published by Carrie Froese

Curiosity guarantees a life of learning😀 Let me help you find the answer to your questions about educational practice, setting up a small business with a focus on education, and running a non-profit with a focus on educational events.

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