This is not a response to Tim’s post, it is in regards to hawk watching only, but the timing is good because of Tim’s post and I already had it written. I hate spotting scopes for hawk watching (I mean birds in flight on migration, not sitting birds). Why? Because I think it hinders the learning process. Birders will learn much more taking notice of shape and flight style in binoculars than trying to notice some plumage marking in a scope. Every time I look through a scope it takes my eyes several minutes to focus again. I know you should keep both eyes open when you look through a scope, but it still doesn't help me. I think scopes are great for watching perched shorebirds, gulls, ducks, etc. but for flying raptors, scopes are for suckers! In fact, any hawk watching field trips I may lead in the future, there will be one rule -- no scopes. I wonder if anyone will show up? You’d be surprised what you could identify in binoculars when you steady yourself! Honestly, is it fun to stare at some speck in the scope for minutes on end? I’d rather just study birds with my binoculars, and if its so far away its “invisible”, then screw it….who cares?
I’ve been at hawk watching sites where there were spotting scopes lined up in a row. I think most people think they need a scope to identify birds, or they think they are going to miss something that someone else with a scope can see. I used to know a guy who would scan with his scope to find the most distant bird on the horizon, and then watch it for 10 minutes, only to misidentify it in the end and miss the rest of the flight in an attempt to impress someone. Some people just feel insecure without their scope. I’m not interested in being the first to name a distant bird. There are people who swear by scopes, and will tell me I'm crazy or just dead wrong about them…I’ve heard it all. And they are probably the people who have never watched without a scope. I know this post is biased, but just my thoughts and those who like scopes for raptors…more power to you. Besides, it’s much easier to carry binoculars. If you are going to use a scope for flying birds, make sure you have an eyepiece that has a wide field of view. If you can’t find birds in flight, you are wasting your time.
Labels: commentary, scopes