Observing nature and birds with the naked eye is already a truly fascinating experience, it transforms into an entirely new experience when viewed through a spotting scope.

Traditionally, binoculars are what you’ll reach for when it comes to birding, but spotting scopes have become more popular within the birding community. Binoculars work perfectly for certain situations, yet when it comes to making a critical identification you need a bit more detail to work with. Ocean horizons, wide bays, open water and orbital raptors can challenge binoculars. The first time seeing a bird through a spotting scope will be an eye-opener (excuse the pun). Extreme close-ups, incredible optical quality and support to experience the moment rather than just seeing it.

Getting closer to the action with powerful magnifications of up to 60x has become easier and more affordable. The Nikon ProStaff 5 20-60×82 Spotting Scope with angled viewing is the perfect entry-level model. Made for outdoor conditions, and waterproof up to 1 m for 10 minutes, it’s sealed to ensure all-weather performance. The 82 mm diameter is amazing for great light gathering. This allows low light situations such as dusk and dawn to be utilised when nocturnal birds are more active, giving you the opportunity to identify rare species even in low light.

Precision is key when it comes to making an accurate identification, from counting bands on a bird’s leg or just getting a closer look for that extra confirmation. The ZEISS Conquest Gavia is a companion you’ll want when travelling; it’s lightweight and weatherproof and robust enough for all your adventures. High-quality optics ensure that no detail goes unnoticed.

What is the difference between angled and straight configurations? 

The main difference is the structure at the back of the scope, where the light path is either straight in line with the body or at an angle, usually 45 degrees. Configuration is something that a birder must evaluate and think about when wanting to purchase a spotting scope. It’s important to remember that it’s easier to obtain and track birds with a straight scope, but with an angled scope, there is the advantage of viewing comfort and longer viewing opportunity. It comes down to preference and what works best for you and your situation.


45-year veteran birder and Director of Conservation and Community at the American Birding Association Bill Stewart says, “A good spotting scope will change your birding forever.” Using a spotting scope, he says, “is better for detailed observation and is the fastest way to advance your birding.”

Spotting scopes and tripods go hand in hand. Support is key when working with magnification at such a high level, spotting scopes aren’t usually very heavy and, therefore, don’t require large tripods. So what do you need to look out for :

  • Get a tripod that reaches a comfortable height for extended viewing 
  • Heavy enough to provide needed stability for your scope
  • A fluid tripod head, (popular for use with video cameras) works the best with a birding scope. 

Fascination is something that many people have for certain things, but if you want to see true passion,  ask a birder about their life list or about rare birds that they have seen – they will light up and explain to you in detail. For a serious birder, there’s something extraordinary about the extreme close-up view of a rare bird in the wild and being able to see every detail.

Start with birding. Level up to twitching; and then you get people with the sticker “I brake for birds”. All signs that a person appreciates our feathered friends a little bit more than just putting a birdbath in their garden.