When I first started birding, I didn’t have any equipment at all, other than some not-very-good binoculars my father had. But slowly I started getting some items as presents, and lately have been saving money from selling eggs and my 4H steers for what I know I would like and could use.
You can either go all out with top-of-the-line equipment, and lots of it, or just have basic binoculars, a camera, and a field guide. I’m probably somewhere in the middle, with a basic older pair of binoculars and a couple of pretty basic cameras, but a Swarovski scope.
My binoculars are Nikon 8×42 Monarchs given to me by my grandfather in 2009 when I started birding. One of the eye-cups has broken since, but I’m used to it so it doesn’t affect my viewing. My most used field guide is the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. I’ve used it so much that it’s held together with clear packing tape. The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds, which I won a copy of last summer, is also very good and helpful when I’m trying to figure out the age of raptors. I can’t wait until the Western Birds edition is out.
I have two cameras, both Canon Powershots. One, which was my grandfather’s (I think he bought it in 2008), is a Canon Powershot SX10IS 10MP Digital Camera. It takes quite good pictures on auto, though I’m trying to learn more about manual; I find the auto setting easier and am having trouble with the white balance. The other is a Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS, which is very good, takes excellent close-ups, and is good for my digiscoping. I started wring this post before I interviewed birder and photographer, Mia McPherson. In her interview, she gave some great suggestions for beginning photographers and I need to put her advice to use and get to know my equipment better.
A Carolina Wren at the Long Point Bird Observatory, taken with the ELPH100 HS,
The most recent addition to my equipment is my spotting scope, which we bought in May and which I finally repaid my parents for at Christmas. My scope is a Swarovski ATM 80 with a 20-60 zoom eyepiece and the tripod is a Manfrotto 190 with 128RC head. I bought it from Pelee Wings which had a great price and wonderful service. If you have the money to spare, I definitely recommend buying a Swarovski. The clarity is excellent, and it’s a very well made scope. My scope isn’t getting much use this winter because in northern Alberta there are no open ponds, lakes, or sloughs in winter, but I used it a great deal from late May until November, and even took it to Long Point with me. I can’t wait to use my scope this coming spring and will take it with me every time I go out.
Now that I have a scope, I’m learning about digiscoping. Right now, I’m hand-holding or using a homemade adapter with my ELPH100 HS, but getting the camera so it’s centered is a little tricky, so I need to practice more. An adapter would make taking photos much easier. The set-up I would like is the Swarovski digital camera adapter and the Vortex PS-100 point-and-shoot attachment. The adapter is a little pricy, so I’ll just have to wait until I’ve saved up some more. Until then, hand-holding and using the home-made adapter works well.
If you are especially happy with something you use for birding, whether it’s a field guide or some equipment, please mention it in the comments below. Thank you!