BIRDWATCHING TIPS

Birdwatching and bird photography can be done any time, anywhere, at any level.  On this page you will find lots of tips that will make your birdwatching experience more enjoyable.

Remember to do no harm to the birds or their habitat, obey local laws and if birdwatching in a group, be respectful to the leader and considerate to other group members.  

0756 - Kalbarri pelicans cropped HP no watermark.jpg
Hooded Robin MK.jpg

BIRDWATCHING TECHNIQUES

Birdwatching can be done anywhere.  Choose a location and then move quietly, visually scanning for movement in the trees and shrubs and on the ground.  Listen carefully for calling birds which will help to locate them.  The species you see will vary depending on the habitat and the season, as some birds are migratory or nomadic.  Many birds will be more vocal during breeding season.

What to bring:

  • Binoculars

  • Field Guide (hard copy or app)

  • A notebook for noting details of the birds if you can't quickly identify them

  • A scope can be useful for shorebirds or waterbirds at a distance

  • Many people carry a camera to photograph the birds to record their sightings and to assist with identification

CHOOSING BINOCULARS

It is important to choose binoculars that will be suitable for birdwatching and that are comfortable for you to use.

The best binoculars for birdwatching generally have a magnification of 7 or 8 times.  This gives you a wide field of view, making it easier to find and follow birds.  Some birders prefer a magnification of 10 times, but these are harder to hold still.

Binoculars with an objective lens of at least 30mm is recommended to ensure that the image is sufficiently bright to show detail in poor light.  Anything larger than 42mm will probably be too heavy to be held still.

Therefore, binoculars of 8x42 are probably the most popular size for birders.

Binoculars can also be used with a harness which can help to prevent neck strain.

​​

Rockwarbler at Wattamolla Royal National Park Sydney 170621 01 (002) - JM.jpg
Little Lorikeet from FB - JM.jpg

USING BINOCULARS

It is important to set up your binoculars for your individual eyes. 

  • Grasp the binocular barrels firmly and move them together or further apart until you achieve a single view.

  • Close your right eye and adjust the central focus wheel until a particular item in the distance is in focus with your left eye.

  • You now need to adjust the binoculars to take into account the different vision you may have in each eye.  To do this, find the diopter adjustment, which is usually on the right hand eyepiece, and will have numbers or marks and plus/minus symbols.

  • Now close your left eye and rotate the diopter adjustment until the same item in the distance is in focus with your right eye.

  • Open both eyes and check that the object is still in focus and repeat the process if necessary.  You may need to make a slight adjustment to the central focus wheel.

  • Remember the number or plus/minus setting on the diopter adjustment.  Ensure you use this setting each time you use your binoculars.

  • Once set, then only the central focus wheel needs to be used for focussing.

  • Use both hands on your binoculars, and use the index finger of your dominant hand to operate the central focus wheel, which will need constant adjustment when viewing birds.  

  • If you cannot get your binoculars in focus properly, it is possible that they may have been bumped and may need to be serviced by a reputable repairer.

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

  • Bird Photography is becoming increasingly popular.  It is important to ensure that the welfare of the birds is paramount when photographing them so it is worth reading our Ethical Birding Guidelines.

  • It is best to choose a camera that can start you off with the basics and expand as your skills and needs increase.  A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera is usually a better option over a point-and-shoot compact camera because you can upgrade the lenses.

  • If money is no object and weight is an issue, a mirrorless camera may suit you better, but extreme care must be taken when changing lenses as they are less robust. 

  • The best camera will have fast autofocus capabilities, at least 5 fps (frames per second) with a variety of lenses available. 

  • Most people don’t buy a camera just to photograph birds so a telephoto zoom ranging from 18mm to at least 200mm is the minimum distance required for birds and is considered a great universal lens. 

  • As your skills increase you may consider getting a zoom in the 300mm to 600mm range but the bigger the zoom the heavier the lens so a camera strap that crosses the body, or a harness is recommended over a neck strap. 

  •  Whichever camera you buy must "feel" right in your hands so even if you decide to buy online, go to a camera store first to try the camera and lens in your hands and practice looking through the viewfinder.

White-belled Sea-Eagles from FB - JM.jpg
Large-billed Scrub-wren - JP.jpeg

CHOOSING AND USING A SCOPE

  • Having a birding telescope can assist in getting good views of distant birds,  particularly for shorebirds and waders.  It is generally only useful for birds that will stay still for a while!

  • A scope needs to be used with a decent tripod, preferably with a quick-release fitting on it that is compatible with the scope.

  • There are two basic types of scopes available: angled ones and straight through ones.   Both are suitable for birdwatching.

  • Generally birding scopes have a magnification of about 20-60 times with a 80-85mm objective lens.

  • There are a number of good websites around that can provide advice and comparison on the various models that are available.

  • Before you buy, it may be useful to talk to other CBOC members who own scopes.