How to Use Binoculars for Birding
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How to Use Binoculars for Birding

September 12, 2019


Hi. I’m Rob Blair and I’m a bird
biologist at the University of Minnesota. Today we’re going to learn about
binoculars and even better,we’re going to learn how to use binoculars to see
birds. Before we start anything I want you to learn a little bit about the
parts of a binocular. Most important part is the strap. Why is that important?
Because you put it on your neck and then you’re not going to drop your binoculars
on the sidewalk. Because if you do, you’ll knock the prisms out of alignment and
then you’ll have to buy a new pair of binoculars. There are several parts of
binoculars that you need to know about to use them in the best way possible to
see all those important parts of birds that you might want to see and trying to
identify it. First off, all you need to learn about the lens caps the lens caps
are on the front of binoculars as well as the back of the binoculars. If you
don’t take all of them off, you’re only going to see black through one of them
or both of them and you’re going to be really confused about using a your
binoculars properly. The other parts of the binoculars that you need to know is
that they pivot. They get narrow and they get wide. We’ll see how and why you need
to use this adjustment in just a second. The other parts of the binocular set that are
important are the big focusing ring in between the two different oculars and
then we have a special focusing ring the diopter ring which is around the right
ocular. Finally, you need to learn about eye cups eye cups are these adjustments
that move up and down. In some binoculars, they fold back or pop out and these
adjust the distance between the glass of the lens and your eyeball. Because you
need to be a little bit away from that glass of the lens with your eyeball, but
not too far, so people with glasses they specifically put the eye cups down so
that they can take the binoculars and put them up directly against their
glasses like I do. Other people who don’t use glasses should have eye cups that
are out and popped up, because then they can take the
binoculars and stick them right up against their face and get a good
distance from the lens. Okay, the next important part of this is that
some of you out there have eyes that are really close together and others of you
out there have eyes that are really far apart. That’s why binoculars do this. What
you need to do, is first figure out if you’re wide eyed or beady eyed or
something in between. And that’s a good guess, and you put the
binoculars up to your eyes and you adjust them back and forth.
Unlike the James Bond movies where you they show you people looking through
binoculars and you see two circles–real binoculars, if they’re adjusted appropriately,
you only see one circle and that is done by adjusting this. If you’re seeing a
half moon or two semi circles or two fuzzy things or a black area, the
binoculars aren’t at the proper width for your eyes what you need to do is
find that sweet spot where you can look through the binoculars only see one
circle. And then leave them alone. They’re good for their width. Okay, now that you
have the binocular set for the distance between your eyes, we need to think about
focusing. And believe it or not, your two eyes are different in the distances at
which they focus. You need to adjust your binoculars to make up for that
difference. And there’s actually a handy way to do that with all binoculars. First
of all,I want you just to practice finding something and looking for it
with your binoculars and using the big focusing ring to see that object. So I’m
going to look at something nearby that doesn’t move that I can find easily, and
that’s a park bench. And I use the big knob, the focusing ring ,up at the top of
the binoculars to bring that park bench into focus. Now that you have a hang of
it, we need adjust the two sides to make up for the differences between
your eyes. And what I want you to do is first cover up with the lens cap, the
right side of your binoculars and look at that object that you picked out and
use the focusing ring by looking only through your left side and get that
object that park bench in perfect focus. Step two, you need to take the lens cap
off the right side, cover up with the lens cap on the left side, look at that
object that park bench and this time focus on it with the diopter ring, that
focusing ring that’s on the right eye piece and get that bench in perfect
focus. Once you do that, you don’t touch that diopter ring again. Now you’re ready
to actually go looking for birds or park benches. Take your lens cap off the left
eye, find that park bench look at it, and focus it on it with your ring. Now that
your binoculars are adjusted for your eyes it should be amazingly clear. And
after this, you need to start practicing how to find things in your binoculars.
The easiest way is to look up find whatever you’re trying to find and bring
your binoculars up to your eyes as you’re looking at it. Too many people
think that they are just supposed to take their binoculars and start looking
around the sky, trying to find a bird and seeing that they can’t, because
binoculars actually have a really narrow range of focus, field of vision, and you
need to be able to see everything to know where those birds are. But once you
do know where that bird is, you can bring your binocular
is up to your face and see it pretty easily.
Now after you’re able to see a bird or a park bench that doesn’t move, you need to
practice following something that does move. My favorite is I like to spy on
people walking by. I find them in my binoculars and as they’re running by, I
can track them because I know they’re pretty easy to figure out which
direction they’re going to go. Birds on the other hand, might fly any direction.
It’s harder to figure it out, so practice on people or if you’re nervous about
practicing on people, practice on a car. Finally, you have to learn how to tell
people how to see a bird, because often you’ll be told,
look there’s a bird up in that tree, that tree! And if you look behind me, which
tree is that? So when someone asks you, or is pointing out a bird to you, use some
vocabulary say, the tree that’s directly in front of me, five feet up, and over to
the left. That will start you on your adventure and finding birds. So that’s
all there is. Go adjust your binoculars and find a
bird and look and see what it’s doing. Thanks!

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