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How far can you identify birds in spotting scope comfortably?

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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 01:13   #1
Dd61999
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How far can you identify birds in spotting scope comfortably?

Just trying to get a feel for different spotting scopes.

So my question is, not what is the maximum distance you can identify birds (lets use a seagull for size reference). But at what is the approximate maximum distance can you identify birds without straining yourself.

Hope Im making sense
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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 07:26   #2
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Dependant on light conditions, the magnification and quality of the telescope and ones experience with gulls perhaps I can demonstrate as follows.....Mew or Common Gull.
1. Naked eye, 80 - 100 metres
2. Binoculars ( x8 ) 250 - 300 metres.
3. Telescope ( x30 ) c. half a mile.

This is for me, some may be less, some may be more.

P
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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 07:50   #3
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Its largely down to ones skill & experience as a birder; optics are merely the 'tools of the trade' which provide a little necessary help!

RB
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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 14:38   #4
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Not being a birdwatcher, I can identify herring gulls at about 150m to 200m when they are in the air, and buzzards at about 600m, probably common buzzards, when flying.
This is with unaided eyes and distance glasses.

I would not be able to follow them with a high power scope, but maybe with a 20x hand held scope.
I would think that a Canon IS binocular would do well if the don't fly erratically. Some birds fly in straight lines, others don't.

At distances of a mile, the atmospheric conditions are probably the limiting factor.

I can identify some larger aircraft at 20 miles with unaided eyes and distance glasses.
Up to 200 miles with a 3 inch refractor, with an 80x micrometer eyepiece. Upside down as well.

I would think that some large birds can be identified at several miles with a scope if one is an experienced birdwatcher.

Some of my friends can see the shape of the International Space Station at over 250 miles with hand held 15x binoculars.
I have not actually tried to see the shape. I should try.

Last edited by Binastro : Monday 29th October 2018 at 14:42.
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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 15:22   #5
Dd61999
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PYRTLE View Post
Dependant on light conditions, the magnification and quality of the telescope and ones experience with gulls perhaps I can demonstrate as follows.....Mew or Common Gull.
1. Naked eye, 80 - 100 metres
2. Binoculars ( x8 ) 250 - 300 metres.
3. Telescope ( x30 ) c. half a mile.

This is for me, some may be less, some may be more.

P
Thanks!

My experience has been slightly more, but not dramatically more.

I wonder if other people on this forum come to the same consensus as me and you?
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Old Monday 29th October 2018, 21:09   #6
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Originally Posted by Binastro View Post
Some of my friends can see the shape of the International Space Station at over 250 miles with hand held 15x binoculars.
I have not actually tried to see the shape. I should try.
Hi,

we often do this with small refractors at 15 or 20x when we get a pass while observing... Shape is visible and one can follow it guiding the scope with the hand. You need to be quick to have sb else have a look though...

Joachim
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Old Thursday 1st November 2018, 19:49   #7
DRodrigues
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Originally Posted by Dd61999 View Post
Just trying to get a feel for different spotting scopes.
It depends on atmospheric conditions and the scope you are using...

You will get longer distance over water during cold weather but with light available. Depending on seasons of the year and the latitudes of your sites, some times cloudy weather is better to reach longer distances.
I do cr-birding and my most used scope last year is a Swaro X95 with the 1.7x extender that results on 51-122x...
At sites I have nasal saddled ducks until 220m, I use the X95 without the extender. Over 220m, I use the X95 with the extender.
You might be interested on having a look at http://www.pt-ducks.com/cr-telescopes.htm - I have to update it with the Swaro extender experience...
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Old Friday 2nd November 2018, 14:05   #8
Dd61999
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Originally Posted by DRodrigues View Post
It depends on atmospheric conditions and the scope you are using...

You will get longer distance over water during cold weather but with light available. Depending on seasons of the year and the latitudes of your sites, some times cloudy weather is better to reach longer distances.
I do cr-birding and my most used scope last year is a Swaro X95 with the 1.7x extender that results on 51-122x...
At sites I have nasal saddled ducks until 220m, I use the X95 without the extender. Over 220m, I use the X95 with the extender.
You might be interested on having a look at http://www.pt-ducks.com/cr-telescopes.htm - I have to update it with the Swaro extender experience...
I have always been amazed by your crazy high magnification spotting scope stories!

But Im thinking more along the lines of what distances are people looking at around 20-30x
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 15:14   #9
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Playing around today at the beach with bright sun overhead and clear skies. With temperature at 42 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity at 37% and 7 mph winds. It’s seems the longest distance for me without straining and using a 28x70 scope is around 550 yards. I find the same distance also seems to be the same for my 20x50mm spotting scope.

I can see further and use higher magnification. But it’s not a comfortable view. Matter of fact the 20x50 was more comfortable to use since I saw less mirage then the 28x70 scope
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 16:18   #10
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Dd,
It is good to see the weather described.
It may be better in the morning or evening with the sun behind the observer.

What were you looking at?

I doubt that the sun is overhead at this time of the year in NY.
Any idea of water and beach temperature?

Regards,
B.
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 17:30   #11
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In good conditions I can identify mid sized birds at 3.5 km (2 miles) with a 25-50x EP on 65mm scope.
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 17:47   #12
Dd61999
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Binastro View Post
Dd,
It is good to see the weather described.
It may be better in the morning or evening with the sun behind the observer.

What were you looking at?

I doubt that the sun is overhead at this time of the year in NY.
Any idea of water and beach temperature?

Regards,
B.
It was a herring gull

Water temp was 40 degrees and the sun was mid point between southeast horizon and zenith. I was looking North east along the shoreline
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 18:31   #13
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Originally Posted by Vespobuteo View Post
In good conditions I can identify mid sized birds at 3.5 km (2 miles) with a 25-50x EP on 65mm scope.
I can see birds that far, just hard to identify
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 18:46   #14
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Originally Posted by Dd61999 View Post
I can see birds that far, just hard to identify
Some are easier than others of course. But it's possible.
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 20:23   #15
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Dd,
The water temperature and air temperature are a good match. Conditions good.
It may be that there were beach ground effects.

If one is high above the beach it might help, and cloudy conditions can be better.

I am definitely not a bird expert but I can identify herring gulls easily here at 150 yards with just my distance glasses.
Probably because they are common and other gulls here are smaller and a different shape.
But it did take a while for me to recognise herring gulls, so I am familiar with these, but not any close copies there might be.
I have also taken many photos of the herring gulls here. They are fairly easy to follow as the flight is smooth, not like magpies that don't fly in straight lines.
Parakeets, pigeons and crows are also easy to follow.

We have kestrels that hover quite high up, possibly 300ft?
Sometimes buzzards, possibly common buzzards, but I wouldn't know the exact type. They can be far away and very high.
Also sparrowhawks. One chased a pigeon that broke through the library skylight perhaps 40 ft up, leaving a shower of glass. The sparrowhawk followed and tried to get the dazed pigeon, but the library staff intervened.
I was very nearby. I don't know what they did with the two birds. The pigeon was flying very fast when it hit the glass.

B.
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Old Tuesday 19th March 2019, 20:30   #16
Dd61999
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Binastro View Post
Dd,
The water temperature and air temperature are a good match. Conditions good.
It may be that there were beach ground effects.

If one is high above the beach it might help, and cloudy conditions can be better.

I am definitely not a bird expert but I can identify herring gulls easily here at 150 yards with just my distance glasses.
Probably because they are common and other gulls here are smaller and a different shape.
But it did take a while for me to recognise herring gulls, so I am familiar with these, but not any close copies there might be.
I have also taken many photos of the herring gulls here. They are fairly easy to follow as the flight is smooth, not like magpies that don't fly in straight lines.
Parakeets, pigeons and crows are also easy to follow.

We have kestrels that hover quite high up, possibly 300ft?
Sometimes buzzards, possibly common buzzards, but I wouldn't know the exact type. They can be far away and very high.
Also sparrowhawks. One chased a pigeon that broke through the library skylight perhaps 40 ft up, leaving a shower of glass. The sparrowhawk followed and tried to get the dazed pigeon, but the library staff intervened.
I was very nearby. I don't know what they did with the two birds. The pigeon was flying very fast when it hit the glass.

B.
Since you have experience, what is the approximate distance at 20-30x you can identify herring gulls

Just trying to get a feel

Since I can definitely identify at 500 yards but it gets really tricky at 1000 yards
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 09:56   #17
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SInce your main interest is sea-watching (e.g. gulls etc.) think about buying a binokular if possible. The best choice for birders should be the BTX (because the water-resistance), but a APM 70 or 82 (please ED because the white feathers) could be the solution. You need a good pair of 1,25"-eyepieces, with sufficient eye-relief if you use glasses, and a stable tripod. The two-eye-watching-method is far superior to the monoculars (normal spotting scopes), if long watching-sessions are prefererred.

good look
Manfred
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 10:43   #18
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It's a bit similar to the question I get often asked by people who are not familar with scopes or binoculars: "how far can you see through this?" Well, it depends

As for ID of birds, it depends even more. How good are my ID skills, how difficult to ID is the bird, how is position or posture of the bird, how long can I see it, what is the weather and the light, etc. How far is just one of many factors in the equation.
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 11:01   #19
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Dd,
This is an urban location, so the distances I can see birds is limited by buildings unless they are high in the sky.
Herring gulls don't seem to fly that high, so I can't give a distance. Many birds don't seem to fly more than 500 feet above the ground here.
But if I see a distant flying herring gull I'll try to calculate the distance from a photo with a known image scale.
I think they frequent rubbish tips.
When I was a rep, the herring gulls by the Devon seaside towns could be seen from long distances, but I cannot give an accurate estimate from more than 40 years ago. I only had a 7x23 micro binocular as my only binocular.
The Broadhurst Clarkson 25x-40x55 drawtube scope probably showed birds at 2 miles, but again I cannot give a distance.

I have seen buzzards here at probably two miles with the Canon 18x50 IS. I think that they are common buzzards from the Collins bird guide.

I worked out the height of one from a photo as 1600 feet above the ground. Slant distance about 1 mile.
Another group of buzzards including juveniles I think were circling at 1300 feet above the ground eventually a mile away with only my camera and distance glasses. They circled but the circle moved away from me with every rotation.
I reckon my old 6x optical zoom camera is equivalent to a 10x hand held binocular when looking for detail on the photos.
The photos against the sky are typically 1/800 to 1/1500 second so the detail is good. Luckily this camera focuses on 'infinity' as a default if it doesn't lock on.
My newer cameras hunt for focus and usually get it wrong in a featureless sky.
So much for progress and NEW. For me OLD is often better.

I saw a ghostly flying object at night with the Canon 18x50 IS, which I eventually figured was probably a buzzard flying at 2,000 feet in a straight line illuminated by the incredible light pollution. Slant distance about 1 mile. They may even follow motorways.

When I was young the location was good and 2.5 miles from a major RAF airfield.
I easily identified, with only my young eyes, a tiny white anti radiation paint Victor bomber flying at 63,000 feet above the ground as measured with a filar micrometer at 80x on a 3 inch refractor. They passed nearly overhead on their daily sorties. Probably armed. Usually at 50,000 feet.
The giant U.S. B36s were impressive,
I loved the B47s.
I followed these aircraft for well over 200 miles with the 3 inch refractor with a 53x terrestrial eyepiece, but I couldn't identify them at these distances. The aircraft were black dots at these distances in front of the long contrails.

Flying herring gulls can probably be identified at greater distances than one on the ground.
So are you identifying the herring gulls at 550 yards on the ground or in the air?

B.

Last edited by Binastro : Wednesday 20th March 2019 at 11:13.
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 15:54   #20
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Just to be clear I was using Herring gulls as an optics target, since they are plentiful on the shoreline

I wasn’t trying to identify it as a herring gull at 550 yards, I was seeing how much detail I could see at 550 yards such as it’s black and white tail.

If I just wanted to see the bird itself then my original report yesterday would have been miles away.

Maybe I should have said how far away can you see the black and white tail in my original post. So we can have some consistentcy in our report
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 16:01   #21
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Originally Posted by bioscope View Post
SInce your main interest is sea-watching (e.g. gulls etc.) think about buying a binokular if possible. The best choice for birders should be the BTX (because the water-resistance), but a APM 70 or 82 (please ED because the white feathers) could be the solution. You need a good pair of 1,25"-eyepieces, with sufficient eye-relief if you use glasses, and a stable tripod. The two-eye-watching-method is far superior to the monoculars (normal spotting scopes), if long watching-sessions are prefererred.

good look
Manfred
I completely agree. I much prefer binoculars

But carrying one low power binocular for wide FOV and one high power binoculars for spotting is a very bulky package to carry around

Technically I can stick a small 20x spotting scope in one jacket pocket and binoculars in another pocket

High powered binoculars tends to need a backpack. When Im at the beach, optics are only used 10-20% of the time I am there.

But once again if I do bring a back pack. I prefer binoculars
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Old Wednesday 20th March 2019, 16:27   #22
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Yes, it is important to know what detail one is looking for.

I can identify an Airbus A380 at up to 20 miles at most angles and by how it flies.
A Boeing 747 up to 15 miles.
This is without optical aid, just distance glasses.
But seeing if the B747 has an extended upper deck or winglets, probably 5 miles.

So I'll look out for the black and white tail on a herring gull.

B.
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Old Friday 22nd March 2019, 02:27   #23
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I do cr-birding and my most used scope last year is a Swaro X95 with the 1.7x extender that results on 51-122x...
Sr. Da veed, if you were in a stationary position, would you use a telescope instead of your Swaro?
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