We’re very lucky at Fairburn Ings to have volunteers who specialise in optics – binoculars and telescopes – and who can provide advice and assistance to anyone interested in trying out and purchasing them from our shop. Dave is one of these volunteers, and has written us a guest blog all about RSPB optics – read on to learn more!


"I'm a retired Yorkshireman with a lifetime love of nature & photography, whose expertise in camera equipment naturally extended to optics! Retirement has given me the opportunity to enjoy the countryside more, resulting in an increased interest in bird watching, and the challenges of spotting and photographing them. I set up my own Birding Website with photos, advice and info, ID tips and more. Please do say hello if you spot me (and my dog Chloe!) out and about around Yorkshire!


Dave and Chloe with Gillian Burke - photo credit: Dave Ward

I also volunteer as an Optics Advisor for the RSPB. There are lots of great reasons to consider buying your optics with the RSPB - you can see a large selection and test them thoroughly, purchase at a competitive price, support the RSPB, and have peace of mind - all RSPB optics have at least a one year guarantee, and faulty items can be returned to any RSPB shop to be sent away for repair, usually at no cost to the individual. And throughout the process, you’ll have the support and advice of an Optics Advisor.

A good pair of binoculars or a telescope can be an expensive purchase, but will ideally last you a lifetime and give many hours of enjoyment when watching birds and observing nature. So, spending some time with an RSPB Optics Advisor is certainly a good idea – you can get up-to-date info on the latest equipment, as well as advice on the right set up and use.


A selection of binoculars on sale at Fairburn Ings

There are a lot of things to consider when buying binoculars – for example size and weight, and especially how comfortable and easy this makes them to use and carry around. You should also think about what you’ll use them for, which will decide the amount of magnification you'll need. Magnification is usually 8x, 8.5x or 10x – as a general rule, lower magnifications will give you a closer focus (ideal for insects, for example!) while higher magnification pairs are more useful in hides or for distant subjects – but need a steady hand! I don't think there's a "one bino fits all needs", so I might use a pair of Leica 8x20 for dog walks and Swarovski 8x32 for more serious birding! I can recommend each one for their performance in those circumstances.

As with any purchase, price is also a key consideration! The RSPB range covers all needs and budgets, from small childrens’ pairs at £25 to high definition models at £759; and the Fairburn Ings shop stocks  an excellent range of the latest RSPB, Viking, Nikon, Swarovski, Leica and Zeiss models. Higher priced pairs tend to have better glass and waterproofing, and are usually gas filled to avoid steaming up – plus they come with a longer guarantee. RSPB prices are very competitive and their loyalty card scheme can often come in useful here - for every £100 you spend with them you get £2 worth of loyalty points to spend in their shops. Therefore, if buying a £2500 scope you'll get £50 in loyalty points - enough to buy a tripod carrier to help you carry it around!


Trying out a new scope under supervision!

No matter which binoculars you use, there's probably going to come a time when you just need a bit more magnification to make out that bird in the distance, or even to get a better view of ones closer up. Getting a scope does, however, tend to change you from a simple birder to a more serious one - not because you're going to necessarily spot loads more species, but usually along the lines of having more (and more expensive) kit to carry around! This extra normally consists of a tripod, probable backpack to carry it, perhaps a hide clamp and maybe even a digiscoping adaptor for your mobile phone or camera.

Like binoculars, telescopes can range considerably in price; and also vary in terms of size, weight and magnification. Again, I wouldn’t personally buy without trying out a few different ones in the price range I’m comfortable with; and an Optics Advisor will be able to advise you fully on all the options available!"

For more information about optics, and to check which days an Advisor is available, please call the reserve office on 01977 628194. We look forward to assisting you soon!