If you've graduated beyond enjoying birds in your backyard, the next logical step is to view birds in their natural habitat. This means taking a trip to a bird sanctuary, etc.
If you are going to take the time to do this, you should make sure you are equipped with everything you need to make the experience enjoyable.
You may want to invest in a good pair of binoculars. Binoculars come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and yes, price range. But before you rush out and to buy a pair of bird watching binoculars there are some important things to consider.
1. Price range. How much are you willing to spend? Prices for binoculars vary greatly, anywhere from $100 - $1,000. The good news is that once you get above $400 the difference between that and the $1,000 models are not that much.
2. What the heck do those numbers mean anyway (i.e. 8 x 32)? The first is the power. The second number is the diameter of the lens in centimeters. Obviously there will be more light allowed in to a lens with a larger diameter, which means a clearer image (up to a certain point).
3. Power binoculars. This is how much the magnification is. Binoculars can go up to 10 Power. However, most bird watchers are comfortable with a 6-8 power binocular. Also, if you are looking at two binoculars of the same model but different magnification, the lower powered one will have the wider field of view.
4. Bigger doesn't always mean better. The real power is in the design of the lens. And speaking of size, it doesn't affect brightness either. Many people buy a 42mm or wider pair of binoculars thinking it will be brighter, however, this is myth as it is only a matter of how much light gets into your eye. So, I recommend sticking with a 32mm binocular.
5. Waterproof binoculars are a must. Even if you never go out in the rain. This is important because you will at some point be taking them from your cool, dry home outside and even a small amount of humidity may cause them to condense. Waterproof binoculars have a gas inside that prevents condensation. When purchasing binoculars look for the phrase 'nitrogen filled' or 'nitrogen purged'
6. Twilight Factor. This is supposed to be an indicator of how well the binoculars will show detail in dim light (when eyes are not fully adapted to dark). It is a mathematical formula that uses both the lens size and the magnifying power. So for example if the size and power are 8 x 32, the formula would be as follows:
8 x 32 = 256
Square Root of 256 = 16
Twilight Factor = 16
7. Still another factor to consider when choosing binoculars is the weight. Try to remember that while they may not seems that heavy when you are trying them on in the store, they will be hanging around your neck for quite a while, while you are waiting to spot that perfect bird. After a while, they will feel quite heavy.
8. Eye Relief matters to those who wear eyeglasses. It is the distance behind the binocular lenses at which the image is in focus.
Obviously, for those who wear eyeglasses they cannot get as close to the lens as those who do not wear glasses. So, they need binoculars with longer eye relief - standard is about 15mm.