Tools of the Trade

  • Binoculars - standard equipment for wildlife watchers and are indispensable for seeing and identifying animals in the field. The most popular models magnify the subject 7 or 8 times and are lightweight, weather resistant, and moderately priced. There are many variations on the traditional design, including compact models that fit easily into a fanny pack or belt pouch and large binoculars with greater light-gathering capability for viewing in low light conditions. Check with an optics dealer for advice on a pair that will meet your needs.
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  • Spotting Scope and Tripod - will extend your viewing range considerably. Scopes typically magnify an image from 20 to 60 times and can have fixed or zoom magnification lenses. Once wildlife has been located with binoculars it's often possible to find the subject with a scope for a better view. Practice with fairly stationary objects, such as a perched hawk or wading heron, before trying to follow and focus on a running deer or flying duck.
  • Field Guides- There are a wide variety available to help you identify the wildlife and wild plants you encounter. Many have drawings and photographs which point out an animal's distinctive features, colors, or patterns, called field marks, which greatly aid in identification. You'll find birds, butterflies, wildflowers, and even whales in field guides.
  • Wildlife Photography and Videography - are growing in popularity almost as fast as wildlife watching. Preserving wildlife memories through photography or video is a satisfying hobby and adds to the enjoyment of the viewing experience. Equipment is a matter of personal preference, not to mention personal finance. The best times for photography are often early and late in the day, when the rich, golden light produces dramatic shadows and increased color contrast. Show animals exhibiting natural behavior in their natural surroundings by keeping distance between the subject and the camera. If you approach too closely, the bird or animal may flee, spoiling the viewing and photo opportunity for yourself and others.

Wildlife Viewing Guide

Though the Wildlife Viewing Guide is no longer in print, see the link to 67 state wildlife viewing sites and other Wildlife Viewing information. Some viewing sites are located at state wildlife lands, state parks or forests, or other federal lands or land holding conservation organizations.