A spotting scope is an expensive piece of equipment many birders may save for years to afford, and proper care can help keep the scope in top condition with high-quality operation for years.
How Scope Damage Occurs
Spotting scopes are designed for outdoor use and have some features for durability built in, but even the best scope can be damaged if it is not used safely or cared for properly. Excessive moisture, dust or dirt can get into a scope and cloud its image or scratch sensitive lenses, and an accidental drop can disturb the instrument's delicate alignment. An improper connection to a tripod can damage a mount and make the scope less stable, which can make it harder to keep an image centered and focused. Fortunately, however, all of these problems can be minimized with proper spotting scope care.
Accessories for Proper Scope Care
Having the right accessories is the first step toward keeping an expensive spotting scope safe and secure. Tools that can help you make the most of your scope include:
- Tripod: Choose a tripod with the proper size mount for your scope, and select a model that has easily adjustable, secure legs. This will give the scope more stability so it is less likely to tip or fall unexpectedly.
- Case: A soft case can be left around the scope's body even while it is in use, minimizing any dust or dirt that may get into the body. A good quality case can also provide padding against bumps or drops that could affect the scope's operation.
- Straps: Choose handles or straps to carry your scope that have non-skid surfaces so it can be held securely over a shoulder. Adjust the strap lengths so there is no chance of accidentally dragging the scope on the ground, and make sure they fasten securely to the scope's case or body.
- Cleaning Equipment: Have lens brushes and lint-free cloths on hand to clean your scope properly. Using the right cleaning solutions and cloths will minimize damage to the lenses and give you the best view possible when using your scope.
Using a Spotting Scope Safely
The majority of damage to spotting scopes is a result of careless use. By understanding how best to treat your scope, you can keep its quality superb for many years.
- Read your scope's instruction or operation manual and follow all manufacturer recommendations for proper care and use. Keep the manual in a safe place, because it should also include information for repairs or replacement if necessary.
- Only use your scope in appropriate habitats where it will be useful. Using a scope in an unsafe area or a habitat crowded with too many branches or debris only invites extra scratches or damage when it may not be helpful for seeing birds anyway.
- Never use your spotting scope to observe the sun – or birds flying near the sun – without appropriate filters. Doing otherwise can damage the lenses and may cause burns or injuries to your eyes.
- Keep the spotting scope on a level, secure surface, and always ensure the tripod's legs are fastened strongly and will not slip. This not only protects the scope, but also gives it better balance for stable views.
- Be aware of your surroundings and do not leave your scope unattended. Another birder or nearby pet could inadvertently bump the scope and cause it to tip, but if you stay alert you can protect your equipment.
- Clean your spotting scope properly but avoid over-cleaning that could cause accidental damage to lens surfaces or coatings. After using the scope, inspect the body for dirt or debris and clean it before putting it away.
- When moving your scope, watch your steps carefully to be sure your footing is secure, and take care not to bump either the tripod or the scope into anything.
Storing Your Scope
No matter how frequently you use your spotting scope, there will be times it needs to be stored. When you put your scope away…
- Use all eyepiece and lens covers so no additional dust, dirt or debris will settle on the delicate surfaces while the scope is in storage.
- Ideally, store your scope in an appropriate case in a cool, dry area to prevent any moisture condensation or mildew decay.
- Be sure the scope is stored in a location where it will not slip or fall from a shelf or other surface, and if it is in a vehicle, secure it firmly to keep it from bumping around.
Caring for your spotting scope properly will ensure it has a long lifetime of effective use, without noticeable decays in operation or visual clarity. Simple precautions to keep this equipment safe can be sure it gives you a fantastic view of faraway birds for years to come.
Photo – Spotting Scope © Mike Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com