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Get Outside and Take a Closer Look With Binoculars

High in the sky or deep in the trees you see a flutter of activity. Who’s flying? A shape flits from branch to branch or scampers up the tree. What could it be? A new sound rings out. What made it? To answer your questions, you need to get a closer look! But how?

A boy looking through binoculars while standing outside.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Humans don’t have wings for taking flight in the sky. Climbing a tree makes noise that could scare critters away. And maybe you haven’t learned the languages of the animals yet. What to do? Try binoculars!

Binoculars can be worn around your neck or kept in a backpack ready to pull out anytime you encounter a new sound or faraway shape while exploring. They help you see clearly from a far distance so you can make an identification.


Words to know

Flit: To move swiftly and lightly. Flutter: To fly unsteadily or hover by flapping wings quickly and lightly. Scamper: To run with quick, light steps.


Binoculars may look different from each other in size, color or even shape, but they should all have the same basic parts:

  • Eye pieces: The parts you look through.

  • Barrels: The parts you hold with your hands.

  • Focusing knob or thumbwheel: The adjuster on the top for the left eye.

  • Diopter: The adjuster on the right eyepiece for the right eye.

A pair of binoculars with the eye pieces, focusing knob, diopter and barrels labeled.
(Photo by Heather Van Zyl)

It’s a good idea to get your binoculars in focus before even starting your hike. Here’s how:

  1. Find a non-moving object for practice, like a tree or even a sign. While looking at the object, bring your binoculars up to your eyes and look through the eye pieces.

  2. If you see any dark or shadowy spots, you need to adjust the barrels. Slowly move them in and out until the dark spots disappear and you can see the whole object.

  3. Is the object clear? If not, close your right eye so you are only looking with your left. Slowly turn the focusing knob on the top until the picture is clear.

  4. Next close your left eye so you are only looking with your right. Slowly turn the diopter until the object looks clear through that eye.

  5. Now look through with both eyes. Do you have a crystal-clear view? If the answer is yes, you’re ready to explore! If the answer is no, follow the steps again to readjust.

  6. Be patient with yourself! Even if you have your binoculars in focus, it can take a lot of patience and practice to find what you seek.

Now that you know how to focus your binoculars, get out there and explore! Listen for bird or frog or mystery calls. Follow the sound with your ears and then use the binoculars to get a closer look. Are there eggs in that faraway nest? What is climbing the tree? Bring identification books along to learn the names of the species you find.

Binoculars aren’t just for daytime exploration. View the night sky through them too! Can you find a planet? Watch a comet streak by? See the surface of the moon? You can make so many more discoveries when you take a closer look!


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