Scott Staats on Being a Birder

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Editor's Note: Scott Staats from Prineville, Oregon, is a widely-published and award-winning outdoor writer and TV and radio host for outdoor programs with an overview of all that is outdoors. He's a birder, a butterfly observer, a hunter, a fisherman, a camper and a backpacker with a long list of outdoors credentials.

I got into birding because of hunting and fishing. While I was out hunting and fishing, I began to observe birds. Last year during elk season is a classic example. There was probably a foot of snow on the ground where I was hunting, the sun was out, and the wilderness was quiet. Birds were singing all around me. I had my Alpen Apex 493 8x42 binoculars with me. I wasn’t seeing any elk, so I looked at other wildlife, including numbers of birds.

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I started studying birds when I lived in Utah, and I worked for the Utah Fish and Game Agency, Division of Wildlife Resources. Part of my job was caring for injured birds and netting birds to be banded. I worked for Zion National Park in Utah studying peregrine falcons as well as bighorn sheep.

When I was studying peregrine falcons and their interactions with other birds, I used a spotting scope and binoculars. Ever since then I’ve really gotten into birding, and have joined birding clubs. I’ve even helped with birding surveys.

There are so many different kinds of birds, and most of them are found in unique habitat. For instance, here in Oregon, I can go to the coast and observe shore birds. I live in the high desert, and I can watch different kinds of birds in that habitat. Right now as I’ve been doing this phone interview, a red-tailed hawk dove landed in my backyard almost on top of a quail. The hawk missed the quail, but that was exciting for me to see. We have a wide variety of hawks that try to catch the quail in our backyard, including Sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks. I think Oregon is one of the best places in the world for birding.

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One of my favorite pair of binoculars is Alpen’s Apex 493. When I’m birdwatching, hunting or just wildlife watching, a quality pair of binoculars is a must. One of the best binoculars I’ve found for the price is Alpen's Apex 493. These waterproof 8X42 roof-prism binoculars are lightweight (24 ounces) and fully multi-coated for maximum brightness. The BAK4 glass provides clear, bright, high-resolution images comparable to many more-expensive brands. Rubber armoring adds to the comfort, protection and durability of the binoculars.

 The 8X32 binoculars are waterproof and fogproof and can focus up to 4 feet and even a little closer. Most binoculars have a close focus of about 20 to 25 feet. Weighing in at only 20 ounces, the Apex provides clearer, high-resolution viewing in bright and dim light, even in the wettest conditions. Rubber armoring adds to the comfort, protection and durability of the binoculars. Other features include twist-up eyecups that allow instant adjustment for both eyeglass and non-eyeglass wearers, a carrying case, a wide, comfortable neck strap and Alpen's lifetime warranty.

Other features of the Apex 493 include twist-up eyecups that allow instant adjustment for both eyeglass and non-eyeglass wearers, AquaShield water-repellent coating on the lens surfaces that gives clearer viewing in rainy or snowy conditions, a carrying case, a wide comfortable neck strap and Alpen’s lifetime warranty. Outdoor Life magazine and Bird Watcher’s Digest both have given the Apex 493 a top-quality rating for the price range. Everything a birder can ask for at this price range is here, says Bird Watcher’s Digest. The binoculars retail for around $350.

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I always use a spotting scope whether I’m hunting or birding. But, I don’t want to carry a heavy scope and add to an already-weighty pack. Alpen Outdoors new Model 715 spotting scope is waterproof, dust proof, shock-resistant and nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging. And best of all, it is lightweight, weighing in at only 18 ounces. The 15-30X50 scope has an easy-adjust zoom lens and a sunshade and comes with a padded-field carrying case and a 12-inch swivel-head tripod. It also has a lifetime warranty. This scope is perfect for birdwatching as well as hunting. A window mount is available to view wildlife from your vehicle. It’s very easy to spend close to $1,000 for good optics these days, but if you’re looking for affordable quality as well as something lightweight, Alpen’s weatherproof scopes and binoculars will fit all of your needs. The scope retails for about $150.

 To get in touch with Staats, email him at falcon@crestviewcable.com.