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Telescope opens up new worlds

Tom Wiesen
Tanya Wiesen/Special to the Daily Wildlife watching guide Mark Opincariu zooms in the telescope for a close up look at a bald eagle as Jessie Benson looks on.
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In the happy Vail Valley, we are rich in many ways. We experience an unparalleled quality of life, choice terrain on which to play, and a wonderful climate that compliments our playful lifestyles.This is a place where it is not uncommon to see a mountain bike on top of a car that costs more than the car. It is not uncommon to see friends in a high-tech shell jacket that costs over $400. While ski equipment is super-pricey, many people don’t flinch at having the latest and the greatest. Still others spare no expense on their cars and trucks. But what I find amazing is how come more people don’t own really nice telescopes?Both binoculars and telescopes offer us a chance to enhance our vision of the world around us. They are especially great tools for viewing birds and wildlife, and it is nearly universal that we all love animals. Eagle County is a great place to be if you love animals because on any given winter day, if you know where to look you can see elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bald eagles, golden eagles, ducks and native songbirds. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a view of a beaver, muskrat or coyote on the ice of the Eagle or Colorado Rivers.

Better from a distanceUnlike photography, which may capture a permanent but compromised image, viewing through a telescope is live, up-close, crisp and highly personalized. When you peer through the scope, you are the only one who is going to see that view at that moment. While binoculars may take you eight to 10 times closer to the animal or bird, a telescope takes you 60 times closer. This magnification gives you the ability to see like a predatory bird, such as a falcon, a hawk, or an eagle. Even though we all live in the same world, I’m sure the world must have a lot more detail through an eagle’s eye.Using a scope also allows you to keep your distance from wildlife. The best way to observe wildlife is when they aren’t paying attention to your presence and going about their normal routine. It is important not to disturb wildlife, especially in winter, when conservation of energy can mean the difference between life and death.The best way to find wildlife is to start by using your naked eye. It is surprising how when you put your mind to it, your brain picks up on patterns in the landscape that reveal wildlife and birds. For instance, to find elk or bighorns you look for the color of their tan rumps. Or you can search for a pattern such as the upside-down horseshoe shape of an animal grazing. Similarly, you can scan across the top of sagebrush to spot mule deer and coyotes. When I look for bald eagles, I look for splotches of white in the limbs of large cottonwoods or in the tops of standing dead trees near a river.

Opening new worldsThe easiest way to spot wildlife is when animals are moving – a flying bird, for instance, or a fleeing deer. However, animals often see you long before you see them, and they hold still to camouflage themselves.If you can use vegetation to conceal your presence, your wildlife watching experience will usually be more rewarding because the animal will most likely not pay attention to you. Concealing yourself inside a car is ideal for viewing because animals view cars as things, while they view us two-leggers as predators. You can even get a window mount for your telescope.Once you pick up on wildlife with your naked eye, take a quick look through your binoculars. You may notice more than you originally saw, or it may be the only glimpse you get if the animal or bird decides to hide or fly away. When using the scope, start on the lowest power of magnification. This gives you the widest field of vision to find the animal with relative ease.



Once it’s in your sight and you adjust the focus, zoom in closer to get more detail. Keep in mind that in low light or in snowy conditions, zooming in too much will distort the image.A telescope on a full-sized tripod opens up new worlds for us to view. There is real satisfaction in seeing the rippling muscles in a bighorn ram, the peaceful expression of a yearling bull elk, or the serious glint in the eye of a golden eagle. These views are inspiring on many levels, and makes wildlife watching a special experience for singles, couples, and families alike. Binoculars and telescopes give you one more way to get out there and see your world.Tom Wiesen and his wife Tanya are the owners and lead guides of Trailwise Guides; a year-round Vail Valley guide service specializing in providing quality experiences in the backcountry. Private snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and wildlife watching outings are now offered daily. Contact Trailwise Guides at 827-5363.Vail, Colorado


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