No matter which binoculars you use, there's probably going to come a time when you just need a bit more magnification to make out that bird in the distance or even to get a better view of ones closer up. If you're lucky there might be someone with a telescope set up who'll let you have a look - but you can't rely on that.
This happened to me at Flamborough earlier in year when I went "scopeless" to see a Black-headed Bunting + it was impossible to see it with binos from our respectable distance away. So - lucky that a fellow spotter let me have a look through his scope to confirm a lifer for myself!
Getting a scope does however tend to change you from a simple birder to a more serious one - not because you're going to necessarily spot loads more species but usually along the lines of having more kit with you to carry around and it'll cost more!
This extra kit normally consists of a tripod, probable back pack to carry it, perhaps a hide clamp and maybe even a digiscoping adaptor for your mobile phone or camera etc.
So, which scope should you get?
My "Telescope Specs Page" shows that you can pay from £130 to about £3,000 - so there's a big price range to choose from but basically, the same factors as mentioned for binoculars also apply for telescopes.
Telescopes - What do the figures mean?
The first figure(s) refers to the magnification ie 12x, 35x or 25-60x (a zoom eyepiece which will adjust from 25x to 60x).
The second figure - usually between 50 & 95 refers to the diameter, in millimetres, of the objective lens, the one you don't put your eye to!
Telescopes - What to consider when buying?
Price you want to spend - can range from about £130 to £3,000
Size & weight ie comfort of using. Some like the Swallow easily go in a rucksack + weigh less than a third of a top Swarovski!
Type of use - amount of magnification you'll need ie from 12x to 70x - do you prefer/need a wide or more zoomed coverage?
Telescopes - In general
Lower the magnification = larger depth of field/field of view (more in focus + to see) etc.
Higher the magnification = more detail ie useful in hides or for studying distant subjects. Need to be on a steady tripod to avoid potential shake etc. Can be subject to more heat haze.
Larger objective lens = higher size/weight/price,
Higher the price = better glass, better build, longer guarantee, better waterproofing etc.
Telescopes - Eyecups
Most telescopes are now designed to be used with or without spectacles and have good "eye relief".
Those who don't wear glasses should fold out the eye cup or screw it out to get the best view.
When digiscoping, I favour the eyepiece in this position.
Glasses wearers should have the eye cup folded down or screwed in.
Telescope - Accessories
Back Pack Example = Viking Tripod Carrier
Digiscoping Adaptor Example = Viking Universal Smart Phone Digiscoping Adaptor (new out & very practical)
Telescopes - How to buy
Personally, I wouldn't buy without trying a few scopes out in the price range I'm comfortable with.
Locally, places like RSPB Fairburn, RSPB Old Moor & RSPB St Aidan's hold "Optics Days" at their reserves with a good range of RSPB, Viking, Swarovski, Leica & Zeiss etc models to try out with experienced Optics Volunteers to assist you. The "Optics Days" are usually the first full weekend in the month - check sites for latest events.
In addition, shops like "Bass & Bligh" in Harrogate and "In Focus" in Denby Dale will also have a good stock of different models including a few 2nd hand ones which could also be of interest. You'll also find plenty of adverts in Birding Mags.
Telescopes - What do I use?
Kowa TSN-883 - really pleased with it for those "serious trips"! Sometimes wish I had a smaller one just to have handy though!
Telescopes - What do others use?
Certainly tend to see a lot of Swarovski models about on my travels!