A VARIABLE PLANET
With the Moon, a look through any telescope tends to instantly impress. Mars, on the other hand, is a planet with delicate, elusive features, and the experienced eye will see much more than the beginner's. Mars has a great many features, but you will not catch them all on your first night's viewing. Experience is crucial, and the key to getting the most out of your observations of Mars is to view the planet as many times as you can.
Backyard observers who are patient and continue to watch Mars over many hours will see darkish markings move across the disk, gradually slipping out of sight as the Martian day passes by. Over the months leading up to opposition, you can see Mars's features at ever-better resolution as its globe grows and your eye becomes more practiced.