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After the Dialyt: 10 years with a Zeiss Victory 8x42 T* FL (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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This account follows on from https://www.birdforum.net/threads/fond-memories-17-years-with-a-zeiss-dialyt-10x40b-gat.403025/
I shall deal with the obvious question first. Did I miss the 10x magnification when I moved from the 10x Dialyt to first 8.5x and then 8x? The answer is honestly, no, never. For a start, using spotting scopes soon taught me that there will always be a bird too far away to identify, no matter how much magnification you have at your disposal. And, secondly, the gains in the form of a wider field of view, bigger depth of focus, and the reduction in bino-shake, especially in breezy conditions, were all more than enough compensation for the small drop in magnification. The real test of this came during our 6 visits to the Languedoc in the south of France when we were surrounded by seemingly unlimited numbers of unfamiliar species of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and flowers, which we wanted to identify. I never once found 8x magnification to be lacking. Today I do have 10x binoculars and there are a few places that we visit where I take them, but actually I have been to all these places with 8x and never once came away disappointed with the magnification. Meanwhile, back to my main narrative…………….

Disappointed by the deterioration of the focus mechanism of the Swarovski EL, and especially with the inability of the factory to restore the focus to its original quality, I was delighted when Zeiss launched the FL series. Compared with the Dialyt it was a big step forward with better contrast and colours as well as no chromatic aberration. Its close focus capability was also useful as we were dramatically broadening our interest in nature during these years and beginning to really appreciate what versatile instruments binoculars can be. It’s ‘plastic’ body gave me no cause for concern.

By this time we had accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about Otters in the Hebridean waters off the west coast of Scotland, and while we had only averaged 6 encounters per year during my Dialyt period, during my time with the FL we increased this to 14 per year. This was partly due to our improved spotting skills but mostly driven by our retirement and taking more holidays.

It was early in my time with the FL that we saw Otters in freshwater for the first time. I have vivid memories of one such sighting because it brought an Otter closer to us than any subsequent sighting. We were driving past a freshwater loch on South Uist and slowed to look for the terns that often nested on an island there. We could see the terns up in the air over the island, swooping and rising as they do when alarmed by something. We stopped our car, and went to sit on the bank of the loch to watch what was happening and soon an Otter came swimming past the terns’ island. It swam towards the bank that was next to road and then along it towards us. We hardly dared breathe as is swam by our feet, only glancing at us briefly and giving no sign of alarm. Maybe it was because we were not outlined against the sky or maybe it was because we were sitting squashed up on our heels and just not looking animate. Or maybe this particular Otter couldn’t care less. To be so close to a creature so often wary was an immense experience. I had used the FLs to view as it approached us but lowered them as it swam by and didn’t lift them again as I was too stunned to think about doing so.

An experience of a different kind, but just as exhilarating, was waiting for us on the Isle of Islay later that year. On a well-grassed sand dune promontory we went looking for the Brown Hares that we had seen there on many visits in the past, when floating to us on the wind came the sound of many bird voices. Normally we expect avian voices on the wind to be the wild geese that winter on Islay in the tens of thousands, but on this occasion it was a huge flock of Twite (a small finch) with large numbers of Snow Buntings in it. Large winter flocks of Twite are not unusual on Islay but for us it was an astonishing experience to be surrounded by them and since we were used to only seeing Snow Buntings in numbers you could count using the fingers of one hand, to have almost clouds of them flying around us was a wonderful experience.

Talking of ‘clouds’ of birds. On the following year, from the ferry sailing from Skye to North Uist we saw the most enormous flock of Manx Shearwaters. We had seen large flocks in the distance on many occasions but this time the ferry passed very close to the raft of Shearwaters and there were literally too many to count with birds taking off, gliding around and landing again continuously. It was an amazing spectacle through the FLs as the Shearwaters tilted from side to side as they passed over the wave tops, alternately flashing their white bellies and then their dark upper surfaces. It was mesmerising and any moment we expected the birds on the sea to erupt from the surface and the swarm to flee away from the ferry but they didn’t, and the ferry left them behind, still whirling and wheeling.

Not all our memorable spectacles involved flocks of birds though. On North Uist we became very familiar with a pair of Red-throated Divers (Loons) that announced their imminent arrival on our local sea loch by cackling in flight long before we could see them, but one day they performed a special display. As usual, as their voices faded, they glided down from their high flight and landed on the sea loch but almost immediately, they rose up until they appeared to be standing on the water surface and side-by-side surged forward with necks stretched forwards and upwards so that they looked almost like two Penguins running alongside each other. Indeed this is known as the Penguin display and through the FLs it was the most extraordinary sight. After a short distance they settled back down on the water, preened briefly and then began diving for food.

Later in the year, and this time on the western tip of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, we were returning from a day spent around MacNeil’s Bay when we heard an unfamiliar bird-call as we stumbled on tired legs down a narrow valley alongside a sparce Birch wood. We stopped with binos held a little higher, at the ready, and puzzled by a bird-call that was totally unlike anything we could remember. And then there flew into view a Waxwing, and then another, and another. There must have been 6 or 7 of them and for us this was an amazing treat. We have seen this species in winter a few times but always in our local city as they gorged themselves on berries produced by roadside and garden trees. To see them in more natural surroundings was a real treat and they are quite spectacular birds to look at.

However we didn’t have all this wildlife observation totally our own way. There was one occasion when we were sneaked-up on and watched. We were staying in a self-catering 1st floor (not ground floor) flat overlooking a broad sweep of west coast pasture and coastal heath, when one pitch-black evening, without the merest hint of the Moon, from our inside our flat we heard a strange scuffling noise at one of our windows. Intrigued we stood up and walked over to the row of windows and walked along checking them out. At the last window we got quite a surprise when there was a big pair of dark eyes peering back at us. A Barn Owl! We stood stock-still staring at this beautiful bird and for few moments it regarded us with curiosity, its head leaning slightly to one side, and then with one fluid motion it turned and flew off into the darkness.

The FLs twice travelled with us to the south of France, to the Languedoc and gave me beautifully transparent views of so many wonderful birds such as Bee-eaters and Short-toed Eagles, Hoopoes and Subalpine Warblers, but one memory lights up in my memory as I look back and that is standing overlooking the gorge at Minerve and watching 6 Alpine Swifts cruise by on the same level as us. What a sight these big Swifts are, all wing and not much tail, and looking like Stealth Bombers cruising along with just the occasional vibration of the wings to propel them.

I also recall one astonishing view that did not involve binoculars and that was the startling emergence of the rarely seen Mole Cricket out of the mud surrounding a pool and only inches/centimetres from our feet. It dived into the shallow pool and disappeared in a cloud of mud particles which, when they cleared, revealed it must have buried itself in the mud again. We had seen signs of burrowing around various muddy margins of pools and lakes and suspected the presence of this species but never in our dreams did we imagine one bursting out of the ground at our feet.

I will finish this reminiscence with a look back to an incident with Otters in Loch Sgioport on Benbecula in the Western Isles. We had just finished our picnic lunch on a small promontory sticking out into the big sea-loch when we heard some splashing sounds in the sea just over the other side of some tall rocks that prevented our viewing to the south. Standing up we could just see over these rocks and there, no more than a handful of metres away was a mother Otter diving and foraging, while two small cubs swam madly around on the surface, thrusting their heads down under the sea to watch their mother, and occasionally making frantic but fruitless efforts to dive after her. This pantomime continued for about half an hour during which we didn’t dare move or speak, we were just spellbound. Through the FLs the mother’s whiskers sparkled with droplets when she surfaced and she shared every 3rd or 4th fish with each cub in turn. The favoured cub grabbed the fish and splashed over to the rocks and climbed out to rapidly eat the fish before clumsily careering back into the sea. Were we elated at witnessing this? Oh yes. Big Time.

Lee
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
A very evocative post Lee, it almost feels as though one is in the field with you. I think the beauty of the FL is that it simply makes whatever you are viewing 7x, 8x or 10x closer with a minimal fuss. I'd really hoped to be putting my newly acquired pair through their paces this year, but birding has had to take a slight backseat due to work/home commitments. My partner and I should currently be in Thailand in a Covid - free world, but sadly we had to put that on ice. Still as that is the worst thing to happen to us this year, I think we can be very grateful. I'm really looking forward to an overseas trip to enjoy some new birds and to see how the Zeiss handle the jungle.
All the best for 2021 to all, here is hoping for a new normal to take affect very soon!
 

dries1

Member
Lee,

I enjoyed that, thanks. Otters are incredibly smart animals, I think of them as seadogs. My three Australian Shepherds keep me busy - day and night with their antics.

Andy W.
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

I thank you for an interesting post.

I read that you and Troubadoris have made good use of the Zeiss. I settled for the 8x32 FL, which has served me well in wilds of New York City's Central Park. Generally, I find nothing missing with an 8x glass but occasionally, I can benefit from the 10x, but I could never use the 10x all day. Binoculars-shake and the limited FOV rule out the 10x, as a universal glass.

I hope that you and all your readers may have a Happy New Year of good health and of peace,
Arthur
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them.

We, here in New England have the Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis) and I have only seen this animal once. I saw four of them (I think) all in a tight ball, swimming over, under and through each other. I assume this was a form of play, but it went on for some time, and made it very hard to determine how may otters were there. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

As to binoculars, I am well pleased with my 8X32 SF, and have no desire to "upgrade".

I sincerely hope that 2021 will be an improvement over 2020 for all here.
Richard
 

Troubador

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Staff member
Supporter
Hello Lee,

I thank you for an interesting post.

I read that you and Troubadoris have made good use of the Zeiss. I settled for the 8x32 FL, which has served me well in wilds of New York City's Central Park. Generally, I find nothing missing with an 8x glass but occasionally, I can benefit from the 10x, but I could never use the 10x all day. Binoculars-shake and the limited FOV rule out the 10x, as a universal glass.

I hope that you and all your readers may have a Happy New Year of good health and of peace,
Arthur
Thank you Arthur and the same to you for the coming year.
Lee
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them.

We, here in New England have the Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis) and I have only seen this animal once. I saw four of them (I think) all in a tight ball, swimming over, under and through each other. I assume this was a form of play, but it went on for some time, and made it very hard to determine how may otters were there. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

As to binoculars, I am well pleased with my 8X32 SF, and have no desire to "upgrade".

I sincerely hope that 2021 will be an improvement over 2020 for all here.
Richard
Thank you Richard. We have never quite seen 4 European Otters together but let me explain. We did once see and mother and 2 cubs together and a short distance away there was another near-adult size Otter that we suspected might have been the mother's from the previous year. We didn't see them all come together but it wouldn't have been too surprising if they had. When a mother Otter with two cubs is catching fish the cubs will often vie with each other to grab the fish from the mother's mouth. This has the cubs and mother twisting and rolling around each other in the water. It looks like play and maybe in high summer temperatures there will be some element of this but in winter, getting food is a serious business of survival.

Lee
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
A lovely "highlights reel", and beautifully written.

My only otters were a pair at Mai Po Marshes Nature reserve in Hong Kong back in 1994 - just realised that more than a quarter century ago!

I did also see my first ever sea otter in Hokkaido through my now retired (dropped too many times) Zeiss Diascope, which even got photographed at the time!

Cheers
Mike
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
A lovely "highlights reel", and beautifully written.

My only otters were a pair at Mai Po Marshes Nature reserve in Hong Kong back in 1994 - just realised that more than a quarter century ago!

I did also see my first ever sea otter in Hokkaido through my now retired (dropped too many times) Zeiss Diascope, which even got photographed at the time!

Cheers
Mike
Thank you Mike. Now I am envious because you have seen 2 Otter species while I have only seen one. LOL. The European Otter is a never-ending source of fascination for both Troubadoris and I. We get used to seeing them enact similar behaviour patterns and then the next one does something completely unexpected.
Good luck with your Otter-spotting way out East.

Lee
 

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