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After the HT: 5 years with Zeiss Victory SFs (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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I got my first SF in 2015 and have been using them intensively on expeditions to the west of Scotland and, following the sale of my FL 8x32 and HT 8x42 to our good friend Seldom Perched, an SF 8x32 has since joined the SF42s. After the HTs the open-hinge SFs felt familiar with a similarly positioned focus wheel and of course the fields of view were terrific. Looking at our records of this period I am going to struggle to condense everything into the allowed space but it will be fun trying.

In the many wild and windswept places we visit in, small passerines are sometimes few and far between, unless you encounter areas with bushes, trees and fresh water, so it was a surprise on a visit to our Ardnamurchan haunts to encounter Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Redpoll, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Song Thrush and several pleasantly approachable Sand Martins (see pic 1).This pleasure was enhanced when a pair of Greenshanks took up residence on a freshwater channel only a few metres from our cottage. Compared with their cousins, the Redshanks, these are not so common and are such graceful shorebirds that encountering them is always a special occasion.

Later in the year at this same place we were treated to a Barn Owl visiting our locale on 4 days in the late afternoon, hunting over the gardens and grazings around the cottages. In the half-light it hovered and glided around the grazings behind our cottage and, glimpsed between the wind-pruned Birch Trees, we could easily see why in days of old it could have made the superstitious think it was a ghostly spirit. We were too late in the season to encounter Terns here, but on the Western Isles in the height of summer we saw many Common and Arctic Terns and several Little Terns, which are our favourites. These diminutive Terns have a character all of their own and are captivating to observe as they hover and dive for small fish in the shallows or in deeper waters, from the surface layers.

We visited the Languedoc again, and visited Port Vendres and were astonished by the numbers of the Sea Urchin Paracentrotus lividus that we have only found in tiny numbers, hiding under overhangs, on the Scottish west coast. At Port Vendres the open seabed was covered with hundreds of them. But the best treat of all was that we spotted nearby a family of Blue Rock Thrushes. We had occasionally seen individuals of this species inland, near Minerve, but had never seen a family or had such a great view as these. Talking of improbable good luck, there was a Bush Cricket (like a huge Grasshopper but with long whip-like antennae) called Epiphigger epiphigger for which we had searched unsuccessfully on several previous visits. This time we despairingly visited a known site for it but with no great anticipation of success, so imagine our astonishment (surprise wasn’t adequate) when one walked across a wide open track in front of us, posed for photos, and stepped happily onto our fingers (see pic 2) and allowed a close examination. Normally we have to search dense vegetation to find Bush Crickets so this individual’s outrageous behaviour was totally unexpected.

Just up the coast from Port Vendres in the middle of the day, a large fast-flying dark ‘bird’ with a pointed tail cruising the cliff tops turned out to be a Free-tailed Bat which was quite startling. We presumed it had been disturbed by the people we could see exploring the under-cliff and making quite a lot of noise while doing it. Its wingspan must have been approaching half a metre so you wouldn’t want that to get tangled in your hair (LOL)!

Meanwhile, back in the west of Scotland on Islay, we enjoyed visits almost every morning and evening by Brown Hares (see pic 3), usually one on its own, but sometimes two, and on one occasion, three. They are such beautiful animals and seem both inquisitive and wary.

We also had great good fortune with our beloved Otters and were blessed with two holidays with record-breaking numbers of encounters: 37 and 49! But the numbers don’t tell the real stories, one of which was a sighting of what appears to have been previously unrecorded behaviour and another just an amazing piece of charming good luck.

First, the unusual behaviour. On the rocky east coast of Benbecula in the Western Isles, we observed an Otter swim to shore nearby and could see it was a male when it hauled out onto the rocks. It quickly ran to the jumble of seaweed lying on top of the rocks, sniffed at it in several places, and then to our surprise, it dug vigorously at the seaweed with its front paws, scattering the seaweed in all directions. It repeated this action at several sites and then entered the sea and swam at a curiously leisurely pace towards the rocky point at the far side. This odd behaviour had us absolutely fascinated but all was revealed as it cruised along the shore of the rocky point and suddenly darted out of the water and was confronted by what we are sure was a female. The male circled around the other individual maintaining a gap of perhaps 2-3 metres while the putative female stood its ground and turned to continue facing the male, which, having completed the circuit around the female, slid back into the sea. We guess that the female was nearly ready to mate and that this was indicated by the scent of her spraints or urine on each of the sites the male visited. We believe his scrabbling at the seaweed was aimed at scattering it so as to disperse the clues in the scent, so that other males would not be tempted to try to find the female and mate with her. A check through Hans Kruuk’s works on Otters didn’t find any mention of this behaviour.

Back on Islay, in late October in freezing temperatures, we confidently made our way to one of our favourite Otter sites and sat down behind a huge rock out of the wind with a view over a small bay with many scattered rocks, each with a skirt of dense seaweed surrounding it. Two hours or so later, we still hadn’t seen any Otters and were definitely starting to feel the cold despite the shelter. We decided to have our picnic lunch and then go back to our car to defrost. During our vigil the tide had turned and was rising, lifting up the seaweed fringe around the rocks, and to our surprise two small Otter cubs became visible on the seaweed rising up on the opposite side of a rock no more than 15 metres away. They were sleepy, and we guessed their mother had fed them before going fishing and they had fallen asleep with full tummies. Waking up they played tag, pounced on each other (see awful pic No 4, cropped from too small an image in which one cub has just pounced on the other and is looming over it) and romped around the diminishing summit of the rock until they were swimming in the rising tide and swam to the main shore. We watched them, entranced by their antics as they moved erratically along the shore, exploring under boulders and chasing each other around them. Eventually we decided we should leave so that the mother could find them and feed them on her return, so we crept away.

Otters need to regularly wash their fur with freshwater to prevent the salt content matting it together and spoiling its insulating properties which are vital if the Otter is to spend any time in the cold seas. The places where Otters do this can be recognised by the paths worn by the regular passing of Otters’ feet and especially by the flattened and bright green patches of vegetation next to freshwater pools and runnels. These green patches are caused by the seaweed exudation that Otters accumulate on their fur as they hunt, and which is rich in natural phosphate fertilisers. But despite finding and photographing many of these places (see pic 5) we had never seen an Otter actually using one of them until very recently. Settling down to overlook a remote coast on the west of Islay to have a warming cup of tea and some sandwiches, we were delighted to see an Otter on the opposite side of the small bay, where we knew a line of washing-sites connected by a runnel was situated. The Otter was on its back, wriggling vigorously with all four paws in the air, then turning on to its side to rub the sides of its head. From the look of its fur through the SF 8x32s it had finished washing and was drying itself. This process took more than a few minutes and kept us humorously entertained, until, with that mysterious ability that Otters have, we were momentarily distracted by a Great Northern Diver and when we looked back, the Otter had disappeared. Gone but not forgotten!

Single Otters, potential Otter partners and the antics of their cubs are fascinating of course but what happens when Otter families meet? The best sighting we ever had of an ad hoc Otter social gathering was off the coast of Berneray in the Western Isles. We were admiring the beautiful turquoise colour of the sea when we saw two groups of Otters swimming through the straits and they were converging. We could see they were one mother with two cubs and another mother with one, and as if it was planned they eventually came together. The mothers stayed aloof and drifted slowly away following their original headings, but for a time the cubs went crazy with excitement, splashing and diving and chasing and only eventually realising their mothers were moving away and then calmed down and followed. It was over too quickly but it was wonderful to have witnessed. We wondered if this was the first time the cubs had met Otters other than their mothers.

I will leave you with the best pic (No 6) I have ever obtained of an Otter with my quite unsuitable photo kit. This Otter is in the act of sprainting just before slipping into the sea and swimming away.

Thanks to all of you for keeping me company throughout this series of reminiscences and I wish you all fair weather and good health.

Lee

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chill6x6

Well-known member
Loved this write up Lee! You really can paint a nice picture with words! Enjoyed the pictures too!

I have been an avid outdoorsman for literally as long as I could walk. My parents saw to that. I have only seen otters(N American river otter) one time and that was two years ago!
 

Troubador

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Loved this write up Lee! You really can paint a nice picture with words! Enjoyed the pictures too!

I have been an avid outdoorsman for literally as long as I could walk. My parents saw to that. I have only seen otters(N American river otter) one time and that was two years ago!
Thanks Chuck. By a fluke my parents had a chance through befriending an architect who was building a bungalow out in the country to buy it at a good price and suddenly I was living in the country instead of in a run-down urban environment in a big city. It was life-changing and when I met Troubadoris who was already interested in all nature, we just sparked off each other and our interests rapidly expanded.

It has been fun writing up these reminiscences and they could easily have been twice as long!

Lee
 

Swissboy

Sempach, Switzerland
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Switzerland
............................. and when I met Troubadoris who was already interested in all nature, we just sparked off each other and our interests rapidly expanded.

..............................

Lee
There must be something about the name of Doris, then. :) ;) I met my own Doris just a bit over 60 years ago, and except that we were too young then to already start a common household, things must have gone along similar lines. Still very happy to explore nature together.

As for your reports on the various binoculars, seems that you pretty much went through all the main Zeiss alphas then. The only ones you did apparently skip were the early Victory (I) models that Zeiss did not produce for very long. We are less prone to change our preferred models, so my wife still feels happy with her Victory (I) 10x40. Before that, she had a Fujica Meibo porro 8x40 that had its close-focus ability extended by a US company called Mirakel Optical. We had bought that one while we stayed in the US for my Ph.D. studies and did have very little money. But when I got my Leica Trinovid (I) 10x40 binoculars after our return to Switzerland, I was always wondering why her relatively cheap porro was rather better than my expensive Leicas. Of course, as we later learned, that was before the times of phase coating. When I later needed a waterproof model (or what was said to be so), I got some Leica 8x32 Trinovids (II), of the "tank" model series. At some point, after having been frustrated with the insufficient performance while birding in dense tropical forest, I switched to my Zeiss 8x42 FL binoculars that I am still very happy with as of today. At some later point, I felt like a new 8x32 model would be needed. The main reason being that the old Leica 8x32 Trinovids had always been a borderline case for me regarding eye-relief. And that problem became more pronounced when I needed special prism eyeglasses that extended the distance just enough to no longer allow for a full view with those Leicas. So I finally got some Zeiss FL 8x32, just about a year before the 8x32 SF came out. Unfortunately, for me, that purchase was after Zeiss had changed the coating to what to me is a rather "aggressive" orange-red tone. Due to the distance my glasses have from the ocular lenses, there are situations where that color bugs me as I had explained in earlier threads here on BF. And, seeing that Zeiss was going to stick to that red coating, I realised my best bet was not to wait till I might get a SF or so. Instead, I have since been able to acquire both a 10x42 FL and finally a 7x42 FL as well (both as used but in virtually new condition). So it's the FL line that has kept me sticking to the Zeiss brand. And I could not be happier, actually, as they all provide that ease of view that I cherish very much.
 

Troubador

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There must be something about the name of Doris, then. :) ;) I met my own Doris just a bit over 60 years ago, and except that we were too young then to already start a common household, things must have gone along similar lines. Still very happy to explore nature together.

As for your reports on the various binoculars, seems that you pretty much went through all the main Zeiss alphas then. The only ones you did apparently skip were the early Victory (I) models that Zeiss did not produce for very long. We are less prone to change our preferred models, so my wife still feels happy with her Victory (I) 10x40. Before that, she had a Fujica Meibo porro 8x40 that had its close-focus ability extended by a US company called Mirakel Optical. We had bought that one while we stayed in the US for my Ph.D. studies and did have very little money. But when I got my Leica Trinovid (I) 10x40 binoculars after our return to Switzerland, I was always wondering why her relatively cheap porro was rather better than my expensive Leicas. Of course, as we later learned, that was before the times of phase coating. When I later needed a waterproof model (or what was said to be so), I got some Leica 8x32 Trinovids (II), of the "tank" model series. At some point, after having been frustrated with the insufficient performance while birding in dense tropical forest, I switched to my Zeiss 8x42 FL binoculars that I am still very happy with as of today. At some later point, I felt like a new 8x32 model would be needed. The main reason being that the old Leica 8x32 Trinovids had always been a borderline case for me regarding eye-relief. And that problem became more pronounced when I needed special prism eyeglasses that extended the distance just enough to no longer allow for a full view with those Leicas. So I finally got some Zeiss FL 8x32, just about a year before the 8x32 SF came out. Unfortunately, for me, that purchase was after Zeiss had changed the coating to what to me is a rather "aggressive" orange-red tone. Due to the distance my glasses have from the ocular lenses, there are situations where that color bugs me as I had explained in earlier threads here on BF. And, seeing that Zeiss was going to stick to that red coating, I realised my best bet was not to wait till I might get a SF or so. Instead, I have since been able to acquire both a 10x42 FL and finally a 7x42 FL as well (both as used but in virtually new condition). So it's the FL line that has kept me sticking to the Zeiss brand. And I could not be happier, actually, as they all provide that ease of view that I cherish very much.
About Doris. This is really a mild joke shared with my wife. Doris was a common enough name in the UK a few decades ago (not so much today) but when we both became more interested in intertidal marine life we were amused to find nudibranchs (sea slugs) with scientific names such as Archidoris and, even more amusingly, Discodoris. Now Troubador had been an occasional nickname used by wife for me in the days when I regularly played guitar and I chose this for my Birdforum user name because of this and because Troubadoris seemed a neat and amusing extension of it for when I needed to mention my wife. So there you have my full confession about Troubador and Troubadoris. Unlike me as I moved through several Zeiss models Troubadoris used nothing but her Leitz 8x40B for 36 years until she got an Ultravid HD 8x32 and more recently a Trinovid HD 8x32 (chosen for its close-focus).
I never did get the chance to try the MkI Victory or its modified successor the MkII version. Your collection of FLs is terrific and I am sure you will continue to enjoy them.

Lee
 

Robert Wallace

Well-known member
Lee,
Names come in and out of fashion. My late mother born 1919 was called Doris but I can honestly say I have never to my knowledge known a younger Doris.
However a good friend of mine became the father of a delightful daughter two and a half years ago and was named Mabel. Likewise I have never known a Mabel, although I was aware that local celebrity Wilfred Pickles's wife was called Mabel. I am sure you remember Wilfred Pickles with "Mabel at the table" on the radio (sorry wireless). I understand old fashioned names are becoming trendy.
Incidentally we had a nice holiday in the Western Isles early summer 2018 visited Harris, N. Uist, Barra and Oban where we took a trip to Lunga. Saw very few Manx Shearwaters and I think one or two gannets over the two weeks. On the boat trip back to Mull we were joined by a party of bird surveyors and I spoke to their leader about the lack of gannet sightings and he informed he had seen only 25 over the past week.
 

Troubador

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Robert, don't forget Doris Day, famous film actress and although I can't remember an actress called Mabel, 'Mabel' had a moment in the spotlight in the lyrics to George Harrison's song 'Badge':
I told you not to wander 'round in the dark
I told you 'bout the swans that they live in the park
Then I told you 'bout our kid, now he's married to Mabel

Glad you got to visit the Western Isles, we love Uist and hope to visit again.
Lee
 

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