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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Have Zeiss, Will Travel. (1 Viewer)

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
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I have been so lucky during my career to always have been working with people in other countries. Later in my career, I made over 50 international business trips and some of them opened up opportunities for a little nature observing along the way, as did the few overseas holidays we took. So although my binoculars have mainly stayed within the UK, I have some fond memories of sightings made in foreign lands.

In 1984 we ventured to Mallorca on our first overseas holiday. Based on the north-east of the island, away from the busy west coast, I enjoyed using my Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 BGAT* to identify Sardinian Warbler, Marmora’s Warbler and Sub-alpine Warbler, but two larger species had a bigger impact. Taking a break from birding and botanising we drove to near the site of a Roman fort in the northern mountains, and hiked through the forests towards the mountain-top ruin. On the way we met crowds of tourists coming back from the ruins, and by the time we approached the track leading to the summit we were on the verge of turning back, as we did not want to visit a site so overwhelmed with crowds. However the throngs of tourists thinned and eventually died out and when we arrived at the fort itself we were amazed to find it empty of visitors. The views north over the Mediterranean were spectacular, but more so was the huge black bird that come spiralling up on a thermal from near the cliffs. It glided up and then left the thermal to circle steadily around the mountain-top fort at the same height as ourselves, as we followed it, awe-struck, through our binoculars. It was a Black Vulture, and seemingly as intrigued by us as we were by it. The description ‘barn-door wings’ didn’t do justice to its size, and just as we were calming down and starting to enjoy watching its serene passage through the air, it serenely veered off and flew unhurriedly towards a nearby mountaintop, probably hoping to find some poor tourist there in less good health than we were. What a magnificent bird!

A few days later we headed to the far south of the island, to Cap de Ses Salines, with one target in mind, Eleonora’s Falcon. Unfortunately this particular ambition remained unfulfilled, but we did get a consolation prize that more than made up for this. Firstly, soon after arrival we saw our first ever Stone Curlew, complete with those bulging eyes that make them look permanently surprised. What really surprised us was a large but sleek looking gull with a formidable-looking red bill having a black band across it near the tip. We could hardly believe our luck at having found an Audouin’s Gull, which are not at all common on Mallorca. Having become so familiar with the UK’s Herring Gulls, Common Gulls and Black-backed Gulls, it was shocking to see a gull that looked so different and yet was clothed in the same basic shades of whites and greys.

Six years later a business trip taking in Belgium, The Netherlands, and north-eastern France, allowed me to make a brief visit to the Dutch nature reserve of Grote Peel and again, the Dialyts were my companions. I visited the reserve in the middle of the week and saw no other people while I was there. I was greeted in a woody glade by a Red Fox who did a ‘double-take’ in surprise when it saw me, and after a few moments of assessing the level of threat I posed, it clearly decided I was mostly harmless, then turned and ambled slowly away. Nevertheless, during those few moments of it standing motionless, through the Dialyts it was a truly beautiful animal. I would have been content if this had been my only sighting but about 15 minutes later I saw a strange-looking Robin with a prominent supercilium and which, when viewed through the Dialyts, had a splash of blue on its throat: a Bluethroat! I was stunned, not having any notion that this species was present here. And although 10x40 isn’t the best binocular format for use in densely vegetated, dark habitats I thoroughly enjoyed the view of this species’s amazing plumage. It was a characterful bird too, cocking its tail upwards from time to time while gazing in an animated way around the habitat.

In 1992 I joined the Swedish company Forsheda AB, and travelled to Torino, Italy, for technical training. Naturally I took my Dialyts but there were few opportunities for nature observation apart from one visit to a large city square. It was a bright and hot day in July and the square was not too busy with traffic or, indeed people, but up in the sky, the situation was very different. In several places around the square there were towers, one of which was a clock-tower and others could have been religious buildings. Around these towers came several large flocks of Swifts, zooming at high velocity and when the flocks neared each other the birds screamed their joyful screams. They were so fast it was hard to get the Dialyts on them but this was not important. We are familiar with Swift screaming parties in the UK and indeed in my home town, but I have never seen so many Swifts together (they were probably amalgamations of many families) and so intent on careering round and round the square and its towers at speeds seemingly in excess of Formula 1 cars. It was a magical and joyful experience.

Eight years later, I was still being served by my old Dialyts and flew to Sweden and took advantage of some spare time to visit Store Mosse Nature Reserve and on arrival at the tower overlooking the heart of the reserve was rewarded by views of several weird large grey birds walking around each other, all having tails that looked as if they had flown backwards into a combine harvester. They were also making strange noises that I won’t attempt to write down phonetically but the main point here is that they were the first Cranes Grus grus I had ever seen and they were certainly striking with their dull grey body and wing plumage being compensated by a head topped with a red and black cap and a broad band of white running from the eye back down the rear of the neck, and a black throat. Running out of time I left Store Mosse and drove rapidly to near a township called Dala to look for dragonflies (trollslaender) on the local ‘mosse’. I hit the jackpot within a few minutes of arrival with several Yellow-spotted Emerald, Somatachlora flavomaculata, a beautiful large metallic emerald dragon with intense yellow markings, that I had never seen before. Truthfully, the 10x40 Dialyt was not the best binocular to view such fast-flying and close subjects, but when they perched the views were simply gorgeous. I found several cast skins (exuviae) left behind by dragonflies that had emerged from the water and expanded their wings and flown away, and I later confirmed these exuviae were flavomaculata. Rather amusingly I had an up close and personal encounter with a flavomaculata larva when I sought to refresh myself by discarding my footwear and dangling my feet in the water. A flavomaculata larva emerged from the aquatic vegetation and made its way to my toes which it inspected alarmingly closely before deciding they were inedible and sinking down out of sight.

In 2003 I swapped my Dialyts for a Swarovski EL 8.5x42 WB simply because the Swaro was optically superior (my Dialyts were not phase corrected), and I had these for a year and a half, but the focus action deteriorated and a trip to Aslam failed to solve the issue, so I swapped to a Zeiss FL and later to an HT. However, by this time I had come to appreciate the benefits of a fast focusing speed and in some habitats was making extensive use of a Conquest HD 8x32, and so I was using this model in the beautiful Languedoc of southern France in 2015, and on a trip to our favourite Pyrenean pass to search for alpine Vanilla Orchids and Gentians. Although our focus was on alpine flowers we nevertheless kept our eyes (and ears) open for birds and along came a stout looking passerine with a warm brown breast and belly, a lovely grey throat, and by golly, a head with so many alternating black and white stripes it looked like an old fashioned humbug. Anyone unfamiliar with this old-fashioned confection should visit (acknowledgement to Tay Villet / Pinterest) for a minty-hint of what a Rock Buntings head looks like. What a beauty, and up in the clear air of the Pyrenees, its colours seemed all the more vivid. Meanwhile back in the Languedoc we diverted to an area likely to have Lesser Kestrels, a species we had never had the good fortune to see before. Luck was with us that day and as we arrived at the outskirts of the village, there was a male Lesser Kestrel hunting next to the road and occasionally perching. How different this species is compared with Kestrel we have in the UK. The warm tone of its chest and belly recalled that of the Rock Bunting except the Kestrels was sprinkled with dark spots. Its head was a lovely powder blue and it had a huge black bar across its tail near the tip. Its flight on that day was gentle and delicate and very acrobatic in that it could stop and turn gracefully in the space of a €2 coin.

I have many more memories from travels within Europe but will finish here, for now. Thank you for keeping me company on my trawl through my travels with a Zeiss.

Lee
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

Thanks for sharing your experiences on your holidays with your binoculars.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
Lee;

Once again we are "divided by a common language".

When we here, in the Former North American Colonies, say "Black Vulture" we refer to Coragyps atratus, whereas evidently you folks are talking about Aegypius monachus, a much different (and much larger, I gather) bird.

As usual, I find your narratives absolutely delightful, and usually go off looking up most of what you talk about seeing.

Cheers!
Richard
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Lee;

Once again we are "divided by a common language".

When we here, in the Former North American Colonies, say "Black Vulture" we refer to Coragyps atratus, whereas evidently you folks are talking about Aegypius monachus, a much different (and much larger, I gather) bird.

As usual, I find your narratives absolutely delightful, and usually go off looking up most of what you talk about seeing.

Cheers!
Richard
Hi Richard, you are right to give me a gentle slap on the wrist because I am trying to remember to always add scientific names to the species I mention due to the issue you mention. And yes the beast in question was A. monachus! Thank you as well for your kind words.

Lee
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Any pictures you would like to share ?

In the 1970s I bought a Tamron SP500 f8.0 mirror lens and proceeded to obtain many mostly rubbish photos of birds and eventually gave up on this. Around this time we were both getting more and more interested in other aspects of nature such as flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and so on and we began using macro lenses and have been using them ever since. And anyway we went to Mallorca back in the days of film, way before photography went digital and we have thousands of slides not yet digitised. Thanks for asking and we do love using cameras as notebooks but even our beloved otters cannot persuade us to carry long lenses and tripods..

Lee
 

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Wonderful memories Lee and your delightful prose brings them to life so vividly! Many thanks for sharing them, I hope there will be further installments!

Chris
 

eronald

Well-known member
In the 1970s I bought a Tamron SP500 f8.0 mirror lens and proceeded to obtain many mostly rubbish photos of birds and eventually gave up on this. Around this time we were both getting more and more interested in other aspects of nature such as flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and so on and we began using macro lenses and have been using them ever since. And anyway we went to Mallorca back in the days of film, way before photography went digital and we have thousands of slides not yet digitised. Thanks for asking and we do love using cameras as notebooks but even our beloved otters cannot persuade us to carry long lenses and tripods..

Lee
Lee,

I have one of these mirror thingies, bought a few years ago as a lark for E100 on a sale. I mounted it on a Canon dSLR and got a bunch of incredible pictures. DSLRs really changed things because you can take so many pix easily, and crank up the ISO to a point which was really hard with film.

On the other hand a Sony R10 or equivalent gets the job done even more easily, and with AF.



Edmund
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Lee,

I have one of these mirror thingies, bought a few years ago as a lark for E100 on a sale. I mounted it on a Canon dSLR and got a bunch of incredible pictures. DSLRs really changed things because you can take so many pix easily, and crank up the ISO to a point which was really hard with film.

On the other hand a Sony R10 or equivalent gets the job done even more easily, and with AF.



Edmund
Your point about the ease of boosting the ISO/ASA with a DSLR is well made. Try taking macro shots of flowers and you will find camera shake is the least of your problems with the slightest breeze causing your subject to shiver and tremble. So a boost of ISO can be extremely useful to lift your shutter speed and sharpen the image. I certainly had fun with the Tamron SP500 but had more fun with the SP90 Macro..........

Lee
 

Bentley03

Active member
United Kingdom
Lee,

I'm very new to this forum, but having discovered your wonderfully descriptive way with words, as you share your many wildlife encounters, I'm finding myself quite addicted to reading your posts. You have a rare talent for this!

Thank you! 🙂
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Lee,

I'm very new to this forum, but having discovered your wonderfully descriptive way with words, as you share your many wildlife encounters, I'm finding myself quite addicted to reading your posts. You have a rare talent for this!

Thank you! 🙂
Crikey, Bentley, that is so kind of you but really the credit should go to the nature that is all around us and provides so much pleasure and fascination. Thank you for your kind words. Simmering in the pot are a review of Opticron's Verano 8x32 and an article tentatively entitled Surprises Through My Zeisses.

Lee
 

Bentley03

Active member
United Kingdom
I shall very much look forward to reading both of your upcoming articles!

Isn't it a fact, though, that in this fast moving world, the overall standard of 'journalism', or even the written word in general, is nowhere near what it was even 15-20 years ago. There are exceptions, of course, such as yourself, but a really well written 'piece' is increasingly difficult to find. I could harp on about this ad infinitum, but this is not the platform for such musings, and it would undoubtedly bore most members to death haha!

Anyway, the thought and care that goes into your work is very obvious, and it certainly delivers in a very delightful manner.

I was initially scratching around in your posts for snippets of information regarding the SF 10x32's, having picked up on the fact that you are a fellow glasses wearer, and that you and your friend Chuck have both used the 8x32 version of the same model extensively. I am currently testing 10x bins and having been blown away by the optics in the SF 10x42, but felt they were physically larger than I wanted ideally, thought the SF 10x32's might just be the bin I was looking for. I had previously purchased (without testing first) the EL 10x32 SV's and didn't get on with them at all, I found them to be incredibly difficult to position. I suspected it was the smaller exit pupil to what I'm used to, but when I struggled with a pair of 8.5x42 SV's too, decided that maybe it was a brand issue and that I just wasn't going to get on with any of Swarovski's products.

In the end, I did test the SF 10x32's yesterday, and found positioning to be as problematic with those as it was with the EL's. Not all glasses wearers are binocularly equal! 😉
 
Last edited:

Rg548

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I shall very much look forward to reading both of your upcoming articles!

Isn't it a fact, though, that in this fast moving world, the overall standard of 'journalism', or even the written word in general, is nowhere near what it was even 15-20 years ago. There are exceptions, of course, such as yourself, but a really well written 'piece' is increasingly difficult to find. I could harp on about this ad infinitum, but this is not the platform for such musings, and it would undoubtedly bore most members to death haha!

Anyway, the thought and care that goes into your work is very obvious, and it certainly delivers in a very delightful manner.

I was initially scratching around in your posts for snippets of information regarding the SF 10x32's, having picked up on the fact that you are a fellow glasses wearer, and that you and your friend Chuck have both used the 8x32 version of the same model extensively. I am currently testing 10x bins and having been blown away by the optics in the SF 10x42, but felt they were physically larger than I wanted ideally, thought the SF 10x32's might just be the bin I was looking for. I had previously purchased (without testing first) the EL 10x32 SV's and didn't get on with them at all, I found them to be incredibly difficult to position. I suspected it was the smaller exit pupil to what I'm used to, but when I struggled with a pair of 8.5x42 SV's too, decided that maybe it was a brand issue and that I just wasn't going to get on with any of Swarovski's products.

In the end, I did test the SF 10x32's yesterday, and found positioning to be as problematic with those as it was with the EL's. Not all glasses wearers are binocularly equal! 😉
Try some 8x56's ...... you can put your eyeballs just about anywhere you like and get a view:);):oops:
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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