Birding as a challenge

Some feel a little bit unmasked, others just get amused about well-known habits and a few think the portrayal is too exaggerated: In the film „The Big Year“ David Frankel shows partly realistic and partly overdrawn how three US Americans run a Big Year. The Big Year of birding originated in the Anglo-Saxon countries and nowadays has different new variations across the world. For exactly one year, more specifically from 0 o’clock at the 1st of January local time until 31st of December 24 o’clock, you have to see or hear as many different species of birds as possible. It could become high performance sport, but in the original positive sense it is a sabbatical in nature or enough leisure time for a favorite activity. We show some variants and facts about a Big Year.

2016 was a record year worldwide as well as in North America. The Dutch Arjan Dwarshuis set the world record with 6,833 bird species in one year. The most well-known competition for a Big Year certainly is the one in the ABA-area of North America that is defined by the American Birding Association. Thanks to “El Niño“ 2016 was a perfect year to see rare species in Northern America you usually do not see. Besides the meteorological phenomena John Weigel’s success is also due to some few new splits in species taxonomy, which enabled him additional listings. John Weigel surpassed all his predecessors with 783 species as well as his competitor for the year, Olaf Danielson.

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The name given for our new spotting scope

In Greek mythology they pictured a harpy as a mixture between a raptor and a woman. The creature was the personification of the evil, especially of greed. As a kind of an embodied storm wind she was very fast and thereby invulnerable. On behalf of Zeus she killed human beings or just nabbed their soul. Even in Astrid Lindgren’s famous children’s book “Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter” the author took up the harpies that regularly attack Ronia and her friend Birk.

What is so special about this bird that is named after such creepy mythical creatures? First of all it is one of the largest birds of prey, and in fact it is even the strongest raptor. Its wingspan measures up to two meters and the female birds, which are heavier than the male, may weigh nine kilos. There are few photos of them, but in most of the existing ones you see prey under their impressive, strong talons. The back part of a harpy eagle’s talon grows up to seven centimeters.

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Plus ideas for games kids can play on nature trips

Sometimes our kids are not so interested in walks that they forget to look at what’s around them. Just because their parents love birdwatching and soaking up nature doesn’t mean they feel the same way, and sometimes they come right out and say that birding is boring!

Their mood only improves when the first hare scampers across the path or they get a glimpse of a roe deer. Yet when they were small, birds were still an important part of their lives. They could tell the difference between a Eurasian blue tit, a blackbird, and a robin almost before they learned to talk.

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Introducing the New ZEISS Victory Harpia Spotting Scope

From 11 through 13 September, ZEISS Sports Optics invited visitors to come to the city of Hamburg and check out the new ZEISS Victory Harpia spotting scope that will be available starting in January 2018. Invited guests not only got to attend the product demo, but also heard from the Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten (DDA), an umbrella organization for bird lovers, and took a boat ride to the Carl Zeiss Bird Station in the Wedel Marsh run by the NABU Hamburg, an environmental protection group.

There, participants had the opportunity to try out the new spotting scope, with its revolutionary optical system featuring a three-stage wide-angle zoom, in real-world conditions.

A chalkboard at the entrance to the Carl Zeiss Bird Station headed by Marco Sommerfeld informs visitors which birds they might see in the Wedel Marsh currently.

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Beauty of Nature in southern France

There are locations in Europe where a nature observer can be almost overwhelmed by the diversity of the natural world. Where one fascinating creature after another appears and you can’t resist lifting your binoculars to identify it, to admire it, and to understand its behaviour. The Languedoc of southern France is one such place.

The variety of habitats there is huge, from the Haut Languedoc with its acidic soils and typical flora, to the vastly different, garrigue-covered limestone causses further south, where the smaller rivers can dry up or at least flow underground in the summer, and where larger mature rivers like the Herault, Orb and Aude flow to the sea.

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A hotspot for birders in Central America

Nestled delightfully as a natural land-bridge between the Americas, Panama provides the perfect introduction to Neotropical birding. This small country is fast becoming a must-visit destination for birders and nature travellers the world over, and for very good reason.
The natural life in Panama is simply astounding. In a country about the size of the state of South Carolina, more than 10.000 species of native flora have been identified!

Add to this the fact that almost one-third of the entire country is protected within 15 nature reserves and it is no wonder that Panama is praised for its natural beauty – it is untouched and abounding! The country also boasts some of the most accessible rainforests and high-altitude cloud forests on Earth. Thing only thing that could possibly outshine Panama’s scenery, however, is its array of birdlife. Birding in Panama is an absolute delight. From Toucans to Tanagers, Hawks to Hummingbirds and everything else in between, the variety of avifauna is sure to keep all enthralled!

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Watersheds Conservation at Triangle Ranch

Nestled in the southwest corner of Florida and perched at the north end of Myakka River State Park, the 1,143 acre Triangle Ranch teems with birdlife. Christmas Bird Counts conducted since the 1940’s have recorded more than 280 species on the property and surrounding areas, including Florida Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks, and Crested Caracaras. Now, thanks to the vision of the local philanthropist-turned rancher who purchased the property, leadership from the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, which secured the funding to purchase a conservation easement on the land, and a grant from the Healthy Watersheds Consortium, this property is now protected forever from development.

Its natural features and ranch lands will provide habitat for birds and help keep water supplies clean for people and nature. Triangle Ranch, which is part of the Myakka Island Conservation Corridor Project, is one of dozens of watershed protection programs underway across the United States that are supported by the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program. This partnership includes the federal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the not-for-profit U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. In the first two years of the partnership, more than $4.1 million in grants has been awarded to 25 projects in 30 states. The partnership is planned to continue for at least four more years.

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230 species spotted by the ZEISS team

How many species can be recorded during a 24h race inside the WP? At the end of 90’s and beginning of this century, scores were increasing, especially in countries like Finland, France and Estonia. In the latter country the European record was set up by a Finnish team, composed by Mika Bruun, Sampsa Cairenius, Jukka Hatva and Jan Nordblad on 25th May 1998 with a total a 190 species. After these scores, the Tramuntana Birding Team won the Spanish bird race organized by SEO/BirdLife, several time arriving for first time at 200 species in 2004, then 202 species in 2005, 204 species in 2006 and 217 species in the race of 2007. This was the absolute best European record for the last ten years.

They offer detailed information of their races at their blog (www.tbt.cat), where many pictures and the chronicle of each marathon for every year is available from that Catalan team, composed by Jordi Sargatal, Oriol Clarabuch, Deli Saavedra, Aleix Comas, Ponç Feliu and Joan Carles Gimisó. This high diversity of species recorded during spring migration is possible in Europe because in NE Spain a wide array of habitats and altitudes are present, from the sea and coastal wetlands to high mountains with alpine pastures, and steppes and different types of forests, allowing to find more than 200 species during a whole day.

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Stefan Glowacz and Markus Dorfleitner take on the “black wall”

On the Höllental path to Zugspitze mountain is a northward-facing cliff that is 400 meters higher than the Höllentalanger Hut. This “black wall” is not in the same league as the famous north faces of the Alps, but it is a real feat for climbers in the lower 11th degree and thus offers what is probably the most demanding in the Wetterstein mountain range, where they already have climbing experience. But what Stefan Glowacz, one of German’s foremost climbers, and his friend Markus Dorfleitner from the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen have been planning for years but haven’t quite managed, goes far beyond that. Their dream route for this face is vertical, the line of the “falling water droplet!”

Alpinists call it a direttissima, the straightest route, which is unadorned and highly treacherous. This is known as redpoint climbing, a style in which people climb freely and the cable and bolt are only there to keep you safe. The two climbers have used binoculars and photos to study the structures of the cliff face in different lights and map their route. Unfortunately, the original date for the first ascent had to be called off on account of the weather – but on 4 July 2017 it was time to get climbing. A beautiful sunrise, blue skies, and a dry cliff with plenty of grip were a great way to start the day.

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Review of Terra ED and Conquest HD

As any scribbled doodle or Google Image search of a “bird-watcher” will prove, binoculars are synonymous with birding. This is the one piece of equipment that no birder can do without. Perhaps you’ve owned a treasured pair for many years, but you feel it may be time for an upgrade judging by the spiderweb of scratches across the lenses. Perhaps you’re new to the birding game, and looking for advice on which pair to buy. Or perhaps you’re wondering why the experts are able to discern so much more detail through their bins than you can through yours.

Buying the right pair of binoculars is a challenge. There are seemingly countless brands and models to choose from, and quite frankly, the differences between the top makes are virtually negligible. In his extensive 2013 review (African Birdlife 1(3):48-52), Peter Ryan and his review team came to a similar conclusion: a convergent evolution of optics, if you will. Traditionally, the big three have always been ZEISS, Leica and Swarovski. Lately, brands such as Minox, Kowa, Vortex, Lynx and several others also offer excellent optics at competitive prices.

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