Champions of the Flyway - Winner 2017

Imagine being in one of the world’s best spots for visible migration, in right time, surrounded by talented and inspiring birdwatchers and doing this for good cause – doesn’t that sound good? Well, this is what Champions of the Flyway is about. It is a fund raiser against illegal killing of the migratory birds around the Mediterranean Sea and a famous bird race, which takes place in southern Israel each March. The Zeiss Arctic Redpolls is one of the teams that Zeiss Sport Optics has supported during many years.

We are a group of 4 birdwatchers from Finland. We had scored the 2nd place on 2015 and 1st place on 2016, so the burden of winning had worn off. We aimed to have a nice intensive day of birdwatching and lots of good time. We were also putting the new Gavia Conquest spotting scope on a hard test.

Will it be an asset in the game or should it be dumped? Well, we got what we aimed for and more – here is how it all rolled out.

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Su Gough and Greg Conway reviewing the ZEISS binoculars

The ZEISS Victory SF binoculars are most definitely are not budget binoculars, however, if you are planning on buying high-end optics you would rightly expect and receive superb image, excellent build quality and excellent after-sales service. So, why the ZEISS Victory SF?
ZEISS and other market leaders have long been the ‘Rolls Royce’ brands of birding optics. Fashions vary and other models are the current birders’ favourites but ZEISS have created a new product which has allowed them to explode back onto the market.
Looking through this ZEISS pair, or equivalent models, most of us would struggle to notice differences between the images, so why choose ZEISS?

They are longer but lighter. I find many binoculars too heavy to carry round my neck for extended periods but these are fine. The narrower, longer barrels are a lot more comfortable for me to hold than the other makes, which I find bulky. Their balance is amazing, with a new arrangement of the internal ‘gubbins’ up at the eyepiece end, making them seem almost weightless in use. In addition I did actually notice a difference in image as well; I love the natural colour – bright but realistic and with an unexpected three-dimensionality – and the field of view width is unsurpassed. The close focus at just 1.5 m is incredible, fantastic for watching insects.

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On the track of the Red Kite

At first sight the name „Red Kite“ for Milvus milvus seems strange to non-English speakers. What has a bird to do with a flying kite in autumn? Actually a lot if you watch the Red Kite using the thermal, how it glides through the air. Even if one cannot recognize the rusty brown feathers against the light, you always identify the bird species by its fork tail while coasting in the sky. A little bigger than a common buzzard the Red Kite looks for prey on its glider flight. If the kite finds a field mouse, a mole or thrushes and blackbirds it kills its prey with strong strokes of its beak in the next tree it comes across.

In general the Red Kite is quite flexible in regards to options on nutrition: In spring lots of beetles and earthworms are on its menu, close to water it likes to hunt fish. Even carrion is an acceptable meal. In some areas the Red Kite became scarcer where dumps were closed. In winter when hunting prey gets more difficult the Red Kite robs Black Kites or crows. If it cannot wrangle their prey directly, it harasses them long enough until they regurgitate the food and provides it to the Red Kite.

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Birding with ZEISS Victory SF binoculars

In 2014 Zeiss brought out our new benchmark binoculars for Nature lovers, the Victory SF, and we searched high and low for somewhere special to make our promotional brochures. We thought of places from around the globe but finally settled on Portugal as offering the species, the location and the weather that was necessary – and we’re glad we did as that’s how we came across Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, better known as “Paradise in Portugal” - and not without reason.
The Quinta is a small lakeside eco-lodge in the south of the country and is the home of Frank and Daniela who run it with a care and attention to detail that is a rarer and rarer commodity nowadays.

Not that you’d ever know it, but it’s completely off-the-grid, with no connection to any state-run utilities whatsoever; all the electricity is generated on-site, 90 % of it solar, and of course the same goes for the piping hot water. Its carbon footprint is minimal, but that’s not the only reason it works for the betterment of the environment, for, added to that, it works hard towards nature conservation. In an area of low incomes and high unemployment, it works equally hard for the local economy, providing permanent employment for its staff, some of whom have been working at the Quinta for over 25 years. It’s about an hour’s drive away from Faro’s international airport, so it was easy and inexpensive enough to get to.

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Follow Ananda Banerjee exploring the islet and its giant variety of birds

The Pirotan Island is a scrubby barren islet with mangroves and no human habitation. One can only travel to the island by boat after obtaining permissions from the forest department.
When we anchored in the sea, at some distance away from Pirotann, I picked up my Victory SF binoculars for a closer look at teeming avian life on the sandy shoreline of the islet.
And what I saw was a scene right out of traffic crazy rush hour at any cosmopolitan city! Only the
city’s busybody’s replaced by a melee of white, black and brown birds, thousands in numbers congregated on the sandy beach.

While some of the birds stood still like statues others were engrossed in foraging. A pair of Ruddy Turnstone, stocky small wading birds in patchy black and white, scurried looking for prey under tiny stones. It was interesting to watch these small birds – with such clear clarity of the lens - flipping each stone that came their way with their long, slender beaks. The Pirotan’s beach was swarming with the Crab Plovers. These medium sized birds with white and black plumage love to eat crabs and are found, in large numbers, in only two places – the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Mannar. I could spot their long, dainty legs as the birds craned their necks while the flock paraded the shore.

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Birding and Wildlife in South Africa

South Africa is, quite simply, one of the most pleasurable birding destinations on the planet, offering unrivalled wildlife viewing, world-class infrastructure and unbeatable value for money. Birders across the world visit South Africa for a myriad of different reasons. It boasts the most regionally endemic and near-endemic bird species of any African country, as well as a rich seabird assemblage and vast numbers of more widespread, yet no less spectacular African birds and wildlife.

Add to this the rich botanical heritage, fine food and wines, friendly people, fascinating history, the scenic splendour of Africa’s most varied nation and the fact that it is home to two very impressive endemic families – namely the striking Rockjumpers and Sugarbirds, and it is not hard to see why South Africa is so popular!

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Interview with William Velmala

William Velmala is a well-known birder and ornithologist in Finland. He has been active in public science, having written some hundreds of magazine articles, book reviews and book chapters on birds. He has also had many confidential posts in ornithological societies, and is currently a member of both the Nomenclatural Committee and Rarities Committee of BirdLife Finland. Last autumn William was awarded the Silver Medal of BirdLife Finland.

William has quite an array of professional posts related to birds and ornithology. He has worked in the Finnish Ringing Scheme at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, as a PhD student at the Ecology Department at University of Turku, given bird classes at folk high schools and worked as a bird expert in a pest control company. Currently he is working as an Environmental Expert in a consultancy company Pöyry Finland Inc. and conducts field surveys on birds and bats, as well as environmental impact assessments and so on. We met William and asked about his passion for birds.

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In 1978 the Wedel Marsh was diked – despite mass protests led by conservationists. The NABU branch in Hamburg did, however, ensure that the extraction site of marine clay needed to build the dams was turned into a substitute habitat for wading and aquatic birds. Working according to guidance and active support of many bird enthusiasts, a 10-hectare body of water was created on an area measuring roughly 17.5 ha. Ever since, the area has been rented by NABU Hamburg and is maintained and further developed by dedicated volunteers on an ongoing basis.

The Carl Zeiss Bird Station was opened in 1984. For more than 30 years, this area, which lies some 15 km to the west of Hamburg, has been used to observe the birds on the Wedel Marsh. This is the perfect place for ducks, geese, wading birds and gulls to find food and to breed.
One full-time and several volunteer supervisors tell visitors all about the local nature, offer them binoculars for hire and inspire people on tours that take in the local bird species.

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ZEISS supports nature conservation and education in Israel

Established in 1953, The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) is Israel's leading environmental non-profit organization. For over 60 years SPNI has been dedicated to protecting and preserving Israel's natural resources, environment, natural assets and unique landscape.

In October, ZEISS and SPNI signed a partnership. Three of Israel’s most important Birdwatching Centres will now represent ZEISS products helping to support the local employees and volunteers in their research projects, but also visitors to experience nature from a different perspective.

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