Hotspots

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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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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How to recognise Otters and what to do and to avoid

What follows is based on over 350 encounters with Otters, most of which took place on the islands off the west coast of Scotland. The comments on behaviour therefore refer to this area. This first article considers how you can distinguish an Otter in the sea from a Seal and what you should do or avoid when watching Otters.

It is strange that Otters are one of Britain’s most popular wild animals, when in most of its range it is mostly active during darkness or twilight but undoubtedly this animal is hugely popular. However, you need to be very lucky to see one in most of the UK, but north-west of the border with Scotland, the situation is different.

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The race

Champions of the Flyway is an international bird race for conservation. All teams are competing to raise the greatest amount of conservation funding. Its primary purpose is to celebrate the extraordinary miracle of bird migration. The teams arrive in Eilat a few days prior to the race day.

There is one full day of touring the best sites in the Negev and the Arava Valley enabling all participants to get a good feel of the “playing field” and practical and logistical issues, led by Israel’s top birders. The following days, the teams explore the field on their own to plan their route for the race day.

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More than 100 million of birds on their journey to the south

Every fall, more than 100 million birds head to southern Europe and Africa. They journey not to evade the harsh winter but primarily in pursuit of accessible food. While sources of food abound in the spring, making the northern climes ideal for raising their young,

sub-zero temperatures, snow and shorter days in winter render their search for nourishment much more difficult. Migratory birds are therefore almost genetically predisposed to fly off to warmer climes.

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Eilat, in southern Israel, is one of the most exciting birding sites of the western Palearctic region. The only overland bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa acts as a bottle-neck hosting hundreds of millions of migratory birds. Moreover, the birds passing through Eilat, are preparing themselves for the strenuous task of crossing the foodless and hostile Saharan desert.

The first sight you will probably get here in spring is the steady stream of Raptors hovering over the beautiful desert mountains that surround the town of Eilat. Raptor counts conducted here in the spring documented up to 20,000 Steppe Eagles, 50,000 Levant's Sparrowhawks (almost all the world's population), 500,000 Steppe Buzzards and 850,000 Honey Buzzards.

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A Champions’ account

The Zeiss Arctic Redpolls was one of the three teams sponsored by Zeiss Sports Optics in the famous Champions of the Flyway bird race and conservation event, on 29th March in southern Israel. Our team of four enthusiast birders and ornithologists (team captain Roni Väisänen, Jarkko Santaharju, William Velmala and Vilppu Välimäki) from Finland,

at the northern end of the Eurasian–African flyway, hooked up for the second time in this year’s race. With silver medals in our pocket from last year, some pressure for winning was put on our shoulders by other contestants.

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