Europe

Fascinating giants of our seas

Whales fascinate with their size and their elegant moves despite their sometimes clumsy appearing body. Different to birds you may recognize whales with the naked eye though you may need binoculars first for observing their details. Talking about optics it is an advantage to have a large field of view and stable image when panning with them in order not to get motion sickness. Nearly everywhere in the sea you will discover one of the world’s 90 whale species, many only from a boat on the sea. In Europe we show the spots where to watch whales from the beach.

On Germany’s exclusive Sylt island many tourists meet the world’s smallest whale and ask amazed why Flipper is in the North Sea. What many experience as a dolphin at first sight is a porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. The longest specimen measures two and a half meters from nose to fluke. Jumping behavior like that of dolphins is not common as the porpoise has a more calm temper. It is his survival strategy to be as physically small as it lives mainly in the shallow coastal regions of the North and Baltic Sea.

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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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Fascinating and irreplaceable: bird species such as the steppe eagle, the Rüppel’s vulture and the great knot are one of a kind – but they may soon disappear if we don’t take action now:

on the 2015 Red List for Birds, BirdLife International stated that population numbers are dwindling at a faster rate than they were just one year earlier. ZEISS has pledged to be a Red Listing Sponsor in the interests of conserving bird species diversity.

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