Barn swallows – these astonishing birds can be found on every continent on earth except Antarctica. Like all swallows, barn swallows are particularly well suited to a life spent on the wing. They rest, eat and drink in flight and only set foot on solid ground at night. Their sleek, streamlined bodies offer very little wind resistance and their relatively long, narrow pinion feathers give them optimum lift through the air. Given how little time these birds spend on the ground, it is no wonder that their legs have become quite useless.

These limbs are tiny, and can only be detected in flight through the use of top quality optics as they are well hidden in the plumage. However, the long tail of this type of swallow is perfectly designed to enable it to carry out fast, agile manoeuvres and to capture its prey of choice – insects! The short, stubby beak gives little indication of its true skill: it is the perfect insect catcher, being exceptionally broad and able to open very wide indeed.

They profit from this proximity, just as people, in turn, reap advantages from these birds. Farmers, in particular, are always pleased to see these birds as they decimate the populations of bothersome insects that plague both animals and humans alike. Their proximity to people makes barn swallows a particularly beautiful creature to watch.

The sleek, streamlined bodies of barn swallows offer very little wind resistance and their relatively long, narrow pinion feathers give them optimum lift through the air.

They profit from this proximity, just as people, in turn, reap advantages from these birds. Farmers, in particular, are always pleased to see these birds as they decimate the populations of bothersome insects that plague both animals and humans alike. Their proximity to people makes barn swallows a particularly beautiful creature to watch.

During the breeding season it is possible to use Carl Zeiss binoculars, even at low magnifications, to watch the parent birds feeding their young in the nest. Barn swallows build their cup-shaped nests out of clumps of mud on ledges found in rocks or walls. Their prior-ity is always to ensure that the young birds have a roof over their heads, so the nest has to be covered by a projection of rock or a manmade roof.

This is why barn swallows nests are often found in open stables and stalls. In the early autumn it is possible to observe a remarkable performance in the countries north of the equator. Thousands of barn swallows gather together in the evenings, particularly around large reed beds. This theatrical display is best watched from a safe distance through a ZEISS Victory DiaScope.

This way you will not disturb the birds in their search for the right reed stem on which to spend the night, while still watching the lively activity. You may even be lucky enough to see hundreds of swallows suddenly rising up with a great commotion into the red sunset when a sparrow hawk is spotted doing some late hunting in among the reeds.

Every autumn and every spring barn swallows cover distances of over 1,200 kilometres in four to twelve weeks, crossing vast inhospitable regions such as the Sahara Desert in just a few days. They end up in their winter quarters in South America, South Africa and Australia.

Barn swallows can be found all over the world - except for Antarctica.

As late as the 18th century, for example, important scientists such as Carl von Linne still believed that swallows spent the winter in the mud of ponds and lakes. The truth is that swallows achieve a true tour de force in their migration from the northern winters to the warm summers of the southern hemisphere. Every autumn and every spring barn swallows cover distances of over 1,200 kilometres in four to twelve weeks, crossing vast inhospitable regions such as the Sahara Desert in just a few days. They end up in their winter quarters in South America, South Africa and Australia.

Swallows have to face many dangers on their journey south, and many of their most important overwintering areas are being destroyed by the careless exploitation of nature. Carl Zeiss wants to ensure that in the future it will still be possible to use the brilliant, high-resolution optics made by Carl Zeiss to delve deep into the natural world and watch the fascinating activity of barn swallows and the like.

This is why we are getting involved in the protection of one of the largest overwintering areas for barn swallows in South Africa, the Mount Moreland region. In 2006, Mount Moreland was singled out as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by Birdlife South Africa. Up to three million barn swallows from all across Europe come here to spend the winter. Every evening nature lovers and birdwatchers can watch one of the greatest wonders of nature, as giant swarms of swallows come down to the reed beds to rest for the night. In order to make sure that this landscape of reeds and lakes remains in good condition, it is necessary to look after it and carry out both research work and protective measures.

Carl Zeiss is supporting this work at Mount Moreland, so that the barn swallows can make the long journey back from Africa to Europe this year and every year, and provide you with unforgettable moments of birdwatching.

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