Digiscoping on Germany’s waterways.

Lampertheim, Germany
Alongside the historical course of the river Rhine, lot's of birds have established their breeding grounds.

The ground is steaming all around me. Last night’s cooling thunderstorms have done nothing to quell yesterday’s high temperatures. At around 5 a.m. the stunning beauty of the natural world unfolds in the offshoots of the Rhine river. I’m making my way through the waterways, forests and meadows to discover orchids, observe nature as it is roused from its slumber, and above all to capture magic images of birds using my new spotting scope, the ZEISS Conquest Gavia.

For the past half hour I’ve been able to hear the Golden Oriole’s song, but I don’t hold out much hope of actually catching a glimpse – after all, the oriole is a wily character. What I do spot, however, is a kingfisher from two different angles. He’s too quick for my spotting scope, so I reach for my binoculars. I never cease to be amazed by the colorful plumage of this bird.

Capture the tranquil scenes on the water with a single click

As I cross the marsh via a narrow path between green, rain-soaked branches, both I and my Victory SF come into contact with last night’s raindrops. How foolish of me – I was so impressed with the kingfisher that I neglected to replace the protective cap! Fortunately, the coating ensures that the water simply runs off it. My spotting scope, with the new lightweight tripod that I’ve slung over my shoulder, is better protected. At the next break is an offshoot of the Rhine; it resembles a lake more than a river. I select a rock to set up my spotting scope and observe the goings-on on the water’s surface. I begin by enjoying the view over the usual troops of duck species that live here: there are coots, mallards, porchards and tufted ducks, and today even a few ruddy shelducks have put in an appearance. Their colors are simply exquisite in the morning light. I would be only too happy to capture images of them and the tranquil scenes created by the ruddy shelducks on the water. I waste no time in clicking my smartphone via the adapter on the lens and am delighted that the colors show up so well on the photo.

While scoping the tall grass on the bank, I happen upon a common moorhen and, just a few meters away, a water rail – I manage to take a quick snaps before it disappears into the reeds and grasses once more. This is one plumage I will definitely be looking at later on, making sure to enlarge the details. The rail is now once again out of sight, meaning I’m no longer able to admire any other details.

Further down the riverbank, I do in fact discover a little egret while panning. I take a photo, not just for my own collection but as proof of the sighting. I immediately upload it to the Ornitho platform.

Clicking the smartphone on the adapter is possible within just a few seconds.

As I make my way back through the forest, I hear a Golden Oriole very close by. I stand still, stay completely silent and look for the tree whence the sound is coming.

And what do you know – I see it with my binoculars! Its yellow hue shimmers between the wet green leaves. I don’t seriously believe that I can set up the spotting scope and take a photo in time, but I try anyway, as quietly as I can. As luck would have it, the adapter makes the task very simple indeed. I zoom in, get a clear shot – and hey presto, the photo is mine!

Once the Golden Oriole does disappear, I commence my homeward journey, a smile on my face. I feel just like Federico the mouse from the Italian children’s story: While all the other mice gathered food for the winter, Federico sat gazing at colors and nature. When winter comes around, he brightens up the long and weary days for the other mice with the rays of sunshine and colors he has collected. So while the magic is captured in a single moment, I am able to keep the memory alive for evermore. What’s even better is that I have an image of it so I can look at all the details another time and keep the memory alive. When I enlarge the photo later on, I discover subtleties in the plumage that I hadn’t even noticed before.

Michaela Sulz

Michaela Sulz is a passionate birder and blogger for ZEISS Nature Blog.