The light is fading as Toby Carter gazes out purposefully over Frampton Marsh. It’s nearing the end of a crisp winter day spent under the big skies of this RSPB nature reserve in south-west Lincolnshire and he has picked up some satisfying ticks for his list.
But after more than seven hours scouring the air and freshwater scrapes, Toby is still energised and keen to pack in one or two more species from the plentiful birdlife on offer so close to The Wash, an internationally important haven which is home to 400,000-plus waders and wildfowl at its busiest.
Unfatigued thanks to his lightweight equipment, ZEISS ambassador Toby raises his Victory SF 32 binoculars enthusiastically as he spots a flock of lapwings closing in from the north-east, knowing the leading edge optics will deliver vivid natural colours, even in the dimming twilight. As he observes their landing in the freshwater lagoon, the waders’ pitstop on their journey from Northern Europe reminds Toby of one Frampton Marsh’s outstanding characteristics.
“What’s unique at Frampton for me is how close the birds are to you,” he says. “You go to most reserves and you sit in a hide; the birds are a couple of hundred metres away and you need a scope to see them. But you can walk around Frampton with a pair of binoculars and you can see everything so clearly; everything shows so well.
“Then there’s the 360-degree hide, where you can see all around, looking over two different scrapes, when thousands of waders are coming and landing. You get fantastic views of these birds.
“You can immerse yourself here because of how close everything is. You really feel part of the nature around you. You can appreciate the colours and beauty.”
As Toby recalls the origins of his love of birding, he thinks back to a childhood spent very much outdoors and days out with his mum and dad. But it was a visit with his grandparents to the Titchwell Marsh RSPB nature reserve on the Norfolk coast that really sparked his interest, cemented further by a summer internship at Frampton Marsh as part of his BSc Environmental Conservation degree.
Back to the present, he is now an avid birder and recent graduate who is hugely passionate about conservation and encouraging people to explore their local patch. As Toby says, each experience is uniquely different, and with reserves ranging from windswept coastal headlands to long abandoned landfill sites, it’s easy to see what he means. There are nearly 400 National Nature Reserves and around 1,500 Local Nature Reserves across the UK, so everyone is within easy reach of a day out spotting wildlife or simply enjoying the great outdoors.
“I love it here,” says Toby, his thoughts returning to Frampton Marsh. “It’s such a new reserve but it’s just the fact that the birds show so well and there’s such a variety here. Even in winter there’s thousands of geese and waders. Come in the spring and summer and you have thousands more.
“Being winter now, there are lots of Brent geese, pink-footed geese, wigeon, teal, shoveler and then thousands of golden plover and lapwing; peregrines hunting over the marsh, short-eared owls and a hen harrier later if we’re lucky.
One thing I love about birding is you’re never sure what you’re going to see. You may see nothing for several days but then you will spot something that really sparks your interest and that makes it all worthwhile.Toby Carter
For a pastime where seeing is everything, the optical perfection of Toby’s ZEISS SF 32 binoculars is critical. The SmartFocus concept enables intuitive, precise and rapid focusing thanks to the ergonomic positioning of the focus wheel and a lightweight, perfectly balanced construction for steady and comfortable viewing all day long. Impressively wide fields of view ensure a good overview in unclear terrain and 90% light transmission provides optimal visibility for early starts right through to late finishes. Then there’s the unsurpassed components, materials and build quality that make ZEISS binoculars last for generations.
What I love about the SF 32s is how light they are. You can wear them around your neck all day and not know you are carrying them. They’re nice and balanced so when you’re looking constantly they’re not too heavy and the focusing wheel ia exactly where you want it.
“The other excellent thing about these binoculars is the light transmission. When I’m birding, it’s usually sunrise to sunset, and with these bins I can still see perfectly clearly in the low light conditions – even while some of my friends are struggling.”
As he packs away his kit for the evening, Toby reflects on a perfect day at his favourite location. “What I enjoy the most is getting outside and just enjoying what you’re seeing,” he says. “It’s like Christmas every time you go out.”
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