An interview with Sören Rust

Sören, what got you interested in nature and birdwatching?

My family has always been very connected to nature. Both my parents are biologists, so I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child and I just grew up with nature, really.

I soon developed an interest in birds when I discovered just how many you can spot in your own back yard and how little I even knew about them. No sooner had I begun did I feel an overwhelming curiosity and I came across ever more species in and around the garden. During one of my various forays, I met another birdwatcher, who was also on the hunt for a kingfisher. He taught me about the Carl Zeiss Bird Station, and that’s when my passion for the pursuit came into its own.

Where does the Carl Zeiss Bird Station come into play?

The Carl Zeiss Bird Station is a fantastic place for ornithologists in and around Hamburg to meet. The Bird Station is situated in a key breeding and resting area for many birds and is equipped with excellent optics, which make it a great place to experience our feathered friends up close. The volunteers there immediately welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to take an active role myself. Not a month has gone by since my first visit that I haven’t been at least once – in fact, I usually stop by every week. I also very much enjoy showing interested visitors the Wedel Marsh and its birds, and I love watching the birds and capturing shots of them myself. As a volunteer, my duties include station service and assignments designed to ensure the birds always have a place to breed and rest.

What species are you particularly fond of observing?

For me it’s difficult to name a favorite; often it’s the special moments that make something truly unforgettable. Of course, there are exceptional species that have lost their way and ended up here – they are spectacular and always make for a fantastic visit. Recently, a golden plover came to the Bird Station, which is the first sighting in the region. Observing it through a spotting scope is a very special experience for any bird enthusiast.

In fact, it’s often not the special birds but rather the special moments that stay with you. One time I was showing some visitors a yellow wagtail and they were all very entertained as they watched it interact with its environment; I was proud to be able to share this moment with them. Our pied avocet family has also been one of the highlights this year.
After a successful brood, a few pied avocets tended to two of their young as the birdwatchers looked on. Watching the young birds being looked after was a unique experience for me.

Can you tell us a bit about the Young Birders group – I understand you meet regularly?

The Young Birders are a mixed bunch of young bird enthusiasts. We usually meet once a month in an observation area. It all began at the Carl Zeiss Bird Station with Marco Sommerfeld’s idea of networking all the young ornithologists who often come to the Bird Station to share their stories and observe the birds. What was originally a small group has now grown to 15–20 young adults who are learning a lot about birds, migration and bird ringing under the direction of Marco and Christian. We make this possible by organizing excursions, for example every fall we visit the ringing station in the Die Reit nature reserve and watch as the birds are ringed.

What do you like the most about the ZEISS Victory SF binoculars?

I first used the ZEISS Victory SF on a gray, rainy day. I was impressed by how bright the image was despite the bad weather and how many details were evident. Every time I’ve visited the Bird Station since, I’ve always borrowed the ZEISS Victory SF and have always been impressed by how much I’ve been able to see. Over time, those of us who volunteer at the Bird Station began referring to the ZEISS Victory SF as “more spotting scope than binoculars” because it lets you see so much – including objects that could previously only be seen through a spotting scope. The ZEISS Victory SF has been a real asset, particularly for identifying birds that fly past at great speed.

What advice do you have for other young birders?

My top tip for all young birders and people curious about birdwatching is always to approach others and talk to fellow ornithologists if you have any questions. At places like the Carl Zeiss Bird Station, there’s always an opportunity for discussion and I’ve never experienced a situation in which anyone has been unfriendly or dismissive. Quite the opposite, in fact: everyone I know is delighted when they’re asked questions, especially by young people who want to find out more. While it can be difficult at times, it’s worth persevering. For me, there is no hobby that even comes close to how I feel about birdwatching. The Carl Zeiss Bird Station and the Young Birders Club strive to make everyone feel welcome. We look forward to seeing you!