Looking out the window at a grey, rainy London street, it’s hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying glorious sunshine, beautiful scenery and great birding. But I was. (Jealous yet?)
Last week was the launch event for Swarovski Optik’s new EL50 binoculars, and the company had invited several birding journalists and experts to Extremadura in south-west Spain to test the bins on raptors, bustards, cranes, storks and much more.
Extremadura is something of a birders’ paradise, and the ideal place to test the bins. We stayed in the town of Trujillo, from where it was an hour’s minibus ride to such diverse habitats as mountains, the Spanish dehesas, wetlands and steppe.
The birdlife was simply spectacular – huge numbers of Griffon Vultures, among which were a few Black, Great and Little Bustards, nesting White Storks and thousands of Common Cranes. The total trip list was just over 100, many of which were totally new birds for me. Wonderful!
The EL50 range comprises 10x and 12x (pictured) models. And yes, you did read that right: a 12x50 binocular for the birding market. If you’re sceptical, so was I. It would surely be too heavy, too ungainly. The field of view would surely be tiny. But I used the 12x50s for three full days in the field and I didn’t experience any of these problems.
In fact, at a little under 1 kg, the 12s weigh exactly the same as the 10s. They were comfortable to use and despite long days out in the field I didn’t experience any neck strain. The field of view is also pretty impressive, and as for the light gathering, well you’ll have to wait for the full write-up of my initial impressions! (In the April issue of Birdwatch, on sale 17 March.)
By Rebecca Armstrong
I would like to thank Swarovski for inviting me on this trip, and our guides Martin Kelsey and Godfried Schreur for their help and patience.
Posted by Birdwatch
San Francisco, 3 September 2010
It's sometimes strange the parallels that occur in the birding world. Just as an Empidonax was being discovered at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, I saw one in the backyard of where I am staying in the city of San Francisco. It made a single-note call, and in failing light I noted its eyering, wing-bars and other features.
I had seen Pacific-slope Flycatcher here many times before and was familiar with its rising, almost Phylloscopus-like call note. Unsure of what I had seen I posted a short note on the local newsgroup and was rapidly informed that Pacific-slope has a second call note, just as I had described. Two days later the birds was still there and I heard it give a more typical call as well and had better views, showing the broader part of the eyering behind the eye.
The newsgroup has provided a good range of tantalising news recently as a scattering of more eastern species has been seen in the city. Every fall there are reports of the likes of Blackburnian, Tennessee and Chestnust-sided Warblers, all species which I have yet to see, as most of my birding has been in the south and west of the US. Usually the birds have moved on or simply hide from me. They can be faithful to a site for several days, but the warblers are especially mobile, often associating with more regular species like Yellow Warblers, or even chickadee flocks.
This time a visit to South Lake Merced, a hot-spot for migrants close to the coast, produced a fantastic immature male Chestnut-sided Warbler which fed for some time right in front of the few birders gathered there. One of these was Martijn Verdoes, a Dutch birder and photographer who is working over here at the moment. While discussing birding in the area he just had to mention the Great-winged Petrel he saw on a recent pelagic. I really must get on one soon, as seawatching from shore rarely produces the goods, with a Common Guillemot being the best bird of my latest attempt.
At the end of September another visit to South Lake Merced delivered another good bird. This one had been seen a week or two before, but had obviously been hiding. As I walked along a trail at the side of the lake, a bird hopped up onto a branch about head height. It sat there pumping its tail up and down and as I raised my binoculars I saw the breast streaks and supercilium of a superb Northern Waterthrush – the first I have seen since 1978 in Florida. What a bird!
One or two seem to turn up around San Francisco every autumn and then stay for the winter, but I've never managed to get one as they can be very secretive. This one put on a great show for about a minute and left me ecstatic! Martijn, when I had spoken to him previously, had failed to see this bird and was bemoaning the fact that there had just been one in The Netherlands which many of his friends had seen. Let's hope this one stays around for him!
The photo shows a Chestnut-sided Warbler and was taken by Martijn Verdoes.
Posted by Birdwatch
The Birdwatch team share their birding stories
Want to read my old blog entries? Browse through an achive of all my posts below:
- April 2013 (1 post)
- September 2012 (1 post)
- November 2011 (1 post)
- October 2011 (1 post)
- July 2011 (1 post)
- June 2011 (1 post)
- May 2011 (2 posts)
- April 2011 (2 posts)
- March 2011 (4 posts)
- February 2011 (2 posts)
- January 2011 (3 posts)
- October 2010 (2 posts)
- September 2010 (1 post)
- August 2010 (4 posts)
- July 2010 (6 posts)
- June 2010 (9 posts)
- May 2010 (8 posts)
- April 2010 (14 posts)
- March 2010 (13 posts)