Rarity finding accomplished

It was another impressive birding day in England. We headed very early in the morning to Dorset to find another long-staying rarity, a 1st summer Ross’s Gull. This red-legged Little Gull-like bird was first reported on 21 May from Bowling Green Marsh near to Topsham.

The rain stopped by our arrival and weather turned to be very pleasant. The Bowling Green Marsh Hide was empty at 9AM allowed me to watch the gorgeous feeding Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage. A Green Sandpiper, Common Redshanks, already in winter plumage, and Northern Lapwings were the representatives of waders. Gulls seemed to be somewhere else, so I decided to walk to the other hide.

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hide is offering an open view to the Exe Estuary and its mudflat. The tide was coming so it was just a question of time for the birds being pushed back to the roosting site of Bowling Green Marsh. On the mudflat I couldn’t spot the Ross’s Gull, so as the high tide was progressing, I decided to return back to the other hide. Not surprisingly, it was full of birdwatchers. They knew the bird would come with the high tide as many times for weeks now.

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It took a while till all the gulls returned for roosting. The first excitement emerged by the arrival of a 1st summer Little Gull, which was claimed as a Ross’s Gull by one of the birders. A pro birder, means really skilled, birder corrected the identification and suddenly people got quiet again. After all, the Ross’s Gull appeared with the last flocks of gulls. It provided a very nice view both in flight and on the mud. After landing I had a chance to watch it through an incredible Swarovski modular scope of that keen birder. What a view it was! The resident Carrion Crows often flushed the gulls, what the Ross’s Gull didn’t tolerate too well and flew off the area.

Ross's Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Ross’s Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Ross's Gull, Topsham, Devon, June 2014 064-1 - Version 2

Another unique feature of the Ross’s Gull is the long wedge-shaped tail. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Records from Bowland Green Marsh:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 1
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) 4
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) (Anas crecca) 4
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 1
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 1
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 3
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 9
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 7
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 1
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 8
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 1
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 9
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 19
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 55
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 132
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 3
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 550
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 1
Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea) 1 1st summer
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 5
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 6
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 3
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 7
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 2
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 4
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) 7
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 2
Eurasian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) 3
European Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 6
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 1
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 2
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 1

On the way to Portland Bill I came across a large mixed flock of Common Swift (360), Common House Martins (24) and Barn Swallows (12). I have never seen such a large Common Swift flock and it surprised me to see it in the beginning of July. I know very little about their biology and life cycles, but must have finished breeding. Along the East Yorkshire coast 5.200 birds were counted today.

At the Portland Beach Road at Wyke Regis I stopped to check Mediterranean Gulls at the lagoon. They were in various phases of moult into their winter plumage. Gorgeous Little Terns, summer plumaged Dunlins, Sanderlings and Common Ringed Plovers made the tiny mudflat exciting.

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the east end of the lagoon:

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 12
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1
Sanderling (Calidris alba) 1
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 13
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 18
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 69 (two colour ringed birds with green with white codes)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 19
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 21
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 3
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 3
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 63
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2

Portland Bill was very crowdy, but I was hoping to find some seabirds, following  the exciting morning news about the observation of a Black-browed Albatross. As I entered the cliffs, I picked 3 fast flying shearwaters just meters from the shore. They were my very first Manx Shearwaters ever. I sat down on a rather comfortable cliff and enjoyed birds flying by for more than an hour. Off-shore, I counted some more Manx Shearwaters, but no skua or other shearwater species was seen. I tried hard to spot a European Storm-Petrel, but I couldn’t find one.

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Records from Portland Bill:

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 1
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) 22
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 19
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 18
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 6
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 17
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 9
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 4
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 42
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarellii)
Rock Pipit (Western) (Anthus petrosus petrosus) 1
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 14
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 1

Many thanks to the unknown birder in the hide who allowed me to watch the Ross’s Gull through his spotting scope. Special thanks to Steve Roger for allowing me to use his photos of the Bowling Green Marsh Ross’s Gull.

Life list increased by two and now is at 2.182!

Sign of fall migration

I put another site on my eBird map today. I walked 2×5.5 km along the Grand Union Canal from Stoke Hammond to Three Locks, also from Three Locks to the northwest edge of Leighton Buzzard. The birdlife of this section of the Grand Union Canal has proved to be surprisingly interesting. The first 5 km I walked in pouring rain, although I wasn’t really equipped for that massive rain. Anyway, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. Using a wet touchscreen iPhone wasn’t always easy (sometimes even the rain drops clicked on unwanted parts of the screen).

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The site actually holds the usual bird community that can be expected for such a habitat. Amongst the unexpected, there were quite a few Mandarin Ducks; both male, female and a duckling. This could be a regional hotspot for this introduced exotic duck species.

The long boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The long-boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, "This weather is for digs". Indeed it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, “This weather is for dogs”. Indeed, it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I think from now it is worth checking bird flocks as we are approaching fall migration. It’s time to think about post-breeding dispersal of tit flocks a bit differently, following my observation at km 99. I started watching a Long-tailed Tit flock of 16 birds (mainly juveniles) followed by 12 European Blue Tits and 9 Great Tits. Together with the tit flock 3 European Blackcaps and 9 Common Chiffchaffs were flitting between bushes. At least two of the chiffchaffs seemed to be worn plumaged adults. I think as the migration progresses, this area could be really attractive for birds moving south.

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I had perfect views on preening and feeding (British) Western Yellow Wagtails, beautiful Stock Doves, a hovering adult Red Kite, differently aged adorable downy chicks of Common Moorhen and singing Lesser Whitethroats. A lonely, about a three weeks old Mute Swan cygnet were continually calling for its parents, but they were not visible anywhere close. I also saw a Common Cuckoo flying very high over the canal. I have never seen a cuckoo flying that high. Was it already on the move south?

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As I walked on the towpath, a boatman (towman) kindly greeted me from his long boat and expressed his feeling about the amazing birds living along the canal, including the gorgeous Common Tern which was just flying over his boat. Then he mentioned, that he had seen a turnstone further south towards Leighton Buzzard. I asked twice whether that was really a turnstone, but he was confident in his observation and apparently seemed to know the birds well. I walked all along the canal from that point, but I didn’t see it.

Here is the combined eBird report from two checklists:

Mute Swan 1
Mandarin Duck 14
Mallard 16
Gray Heron 3
Red Kite 1
Common Buzzard 1
Eurasian Moorhen 19
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Northern Lapwing 19
Black-headed Gull 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull (graellsii) 29
Common Tern 3
Stock Dove 16
Common Wood-Pigeon 46
Eurasian Collared-Dove 1
Common Cuckoo 1
Common Swift 24
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 12
Rook 5
Carrion Crow 22
European Skylark 7
Barn Swallow 24
Common House Martin 8
Great Tit 11
Eurasian Blue Tit 17
Long-tailed Tit 16
Eurasian Wren 15
Common Chiffchaff 17
Sedge Warbler 1
European Blackcap 8
Lesser Whitethroat 2
Greater Whitethroat 10
European Robin 11
Eurasian Blackbird 32
Song Thrush 7
European Starling 23
Dunnock 12
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) 4
White Wagtail (British) 21
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 10
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Greenfinch 8
European Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 3

Kea and her bird-of-paradise

Last summer, probably exactly at the same time I bought a book for my best friends’ birthday. It was the National Geographic Birds-of-Paradise. As usual, I had to browse it with Kea as she loves birds. She only focused on the birds and turned ‘boring’ pages (means containing no bird) quickly. She was amazed by the transformation of males when displaying. Then I took the book for the birthday party and she never seen it since.

A few weeks earlier I came home from work and I was greeted by Kea with a drawing in her hand. I was shocked to see a Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise showing its basic characteristics. She painted this by hard without using any photos or references. I was speechless and just tried to understand this. It is so heartwarming to witness her development and the tiny achievements she is capable to reach day by day. She is just 5!

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Common Quail on Beacon Hills

I’m sure, England will offer me hundreds of new sites to be exported for the next few decades. I try to find new places worth to visit and today I chose the Beacon Hill (or Ivinghoe Hills) near Ivinghoe village, which is part of the 136 km long national trail, The Ridgeway.

Panorama photo of the hills and the view to the northwest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Panorama photo of the hills and the view to the northwest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beacon13

The southern hills is perfect for Yellowhammers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As I missed waking up early, the popular area was rather crowded. It probably didn’t affect the species richness, but the site could be more enjoyable without loud people. The southwest, Mediterranean-like, slopes seemed to be perfect for Pyramidal Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids.

Common Spotted Orchids were still blooming. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Spotted Orchids were still blooming. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Apart from the common birds, this place holds a few pairs of Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer. A male Common Kestrel and Common Ravens were of note. As I walked towards the eastern slopes, a Common Quail was calling very close to me. Based on BirdGuides there was another record of this uncommon bird just north of the hills.

Meadow Pipits were actively singing and carrying food. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipits were actively singing and carrying food. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I’m not a big expert of butterflies, but the place is pretty good for them. I could identify Small TortoiseshellSpeckled Wood and Meadow Brown.

Dozens of Small Tortoiseshell fed on Wild Thyme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dozens of Small Tortoiseshell fed on Wild Thyme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

All in all, the site is very nice and could be attractive during migration. Ring Ouzel and Common Redstart have been reported from here numerous times.

eBird report:

Common Quail 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Common Buzzard 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Common Wood Pigeon 10
Common Swift 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jay 1
Eurasian Magpie 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 11
Carrion Crow 5
Common Raven 4
Eurasian Skylark 6
Eurasian Blue Tit 7
Eurasian Wren 2
Willow Warbler 1
Common Chiffchaff 4
Eurasian Blackcap 5
Greater Whitethroat 7
European Robin 2
Eurasian Blackbird 4
Song Thrush 1
Meadow Pipit 7
Yellowhammer 9
Common Chaffinch 5
European Goldfinch 3
Eurasian Linnet 8

In search for the Short-toed Eagle pair

In a hope to find the previously seen Short-toed Eagle pair in the northern part of the Gerecse Mountain (Süttő, Hungary), we climbed to the top of the Nagy-Teke Hill. A very talented birdgirl, Hanni, a professional and well experienced raptor expert, Peter, Dani and myself tried to overlook a large area from the hill.

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The morning started slow allowed us to talk about birds and their future locally and globally. It is always nice to learn something from each other. In the meantime, a Tree Pipit was endlessly singing next to us. Despite we had a rather hot weather (34°C) birds didn’t show up before 9AM. The first Common Buzzards were followed by European Honey Buzzards, providing amazing views by flying just above us. We could enjoy seeing different plumage variations in perfect light conditions.

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately, the Short-toed Eagles didn’t show up, at least until we left the hill shortly after 12PM. However, I spotted a pair of Black Stork, showing territorial behaviour over the Great Gerecse Hill.

Compared to the previous years’ raptor-watch, the species richness was much lower. No Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle nor Northern Goshawk were seen. There could be multiple reasons, including the extreme weather during the breeding season, as well as the lack of food resources, but the increasing breeding population of Peregrine Falcon could also result ‘cleared space’ areas. We witnessed the local breeding pair of Peregrine Falcon chasing away every bird of any size around the Pisznice Hill.

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birds detected:

Black Stork 2
Gray Heron 1
European Honey-buzzard 3
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2
Common Buzzard 15
Stock Dove 2
European Turtle Dove 1
European Bee-eater 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Golden Oriole 3
Eurasian Jay 2
Common Raven 5
Common House Martin 1
Great Tit 3
Eurasian Blue Tit 6
Long-tailed Tit 3
Eurasian Nuthatch 2
Eurasian Wren 1
Blackcap 2
European Robin 2
Collared Flycatcher 1
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 1
European Starling 4
Tree Pipit 1
Yellowhammer 3
Hawfinch 4

The most touching birding moment ever

One would think that after more than 34 years of birdwatching experience there is not much new left to explore in a homeland birding site. In fact, I say, I have seen very little after an extraordinary and probably one of the most touching birding moments I have ever witnessed today.

I was very happy to learn that the annual Common Tern and Black-headed Gull ringing scheme is held right after I arrived for a short visit in Hungary. Being a shorebird addict, it is always exciting to have chance catching and banding Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilt chicks. The tern and gull chicks are banded by colour rings with inscription codes. Pied Avocets chicks are marked only with a metal ring, but from next year we start a countrywide Pied Avocet migration research project, using the same, coded colour rings.

The Hungarian Summer was once again on its peak with 36 Celsius in shadows. Due to the extreme hot weather, we postponed the whole action until late afternoon. It is always important to keep the chicks safety the first priority. A good number of people ensured a fast and effective action and it has been working really well over the years.

While ringers were doing the job, we searched for hiding tern and gull chicks. On the gull island a talented young birdwatcher girl, Hanni found a Pied Avocet nest with a chick just been hatched. I sat next to the nest and watched this little beauty putting enormous efforts to leave the egg completely. I have never ever felt such heartwarming emotions in my whole birding life, watching this little shorebird being born. This was something I will never forget.

Some photos might give something back of the whole ringing action.

The ringing scene near the village, Mocsa. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The ringing scene near the village, Mocsa. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Tern chick collected by Dani. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Tern chick collected by Dani. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only one third of the Common Tern chicks have been hatched so far. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only one third of the Common Tern chicks have been hatched so far. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A handful of Black-headed Gull chicks. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A handful of Black-headed Gull chicks. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pied Avocet nest on the muddy pebble islands. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pied Avocet nest on the muddy pebble islands. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-winged Stilt nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-winged Stilt nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We found more than 45 Common Tern nests  still being incubated. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We found more than 45 Common Tern nests still being incubated. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There is nothing more adorable than a shorebird chick. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There is nothing more adorable than a shorebird chick. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Pied Avocet chick. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Pied Avocet chick. © Gyorgy Szimuly

About 10 days old Pied Avocet chick before being ringed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

About 10 days old Pied Avocet chick before being ringed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nesting islets of Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers.One would think that after more than 34 years of birdwatching experience there is not much new left to explore in a homeland birding site. In fact, I would say that I have seen very little after an extraordinary and probably one of the most touching birding moments, I have ever witnessed. I was very happy to learn that the annual Common Tern and Black-headed Gull ringing scheme is held right after I arrived for a short visit in Hungary. Being a shorebird addict, it is always exciting to catch and band Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilt chicks. The tern and gull chicks are banded by colour rings with inscription codes. Pied Avocets chicks are marked only with a metal ring, but from next year we start a countrywide Pied Avocet migration research project, using the same coded colour rings. The Hungarian Summer was once again on its peak with 36 Celsius in shadows. Due to the extreme hot weather, we postponed the whole action until late afternoon. It is always important to keep the chicks safety the first priority. A good number of people ensures a fast and effective action and it has been working really well over the years. While ringers were doing the job, we searched for hiding tern and gull chicks. On the gull island a talented young birdwatcher girl, Hanni found a Pied Avocet nest with a chick just been hatched. I sat next to the nest until the ringing was on and watched this little beauty to put efforts to leave the egg completely. I have never ever felt such heartwarming emotions in my birding life, watching this little shorebird being born. Some photos might give something back of the whole ringing action. The ringing scene near the village, Mocsa. © Gyorgy Szimuly The ringing scene near the village, Mocsa. © Gyorgy Szimuly Common Tern chick collected by Dani. © Gyorgy Szimuly Common Tern chick collected by Dani. © Gyorgy Szimuly Only one third of the Common Tern chicks have been hatched so far. © Gyorgy Szimuly Only one third of the Common Tern chicks have been hatched so far. © Gyorgy Szimuly A handful of Black-headed Gull chicks. © Gyorgy Szimuly A handful of Black-headed Gull chicks. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nesting islets of Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Second flagship Zeiss binoculars unveiled

The Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 is claimed as the world's best binoculars. Photo courtesy of Zeiss.

The Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 is claimed as the world’s best binoculars. Photo courtesy of Zeiss.

2014 seems to be the ‘Big Zeiss Year‘. Since the beginning of this year, the Germany based company, Carl Zeiss is continuously updating its nature observation product line. In January the Conquest HD family was extended by the 8x, 10x and 15×56 models, mainly targeting the hunters. In early March the 8×54 and 10×54 models were added to the flagship Victory HT binoculars line. A few days ago another best was unveiled in the historic town of Wetzlar, Germany.

The brand new Zeiss Victory SF binocular line contains two models. The 8×42 model comes with a wide field of view while the 10×42 model offers incredibly bright image and excellent ergonomics. Some lucky Facebook friends were invited to the introduction event in Wetzlar, and all of them has been more than impressed by the quality and performance of these bins, even if they are a slightly biased.

Here are the main features of the Victory SF:

Triple-link bridge – the focusing mechanism extends above the focusing wheel, which resulting a more convenient and fast focusing;
Anti-slip focusing wheel – improves the grip and reduces slipping in wet conditions;
Smart Focus Concept – only 1.8 rotations needed from the closest focusing point to the greatest resulting a very fast reaction;
World class close focus – the closest focusing distance is just 1.5 meters;
Ergobalance – the focal point of the lens was shifted further back towards the eyepiece allowing a much comfortable viewing for a lengthy observation;
Large field of view – Class leading 148m field of view for the 8×42 models nearly matching the 150m FOV of the legendary ZEISS 7×42 Dialyt.
Light weight – by the use of lightweight materials, the Victory SF binoculars are the lightest in its class;
New Ultra-FL lens – The high quality and newly developed Schott glass allows 92% light transmission. The all new eyepiece with seven lens elements features field flattener, which creates sharp images to the edges without the ‘globe-effect’.

Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 binoculars. Image courtesy of Zeiss.

Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 binoculars. Image courtesy of Zeiss.

Technical data for the 8×42 / 10×42 models:

Magnification: 8x / 10x
Effective lens diameter: 42mm
Exit pupil diameter: 5.3mm / 4.2mm
Twilight factor: 18.3 / 20.5
Field of view: 148 m@1000m 64° (wide angle) / 120 m@1000m 65° (wide angle)
Close focus: 1.5m
Diopter adjustment range: +/- 4 dpt
Eye relief: 18mm
Prism system: Schmidt-Pechan 
Height: 173mm
Width at an eye width of 65mm: 125mm
Weight: 780g

Price incl. 19% VAT. GER: €2.385 / €2.435

I am a proud user of a pair of Zeiss Victory HT 10×42 binoculars, what I think is going to be one of the very best glasses in the market for many years to come. It is unlikely that I sell my HT to replace it with the SF, but I always wanted to have a 8×42 binoculars more suitable for raptor watching. What else could it be than the Victory SF 8×32?

I predict that the Zeiss booth will be invaded during the British Birdwatching Fair in August, where visitors can try and test these new benchmark models. I will definitely be there! With the entry of the Victory SF line, Zeiss is unprecedentedly offering another premium product line beside the Victory HTs family. The company wants future premium binoculars buyers to choose between Zeiss and Zeiss binoculars, not between Zeiss or products of another brand. This interesting marketing concept might generate a product boom in the nature observation optics industry in the coming months and years.

What could be the next update by Zeiss? Birders are eagerly waiting for the update of the spotting scope family equipped with the perfect Schott HT glass. The Victory DiaScope was introduced a bit more than 4 years ago, so it could probably the best time for an upgrade for the coming holiday season. Another long desired release could be the x32 models, both for the Victory HT and SF product line. I think with these additions we could see other market leading features.

It is time to arrange a joint birding with Alan McBride for a day long field and comparison test. ;)

It is worth visiting the Zeiss Birding Facebook Page or the official Zeiss Nature Observation website for more details.

One rarity gone, another appeared

Today I wanted to be out birding all day long, but the weather turned to be dreadful in the first half of the morning. In late morning it stopped raining and we left our home to see a local attraction. I wanted to show my girls the historical engineering masterpiece, the Iron Trunk Aqueduct in Old Wolverton. From the village we walked to the hotspot, what I simply call the ‘a river over a river‘. I have never seen that kind of construction before. The bird community was typical for a classic pasture and meadow embraced by hawthorns. However, there was one surprising bird, what made me really happy and sad at the same time. A single European Turtle Dove was flying over the River Great Ouse towards the village. I have never seen this rapidly declining species in England before.

Nice grazing area near the church of Old Wolverton. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice grazing area near the church of Old Wolverton. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The place where the European Turtle Dove flew over. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The place where the European Turtle Dove flew over. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct of is a unique construction. No rail, nor road runs on the bridge over the River Great Ouse, but another canal with boats on it. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct of is a unique construction. No rail, nor road runs on the bridge over the River Great Ouse, but another canal with boats on it. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Before leaving Old Wolverton, I checked the BirdGuides app for the actual rare or scarce bird sightings around me. There was no exciting bird reported in our area, but there was a Glossy Ibis record from 21 of May from Oxfordshire. That was a long staying bird, so I thought I would give it a try to find it. The Otmoor RSPB Reserve is located north of Oxford, near the village Beckley. This massive area is an important wetland developed by the RSPB. It is holding no less than 80+ pairs of Northern Lapwing, a good number of Common Redshanks and a few pairs of Common Snipe, just to mention the waders. For me this is absolutely a heavenly place, despite only three species of waders can regularly be seen.

The Otmoor RSPB Nature Reserve is a man-made wetland. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Otmoor RSPB Nature Reserve is a man-made wetland complex. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The wetland before the rain. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A short escape to this hide from the rain. I should have seen the Glossy Ibis somewhere here. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I found two European Turtle Dove purring on their classic spot. Not a bad day to see this bird on two different locations. Birders on the leave informed me about the absence of the Glossy Ibis. It wasn’t seen since 21 May. While walking on the footpath the rain started to intensify again. It didn’t force me to leave the area, as I wanted to walk all around the reserve. Four Red Kites frequently disturbed the breeding shorebird community. When one entered the wetlands about 35-40 Northern Lapwings and 5-6 Common Redshanks took off the ground and started mobbing the kite quite aggressively. Despite the massive defending attacks, one adult Red Kite succeeded to grab a probable Northern Lapwing chick. It was an incredible moment what I have never seen before.

As reached the west wing of the Big Otmoor and Sally’s Field, it stopped raining. I spotted my binoculars on a flying bird over the trees between the Big Otmoor and Noke Sides. For my biggest surprise it was a European Bee-eater!!! It is a quite a scarce bird in England. I immediately reported to BirdGuides, after it disappeared somewhere around the south end of Saunder’s Ground. It didn’t show signs to stay in the area as behaved like a migrating bird. It flew from northwest to southeast direction just over the trees and called twice. I saw the bird very well!

A gorgeous European Bee-eater was photographed by David Smiff in Spain. Thanks for it!

A gorgeous European Bee-eater was photographed by David Smiff in Spain. Thanks for providing this image!

On the way back to the car I saw a few birders on the entry place to the wetlands. I knew, I would get a few questions about my record. They somehow figured out that the reporter wasn’t a local guy, as the word ‘marsh’ was used in the report. Locals have never used this term for this area. I was kindly asked to share a few more details about the observation. They seemed quite skeptical, but then I mentioned my Hungarian origin, where the European Bee-eater is breeding in good numbers. One of the birders, a volunteer of the RSPB said, he had never ever seen this bird before and the last record was about 10 years ago in a different location. I always feel sorry about local birders, who cannot see a local rarity seen or found by a non local guy. I found a blog post of my observation on the Oxfordshire Bird Log. Adam Hartley wrote, I was unaware of the significance of my record. Actually, I was aware of the status of the European Bee-eater in England, but indeed I wasn’t aware of the history of European Bee-eater records of Oxfordshire. Anyway, I couldn’t do any better than reporting it to BirdGuides straight away, in a hope that someone gets the chance to see it.

While we talked about the number of breeding waders and the history of the reserve, two Common Snipes were displaying and drumming over Saunder’s Ground. I had seen two other males drumming in the Big Otmoor area on my way back to the car.

eBird checklist and numbers:

Greylag Goose 34
Canada Goose 55
Mute Swan 4
Gadwall 18
Mallard 18
Northern Shoveler 21
Green-winged Teal 1
Common Pochard 5
Tufted Duck 18
Little Grebe 1
Great Crested Grebe 1
Grey Heron 3
Little Egret 4
Red Kite 4
Eurasian Moorhen 9
Eurasian Coot 33
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Northern Lapwing 54
Common Redshank 18
Common Snipe 5
Black-headed Gull 32
European Herring Gull 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull 6
Common Wood-Pigeon 32
European Turtle-Dove 2
Common Cuckoo 3
Common Swift 84
European Bee-eater 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 6
Carrion Crow 4
Eurasian Skylark 8
Barn Swallow 4
Common House Martin 9
Great Tit 1
Eurasian Blue Tit 7
Long-tailed Tit 16
Eurasian Wren 10
Willow Warbler 3
Common Chiffchaff 1
Sedge Warbler 4
Eurasian Reed Warbler 13
Blackcap 3
Greater Whitethroat 10
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 9
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 2
Dunnock 1
Reed Bunting 9
Common Chaffinch 8
European Greenfinch 4
European Goldfinch 16
Eurasian Linnet 1

A possible Channel Wagtail at the Sywell Reservoir

As a part of visiting the playgrounds in the Sywell Country Park near Mears Ashby, I had some time to walk around the Sywell Reservoir. Originally, I visited the area to see my first Whinchat in England, which was reported in the morning. I couldn’t find the Whinchat at the given location, but I found a very unusual looking yellow wagtail.

The variety of the Western Yellow Wagtail subspecies has long fascinated me. The bird, which I found on the southwest part of the reservoir at the edge of a rape field, didn’t have any features resembled to the British subspecies flavissima, but was rather similar to the nominate race, flava. On the other side of the reservoir I had seen typical British yellow wagtails. The main features of the bird in question were as follows: greenish-yellow mantle and back, very pale bluish-grey crown, nape, and eye stripe, rather broad supercilium and an extensive all white chin and throat. Face practically looked white as well.

Following my research on the web, my bird looked like a Channel Wagtail, which was recently named by the British birding community. The Channel Wagtail is a Motacilla flava flava x M. f. flavissima hybrid. I have seen several records of Channel Wagtails currently posted to BirdGuides, suggesting that this variation is not extremely rare in England. I’d like to hear other British birder’s opinion on my observation.

I can’t wait to have my bridge mega zoom camera to be able take pictures of tricky birds seen in the fields.

Male Channel Wagtail in the Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire on 13/04/09. The image was linked from the online article ‘Flava frustrations’. © Nick Clayton

Arctic Terns at Manor Farm

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which was built in 1811 to carry the water of the Grand Union Canal over the River Great Ouse. The Aqueduct is still used. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which was built in 1811 to carry the water of the Grand Union Canal over the River Great Ouse. The Aqueduct is still used. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A part of the pits with the Manor Farm in the background. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A view to the River Great Ouse and the pits from the Aqueduct. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Manor Farm in Old Wolverton is one of the very few places where shorebirds are breeding and stopping by during migration. This is a gravel pit along the River Great Ouse, which regularly floods the whole area. During Spring the muddy pebble islets are suitable for Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers and Common Redshank for breeding.

This afternoon I made a long walk all around the pits. The only remarkable species was the Arctic Tern, which seemed to invade inland waters. Two birds moved together with, the most probably, resident Common Terns. Nevertheless, a single migrant Common Sandpiper was the new bird for this year.

It is always a pleasure to find nesting Northern Lapwings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It is always a pleasure to find nesting Northern Lapwings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I saw at least 5 Northern Lapwings sitting on their nest and one pair showed very aggressive defending behaviour, assuming to have chicks already. One of the Eurasian Oysterncatchers seemed to be incubating as well.

List and numbers of birds recorded:

Graylag Goose 4
Canada Goose 31
Mute Swan 8
Gadwall 4
Mallard 20
Tufted Duck 21
Great Crested Grebe 1
Grey Heron 2
Common Buzzard 2
Eurasian Moorhen 7
Eurasian Coot 8
Eurasian Oystercatcher 3
Northern Lapwing 16
Little Ringed Plover 6
Common Sandpiper 1
Black-headed Gull 5
Common Tern 3
Arctic Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 32
Common Kingfisher 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Magpie 9
Eurasian Jackdaw 19
Rook 6
Carrion Crow 36
Bank Swallow 15
Barn Swallow 1
Common House Martin 25
Great Tit 3
Eurasian Blue Tit 5
Long-tailed Tit 1
Eurasian Wren 13
Common Chiffchaff 6
Sedge Warbler 4
Eurasian Reed Warbler 2
Blackcap 6
Garden Warbler 1
Greater Whitethroat 7
European Robin 3
Eurasian Blackbird 11
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 28
Dunnock 2
White (Pied) Wagtail 4
Common Reed Bunting 3
Common Chaffinch 9
European Greenfinch 1
European Goldfinch 8