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Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars

September 06 2016 by Leander Khil | Category:

Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars Entering the reed belt.
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars A family of Bearded Reedlings (Panurus biarmicus), „phonescoped“ through EL42 binoculars.
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars The reeds after a summer thunderstorm.
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars A rare sight: The chick of a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars Scanning the reeds.
  • Canoeing in the reeds with binoculars A juvenile Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus), recognizable by its black back.

It is a difficult but worthwile task to watch wildlife in reedbeds. Many specialized species living here rarely leave these seemingly impenetrable forests of Phragmites australis, as the worldwide occurring common reed is called by science.

Reed belts are home to specialized wildlife, shy and rarely seen species as well as amazing ecological and evolutionary processes. Usually, we watch reed habitats from the outside and only meet their inhabitants at the edge of their haven.
This practice is standing to reason, because it's hard to get into the flooded reed belts, but also considerate and necessary, regarding the importance of reeds as vital sites for endangered wildlife.

When thinking of exploring reed belts or similarly remote habitats, always think about your role and the effects you may have on animals and plants as a visitor!

I choose late summer, when animals have finished breeding, to explore the reed belts in the Austrian Lake Neusiedl region by canoe. Here, many stretches of reeds lie within a national park and are thus off limits with good reason. But some places can be visited with great care. As optical equipment, I take my versatile EL42 binoculars with the smaller 8.5x magnification, which can easily be held still, also from a slightly moving boat.

Whenever I'm slowly paddling into the „natural monoculture“ of a reed forest, a whole new world opens up to my eyes. What seems like a monotonous plant population from the outside, is a mix of dense reed islands and open waters of different depth.
It can be an extremely quiet place, perfect to appreciate and learn the calls of reed birds, until the breeze starts to shake thousands of stalks around you, creating a typical and wonderful ambient noise.

I love watching the families of the magnificent Bearded Reedlings (Panurus biarmicus), landing on top of the reeds, then climbing down to collect insects from the water surface. This species is totally dependent on reedbeds as their only habitat. Rails, crakes and herons can be seen along the edge of the reeds and various species of dragonflies and damselflies are hunting around the canoe.

Sometimes I keep the canoe still and wait for animals to show up around the boat. This takes time (and some endurance because of the mosquitoes) but usually pays off after a while – if I don't get chased back to the shore by an approaching summer thunderstorm.


About the author

Leander Khil is an ornithologist, birdwatcher and wildlife photographer from Graz, Austria. Driven by his love for birds, adventure and the outdoors he travels the world since he was a child.
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Text and photos (c) Leander Khil

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