Duck Quest: Birding at Lake Constance with the new BTX
I was pretty excited – to say the least – to go out to the field with the new Swarovski Optik BTX for the very first time. Target of a short trip was Lake Constance, one of the largest lakes in the Alpine foreland. Switzerland, Germany and Austria share this internationally-important stopover and wintering site, with several sanctuaries in each of the three nations that offer habitat and food to an astonishing number of birds. Perfect grounds to gather hands-on experience with the „binocular scope“.
A duck lover´s paradise
In winter, the huge rafts of diving ducks are of particular interest to the birder visiting Lake Constance. Depending on ice cover and food availability, flocks of several tens of thousands Tufted ducks (Aythya fuligula), Common pochards (Aythya ferina) and a good number of other duck species gather in specific parts of the lake.
So I found myself in front of one of these rafts of certainly more than 10,000 birds and the challenge was obvious: To check each and every duck, in order to assess the ratios of the different species and to search for interesting individuals. Rare species, such as odd visitors from North America, eye-catching hybrids or birds marked for scientific study.
Concentration and endurance
A task made for the BTX. Attractive birds are guaranteed in flocks like this. But finding them, that's a whole different story; it takes time, patience, concentration and endurance. And it's the latter two points where the BTX makes a big difference.
Not having to squint one eye and being able to use complete, binocular vision when scanning a distant bird flock – that's simple and logical, but so new to us birders!
The difference can be noticed immediately and the effect is long-lasting. Watching over long periods of time is significantly less tiring with the BTX. The joy of waiting for yet another sleeping duck to wake up and show its head – in order to clinch its ID – lasts much longer compared to a scope with single eyepiece.
After a couple of hours checking through the same birds over and over again, the result was very satisfying: 18 species of ducks, including three different hybrid combinations and four coastal species! I'm not sure if I would have had the stamina to hang on this flock for so long with a regular, monocular scope.
Sadly, the BTX couldn't change the freezing temperatures and chilly winds – so I'm looking forward to another outing with this revolutionary piece of equipment, in a warmer climatic zone, watch this space for more!
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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