Having fun with the Orange Peril – 10,000 Birds

Final 12 months I bade farewell to an previous good friend, or, to be extra exact, my much-loved Swarovski scope. Technically, it was an ATS 80 HD recognizing scope, along with three eyepieces, a 20x, 30x and a 25×50 wide-angle zoom; the latter was the lens I used most frequently.(The 20x wide-angle lens was nice in poor gentle within the rain forest.) I had owned the scope, from new, for 23 years, by which time it had travelled with me to 4 completely different continents and round 40 completely different international locations. I might be fascinating to know what number of species of birds it was pointed at throughout its time with me, nevertheless it should have been properly over 1,000. 

My Swarovski ATS 80 HD, in motion on a moist day in North Norfolk, August 2022 (watching Bee-eaters)

In contrast to many recognizing scopes, it was by no means granted the luxurious of a zip-on cowl. It proved robust sufficient to take the numerous knocks and falls {that a} hard-used scope experiences throughout its lifetime. I’ve by no means fairly understood why so many individuals wrap their scopes up in little jackets, (however nor do I perceive why it’s so in style to decorate canine up in coats, too, as they’re already wrapped in fur. Maybe it’s a primary human want to decorate issues up.)

A pair of Sarus Cranes, digiscoped at Baratphur, India. The shot was taken with the Swarovski ATS 80 HD recognizing scope with 25×50 zoom (set at 25x), utilizing a Panasonic DMC-T27 digital camera

For a few years I used it for digiscoping, for I discovered {that a} compact Panasonic digital camera fitted neatly into the 25×50 eyepiece so I used to be in a position to get remarkably sharp images with out the necessity for an adapter. As a bird-tour chief, the scope was an important a part of my gear, and I turned fairly fast at getting it on to distant birds in order that my shoppers might see them, too. Hen-tour main and critical images don’t combine (be cautious of any chief who turns up with an enormous digital camera), nevertheless it was straightforward to seize a digiscoped image as soon as my shoppers had loved their view of the fowl. I received my sharpest outcomes by by no means utilizing the zoom on the digital camera, solely on the scope.

Prize-winner: my shot of a Wryneck, digiscoped in a Polish orchard

I seldom enter photographic competitions, however for a few years the journal British Birds held an annual images competitors. In later years it included a category for digiscoping which I entered just a few instances. I used to be positioned one 12 months with {a photograph} of little egrets, taken at Kerkini in Greece, whereas the next 12 months I received the category with a shot of Wryneck, photographed in an orchard in Poland (above). There was a worthwhile money prize, which I spent on a sculpture of a swimming Otter – every time I take a look at it, it jogs my memory of capturing the Wryneck shot. 

This Ctretzchmar’s Bunting was digiscoped in Cyprus

Digiscoping is a remarkably efficient method of photographing distant birds, whereas the success of my images mirrored the sharpness of the Swarovski scope. Nonetheless, it does have its disadvantages, chief of which is the problem of photographing flying birds. I attempted many instances with various levels of success – the Dalmatian Pelicans (under) had been one among my higher efforts. A profitable digiscoped {photograph} additionally takes time to arrange, as you need to get the scope out, up and focussed, by which era your topic might properly have flown away. It was the appearance of light-weight, mirrorless cameras that noticed me lastly abandon digiscoping, whereas the Panasonic digital camera I used didn’t have an incredible pixel rely. 

Dalmatian pelicans: digiscoping flying birds is a problem. This was one among my higher efforts

I used to be usually stunned on the high quality of my digiscoped images. This Slavonian (Horned) Grebe was photographed in Estonia

Digiscoping is nice for capturing distant, cautious birds, reminiscent of this Nice Bustard in Spain

I’d opted for an angled eyepiece on the Swarovski as I had discovered that angled scopes are far superior when the scope is being seemed by by individuals of various heights. It’s a lot simpler for a tall particular person to bend right down to look by an angled scope than it’s for a brief particular person to look by a straight-through scope arrange for a six-footer. The Swarovski did have a sighting system to assist pointing it at a goal, however I by no means used it. Loads of apply ensured that I might often discover my fowl in a short time.

Robust, straightforward to make use of, nice optics – there wasn’t a lot to not like in regards to the Swarovski besides one factor: it was heavy, tipping the scales at round 2000gm. It wanted a considerable tripod to assist it. I used a Swarovski carbon fibre tripod with Swarovski fluid head, which labored properly, however the mixed weight of the scope and tripod got here to greater than 4000gm (or about 9 kilos). I received used to lugging it round, however the actual drawback was once I was travelling. I’m an knowledgeable at travelling gentle – I can do 14 days in India with hand baggage solely – however the weight of each scope and tripod merely took up an excessive amount of of my weight allowance.  

Thus I used to be delighted when, within the autumn of 2022, Swarovski got here up with the reply, a light-weight, compact journey scope. The ATC 17-40×56 appeared to be precisely what I wished. Because it was made by Swarovski I used to be assured that the optics could be terrific, whereas the burden of simply 970gm (2 kilos, 2 ounces) represented a serious saving. There was just one hassle. Regardless of launching the brand new scope with a blaze of publicity, the scopes had been in such brief provide that it was virtually inconceivable to purchase one. Ultimately I managed to trace one down, however there was no selection of color, and it was burnt-orange or nothing. It now generally known as the Orange Peril.

Watching Lesser Kestrels over Mértola, within the Portuguese Altentejo, March 2023

Now over a 12 months later I’ve come to like my orange scope, and given the selection, I’d in all probability go for orange once more. Don’t ask me why, nevertheless it’s enjoyable to have one thing that isn’t black or a army shade of inexperienced, whereas the birds don’t appear to thoughts, both. Optically, it’s simply nearly as good as I used to be anticipating, giving a splendidly shiny picture in most situations. Nonetheless, at most zoom on a uninteresting winter day it’s not so spectacular, however that’s hardly shocking. I like the large focus wheel on the physique, whereas the zoom on the eyepiece works easily and simply. It’s going to focus right down to 11ft, which is spectacular for a scope.

The Swarovski ATC recognizing scope, mounted on a SmallRig Choice fluid head

The ATC recognizing scope comes with a somewhat curious plastic half shell which lets you use the scope, with out a tripod, on a flat floor such because the shelf of a fowl conceal, and nonetheless use the main target wheel. It’s a intelligent thought, however didn’t actually work for me, so the shell was eliminated and is very unlikely to ever get used.

My one mistake, having purchased the scope, was to not get a brand new tripod, so initially I didn’t actually admire the burden saving. Earlier this 12 months I purchased a five-section Sirui carbon tripod (an AT-125), with what’s claimed as a fast telescopic motion. It’s a intelligent and efficient design and weighs solely 930gm, or simply over 2 kilos. I’ve now changed the ball head-on the Sirui with a a SmallRig Choice compact fluid head, a small however efficient piece of package weighing simply 280gm. The mix of scope, head and tripod works very well, and is surprisingly secure. There’s the choice to hold a weight from the center pole of the tripod, which is likely to be useful when utilizing it in a powerful wind, however the small measurement of the scope signifies that it doesn’t get buffeted by the wind in the identical method as a full-size telescope. 

My previous telescope as soon as spent an hour sitting, unattended, in conjunction with a Spanish street once I’d pushed off with out it. It was solely once I stopped to scope an Orphean Warbler that I realised I had left it behind: there was an enormous surge of reduction once I returned to seek out it the place I had left it. I will likely be doing my finest by no means to overlook the Orange Peril, whereas the shortage of weight signifies that it’s a pleasure to hold, not one thing I might ever say in regards to the previous scope/tripod mixture.

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