Dawn on the northeast coast of Scotland in autumn is rather different to that of South East Asia. A steamy-air filled with the sounds of insects and bird calls, gibbons and frogs is been replaced with salt spray, drizzle and a biting cold that chills to the bones. The whistle of the wind and the sound of the waves are occasionally punctuated by the calls of migrating birds as they spiralled out of the sky and into the scraps of cover on an otherwise open, wild landscape.
Brought back to the UK by Covid-19 myself and James Eaton didn’t let our birding slip and we set out to unearth as many migrants along the coast during autumn as we could with the hope of finding that mega. It was also a great opportunity to further test the 10 x 42 NL Pures against James’s 10 x32 ELs. Autumn birding in the UK can be tough going but thankfully the weather conditions were favourable resulting in a regular arrival of migrant thrushes, warblers and crests.
Habitat is at a premium on the Caithness coast so we target ditch lines, patches of gorse, small clumps of willow and sycamores and even the geos (a long narrow steep-sided cleft in a seaclif). With such little cover the odds of finding new arrivals are increased and each day we enjoyed small waves of Goldcrests freshly arrived after a North Sea crossing rippling across the wet grassland towards the pockets of habitat. Spotted and Pied Flycatchers as well as Redstarts and tens of Blackcaps added numbers. In amongst them a handful of Yellow-browed Warblers mingled with Common and Siberian Chiffchaffs whilst Siberian Lesser Whitethroats and Barred Warblers lurked deeper in the vegetation. The super wide field of view of the NL Pures funnelled optical cues to my brain in an unabating fashion helping to detect birds faster. The ELs stood up to the Pures well and with both offering superb light gathering abilities we were able to keep birding right up to dark.
Whilst the spectacle of migration is something I continually awe at the prize for us had to be something rarer from further east. On a rare calm, sunny autumnal day we worked our way through a patch of thistles. In front of us a bird rose before dropping back down, perching atop of a dead stem; Radde’s Warbler! Relocating to the only bush in the area (and a tiny one at that!) we soaked in the rich tones and cheeky behaviour of this denizen of the far east, the NL Pures bringing the detail to my eyes in HD! Incredibly the following day we found 2 Radde’s Warblers here as well as Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers in the adjacent Iris bed; pure eastern magic and migration bliss. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed birding with the ELs but the NL Pures bring with them a whole new level of sensory experience and are particularly well suited for autumn birding where scanning large areas (both near and far) day in, day out is your staple.
Dan has been an avid naturalist and birder all his life having grown up in a botanic garden in North Wales. His passion turned into a profession having worked as an Ecologist, tour leader and lecturer around the world from the Antarctic to Arctic, Papua New Guinea to Madagascar. He has authored two books on birding and is a regular contributor to magazines. He is also scientific adviser to the BBC Natural history unit and other TV production companies and now runs Wild Discovery with his wife, Rachael, which focuses on giving people the best birding and wildlife watching experiences possible.