Vanguard Binocular Review: Endeavour ED 10 x 42

Birding In Spain binocular review

We are proud to announce that recently Birding In Spain has struck up an interesting area of collaboration with Vanguard, manufacturers of sporting optics, camera bags and accessories, tripods, etc.

Vanguard, sporting optics and accessories


Birding In Spain

But first of all a confession: We were not at all familiar with Vanguard products, with their binoculars or telescopes, their daypacks and assorted bags, not even with their award-winning tripods. And although we’re not always in tune with the latest in anything, not even birding gear and optics, we’ve been into birding in many ways for a long time now, we’ve come into contact with a lot of birders from most parts of the world, and we’re familiar with the big name brands in optics and other birding gear. Or so we thought.

In other words, we couldn’t help feeling somewhat skeptical about the material that was on its way to us from Vanguard, and began to wonder if we really wanted to get professionally involved with a brand that was so unfamiliar to us. Recommending products that we weren’t convinced of would be compromising our professional standards, and that was not something we wanted to do. At the same time, how could we not give the products a fair opportunity, after Vanguard had sent them to us in such good faith?

Fortunately, we can say the dilemma has been solved, and in the best way possible. Firstly, Vanguard have acted with efficiency and eloquence in the way they have their products to us and, secondly, our inspection of the products themselves has dispelled the major withholdings or doubts we may have had. We like what we’ve seen, and very much! 

Florinda testing out the Vanguard ED 10 x 42 in the field

Another confession: As professional guides we use top of the range binoculars of brands that are familiar to all birders in Europe and probably around the world, and we see no reason to change. So I personally will not be leading birding tours with my new Vanguard binoculars as my main pair of binoculars. However, that is not the point.

We also organize birdwatching courses and field excursions, get client’s companions who come along without binoculars, work with field collaborators, and it’s also very useful to have a “back-up” pair in case something happens to the main pair of binoculars, and without having to suffer a great compromise in effectiveness and image quality. So the new binoculars should see plenty of action! And they’re a lot more affordable than our main pair of binoculars, something that is very important to bear in mind when comparing their performance with models that could easily be 4 times or more their price.

So what about the review? Well, after trying out the Endeavour ED 10 x 42 in the field we looked through the Internet to try and find a glossary of terms to explain things more correctly, to come to terms with the terminology ourselves (e.g. lens coatings, eye relief, etc) and came across the review below which was already written, and in the most professional manner. There’s no way we could get close to writing such a well-constructed review, and what’s more we agree with virtually everything that’s said here, so there’s no compromising our standards or opinions just because Vanguard sent us some review material.

Here it is: Best Binoculars Reviews

 Vanguard ED 10 x 42 binoculars

There’s one major point we would add, and it’s not a positive one. The author of the review is very impressed by the low light performance of these binoculars, but our location and time of year has led us to do our initial trials under very different conditions: very bright light typical of midsummer in our continental Mediterranean climate, where right now the temperature outside must be around 35ºC. With such trials we have noticed colour-fringing (chromatic aberration) – yellow or purple fringes to contrasting lines and edges especially when viewing objects (antennas, common swifts, tree branches) against a bright sky. How much of an issue can this be? We’re not sure just yet so we’ll have to test the binoculars under less intense lighting conditions to see how the trials compare.

Oh, and another thing we’re not quite sure whether to test or not: Can we wash them under the tap?

Angry Birds: The idea of paying for visiting nature reserves

Angry birds peck back!

 Thumbs down to pay per visit policy of the Llobregat Delta reserves near Barcelona

Recently we got another unpleasant surprise when about to visit the Llobregat Delta nature reserve on the edge of Barcelona (previous ones have included reserve closed, being locked in, no water, disturbance by wild boars, etc). We were told that there were now entrance fees established for visiting the Llobregat delta reserve – but that they were only applicable to “professionals”. The argument is that a professional bird guide can obtain an “economic benefit” from the use of the reserve. So, as professional guides ourselves, what do we think?

Birding in the Llobregat Delta near Barcelona: entrance sign to the Filipines reserve

Sorry, but the whole idea gets a big thumbs down. First of all it’s a very feeble platform that of “those who obtain an economic benefit will have to pay”. For example, what about non-professional guides leading a birdwatching group? Or a visit by the local mayors or town or city councils? Or a photographer who takes a photo of a bird from one of the hides and then sells it to a magazine? And one who doesn’t sell any of his photos? Who is going to decide who, if any, of these will have to pay? The concept just doesn’t stand up to discussion or scrutiny.

And it’s not just because we will have to pay. It’s an arbitrary measure. It’s discriminatory, it’s ineffective, it’s overblown and under-reaching, and it’s not going to be of any benefit to anyone or anything. And sadly it doesn’t mean there will be an improvement in the management of the reserve, or an increase in the services offered to the visitor.

The new management plan for the National Park of Monfragüe also contemplates payment by visitors. But after this general proclamation the considerable divergence between these two “pay per visit” proposals gets wider and wider. The Monfragüe initiative is directed at payment for services, such as car parks, guided tours and access to previously restricted areas. And the income thus generated is to be directed back at management and upkeep of the park. In other words more for more, and not less for more as proposed with the Llobregat Delta initiative.

We believe that the “user” of nature should pay to an extent, but for services, not for just being there in nature. But first of all “exploiters and polluters” should be the ones to pay the most, e.g. a factory that pollutes a river, a company that takes off water from a river for irrigation, bottled water or cooling, logging companies, hotel chains with hotels in areas of natural beauty, and a long etc. The initial focus should be on making the bigger guys pay, because they are the prime “users”, and all too often “abusers” of nature. What is needed is an INTELLIGENT policy of use and exploitation of natural resources, including nature for amenity, but by no means conferring exclusive or prime importance to this aspect when there are so many others that should be addressed first. In the case of the Llobregat Delta why can’t Aena or Abertis pay?

Birders in one of the hides on the Llobregat Delta reserve near Barcelona

So these people are all with you eh? Let me see…. that’ll be 120 euros. Is there anybody hiding in the reedbeds? 

Furthermore consider this: we have already paid quite a lot for these reserves. Where else did the funds come from that were spent on management tasks, construction of visitor centers and hides, publications, signs etc? From taxpayers and consumers, of course. So we pay as taxpayers and now bird guides are supposed to pay as professionals (though with no signs of any accompanying tax relief), while the polluter, or climate change denier, or environmental detractor, or just general exploiter need not pay. This does not work as a fair-minded concept, which is why we call it discrimination.

While this precept lasts we will not enter the Llobregat Delta reserves because we refuse to pay. We also warmly invite the reserve direction, management and staff to contemplate the advantages and mechanisms of bidding other, wealthier entities to pay for the maintenance of this and other reserves.

Catalonia Tourism and a life-sized Bonelli’s Eagle

Well, almost!

Catalonia Tourism.

This year at the Rutland Water Birdfair the stand of Catalonia will be decorated with a spectacular 2mx2m photo of an adult Bonelli’s Eagle coming in to land on a tree branch. But it’s not just any Bonelli’s Eagle, but rather one of “ours”! The photo was taken by partner Jordi Bas from our Bonelli’s Eagle hide earlier this season.

Bonelli’s Eagle, Hieraaetus fasciatus, coming in to land in Catalonia.

The team of the Diputació de Lleida wisely chose this photo to represent part of the richness of birds and birding opportunities that there are in Lleida, one of the four provinces of Catalonia, and the only one without a coastline. What Lleida doesn’t have in terms of sea views it more than makes up for by having the exclusive or a majority stake on many plains and alpine species. And with photographic opportunities like these we have got used to making our own waves.

We’ll be circulating around at the Birdfair this year – so look out for the “mug” and t-shirts if you want a friendly chat.

Extreme weather events I


“What’s the weather like in May?”

We used to be able to answer that question with some degree of confidence. But nowadays we have to be very careful how we phrase our reply, using “Well, it should be….” or “Traditionally it has been…”, or similar reserved formulas. This year’s weather has been so riddled with extremes that it would be reckless to do otherwise.

For many of us living and birding in Spain it started around mid-February, with rain. “Hooray! Rain!” might have been the initial reaction, especially when the prospects of a continued or repeated drought are the foremost of people’s climatic concerns. But when that rain continues almost without respite for 2 whole months, and when the reservoirs and rivers are close to bursting their banks, even the most aqueous-minded souls among us are stirred to say “OK, that’s enough. You can stop raining now, please”.

Apart from the 60 days there’s also the question of timing. Birders can normally cope with mid-February being wet, but mid-April? When the spring migration should be building to its peak? It’s not just the comfort factor, but more the birds themselves that are the major concern. Migratory birds fly a long way in the spring to reach northern latitudes in order to take advantage of the temporary abundance of food and to breed before making the return migration. In order to establish territories, attract mates, and to recover from the long, demanding journey they need to be fighting fit. And for that they need to feed, and feed well.

Did you hear about Stone Curlews turning up in the UK in poor physical condition? Haggard, thin, exhausted? Stone Curlews are quite numerous in the right habitat in the “drier”, warmer parts of Spain, where they nest on the ground in dry, open, flat areas with sparse vegetation. My experience this spring, and I believe it was similar to other local bird guides, was that Stone Curlews were largely noticeable by their absence. It took a lot more searching than normal to find a Stone Curlew or two.

On reflection that shouldn’t be too hard to understand, for what “dry” areas were left to them? Normally stony or sandy fields and tracts were transformed into mudslides, puddles, mudclots and so on, and God only knows what they could find to eat. So if they couldn’t find the right habitat and conditions in Spain, by the time the Stone Curlews passing through to get to France or the UK had left Spain what sustenance had they found?

 Stone Curlews, Burhinus oedicnemus, by Mark Curley.

Sunshine, poppies and a decent mate. What more could a Stone Curlew ask for? 

Photo by Mark Curley. See more of Mark’s photos taken on the same bird photo trip here.

Around mid-April the sun came out in Spain and warmed us all to a smile and a sigh of relief “At last! Spring has arrived!”. The Stone Curlews responded and appeared in their usual breeding areas and started to, well, breed. When you see a Stone Curlew sitting in a particular spot for several consecutive days it’s usually a good indication that that bird is incubating or will be doing so quite shortly. And you tend to think that things won’t be so bad after all.

Stone Curlew, Burhinus oedicnemus, on the Lleida plains.

An adult Stone Curlew looking quite optimistic about the upcoming season’s breeding prospects   

Photo by Vincent Grau

But then it starts raining again, and it rains for 6 days without respite. And in those 6 days if the adult birds manage to sit tight on the nest, if they are not disturbed by predators, competitors or humans in any guise, and they do not leave the eggs long enough for them to get cold and die, it will be a small miracle.

And that’s only the beginning….