Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mavis, Susie and Billy Wise

The names by which we know birds in English have not always been set in stone, having changed and evolved with many regional variations. This is still happening with the official names of species in field guides trying to reach international consistency to avoid confusion. Sometimes this replaces a taxonomically inaccurate but descriptive name with something altogether less poetic. A good example of this is the renaming of the Fan-tailed Warbler as the Zitting Cisticola, a name that doesn’t exactly fire the imagination. Other names have been changed because they reflect the appearance of the species at the time of the year it is most often seen in Britain. The Grey Phalarope (a good descriptive name for the winter plumaged birds we see here) is now known as the Red Phalarope which is a more accurate description of the species in its northern breeding grounds.

One of the British Birds oils by Charles Collins (1736)
Before the standardising of scientific nomenclature and greater understanding of the genetic groupings of species classification was largely based on physical appearance, behaviour and habitat. As an example, reed buntings and sedge warblers, both small, brown and streaked passerines were referred to as reed sparrows. These, and a selection of some other obsolete but intriguing names were found on the backs of a series of oil paintings hanging in the Panelled Lobby at the National Trust's Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. Painted by Charles Collins (1680 – 1744) in 1736 these oils are a valuable early source of English names, some of which are found in other sources and some that may have been regional to Collins's native Ireland or even falling out of use at the time.
Below is a selection of some interesting examples of old, local and obscure avian nomenclature including the most unusual from the Collins oils (denoted with CC 1736).
Weasel Coot
Of unknown origin, this is a rather bizarre East Anglian name for redhead Smew.
(female Mallard) This is a term used mostly by wildfowlers.
East Anglian for Heron. This is a regional variant of a name that was probably fairly widespread across England. It features in one odd form in Shakespeare's Hamlet in the line “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” I still come across some old Norfolk boys and gels who use this name.
Wind Hover
(Kestrel) This is a fine example of a behavioural name.
Lapwing at Cley (Phil Farndon)
Hornpie, Green Plover, Peewit
The Lapwing is a bird has an impressive collection of names, and it is easy to understand why this distinctive and beautiful plover has caught the imagination of people over the centuries. Hornpie is the Norfolk dialect name.
(Oystercatcher) Derived from the same root as the Hornpie, with the 'pie' referring to the black and white appearance of the bird.
Drain Swallow, Whistling Snipe, Tree Sandpiper
(Green Sandpiper) All three of these now obscure names are far more descriptive of the bird than the now standard name.
Barn Owl at Wiveton (Phil Farndon)
Billy Wise
(Barn Owl) A rather charming example of proper Norfolk.
Bank Martin (CC 1736)
(Sand martin)

Ox-eyed Titmouse (CC 1736)
(Great Tit) The family of birds we now know as tits were until relatively recently called titmice.

Colemouse (CC 1736)

Bum Barrel
(Long-tailed Tit) Another Norfolk name.
Mavis (CC 1736)
(Song Thrush) Another once common name.
Storm Cock
(Mistle Thrush) Anyone who has heard a mistle thrush in full song at the very top of a tall tree in rough winds before a storm will understand just how apt this name is.
Titlark (CC 1736)
(Meadow pipit) A fine example of describing a bird in terms of two more familiar species.
Stonechat at Cley (Phil Farndon)
Stone Cutter (CC 1736)
Beam Bird (CC 1736)
(Spotted Flycatcher) There is no obvious derivation for this. My own theory is that this species may have been in the habit of using the beams of animal shed and barns as a perch when catching insects.
Small Reed Sparrow (CC 1736)
(Sedge Warbler)
Grasshopper Lark (CC 1736)
(Grasshopper Warbler)
Golden Crowned Wren (CC 1736)
Butcher Bird (CC 1736)
(Great Grey Shrike) This name is derived from the habit shrikes have of impaling there prey on thorns, as a butcher would hang meat.
Aberdevine (CC 1736)
(Siskin) Of unknown origin, but used for this species mostly when kept as a cage bird.
Pink or Spink
(Chaffinch) Variations on this onomatopoeic name are found across the country. Spink is the East Anglian variant and Pink is used in the Midlands.
Bramble Finch (CC 1736)
Reed Sparrow (CC 1736)
(Reed Bunting)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Birdwatching in Norfolk

Brent Geese at Cley Beach in Winter (Phil Farndon)

This is one of the legendary birdwatching locations in Britain, with a diversity of habitats and being uniquely placed projecting east into the North Sea, Norfolk catches some of the most exciting and inspiring birds the UK has to offer. From the sweeping mud flats and sand dunes of the west via the salt and fresh marshes and fragile cliffs, to the grazing marshes and shallow lakes of the broads in the east. This is one of the best locations in the country to see the most spectacular winter wildlife sights, all within easy reach.

Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Geese (Mick Green)
The arrival of tens of thousands of these vocal Arctic geese is the most awe-inspiring spectacle. Spending their days feeding on farmland around the county, in the evening long, straggling skeins of a few hundred at a time will make their way back to the coast and the safety of mud flats and marshes to roost. The best time and place to see the impressive scale of this migration is at dawn after a dark, moonless night at Snettisham on the west-facing end of the coast.

Knot in flight (Mick Green)
These are another specialist of the mud. Thousands of these dumpy waders will gather to feed on the foreshore, continually rearranging themselves as the tide retreats and returns. Their name is said to derive from the story of Cnut, the 11th Century king of Denmark, England and later Norway showing to his subjects that even he could not hold back the tide. Again the sheer numbers make these birds a breathtaking sight as they wheel and turn in unison.

Snow Buntings and Shore Larks

Snow Bunting (Mick Green)

Shore Lark (Mick Green)
Moving east to the sand dunes of Thornham, Holkham and Wells and the shingle ridge from Blakeney Point, Cley and Salthouse more Arctic breeders can be found. In spite of their bright Naples yellow heads and throats, Shore Larks are masters of camouflage and so are difficult to find, especially on shingle, but are well worth the effort. Snow Buntings are more gregarious and tightly bunched flocks of sixty or more can be seen in their bouncing flight along the shingle ridge at Salthouse most years. When on the ground they can be as hard to find as the Shore Larks, apparently vanishing as they land on the stones. It often happens that you will notice one and then realise that a dozen or so more are also there feeding invisibly in full view around it.

The fresh marshes of Cley and Salthouse are a haven for wintering Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Brent Geese. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley Marshes is one of the best places to get up close to these species and also get large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing coming in to roost in the evening.

Barn Owls, Short-eared Owls and Harriers
Barn Owl (Mick Green)
When travelling around the coast and countryside always keep and eye open for birds of prey hunting over fields, verges and reed beds. East Anglia and Norfolk especially holds one of the densest populations of Barn owls in the country. These elegant and silent hunters are crepuscular (most active in the twilight of dawn and dusk) but will frequently fly during the day and are captivating to watch quartering a meadow in search of voles in low winter sunlight.

Short-eared Owl (Mick Green)
Short-eared Owls are winter migrants that can in some years arrive in large numbers. It is often worth scanning across heaths, reed beds and marshes for these large, fierce-eyed birds. In the same habitats and over farmland in the coastal hinterland look out for Hen and Marsh Harriers spending the winter in Norfolk.


Bean Geese
One for the connoisseur, these geese are winter visitors in low numbers from northern Europe and Asia. There are two races of these grey geese, the Tundra and the Taiga, their names indicating their favoured breeding grounds. Superficially similar to Pink-footed Geese but with orange on the legs and bill they can be challenging to pick out and often are very mobile making an element of luck important in finding them. They are best observed on open fields and grazing marshes all along the coast and inland at sights around the Broads and East Norfolk rivers like Buckenham and Cantly.
Winter gems
Lapland Bunting (Mick Green)
As well as the regular delights mentioned above there is always the possibility of happening across a rarity or one of the scarcer visitors to this county. In some years Lapland Buntings can be found in coastal fields or mixed in with Snow Buntings, in the Broads small parties of Cranes feed on the grazing land, and in harsh northerly winds high Arctic gulls come down the North Sea.  Large numbers of Waxwings sometimes are driven south by hard winters in Scandiavia and come to feed on fruit and berries, often in gardens and carparks at the edge of towns. Norfolk is also one of the best areas to see Rough-legged Buzzards around the coastal marshes and Broads.

The great joy of birdwatching is the unexpected, and anywhere along the coast you stand a good chance of turning up something out of the ordinary. The best way to increase your chances is to tap into the local knowledge and reports and ask the perennial question of birders everywhere, “Much about?”.

Some of the best sources of Norfolk wildlife information on the internet are listed below.

Cley Spy.
The largest dedicated optics shop in the UK with 200 models of binoculars and over 50 models of telescope in stock plus a good range of second hand optics.  We also stock tripods, bird food, straps, Tilley hats and Paramo and Jack Pyke outdoor clothing.

Local Birder who regularly blogs on the birding scene in Norfolk with highlights of the days bird news from RBA. This blog is valuable sources of up-to-date information and photos.

A subscription bird news service with online and pager news sent out 24/7.

Online bird news service with free to access overview of UK bird sighting or subscribe for full details.

Lots of information and photos from the Cley area.

Norfolk wildlife photographer and member of the Cley Spy team.

A group of young, mainly Norfolk based birders with a unconventional outlook on the birding scene.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to clean binoculars and telescopes

If looked after well binoculars and telescopes can keep working for many decades, but inappropriate cleaning can cause potentially expensive damage. We have seen many badly scratched lenses and seized eyecups and focusing wheels that could have been avoided by following a few simple rules that will keep your kit in tip top condition.

Keep it clean.
Sand, fingerprints and dust. Time for a clean.
This may sound obvious, but if you want to avoid the risk of damage then not cleaning too frequently is best. Optics that are used in the field will get dirty eventually but using rainguards and lens caps will help keep the muck out for longer.

Try not to clean when out in the field.
This is usually when damage is done. It is not always convenient to carry a full cleaning kit in the field and the temptation to quickly remove a speck or smear with a cloth or the hem of your shirt/scarf/skirt/pants can be great, but resist!

Clean at room temperature.
If you try to clean when the lenses are too cold it is very hard to successfully remove any greasy marks and you tend to just spread the muck around.

All you need to keep clean.

Use the right tools for the job.
What you need is:

An air blower

A soft brush

A clean lens cloth

Lens cleaning fluid

Step 1:
Don't touch the lenses yet! The first thing to do is remove any loose dust, sand or grit without risking getting it embedded in the lens cloth or scratching the lens coatings. The best way to do this is using a rubber bulb type air blower with the lens facing downwards to allow any grit to fall out. After you have done this use a soft brush to flick out any bits that the blower didn't shift.

Step 2:
And breathe... A quick huff or two on the lens for a coating of moisture works a treat, then using a lens cloth to wipe round. Don't push too hard with the cloth and fold it so that you have two or three layers under your finger. If there is a single spot or fingerprint on the lens then try to remove this without spreading it all over the lens.

Step 3:
Still not clean? If there is still smearing on the lens then a little cleaning fluid should sort it out, but don't spray it on to the lens because it will be very difficult to remove it all and with some older bin it can seep inside. Spray onto the lens cloth and carefully apply it to the greasy area only, then another breath on the lens and wipe with a bit of cloth without cleaning fluid on.


Salt under the microscope. The hard, sharp-edged crystals
can easily scratch lens coatings
When you are out by the coast in rough conditions everything will get covered in spray and when this dries hard crystals form which can scratch the lens coatings. To avoid this the crystals must be dissolved before cleaning. Start the cleaning with step 1 then proceed as follows. If there is only a light covering of spray then the condensation from warm breath is often enough but if the lenses are well encrusted then it becomes a little more tricky. With fully waterproofed optics you can use a shallow bowl of warm water to just dip the lens surface into for long enough to let the crystals dissolve. With non-waterproofed optics the risk of getting moisture inside is too great for this to be recommended, so breathing on the lenses when they are cooler will have to suffice and is often enough. After this then follow step 2 again.

It gets everywhere. This is the worst enemy don't miss out on seeing something because you are trying to keep your bing it around it will find its way into eye cups, focusing wheels and hinges. While there is not a lot you can do about this keeping your rainguard on as much as possible will help and if you have twist-up style eye cups turn them down to keep sand out of the mechanism. When you get home follow step 1 to remove as much as possible without touching the lenses.

Many insect repellents contain the chemical N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (C12H17NO) commonly known as DEET. This is a volatile chemical that is very good at keeping the mozzies away but also attacks rubber armouring and some plastics on binoculars and scopes. While there are some places where the insects are so numerous and determined that DEET is the only option, it is best kept away for you optics or the rubber may begin to peel, bubble and crack with repeated contact.

Birdwatching optics are designed to be used outdoors and sometimes they will get dirty, so don't miss out on seeing something because you are trying to keep your binoculars clean, but a little care goes a long way. Some hardened twitchers regard filthy kit as a way of showing you are a serious birder but this is no excuse for mistreating your gear and there is a difference between well used and abused. If you look after your optics they can last a lifetime.

Cley Spy

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Autumn work and birdwatching in the fog

'Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, northern migrants and rare vagrants, and preparing for the winter.

The cut hay ready for raking up.
Over the last few weeks we have been busy doing some much needed maintenance on the Bayfield Wildlife Walk and our own wildlife field behind the Glandford shop. Now that the wild flowers have set seed and the majority of the grasshoppers and other insects have reached the end of this years life cycle it was time to cut the meadow. The plan is to keep the filed as mostly open grass and flower meadow with bramble and hawthorn scrub patches at the top end and cover around the edges. Cutting the grass once a year not only stops scrub and eventually trees taking over but also removing the cuttings gradually reduces the nutrient in the soil, creating conditions that deter thistles, nettles and rank grasses dominating and favours a more diverse grass and flower mix. An added bonus is the heap of cuttings provides a warm refuge for grass snakes and as it decays a rich source worms and insects for the birds and small mammals. The small size of the area (half an acre) means that an appropriate level of grazing would be difficult to achieve, and whilst we try and keep the use of machinery to a minimum a petrol brush cutter was the best option for managing this field. Decked out in the appropriate safety gear and with a period of cool overcast weather the task was complete two days and five litres of fuel later. With smell of new mown hey in our nostrils and a sense of satisfaction at a job well done we then turned our attention to revamping the Bayfield Wildlife Walk.

The first of the new
way markers
The way markers had for a long time been an incomplete rag-tag collection of yellow arrows tied and nailed to trees, fences and posts often concealed by vegetation. We replaced these with treated round posts with sloped tops onto which we nailed yellow plastic arrows (recycled from old margarine tubs!). The idea is that now there are consistent and easily spotted markers at all the points where there is a opportunity to take the wrong path. These are complemented by a new information sign at the start of the walk next to our shop showing a map and some things to look out for around the walk.

This is one of my favourite times of the year to be working outdoors, with the cool air filled with the rich and musky scents of the soils and woodland, wildlife in abundance and the satisfaction to be had from preparing for the winter and new year ahead.

One of the Ring Ouzels in our field at Glandford

Over the last few weeks northerly air movements and low cloud brought in unprecedented numbers of migrant thrushes and chats to Norfolk. The best rarity of this fall was a very confiding red-flanked bluetail atStiffkey, but the most impressive spectacle was the shear numbers of thrushes and especially ring ouzels. During the few days of fog almost anywhere you went along the coast the hedges, bushes and fields held dozens of these robust and wary 'mountain blackbirds' in amongst the flocks of redwings, fieldfares and blackbirds. Taking advantage of the newly cut field we even had two ring ouzels stop at Glandford and at least two black redstarts outside both shops.

For more information on the Bayfield Wildlife Walk and a printable map download please go to the Cley Spy website.

Cley Spy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Apple of your i

The quality of cameras built into mobile and smart phones has reached a point where they have the performance of many pocket sized compact cameras. This has revived interest in digiscoping with phone cameras and the appeal is clear, having one lightweight piece of equipment that performs the roles of communication and photography. Add to this the possibilities offered by smart phones of uploading photos to the internet and emailing them out in the field and even live streaming video and there is great potential for this type of photography. Just like digiscoping with a conventional camera the results are greatly improved with an adapter that can hold the phone securely in the correct alignment.  A feature of the iphone that makes it especially suitable for digiscoping is the ability to use the volume control on the headphone wire as a remote shutter release.
Two optics companies have brought out adapters for the iphone 4 and 4s and below are our findings from testing them.

The Kowa TSN-IP4S adapter is made of tough rubberised plastic and clips on to the phone in the same way that many cases for smart phones do and has a lug for a lanyard which is provided. The mount that fits on the scope eyepiece is made of anodised aluminium and there are two sizes of felt-lined tube, one to fit binoculars and one to fit the eyepieces of the TSN-880/770 series scopes. The one for the scopes also fits onto Swarovski and Zeiss zoom eyepieces and with the felt removed fits (albeit slightly loosely) the latest Leica Televid 65/82 eyepiece. The binocular tube fits in addition
Kowa's own binoculars and the following models form other manufactures.
Pentax DCF BC 9x42
Minox BL 8x42 and 10x42
Leica Ultravid HD 7x42, 8x42 and 10x42 and the new Trinovid 8x42 and 10x42
Nikon EDG 8x32
Viking ED Pro 8x42 and 10x42.


The Meopta Meopix adapter is a slightly lighter weight option made from plastic with a built-in tube for mounting onto the eyepiece. 
Two versions are available for Meopta's own optics, one with a 41.8mm tube for the Meopta Meostar B1 and B1 HD binoculars, and one with a 48.5mm tube for the Meostar S2 spotting scope. The larger of the two also fits the Viking AW 65 and 80mm scopes and the smaller also fits Minox BL 8x42 and 10x42, Opticron's BGA 8x42 and 10x42 and the DBA 8x42 and 10x42. They have also now produced versions sized to fit Swarovski's 25-50x and 20-60x zooms and one for Zeiss scopes.


Digiscoping with phones is likely to become a lot more popular in the near future and it is good to see that there are already well made and capable adapters out there.

Cley Spy

Monday, October 1, 2012

Swarovski ATX/STX: A scope of two halves

A zoom with a view.

In the days before usable zoom eyepieces if you wanted to change the magnification of your scope you had to change the eyepiece, with most manufacturers typically offering a 20x, a 30x and a 40x. The early zooms were not very user-friendly items, having very narrow fields of view and lacking sharpness at anything much over minimum magnification. Things were much improved with the first zooms from Swarovski and Leica in the 1990s, but these were still a compromise in terms of field of view over a fixed lenses. In the late 2000s wide-angle zooms came on the market and delivered a viewing angle comparable with fixed eyepieces but also giving the valuable flexibility of a zoom, essentially the best of both worlds. Swarovski's 25-50x wide-angle zoom is a fine example of this, and now Swarovski only produce this and the older, but still outstanding, 20-60x zoom, having discontinued their fixed 20x, 30x and 45x earlier this year.

With the need for multiple eyepieces removed, their latest scopes have taken a different approach in having interchangeable objective lens modules that attach to the front of a combined eyepiece and prism module with a built-in zoom.

The new ATX 65mm and 85mm objective modules are similar to previous ATM 65mm and 80mm in that they have the same focal length and so the zoom has a range of 25-60x, regaining that extra 10x magnification at the top end missed by some ATM users with the 25-50x. The real feature that sets these new scopes apart from the competition is the addition of a 95mm version which has a longer focal length making it an outstanding and improbable-sounding 30-70x wide-angle zoom. There is a price to pay with the weight of this 95mm piece of glass compared to the other two models, but in spite of this huge lens it is only about the same weight as the old Leica 77mm Televid and is 200 grams lighter than the Nikon EDG 85.

Bright and colourful

The three top European birding optics firms (Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski) all take a slightly different approach to colour rendition, each favoured or criticised by different people. The previous generation of Swarovskis were sometimes said to have a slight cold blueish colour bias, where as Zeiss scopes to some eyes seem to have a warm yellow bias. The new Swarovskis (like the current Leicas) have a very pleasingly neutral image with no hint of a preference in in any direction which is relaxing on the eye and removes any doubt about weather you are seeing a true representation.

The light transmission is class-leading.   Not a lot more that can be said about that really, it simply is. All the modules are as bright as you could wish for their size. Well done the Austrians.

The big selling point with these modular scopes from Swarovski's point of view is the ability to have two or all three objective modules and switch between them depending on what location or light conditions you are birding in. The lightweight 65mm module for travel and trekking, the 85mm for general use and the awe-inspiring 95mm for the ultimate light gathering and magnification. For me however the best feature on this scope is the zoom and focus rings being side-by-side. This is not a first in scope design, the well built but optically questionable Bushnell Discoverer had this feature, as does the Zeiss Photoscope, but everything seems to have come together with these practical and flexible scopes.

Throwing light on the dark art of digiscoping.

The new DCB II digiscoping adapter
As well as completely redesigning the scope from the ground up there is a new simplified range of camera adapters for compacts and SLRs. The new adapters work just as well with the “old” ATM/STM and the reincarnated ATS/STS scopes. There are two adapters, one for compact cameras and one for DSLRs. The compact adapter is an improved design of the DCB swing-over bracket, allowing users to quickly switch between viewing a taking pictures. The new APO DSLR adapter is the most user-friendly adapter of this type I've ever seen, allowing a DSLR or mirrorless system camera to be simply pushed over the eyepiece of the scopes without having to mess about with taking the eyepiece out.
Below is a video from Swarovski showing how the new DSLR APO adapter works.

Swarovski ATS
Back from the beyond.

As well as the addition of the new modular scopes the previous range has been brought back with a aluminium rather than magnesium body and a lower price tag. This is essentially the same ATS/STS HD scope as the one launched in 2002 with the addition of the modern “Swaroclean” water and grease repellent lens coating.

The ultimate all-rounder?

The Glandford shop's view
All of the features of the new ATX/STX scopes mentioned above combined with Swarovski's legendary after-sales service has really raised the bar as far as scope design goes, and the real surprise is that they have improved on the outstanding image quality of the previous generation. Swarovski haven't rendered their competition obsolete over night, as we know very well there is no one telescope or binocular that works for everyone, and so the offering from Leica, Zeiss, Kowa and others at the top of the range still offer a real and comparable alternative. What they have done is bring out a range of scopes that is not simply a repackaging of existing technology but a shining example genuine innovation.

Come and field test them for yourself at our Glandford shop over the excellent farmland views.

Cley Spy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Repairs and Servicing

One of the services we offer here at Cley Spy is repairs and servicing of binoculars, telescopes and tripods. We have two in-house engineers who can carry out repairs to most equipment that is no longer covered by warranties and we can arrange repairs of items that need to be returned to the manufacturer. Some of the most common types of repairs we encounter are listed below.

Over 50 years of experiance. Our Head Engineer Maurice
 realigning binoculars

Realignment of binoculars. The most common problem with binoculars is double vision often caused by the prisms getting jolted out of position. This can usually be fixed in both Porro prism and roof prism binoculars by adjusting the prisms or objective lenses with the binoculars on our collimator bench.

Internal cleaning and servicing of binoculars. Many older non-waterproofed Porro prism binoculars get a build up of dust, water marks and even fungus on lens and prism surfaces. Removing this contamination requires completely dismantling the binoculars and so we also service all moving parts while we are at it. This can also be done with some older telescopes.
The internal parts of a Wray 9x40 binocular

Replacing and repairing twist-up eyecups. Being a vulnerable part of binoculars and telescopes these often get damaged. Many current models can have replacement eyecups fitted without having to send them away to the manufacturer.

Tripod repairs. We can perform surgery on most tripods and monopods and if parts are required we carry stock of the most commonly needed bits. We also have a tripod graveyard which is a source of spears for older models that new parts are no longer available for.

If you have any enquiries about repairs and servicing please visit us at our Glandford shop or contact us via phone on 01263 740088 or through our website.

Cley Spy

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's not all about birds!

Binoculars and telescopes are not just used for birdwatching and one of the most common applications is for insects, especially butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. A good pair of close-focusing binoculars and a telescope really enhance observing some of the less approachable species and where you can't get close to them, for example, dragonflies settled on the other side of a stream or pond. Generally the best close-focus is achieved by 8x32 binoculars and 65mm or 50mm telescopes, but the exceptions to this rule are the Pentax Papilio 6.5x21 and 8.5x21 which both focus down to 50cm (20'').

Dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths and wildflowers are just as rewarding to watch as birds, having endless diversity and the opportunity to find rare, localised and vagrant species. The summer can be a quiet period for birds in the UK, especially during calm sunny weather, but is one of the best times to see insects and so many birders turn their attention closer to the ground. An interest and appreciation of many aspects of the natural world is the best way to ensure that you have an enjoyable experience whatever the time of year.

Not only can you use binoculas and scopes to observe, but it is also possible to digiscope the smaller wildlife. Yesterday I took a Swarovski ATM 65 HD with zoom and UCA camera adapter and my little compact camera to the edge of our pond and in about ten minutes had a few photos and videos of some of the insect activity.

Here are a few of the results of bit of macro-digiscoping.
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zeiss Victory HT and Conquest HD UK launch at Cley Spy

The new Victory HTs promise outstanding
low-light performance
New high-end binoculars always cause a stir, especially when the manufacturer has set out to create something ground-breaking. The much anticipated new Zeiss HT Victory binoculars are just that, offering unparalleled brightness and the first opportunity to test them out in the UK will be here at Cley Spy's Glandford shop. We will also have the first demo of the Zeiss Conquest HD 8x32 which, if the 8x42 and 10x42 versions are anything to go by, should be extremely impressive.

The Victory HTs promise unrivalled brightness, thanks to a light transmission of up to more than 95% - this unique result is created by the innovative optical concept of the VICTORY HT range. It is made possible by the perfect interplay of SCHOTT® HT glass, the Carl Zeiss T* multi-layer coating and the Abbe-K├Ânig prism system.
You will be able to try these for yourself using our excellent viewing facilities on Friday the 20th of July from 10:30am to 4pm when Zeiss will bring the first pairs in the country to Norfolk. We will also be taking orders for the first available UK stock.

The view from our Glandford Shop.  Perfect for testing optics 'in the field'

Looking forward to seeing you!

Cley Spy

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why Cley Spy?

The Glandford Shop with the newly finished viewing shelter
Eleven years ago Cley Spy opened in the front of an old carrot washing barn in Glandford near the North Norfolk coast, stocked with a handful of binoculars and telescopes. Since then we have expanded to become the biggest independent specialist optics shop in the country, with over 180 different models of binocular, over 40 telescopes and our second hand stock all on shelf to be tried and tested. Over the years Cley Spy has become the place to visit for specialist nature watching equipment. We regularly get visitors from all over the country because the range of stock, viewing facilities and expertise we can offer are the best around.
The pond and wildflower meadow behind the Glandford shop
Testing Scopes 'in the field'

House Sparrows on the feeder

The team here are all birdwatchers and optics users and so have been through the process of choosing binoculars and scopes from the initially bewildering array of models. Knowing what it's like to be on the other side of the transaction, we give customers the time and space to try and test all the equipment they want. If you are spending tens of pounds or thousands of pounds on optical equipment you want to know you are investing in the right product. You can only make a valid comparison between two or more binoculars or telescopes if you have them side by side and can repeatedly switch between them. Testing one model in one place and another somewhere else, even if only an hour apart, will not give you an accurate impression of their relative merits. Here at Cley Spy we have the most diverse stock of binoculars and telescopes anywhere in the country so you can test a range of equipment within any budget at your leisure. We will always give advice if needed and discuss the options and your requirements, but ultimately it is what your eyes see that matters. Whilst any group of binoculars or scopes of the same specification and around the same price may be very similar in terms of optical quality, subtleties of design, ergonomics, size and weight can make or brake the suitability of a model.

Just a few of the binoculars in stock
The imprsive view over one of Britain's
best bird reserves from our shop at
Cley Marshes
We have two shops, our HQ at Glandford and a small shop in the old Visitors Centre at Cley Marshes nature reserve. At Glandford in addition to the optics and tripods we also have a range of Paramo and Jack Pyke outdoor clothing, Tilley hats, bird food and feeders, books and toys. In January 2012 we moved to a newly converted barn in the same yard at Glandford that gave us much better viewing for testing optics and the half-acre field which we are turning into a wildlife haven.
Come and visit us to get the best optics experience available!

Cley Spy

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wildlife update

After the very wet bank holiday Sunday the pond has been topped up to the brim and the sun has come out. Three smooth newts a selection of diving beetles and pond skaters have found the pond and are enjoying the weed and lilly pads.

Corn Chamomile and Poppies
The field has come into bloom now and is sporting an impressive diversity of species, from meadow grasses and delicate perennials, to dry waste ground species and the rather unkindly termed “weeds of cultivation”. The main attraction is the spectacle of the deep red poppies growing through the sea of white corn chamomile between the shop and the pond. At the top of the field a much more heath-like environment has developed, with shorter, tougher grasses and flower species associated with dry sandy places like, barren strawberry and fiddleneck.
Common Vetch
Wild Strawberry
Field Pansy


Flax sp.