Leica Boosts the Highest Peregrine Count
With yet another world record for the highest count of “Falco peregrinus” during a single count season, the Florida Keys Hawkwatch continues securing its place as the Peregrine Falcon Migration Capital of the World.
Every fall season, hawkwatchers flock to the southernmost chain of islands along the Atlantic Flyway to participate in the Florida Keys Hawkwatch (FKH), a project with origins dating back to the 1980s. Currently, FKH conducts transect counts for migratory birds through a tract of native tropical habitats every morning at Long Key State Park, in addition to a daily raptor migration count at Curry Hammock – now in its 17th season. Aside from being the southernmost hawkwatch in the continental U.S., FKH also has the distinction of being the site where the highest counts for migratory Peregrine Falcons in the world have been documented. For the third consecutive year, the site has broken the high count for the species – this year surpassing the 4010 Peregrines tallied during the fall of 2013 – now at 4027 for the 2014 season, and still counting!
Our project has had the fortune of attracting excellent talent over the years. We have also had the fortune of attracting partnerships such as Leica Sport Optics, which has been crucial to our recent success. A sponsorship from Leica has allowed the project an opportunity to further standardize counts through the use of durable, professional-grade binoculars provided to all our official counters and volunteer hawkwatchers.
As with every year, the FKH crew was thrilled to receive a package full of Leica products this fall, and each member of the team gravitated towards the optics that best fit their needs. Below are excerpts from conversations I had with each Florida Keys Hawkwatch team member about their preferred Leica optics, and their best uses.
“My dad was a professional photographer and a pilot, so he was really into optics. His favorite cameras and overall optics were Leicas. You might say I may be slightly biased from that alone, but the name Leica is an icon as far as I’m concerned.
At the hawkwatch, we need to be accurate, and good optics help us identify the birds – poor quality binoculars would not do. The optics I use are the Ultravids, which work excellently in darker situations or twilight. Downright great light-gathering capacity! They are lightweight, with a sharp and crisp image all the way out to the edge of the field of view – without distortions. Excellent optics – that is what Leica brings.”
Charles Caudill has volunteered with the Florida Keys Hawkwatch for four consecutive fall seasons along with his wife Colleen. They travel extensively in their RV, embarking on trips throughout the country from their home in the Florida peninsula.
“I am using the Ultravid 7×42 HD binoculars, and what I like about them for hawkwatching is their very wide field of view. They are particularly useful for days with little cloud cover. With them, migrating raptors are easier to detect and in general have cleaner silhouettes. When the season first began and I tried the different binoculars sent to us by Leica, the quality of the Ultravid 7s was immediately clear to me. With other binoculars I have used in the past, hawkwatching would not be possible without really straining the eyes.
These binoculars allow for faster identification of birds at a distance – which is crucial for this line of work – rather than struggling to ID birds because of optics that don’t have as clear an image or limited field of view. For day-to-day birdwatching activities, these binoculars provide a sharper view, enhancing the experience.
I had always heard that Leica are the best and can now attest to that. I have used mediocre binoculars compared to these – and can say that the Ultravids certainly feel lighter, and that I can see more and sharper detail at a distance with them; they have worked extremely well for me this season. I have used them in bad weather – wind and rain – and have yet to experience water marks or smudges. These are the best binoculars I have used, and wish I could keep them!!!”
Bree Furfey is a South Florida researcher with experience ranging from Black Skimmers to Swallow-tailed Kites and Magnificent Frigatebirds. FKH has been fortunate to have her participation this season, and has greatly benefited from her knowledge of the region and its avian specialties. She loves all things nature, including native habitats and the interrelationships between plants and animals.
“It has been wonderful to have a variety of Leica optics to use and experiment with. All of the Ultravids are awesome! At the hawkwatch I am using the 10×42 Ultravids, which I love because at this site you spend a lot of time looking up at backlit birds, and their light-gathering ability is untouchable. The crispness of the image of birds at these great distances is second to none.
The scopes are great! This season we are using the 65s. Again, the clarity and lighting ability when it comes to distant backlit birds is the best. The eyepieces allow a lot of light through even though they are zoom, which is often restrictive of that. The whole scope as a unit is fantastic.
My grandfather recently died, and I was going through some of his stuff not long before the season started, and I found a really old Leica camera in his gear. That was pretty cool to see – and have wishes of getting it operating again. I have used the V-Lux cameras that Leica has loaned our project a number of times, and they are astounding. Many of the images on our website are taken with those cameras. Even in the dark, the light-gathering ability and clarity of these digital cameras is spectacular.”
Kerry Ross has participated with FKH for three seasons. He has worked with birds ranging from plovers to goshawks, including raptor migration projects, avian recapture and wildlife rehabilitation. His leadership, experience and passion are crucial towards the success of the project. Extreme sports, early punk rock and herping are on the other end of his interests – and Kerry is often engaged in these activities as well.
COLLEEN KIMBERT CAUDILL
“We are really appreciative as volunteers that Leica makes binoculars available for us throughout the season. We look forward to using them on a daily basis!
I use the Trinovid 8x42s, and have used Leica binoculars each of the 4 years I’ve been volunteering as a hawkwatcher here in the Keys. I am very grateful that Leica sends them for us. They are superior optics and without them, I don’t think I would be able to identify the birds that are so incredibly distant or in the haze – I wouldn’t be able to do it.
I always recommend Leica binoculars to friends and other birders. They are just very comfortable binoculars that are easy to focus – and stay in focus. No nonsense – they are the best!”
Colleen Kimbert Caudill first discovered hawkwatching by chance. She has had a long love for birds and nature, but when she and her husband Charles visited Curry Hammock State Park during the fall of 2011, she had no idea they would be captured by a new passion – raptor migration! They have been seasonal volunteers at FKH for the last four fall seasons.
“The optics that I am using are the Trinovid 8×42 binoculars and the APO-Televid 65 scope. I find that the binoculars are compact and designed to fit into the hands comfortably. The lenses are the finest material and hand-crafted. I find that I can often get on a bird and identify it more quickly than other people using a similar competitor brand, even when I’m among experienced birders.
The scope allows me to easily get on distant birds. Even in poor weather conditions, I am still able to find rather magnificent amount of detail. When hawkwatching, this is absolutely essential.
I find that the sponsorship we have with Leica Sport Optics is a personal relationship. They are actually involved and interested in the research that we are doing, as opposed to a larger company putting their name behind something and simply sharing credit. It makes a difference when Leica is communicating with us and sharing what we are finding at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.”
Alex Harper is a Miami native - an avid and sharp birder with experience in many parts of the world. Following field opportunities out west, FKH has been fortunate to have lured him back to his native habitat. The project has benefited from his wealth of knowledge about Florida birds. There is rarely a time when he is not birding, but you may also find him jumping rope or riding his bike.
“I like using the Trinovid 8×42 binoculars because they are lightweight and have a good broad field of view. The quality of the optics is just superior. We’ve been using these in all conditions of weather, minimum 7 hours a day, for nearly two months straight now – and they are without peer. These really help when you are trying to do long distance ID, trying to get detail on hawks that are way out in the horizon and just pin pricks in any other binoculars – with the Trinovids you can actually see what you are looking at! They are durable and water tight, and that is important to me because we are often just standing in the rain. I would like to have them for other field jobs I do because I often get my optics doused in water.
I like everything about these Trinovids – they feel solid in your hands, but are comfortable and easy to carry around – and the diopter is very easy to adjust.”
Moe Morrissette has years of experience working with Marbled Murrelets, shorebird surveys, and various projects along the Pacific coast and western forests. He is a native Californian working for the first time in the Florida Keys. He is an ardent letter and postcard writer who has managed to attract the attention of ladies and the law with his uniquely decorated parcels.
Rafael Galvez is coordinator of the Florida Keys Hawkwatch – and when there is not a mountain of organizational work to be done, he gets out and participates in the morning migration counts or at the hawkwatch.
“I love using the Ultravid 8×32 HD binoculars because of their compact size and phenomenal light weight. But don’t mistake these powerful little bins for compact glasses – they deliver pounds for every ounce of their weight, and then some. They have a fantastic image as do all Ultravids, but their small size guarantees unparalleled stability, particularly when spending hours each day scanning the skies for migratory birds. If you really care for color like I do, try testing the color fidelity of Ultravid lenses against any other binocular in the industry – you will quickly find that no other optics offer true color like Leica Ultravids.”
Keep up with migration counts from the Florida Keys at FloridaKeysHawkwatch.wordpress.com