Eric Moore and wife, Gayla, toured the Swarovski Optiks manufacturing facility in Absam, Austria. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

I got home on Monday from our trip to Germany and Austria. While in Austria we had the opportunity to visit the Swarovski Optiks factory. Since our store is an authorized Swarovski Dealer, I was able to make arrangements to have a private tour of their manufacturing facility in Absam.

Needless to say, it was an incredible experience to see first-hand the processes used to make high-quality optics—whether it is a spotting scope, a rifle scope, or a pair of binoculars. There are a lot of great optics manufacturers in the world, such as Leica and Zeiss, but what sets Swarovski products apart from other optics manufacturers is the quality of the glass used in every pair of their optics.

At the conclusion of our tour, our guide pulled out a cardboard flat filled with glass prisms, and we were allowed to pick out any prism we wanted to take—for free. We also visited the Swarovski Optiks store where we ended up spending way too much money on Swarovski apparel.

As a small business owner, I appreciate the relationship we have with many of our vendors. Just a few years ago we toured the corporate offices for Vortex Optics in Barneveld, Wisconsin. The opportunity to tour both facilities further strengthened my commitment to the two brands of optics we sell. Both visits resulted in a greater appreciation for their attention to detail and the quality of their products.

While our trip to Germany and Austria was not specifically a birding trip, I managed to do some birding and was happy with the varieties of bird species I observed. Having never been to Europe before, pretty much everything I saw was a life-bird for me.

Whenever I travel to a place where I have never visited, I spend a lot of time preparing. I study and review over and over again the names and identifying features of the different types of birds that can be seen in the areas I’ll be visiting. My preparation pays dividends when I’m out birding and I see a new bird for the first time. I usually can figure out what I’m seeing.

When I see a new bird I make a mental note of several different key identification clues. For example, I quickly note things such as the size of the bird, its behavior, foraging techniques, and most importantly, if the bird is making any noise, I pay attention to its vocalizations.

On this trip, for the first time ever, I used a feature in the Merlin bird identification app on my phone called “Sound ID”. On the home page of the app there is an option to make a recording of the birds you are hearing. In just mere seconds the app uses the recording you’ve made of the bird in question and compares the recording to a host of bird songs contained in the apps’ database.

The app identifies the bird species you’ve recorded by comparing your recording to the recordings in the app. It is remarkable technology and helps confirm the bird identification through sound.

I found the app to be highly accurate, and it was a great help to me. If you want to expand your bird identification skills, I highly recommend downloading the Merlin app.

Birding Tip of the Week: Be on the lookout this week for baby quail. I have already received several reports from customers who have observed baby quail in their yard.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at