Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A long shot

These aren't the really nice bird pictures you are used to from Q and Paul but it's the best I could do this trip.

On the first day Parker and I went out it was cold and windy, VERY windy, but we spotted this very large bird in a field hovering about three feet above the grass, apparently looking for it's next meal.

We tried to get as close as possible, moving through the grass when the bird dove into the grass so he wouldn't see us coming. It seems that every time we would move about 50 yards closer the bird would move 100 yards farther out. He didn't seem to be paying any attention to us, he was just hunting and that took him farther away. At least that's my story any way.

After reviewing several of our photos Parker was able to determine this was a young Northern Harrier which has a wing span up to 40 inches.

To give you an idea of how big this bird was I took a photo of it as it flew between two buffalo that were in the same grassy area. I think Parker spent more time watching the buffalo than the bird just to make sure they didn't get too close. LOL

These photos were some what of an experiment. I took the advice Paul gave me this summer and bought a Sigma 1.4X teleconverter for my Sigma 150-500mm lens and it was in use during this shoot. These shots were taken with the Sigma 150-500mm lens with the teleconverter on and set at full zoom which gave me 700mm on the lens. The bird was between 200 and 300 yards away the whole time. Because of the teleconverter the fastest aperture I could set was f9 and I had to manually focus the lens. These photos are cropped about 50%.

Did I mention it was cold? And windy? The temperature was right around 42 degrees and the winds were howling at a brisk 25-30 mph the whole time. Even though I was using a tripod the winds were making it very hard to keep the camera from moving. These are my best shots out of about 100 shots I took of the harrier.


  1. wow! those shots are great for manual focus and all! it is a large bird!

  2. I would be very hard to get close to this bird if you are in open field. Since, your lens is 700mm, I would park myself with the wind behind me. Then wait until the bird within range.

  3. We actually tried that. We picked a spot and stayed for about a half hour and the bird kept working farther and farther away from us so we thought we'd try to get closer but that didn't work either.

  4. Considering all the circumstances, I think these pics turned out well! Sure was fun just being there to watch the show this large bird of prey put on for us. Shots of Opportunity from the field!

  5. Sure get a idea just how big this bird is in the picture with the buffalos. Nice find!

    No auto focus with the Sigma 1.4 teleconverter and Sigma 150-500 lens combo? I've read various articles and have gotten conflicting information on whether autofocus works with the sigma teleconverters and Nikon camera bodies. Having said that these pictures came out great even if you had to manual focus!

    1. Paul,

      Sigma's website says the autofocus will not function with the 1.4X or the 2X teleconverters and they are correct. I had to switch everything to manual.

      That said, I bought a cheapy 2X teleconverter a few years back (I think it was a Vivitar brand) and used it with my Tamron 18-250mm on the D80 and it did auto focus. I eventually sold that and just bought the bigger sigma lens.

    2. Oh yea, no autofocus is just on the bigger Sigma lenses. On their smaller zooms the autofocus will work on the Nikon cameras. I don't remember for sure but I don't think the autofucus would work on your 400mm lens.

    3. I seem to recall that about the Sigma teleconverter not working on their bigger lenses now that you mention it... I also recall that there was one made that would but for the life of me I can't remember which one it was now...

      If I ever go to a FX sensor camera body my 120-400 actually becomes just that and not a 180-600mm lens as on my DX camera body. Then I'd be needing a teleconverter just to get back to where I was! What can you do... LOL

  6. The shots are nice, I wish I could zoom on them...


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