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Southern Tour

2/16/2019


I had the day to myself; so, I tried to make the most of it. I was out the door at 7:30, which is a little later than I should have been.


I was heading to Ewing Bottoms to look for cranes. Good numbers of cranes have been reported from the area, and I am still pining for some better interaction shots. I stopped in Columbus for gas, and had my first bird of the day fly over - an adult Bald Eagle. Further down the road, just outside Seymour, I had my second eagle of the day circle low over a field and then bank to land. The bird had already caught my eye, but the bank confirmed my suspicions. All dark underneath; including the axillaries. It was an adult Golden Eagle. Ewing Bottoms is not so much a place as it is an area. There are miles of flooded corn fields in Jackson Co., and a lot of them have Sandhill Cranes in them. The morning was overcast, which worked in my favor. As soon as the sun came out, the heat distortion kicked up, and I was done shooting there for the day.

From there, I headed towards Bedford. I did not really have a plan for the middle of the day. I wondered up to Monroe Reservoir and scouted around Fairfax SRA for a little bit. I had almost nothing. I did find a field with about 100 Killdeer feeding in it. I've never seen so many Killdeer in one place.

One of many....

With nothing to shoot at Monroe, I opened my BirdsEye app (it uses eBird data to tell me what birds have been found nearby), I made a couple quick searches for Red-breasted Nuthatch and Hermit Thrush. A place named Tincher Hollow down in the Hoosier National Forest came up as a likely location, and it was on the way towards my final destination of the day. Imagine my surprise when I arrive and find Amy Kearns and her family heading down a trail there. Such a random place to meet some fellow birders. I birded along the road by ear for a little bit, but the place was very quiet. It was the middle of the day.


I left and headed towards Somerville Mines. I planned to finish the day there photographing my favorite owl - Short-eared Owl. They are great and so animated. I started running a circular route around the south-end of the mines; trying to figure out where the best place might be to find them. There were a number of Northern Harrier in the area; so, my confidence was high. Finally, around 4:00 local time, I had my first owl. I settled in and did my best, but the owl were remaining distant and shy. I'd never had that issue before. I moved around a bit to keep up with them as best I could.


The main thing here was that I had brought along two cameras. One was my Canon 5DS R with a 600mm lens. It's heavy, and I have a hard time tracking with it. I hand-hold; as I've never got used to using a tripod for this type of thing. The other camera I brought was a Nikon D500 with a Nikkor 200-500mm lens. The point I try to make to people is that you can get good photos without breaking the bank. Here are two sample photos. Can you tell the more expensive Canon setup from the Nikon?

In good light, and I had that for a bit, the results are pretty similar. Here are some more by camera -

A)

B)

So, group A and the second of the two photos above are from the Nikon. Yeah, I had a close fly-by. But, I had a similar fly-by when I had the Canon out, and I missed every shot. I could not keep the focus point on the owl during it's erratic flight, and every single shot was out of focus. I would have nailed it with the Nikon, which is about a 1/3 of the weight. Of course, the trade-off is focal length and aperture. I could shoot longer distance with the 600, and I could shoot longer with the f/4.0 aperture. You can't have it all in one lens, I guess. Maybe someday.


I had a few Norther Harrier give me some passes while shooting, and I'm always happy to attempt some shots of the "Gray Ghost". I finished the night trying to shoot an owl that had landed in a small tree. I panicked and did not take time to review my settings and exposure and ended up with some very grainy shots. The sun had just set, and the bird was backlit (if there is such a thing for twilight). Not the best way to end the day, but I was happy to have the opportunity.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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