Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

I’d been hearing good things about the relatively new Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens. In particular with a 2X teleconverter a lot of folks seem to think it outperforms the Canon 100-400 zoom as a handheld bird lens, so this weekend I rented one, hooked it up to my 50D, and took it for a stroll in the park. In no particular order here are my first impressions:

2010 The Year I Broke 500

Friday, January 7th, 2011

2010 was a pretty good year bird wise. Although at 266 total species, I ticked about 60 fewer species than 2009, 39 of those were life birds. These mostly came from my trips to Puerto Rico in the spring and Iceland in the fall, but also included three life birds within walking distance of my apartment in Brooklyn. (That’s unlikely to happen again. There are no more regular or even irregular visitors to Prospect Park I haven’t ticked.) Still, that’s more than I’ve added in a long time. My total now stands at a respectable 516 species.

Chaseable life birds are getting rarer though I did pick up Mourning Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and Common Nighthawk in Prospect Park. Just a little further away but still in Brooklyn I saw my first Lapland Longspur at Floyd Bennett Field. And I managed Hudsonian Godwit at Cupsogue State Park further out on Long Island. I passed on assorted birds that were found at Montauk, but this year I may have to go for some of those if I want any life birds on Long Island.

In a different state but considerably closer, the cooperative Cove Island Forktailed Flycatcher was my last life bird for the year. However a couple of days later I once again whiffed on the banded Barnacle Goose at Pelham Bay Park, and I didn’t chase it when it showed up again two hours further north. I also whiffed on an expedition in Louisiana to find the much more common Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I’ll try for that again this year. And speaking of finding the rarities, while missing the common cousins, Northern Shrike continues to elude me, though I did see the much rarer, for New York at least, Loggerhead Shrike at Jones Beach.

New Jersey added one life bird to my list last year when I finally got down to Barnegat in January and ticked Harlequin Duck. As often happens after seeing it the first time, I then found that species repeatedly much closer to home throughout the year. I also got two species sitting at my desk when the AOU split the Winter Wren into three species: European Wren, Pacific Wren, and Winter Wren, all of which I’d found previously in their respective locales.

For 2011 I’m planning trips to Florida, Texas, and Germany. If I can sneak in a trip to the Caribbean or Central America, I just may be able to break 600 in 2011. See you next year!