Wednesday, January 19, 2005


On occasion when people have inquired as to whether I am a birder, I have denied it with perhaps too much gusto. I'm not one of those who stays up 24 hours at a time to see how many different types of little brown birds I can identify. My interests are much more basic. I like birds that are big and powerful and can rip things to shreds. So if you are like me, Lock and Dam #18 on the Mississippi River near Burlington, Iowa easily makes the list of "Favorite Places on Earth." (The viewing area is actually in Illinois, about 10 miles from town.) I just got back from my second eagle-viewing trip to the area, and have posted a report on (domain names are cheap, if you can get them) and the first batch of photos. My guess is I saw more than 600 eagles, perhaps 400 of them at #18. I also saw at least a hundred in Keokuk, and many more scattered along the river up by the Quad Cities.

I took the 100-400 lens but I wonder now about the wisdom of carrying a zoom when most of the shots are taken at one extreme, in this case 400mm. I used to think the famed Arthur Morris was crazy for carrying around a 400mm f5.6. He usually uses huge tripod-mounted lenses, but for handheld flight shooting he likes to use the relatively small 400. He calls it his favorite "toy lens." The lens is slow and lacks image stabilization, but with good light it is razor sharp for photos of flying birds. I don't know that I'll rush out and get one, but the internal debate regarding lens selection continues, and is likely to continue for a long time. At the very least I'll continue to flip back and forth between favoring the 100-400 and the 300 f4.

By the way, the air blaster made it through airport security without triggering a Level 5 Alert.