You figure Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is the place to see birds, and I did get some decent shots of hawks, cranes and geese there. I could claim I snapped this bird at such a locale, but actually I got it at an I-10 rest stop south of Phoenix. The markings on the wings suggest it is a woodpecker, but I have no idea what kind. Update: It seems to be a Gila woodpecker. There's no red spot on the head so it's either an adult female or a juvenile.
I didn't consider the two weeks in the Southwest (March 12-27) to be a "photo trip," but as usual I ended up posting more photos than expected, more than 50 including baseball. My SLR equipment for the trip was the Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 300 f4, 1.4x extender, and Tamron 28-300. The 300 focuses so close that it is almost a macro lens, and it was ideal in the butterfly house at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. With the occasional use of the 1.4x extender, the 300 did a decent job at Bosque del Apache, but something bigger and bulkier would have been better. "Bulkier" is why I don't have such a lens yet.
The Tamron is the worst lens I own. The optics don't measure up to my Canons, and comparing the Tamron's autofocusing to the 300's is like comparing a '79 Ford LTD to a '99 Benz. But compared to my other lenses, the Tamron is light, compact, and has the widest zoom range. It is capable of producing decent photos as long as I pay attention to the f-stop and don't shoot wide open. Because of the suspect autofocus, manual focusing is a good idea. This is feasible with baseball but would be a nightmare with other sports. All of the baseball photos were taken with the Tamron because I didn't want to lug around the 300. Baseball photos and an account of my first visit to Surprise Stadium appear separately on BaseballArizona.com.
I also carried the Canon S45 P&S camera, and the Canon ZR60 videocam. Both of those are useful at times. All the equipment went into my Lowepro backpack as a airplane carryon, but the battery chargers and transformers (five in all) went into a checked suitcase. American Airlines gave me a big scare by losing the suitcase on the way to Phoenix. Fortunately I had planned to spend the first night in Mesa rather than driving straight to New Mexico, so they delivered the suitcase to my motel at 3 a.m. In the future I might consider leaving the battery charger for the 1D Mark II at home. It would cost about $350 to replace, and the Mark II battery life is so much better than it was with the Mark I that two batteries got me through two weeks without recharging.
I'm also planning to get back in the habit of packing a toothbrush and a change of underwear in my carryon.
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