Florida Birding Safari Report

Great egret in flight, St. Augustine, FL
Great egret in flight, St. Augustine, FL. Captured with a Nikon D810 and 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AFS G VRII lens, hand-held.

I’m winding up a successful photo safari in Florida. This year, we covered three main locations: Viera Wetlands, Merritt Island NWR, and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. All of these places are hotspots for birds, depending on the time of year and how lucky you get. Right now is breeding season, so while Merritt Island isn’t quite as active, the Alligator Farm is literally alive with nesting activity.

I captured the top image hand-held with my Nikon D810 and new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AFS G VRII Nikkor lens. All I can say is that this is one heck of a combo for going hand-held for birding. I shot primarily in manual exposure mode using my recommended bird photography settings, and I had VR on in “normal” mode. I used 9-point group AF on the D810 and I got way more keepers on my flight shot than in previous years. The AF system on the D810 is easily as good as the one in my D4. It was very quick to acquire and lock on the flying birds, and this made me very happy!

Mother tricolored heron tending her egg, St. Augustine, FL. Captured with a Nikon D810 and 80-400mm AFS G VR lens, hand-held.
Mother tricolored heron tending her egg, St. Augustine, FL. Captured with a Nikon D810 and 80-400mm AFS G VR lens, hand-held.

The 80-400mm AFS G VRII Nikkor is an absolute dream to hand-hold. It’s really comfortable to use and I found it very easy to zoom the lens while hand-holding and still tracking the birds. For a place like the Alligator Farm, where the birds are close, it’s really all you need for 99% of the shots. In the other locations, I used the 500mm f/4 AFS G VR Nikkor and TC-14EIII 1.4x teleconverter.

Black-bellied whistling duck, Viera, FL
Black-bellied whistling duck, Viera, FL. Captured with the Nikon D810 and 500mm f/4 AFS G VRII lens and TC-14EIII.

While this trip is winding down, I still have a few openings for my favorite birding trip of the year, the South Texas Birding Experience, where we shoot from private blinds and capture frame-filling shots of unique species.

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