Bird Photography can be really fulfilling as well as a frustrating venture. I shoot at current with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. Which means I am at minimum 200mm too short for a wildlife lens as most birds tend to stay out at minimum 400mm range. Depending on the birds, their interaction with humans is also a factor. How acclimated to humans are the birds that you intend to photograph? How do they react when approached? What are the birds' reactions when stressed? The experienced bird photographer has learned that distance is a must have if you don't want to stress the birds.
To give an idea of the distance, I have taken two photos: one at 150mm range, one at 500mm with a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO (courtesy of Broadway Camera (Surrey). The 150 shows just about the range that I have with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, the 500mm being the maximum range that I will have with a 50-500mm when I get it. The focus is on the fast food restaurant sign.@150mm
I have come to the conclusion that for bird photography, my kit will consist of the Sigma APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM for close in shots, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8GII ED VR Zoom for wide-angles on birds and eventually, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR. I'll get the TCs just so that I'll have something to throw on the 600mm when I get it. Of course if I do go for said 50-500 OS, I'll have to check to make sure the purchased lens does not fall in the recall serial number range. APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Serial numbers between 10633051 and 10972000 had a focusing problem where it would fail to focus properly at 200 thru 500 mm.
Sigma APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8GII ED VR Zoom
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR
Certain locales as conducive to close-in bird photography in the Lower Mainland. There are a multitude of parks in the Lower Mainland that offer opportunities to photograph and film wildlife in a natural setting. The well-known ones are George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Serpentine Fen. My favorite spot to photograph in is Green Timbers Regional Park which offers a lake and a pair of nesting bald eagles. They will be my opportunity to photograph raptors until such time as I can get out to a place where those type of birds are plentiful, such as Harrison Mills.@ Iona Beach
@Iona Beach with 500mm equivalent crop
@ Green Timbers
Iona Beach (just by the Vancouver International Airport (YVR)) offers the opportunity at this time of the year to photograph snow geese (first photograph). These birds are not as tame as the mallard ducks at Green Timbers (in the following photograph). How acclimated to humans that the birds are will dictate not only your approach, but how close you can get to them before they take flight. Over at Green Timbers my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII is just fine without a teleconverter for photographing mallards. The snow geese at Iona Beach, on the other hand, will dictate the use of the Sigma 50-500mm at 450mm at least in order to get some decent images. As you can see in this image. The 200mm was not able to get me in very close at all.
All in all, bird photography is probably the most soul fulfilling type of photography I've ever done, however it is also the most frustrating at this present moment due to the lack of focal range that I have. But depending on the financial situation, the 50-500mm will fall into my hands in May 2013 and I will be able to get some of the shots that I know that I am capable of doing into my portfolio.
The reason why I am getting the lenses that I am getting is because I want to sell the wildlife photos. Otherwise it would be fine to shoot with just a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 basic zoom lens. But if you are looking for professional sales of wildlife photography, you have to outlay the cash for such professional grade lenses. But no matter what, wildlife/bird photography is done out of the love of doing it; not the economic aspect. I do it because I love photographing birds.