After an early arrival of winter in Southern Ontario I thought I’d escape it for a few hours by taking David (my Nikon 1 V2 with CX 70-300 mm VR) and Goliath (my D800 with Tamron 150-600 mm VC) to Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls, Canada.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
Bird Kingdom features several display areas, two of which have many free flying birds. The Encounter Room has a number of parrots, cockatoos, and macaws on perches, as well as a small collection of reptiles. There are no free flying birds in this display area. It is not advisable to try and touch any of the perched birds as they have been known to bite visitors.
Many of the exhibit animals in the Encounter Room are in enclosures which can create a challenge for photographers. Unless your lens has a fairly short minimum focusing distance it is difficult, if not impossible, to capture images without the mesh or bars being visible. This was the case with my D800/Tamron 150-600 VC set-up. Its relatively long minimum focusing distance of 106.3 inches (270 cm) would not allow me to obtain focus with my lens hood up tight to the mesh of the enclosures.
On the other hand, I was able to get some usable images with my Nikon1 V2/CX 70-300 VR set-up due to its comparatively short minimum focusing distance of 3.3 feet (1.0 m) to 5.2 feet (1.6 m).
The Small Bird Aviary has a range of free flying birds. The lighting can vary from bright sunlight to dark shadows. Unfortunately many of the birds tend to perch on the window sills. This causes harsh backlighting and unattractive image captures. Patience is required to find good shot angles and then waiting for these small, erratic birds to land. Like many species of small birds, most of the specimens in the Small Bird Aviary exhibit nervous, jumpy behaviour. Shooting in the shadow areas requires sound hand-holding technique coupled with good timing.
The Main Bird Aviary is an expansive area and features a range of roaming and free flying birds. The display area has extensive tropical foliage. This can add some quite pleasant foregrounds and backgrounds to images, as well as creating shooting challenges when trying to photograph perched or foraging birds.
There is an enclosed area that houses Green-Naped Lorikeets and visitors are allowed to go into this area. You do enter at your own risk as there are posted warnings that some of the birds may bite if approached.
There is also a small Nocturnal area that features some owls, bats, spiders and other critters behind glass partitions. Without a fast telephoto lens it is difficult to get any usable images in this display area, although I did get an acceptable image of a Nile Monitor.
On my next visit I’ll likely take my Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8G and FT-1 adapter and give it a whirl with my Nikon 1 V2 in the Nocturnal display area.
If you are going to the Niagara Falls Canada area a visit to Bird Kingdom is worth considering. Plan at least an hour long visit, and if you have the time 2-3 hours can be quite enjoyable.
There is parking on-site, as well as a restaurant and gift shop. Annual memberships to Bird Kingdom make sense if you are planning even two visits per year. At the time of writing of this article the annual membership fee was $28.00 CDN plus HST, which also includes on-site parking. The regular parking fee is $3.00 per hour. A single day pass is priced in the $15.00 to $17.00 CDN range (depending on age) plus HST.
All of the images in this article were captured hand-held in available light.
All images were processed using DxO OpticsPro 10, with a DGN file then exported into CS6 for some minor adjustments, then into Nik Suite as needed.
After spending a couple of hours at Bird Kingdom with ‘David and Goliath’ I came to the conclusion that either set-up can deliver very good results for owners. For small size and portability my Nikon 1 V2 coupled with the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 VR is really hard to beat. From a pure resolving power standpoint and low light capability, my D800 with the Tamron 150-600 VC also brings some unique capabilities to the table that I enjoy.
As I was driving home from Niagara Falls I thought about all of the gear that I own and what combination would constitute the best overall birding kit for my needs. I decided that ‘David and Goliath’ are a great team and compliment each other very well. All I’d need to add to make up an ‘ideal kit’ would be my Nikkor 70-200 mm f/4 and my Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8G. I’ll let you know how that works out after my next visit to Bird Kingdom!
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Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.