Once again, I have celebrated a birthday. I question the wisdom of having 4 annual milestones occur within a month of each other. Nothing like reminding yourself you’re getting older every time you turn around.
First there was our wedding anniversary on the 21st, rapidly followed by Christmas Day, which also happens to be my older brother’s birthday (and he turned 50 this year), New Year’s immediately follows, and then there is my sister-in-law’s birthday, my friends and neighbors’ birthdays, and finally my own.
All of this serves to make me rather reflective at this time of year. Sensing I might be getting into a bit of a funk, I decided to celebrate my birthday (a few days late) by taking a Blue Moon Cruises Eco Tour of the Hiwassee Nature Preserve.
Last year, we went to the Sandhill Crane festival in the same preserve. However, during the festival, you have to take a bus into the refuge and there is only one area you can view birds from. On the plus side, there are volunteers from the ornithological society who setup scopes and point out really great birds. For this reason, last year we saw a Whooping Crane (albeit as a white dot amongst the grayer Sandhill Cranes).
I thought the Blue Moon Cruise might yield some better photographs since we would theoretically get much closer to the birds.
Armed with two cameras and my two longest lenses, after we boarded, I got out my gear and started getting everything setup. Across from me was a man with a case containing a 600mm lens. It’s hard not to stare at a 600mm lens. Much like a breast-obsessed man trying to keep his eyes on a well-endowed woman’s face, I found myself struggling to just look away. Lens envy–something Freud never wrote about.
In truth, I don’t think I could lug a 600mm lens around for long. I tell myself that since I am unlikely to ever decide it’s worth it to spend $13,000 on a lens; it makes me feel like I’m not missing out on anything other than a sore back and tired arms. If you have never seen a 600mm lens in person, it’s about the size of a bullhorn, but longer. Much longer.
I did what I could with my 70-200mm and 100-400mm lenses. The cruise did get us closer to the birds, but not quite close enough that a 600mm lens wouldn’t have come in handy. I am still working my way through the 1500+ images I ended up with during that 3.5 hour tour, but I did grab a few to share today.
I think we saw about 20 Bald Eagles, mostly juveniles.
It’s bound to be a good day when you see 20 Bald Eagles. Although I was slightly disappointed we didn’t see any Whooping Cranes this year, the cruise itself was wonderful.