Purple Martins About To Fledge

This blog entry is just as much about a lens test, as it is about migratory Purple Martins.


I have had three, 14-cavity nesting boxes in my back field for 15 years now, and have fledged hundreds of purple martin, https://www.purplemartin.org/research/scoutreports.php?N=Mark+Burchick.


They always arrive within a day or two of April 1 to Howard County, Maryland, and leave after fledging (flying the coop, where the youngsters take flight), within the first week of August.  I usually lower my poles and clean out the boxes in September, and raise them again the last week of March or the first week of April, often with martins waiting at the top of the perch poles.


I’ve been saving up for a good while now and just purchased and received a new lens for my Nikon 7100, which is the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR telephoto lens.  Now I can really reach out and touch!  The VR vibration reduction is awesome.  This is a true birding, wildlife, wildflower, natural history, outdoors and sports lens.


The lens is big and heavy.  To turn from 200 to 500mm in one motion is quite a wrist contortion.  My first thoughts out of the box were to use a tripod and monopod, but I need to acclimate to the weight and learn to zoom on the fly.


In this photo, a male martin flies to the nest with a common green darner (Anax junius), a fast-flying insect predator, but not to be out-matched by the top-flight avian accipiter!


In my fields, I have tree swallows, barn swallows, chimney swifts and king-birds, all birds that feed on the wing, but none better than the high-flying martins.

Check out this fantastic article on “People Martins.”

Purple Martins: The Bird That Relies on Human-Built Nests


The Nikkor 200-500mm came out last August, and has been in use for a year now.  The reviews are excellent, and I watched dozens of YouTube videos and read articles, before I made this purchase.  All of the photos in this blog entry are from yesterday late afternoon and this morning, using the new lens.


My main lens is the Nikkor 18-300mm, and I also have a Nikkor fixed 85mm macro lens.  This new lens rounds out my posse, and I’ve wanted a telephoto for ever.  I’m thinking about a new camera body down the road, which will likely be the Nikon D500, which would extend my new 200-500 lens to 750mm.


The lens has excellent close-up qualities as well.  The nearest distance that you can be from an image is just over seven feet away, anything closer will be out of focus.  The following photos show the telephoto’s macro capabilities.


Milkweed pods covered with the larvae of milkweed tiger moths.


Pollinators love milkweed, and I have a cavalcade of various insects in our milkweed patches.


The Maryland State Wildflower, the black-eyed Susan . . .


. . . and the night flowering moon vine.  My honeybees line up at dusk and force their way into the clamped closed flowers, then which un-clip, unwind and quickly expand each evening, then rewinding closed in the morning.  The honeybees are able to feast for a few minutes, before it gets too dark and they must return to their nearby hive boxes.

Ok, I’m loving this lens, and I’ll be including it into my field work and pleasure photography.  Thank you to my wife for readily allowing this discretionary expenditure.  What a pleasure!