I finally purchased a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens the other day from someone on Fred Miranda. After receiving it, I went out to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to test it. Ever since buying my Nikon D500 last November, I’ve wanted this lens. I had hoped to get it last January or February with the help of some Amazon gift cards, but spring rolled around and I had to use the gift cards on a new vacuum for my swimming pool.

I’ve only heard great things about this lens from other photographers. The images on the Fred Miranda 200-500 image thread are amazing. Many have said it’s a steal at $1399. So I just had to get it and try it out myself.

Day One

I grabbed my D500, the 200-500mm, and my monopod and headed to Back Bay in my Jeep. As soon as I got out, I spotted a Great Blue Heron on some rocks and started shooting. He was a good 100 yards away but with the lens zoomed in to 500mm (equivalent focal length of 750mm on the D500), it took up the whole view finder. After getting a few shots, I walked around to the other side of him and got some more of him. Unfortunately, his fishing was going about as well as mine when I go fishing! So I moved on to search for other subjects. I saw some ospreys in a couple trees from a distance, but I was never able to find them when I got there.

I found another Great Blue Heron, or maybe the same one, in another part of the refuge later, but the sun was getting low and the sky had been cloudy. It might have been a great day to shoot the sunset, but I was only there to test this lens.

Day Two

I decided to venture out to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday morning. So I grabbed the D500 along with the 200-500mm lens and headed down to Knotts Island, North Carolina to find some wildlife. I saw a small bird sitting in a dead tree so I decided to “warm up” and get some shots of him. Luckily, I was facing east so I got a great silhouette shot of it.

They opened up the trails to vehicles for the Labor Day weekend. The first photo opportunity I came across was this raccoon sleeping on a tree stump that was about ten feet out on the North Landing River.

Sleeping Raccoon

I honestly didn’t know if it was sleeping or dead because it didn’t flinch at all when I drove past it. Fortunately, I saw several other photos of this raccoon by others confirming that it was alive and well.

After about another ten minutes of slow driving with the Jeep, I finally came across some wetlands and a lot of Great Egrets with a few Little Blue Herons mixed in.

Breakfast buffet

Soon after, I came across a Green Heron but I didn’t have a good angle from in the Jeep. So I got out and tried to come around to get a shot but I spooked him and he flew away. So I went a little further and was able to get some good shots of a Great Egret that was pretty close.

Day Three

I decided to try a new park near my house. I read up on Bells Mill Park and saw a Birder’s Guide on the website for it. That sounded like a great place to visit! So I arrived there around sunrise and saw a few joggers while I was getting my camera and gear out of my Jeep. The beginning of the trail was dirt and gravel. There was a pond off to my right that looked very promising, but I didn’t see any birds at this time. Over to my left was the marsh that was part of the Elizabeth River. However, there was a lot of growth and small trees that really prevented me from being able to see into the marsh. The dirt trail ended in an open grassy field. Trails were cut in the grass for walking or running, so I followed one of the trails for about 15 minutes. By this time, walking on the wet grass, my shoes were soaked, I was being eaten by mosquitoes, so I decided I was done. The marsh was separated from me by about 20-30 feet of trees, bushes, and weeds. So much for seeing some birds.

I walked back to my Jeep and decided to head back to Back Bay again. This time I parked in the Little Island Park parking lot and crossed the street to an area that is used as a kayak and canoe drop-off. I had my Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm lens, my brand new Oben ACM-1400 monopod and a chair. I was ready for some birds! In the distance, I saw a couple of ducks, but even with the 200-500mm lens, they were too far away. So I waited. Then I spotted a dragonfly and got a shot of it. Not a osprey or an eagle, but it was a start.

Dragonfly

So I waited some more. Another ten minutes goes by. And then out of the corner of my eye, a cottonmouth moccasin started swimming across the water to the other side.

Cottonmouth Moccasin

I watched him for about 10 minutes. But the birds weren’t cooperating here. I finally decided to head up to the refuge. I parked the Jeep and started walking the trail. I headed to a pond that I’ve seen herons hanging out at in the past. I arrived there and what do I see? Nothing. No birds at all. So I walked over to a observation dock that stands about 6 feet off the ground and looked out at the bay. There were a few Caspian Tern’s flying so I got a couple of shots of them.

Caspian Tern

Then, I heard something in the marsh below me. There’s a small trail that runs out to the bay from under the deck I was standing on. I looked down and saw a giant snapping turtle crawling through the grass. He must have been about three feet across! I tried to get a shot of him, but I had too much lens. I was amazed at how quickly he actually crawled through the grass, mud and water.

So I decided to head back. On the way back, I came across this frog. He was more than willing to pose for me.

Frog

Final Thoughts

The Nikon D500 is a wonderful sports and wildlife camera. The Nikon 200-500mm lens is an incredible lens for the money. It’s a steal at $1400. If you own a D500, you have to own this lens. They are made for each other.

Pros

  • Focuses fast
  • Sharp
  • Affordable
  • Can be hand-held

Cons

  • Not weather-sealed
  • Maximum f/5.6 Aperture
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