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I have been birding since 1974 and bought my first camera in 1981 - an Olympus OM1N with a Vivitar 400mm f5.6 lens. A few years later I changed my camera body and lens to a Minolta 7000i with a Tamron 500mm f8 mirror lens.
In 2004 I decided to buy a digital camera body with a 100mm x 400mm zoom lens. After speaking with several well known bird photographers, I bought a Canon 10D body with a Canon 100mm x 400mm f5.6 lens. I upgraded to a Canon 20D body later the same year.
Having seen images on Surfbirds and other websites taken with Canon prime lenses, in 2005 I decided to purchase a Canon 400mm f4 DO lens. I did consider the 500mm f4 but I wanted something more portable whilst birding.
In 2006 I purchased a Canon 1DMK2N pro body, the pro bodies are superb, very fast autofocus and excellent build quality - also very good image quality. After using a pro body there's no going back and I bought another Canon 1DMK2N body as a backup. More recently I bought Canon's 1DMK1V & 5DMK 3 bodies - the main reason for this was because they produce better quality images at higher ISO - quite an improvement on the 1DMK2N - if you push the 1DMK2N above 400 ISO it becomes quite noisy, whereas the 1DMK1V & 5DMK3 are excellent at 800 ISO and very good at 1600 ISO.
Over the past few years I have bought several more lenses, my most recent lens is Canon's 400mm f5.6 - and most of my recent images are taken with this cracking little lens with a 1.4 converter- although not image stabilised it is so light that it can easily be handheld, ideal for taking on trips abroad. I still like to use my Canon 400mm f4 DO lens as well.
Processing images is a big part of digital photography - what is the point of spending £1000s on an expensive camera body and lens if you do not process your images correctly - make sure you have a good pc/mac and the right software. I started shooting jpegs, which are ok, but raw files are much better - everything can be done on the pc/mac later with more control and raw files can be processed again without loss of quality – I convert my raw files to tiff files and then to jpegs which I keep on my pc - I backup all my raw files, tiff files and jpeg files.
I do most of my local birding in Derbyshire, but most weekends I travel to the coast to see rare and scarce british birds and sometimes just regular summer and winter visitors. Most years I travel abroad to watch and photograph birds and other wildlife.
As Arthur Morris says,' it ain't just birds'
Update: 5th January 2015
In January 2015 I decided to purchase Canon's 500 f 4 MK2 lens - this new lens is much lighter in weight than Canon's 500 f4 MK1 lens - that's why I didn't buy this lens several years ago, but the new 500 f4 MK2 is a superb lens, very fast autofocussing with 4 image stabilizers.
I also part exchanged my old Canon 100 x 400 f 4.5 - f 5.6 MK1 lens for the new 100 x 400 f 4.5 - f 5.6 MK2 lens - again, this new lens has excellent autofocussing & 4 image stabilizers.
Finally, after trying Ricard Pittam's Canon 1DX body - I bought one from LCE in Derby - I part exchanged an old 1DMK2N body & there was also £ 400 cashback from Canon, so I retrieved £ 650 for my old 1DMK2N ( I paid £ 900 for it several years ago )
Update: December 2016
In December 2016 I part exchanged my Canon 5DM3 for Canon's 7DMK2 - I just wasn't using my Canon 5DMK3 since I bought my 1DX. Although the 7DMK2 is not as good in low light I will use it more often because of the 1.6 crop - which will come in handy on long walks with a smaller lens.