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First 100 Birds of the Year, A Cracked English Horn, and The New Canon 24-70 f4L IS lens
January, 2013


Red-headed Woodpecker, Zaleski State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 800mm f5.6L IS lens +1.4x
f11, 1/320th sec., ISO 400

The above bird was photographed on a brutally cold morning at Zaleski when the temperature was less than 10 degrees F.  Don't let the sunlight fool you.  Red-headed Woodpeckers are especially numerous at Zaleski this winter in open areas with oaks. There must have been a good acorn crop last fall. Some winters they are completely absent there.


First 100 species seen in Ohio for the year

I haven't done a January list in a few years. I wasn't too committed to it at first, but with some free time during the second week of the month it was a fun excuse to get out exploring during mostly gloomy overcast when I probably otherwise would have stayed at home. With the price of gas these days it's hard to justify, but it can be fun if it ends quickly enough. I could never handle a big year. Two weeks in Ohio is plenty for me.

JAN. 1 - Franklin County
1 - Northern Cardinal
2 - White-throated Sparrow
3 - House Finch
4 - American Goldfinch
5 - Carolina Chickadee
6 - House Sparrow
7 - Downy Woodpecker
8 - American Tree Sparrow
9 - Blue Jay
10 - Ring-billed Gull
11 - Dark-eyed Junco
12 - Mourning Dove
13 - Carolina Wren
14 - Red-bellied Woodpecker
15 - American Robin
16 - Brown Creeper
17 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet
18 - Tufted Titmouse
19 - White-breasted Nuthatch
20 - Mallard
21 - Canada Goose
22 - Red-tailed Hawk
23 - European Starling
24 - Pied-billed Grebe
25 - Hooded Merganser
26 - Cooper's Hawk
27 - Mute Swan
28 - Ring-necked Duck
29 - Rock Pigeon
30 - Great Blue Heron
31 - Herring Gull
32 - American Coot
33 - Redhead
34 - Bald Eagle
35 - Winter Wren
36 - Belted Kingfisher
37 - Golden-crowned Kinglet
38 - American Black Duck

JAN. 2 - Franklin County
39 - Bufflehead

JAN. 3 - Franklin, Fayette, and Pickaway Counties
40 - Red-breasted Nuthatch
41 - Pine Siskin
42 - Northern Flicker
43 - Chipping Sparrow
44 - American Crow
45 - Song Sparrow
46 - Eastern Meadowlark
47 - White-crowned Sparrow
48 - Savannah Sparrow
49 - Swamp Sparrow
50 - American Pipit
51 - Killdeer
52 - Wilson's Snipe
53 - Turkey Vulture
54 - Field Sparrow
55 - Northern Harrier
56 - Horned Lark
57 - Lapland Longspur
58 - Short-eared Owl
59 - Pileated Woodpecker

JAN. 4 - Franklin County
60 - Hairy Woodpecker

JAN. 5 - Franklin County
61 - Harris's Sparrow

JAN. 6 - Franklin County
62 - Common Grackle

JAN. 7 - Wyandot County
63 - Red-headed Woodpecker
64 - Northern Saw-Whet Owl
65 - American Kestrel
66 - Rough-legged Hawk
67 - Northern Mockingbird

JAN. 8 - Franklin County
68 - Northern Shoveler
69 - Gadwall
70 - American Wigeon
71 - Bonaparte's Gull

JAN. 9 - Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties
72 - Great Black-backed Gull
73 - Lesser Black-backed Gull
74 - Peregrine Falcon
75 - Common Goldeneye
76 - Red-breasted Merganser
77 - Common Merganser
78 - Black Scoter
79 - Surf Scoter
80 - Horned Grebe
81 - White-winged Scoter
82 - Black-capped Chickadee
83 - Double-crested Cormorant
84 - Ruddy Duck
85 - Lesser Scaup
86 - Canvasback

JAN. 10 - Pickaway and Pike Counties
87 - Yellow-rumped Warbler
88 - Northern Pintail
89 - Snow Goose

JAN. 11 - Franklin County
90 - Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

JAN. 12 - Vinton and Athens Counties
91 - Red-shouldered Hawk
92 - Eastern Bluebird
93 - Wild Turkey
94 - Eastern Towhee
95 - Red Crossbill
96 - Hermit Thrush

JAN. 13 - Franklin and Pickaway Counties
97 - White-winged Crossbill
98 - Sharp-shinned Hawk

JAN. 14 - Richland and Ashland Counties
99 - Black Vulture
100 - Evening Grosbeak


January started with catching up on some sleep one last time after a busy fall and December especially.  I did very little birding all summer and fall. Last July the International Double Reed Society held its annual convention here in Ohio at Miami University in Oxford. It was a good chance to try some instruments. I make my living playing the English horn and oboe, but the English horn I use was purchased way back in 1988 (the same year Nikon introduced the F4 and a year before Canon made their very first EOS1). I haven't had a second instrument in years, which is risky, so it was about time I get another.  At the IDRS convention most of the importers in the country show up with what they have in stock and it is a good chance to try everything out. English horns, unlike cameras, are all hand made wooden instruments and they all vary in many ways. For someone like me who has been playing on the same instrument for so long, I'm pretty set in my ways and want something as close to what I'm using now as possible. Except for one short stint with a Rigoutat oboe about 20 years ago I have always used  Loree  instruments exclusively like most Americans. While I tried some from other makers, at this point in my career I would really only buy a Loree. While most dealers may have a dozen or more oboes in stock at any given time, they usually only have a few English horns, if that, and trying a lot at once isn't often possible. I was thrilled when I found what I thought was the ideal English horn from my good friend Sharon Fligner-Lindquist who I worked with in Cape Town in the 1980's. Sharon runs Sharon's Oboe Shoppe.  I sat there for a while playing through the standard repertoire with the tuning box out, and the needle stayed in the dead center throughout the range effortlessly with a full warm sound.  Betsy Sturdevant, the principal bassoonist here in the Columbus Symphony came to listen to this great new instrument side by side with my trusty 24 year old one. It was a no brainer that I had to get the new instrument. So I spent the summer and our break in September breaking the new instrument in. All birding and photography was put on the back burner. Wooden instruments need to be broken in gradually starting with short periods to get the wood accustomed to the moisture and vibrations. I wanted it to be ready for full time use by fall. I did try it on a few occasions in the orchestra during the summer and it fit in perfectly. With all the humidity there wasn't too much danger of it cracking in the summer. I was really happy with it and was convinced that I had the instrument that I would finish out my career with. I was even ready to sell my old instrument and try to find a second new one. But fate would turn a different direction as quickly as that first dry north wind blew into Columbus in early October. With the new English horn's debut in a major solo only a week away in the William Tell Overture two little cracks developed out of the first octave vent. I quickly got those cracks pinned up, but then a long 4 inch long crack developed on the back side. That's serious stuff. As the wood dried up it just got too unstable. My local repairman and Sharon both suggested that the only choice was to send the instrument back to Paris. The complete top joint would be replaced by Loree. The keys would be removed and put on a completely different piece of wood. The instrument arrived back in November in its MarkII version and I wasn't happy. I was a completely different instrument. The scale was impossible for me to deal with. The top joint left hand notes were terribly flat compared to the right hand notes for my reeds and preferred bocals. Again, at this point in my career I'm not interested in having to make any radical changes. The rest of November I was subbing in the Cleveland Orchestra and didn't want to mess with it up there, and in December I was exhausted with too many Nutcrackers and other gigs to play it much. I did have that last week of December off after Christmas and finally began playing it again, but it didn't take long to come to the honest conclusion that I would never want to use it in the orchestra. Hopefully I can sell the instrument, but I will certainly take a big hit on it $-wise, not to mention the additional money I spent shipping it around and having the first cracks repaired. So here we are now in January back where I was a year ago with only my same old English horn and a depleted chacking account without anything to show for it. A lot of new cameras and lenses have been released, but thinking about buying any of them is out of the question for me until I have a new English horn that I like and is completely broken in with a proven track record through seasonal changes. Any limited money I have for photography this year will be spent on travel.  With that said, during a moment I wasn't thinking too clearly I ordered the new Canon 24-70 f4L IS lens after it was announced. I thought I canceled the order shortly afterward in a more lucid moment online from B&H, but apparently you have to call to cancel an order. Why they offer online cancellation when it doesn't do anything, I don't know. More on this lens later.

With rehearsals starting again on Jan. 2, Jan. 1 was my last day to get in a long good sleep for a while. I got up with no intentions of even starting a year list, but as soon as I opened the back curtain by my feeders, it was on. Weather had turned cold and there was a fresh snowfall. I was still recovering from a cold and only got out for a short while to poke around the Scioto River flood plain here, some rapidly freezing quarry ponds, and a couple spots below the Griggs Dam up the road, picking up a modest 38 species. The highlight in my backyard flood plain pictured below was a hardy Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I had seen it a couple of weeks earlier for the Columbus CBC and it was nice to see it was still around hanging out with the neighborhood chickadees and creepers. I haven't seen the bird (or any other Ruby-crowneds) since, but they are semi regular birds wintering birds here.


Jan. 1, backyard flood plain of Scioto River
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f10, 1/320th sec., ISO 250

On Jan. 2  I only had a chance to drive by a quarry pond on the way to work that still had a little bit of opened water. The only species present that wasn't there on the first was a Bufflehead. On the 3rd I was only needed for the morning rehearsal and had the rest of the afternoon free. That gave me time to head to Deer Creek for the first time of the year. On the way I drove through the Greenlawn Cemetery picking up a few species. I had seen some White-winged Crossbills there a couple weeks earlier which would have been nice, but I didn't want to spend too much time there. I had been to Deer Creek last on Dec. 30 and the reservoir was loaded with thousands of gulls and ducks. On the 3rd, only four days later, it was completely frozen over, even the deepest parts. There wasn't an open patch of water anywhere, and no gulls or ducks either. Where the creek enters the reservoir there was some running open water where a Killdeer, 3 Wilson's Snipes and a flock of pipits were feeding. All of those are good finds in January in Ohio. A turkey Vulture was unusual since it's usually only Black Vultures that winter in the Deer Creek area. I picked up most of the sparrows that I could expect to find in January there except Fox Sparrows which seemed to be everywhere on the 30th. I'm sure there were some around, but I didn't see any. That afternoon got me up to 59 for the year still without many ducks or gulls on the list. On Jan 4 a Hairy Woodpecker made an appearance at my suet feeder. They have always been sporadic backyard birds here. Some years a pair seems to be around all the time, while other years I don't see them often. On the 5th I had a couple hours to swing by Pickerington Ponds where a Harris's Sparrow had been reported. It didn't take long to find the bird, but I didn't have much time and didn't see any other new birds for the year there. The ponds were all frozen solid anyway, so I doubt I missed much. On the 6th a few Common Grackles were perched in trees out back here. They looked miserable in the gloomy overcast with bitter cold winds.

Monday January 7 began a free week for me. The Columbus Symphony scheduled Vivaldi's Seasons and other baroque works with strings only. All of us salaried wind players got a week of paid vacation. I wanted to finish up this 100 list and get it out of the way. The first stop was Killdeer Plains where I picked up only some expected species for the area. More owls had been reported from there over the weekend, but I found only a Saw-Whet. Actually someone had to point out the little blob hidden near the top of a pine. I'm not very good at finding them on my own. Other owls that had been there over the weekend were probably so disturbed that they moved elsewhere. Normally I probably would have gone to the Big Island Wildlife Area afterwards, but I headed instead to Lawrence Woods where a birder mentioned that the surrounding grasslands were a paradise for photographing Short-eared Owls. I did see plenty of Short-eared Owls there, but it sure was no paradise. It was more like a photographer's hell. There was absolutely no way to photograph them front lit. Only silhouettes would have been possible and I didn't bother. A few days earlier I got an email from B&H that the lens that I thought I canceled had been shipped. When I got home a note was on the door that UPS has been there and would come back the following afternoon. Because of that I only went out birding close by on the morning of the 8th to the Hoover Reservoir. The weather had warmed up a bit and there was plenty of open water. I added some puddle ducks in the spillway beneath the dam wall and some Bonaparte's Gulls in the open water for a total of 71 species. Poking around Hoover Reservoir and surrounding fields more may have yielded more new species for the year, but I used the rest of the morning to check out the fields around the egg farms near Johnstown in Licking County. When fresh manure is spread on the fields it can attract many birds. That's usually the most reliable place to find Snow Buntings in the winter in central Ohio, but not this year. The was no manure from the egg farms dumped anywhere that I could see (or smell) and even Horned Larks were few and far between. I got home in time to sign for the lens.

I originally ordered the 24-70 f4L IS lens because, well, I wanted a high quality lens with IS in that range. The new 24-70 f2.8 L II lens came out recently and has had glowing reviews, but I really wanted a lens with IS, don't need the speed, and don't want to pay for the high price tag on it. I have tried different copies of the 24-105 f4 IS lens and even bought one (and have since sold) last spring.  It just doesn't look good to me, even with my 1/3 crop camera 1D MarkIV at 24mm. It has terrible distortion at 24mm too. I know you can fix it when processing RAW files, but to me it is very disturbing to see in the viewfinder when trying to compose an image. I really hate the 24-105 and have no idea why it is so popular. I have been using the Canon 24 f1.4L II lens for the past three years. It's a wonderful lens, but I don't really need its speed. I have used it indoors a few times, but not very often. The new 24-70 f4 sounded good on paper if it really is good at 24mm.

On Jan. 9th I headed north up I-71 to the Cleveland lakefront. At least one trip to the lake is usually required to get 100 birds in January by the middle of the month. It's a two hour drive from Columbus that passes quickly with good music to listen to. All month the only CD's in my car are the great recording of Chopin's Nocturnes performed by Claudio Arrau. I no longer own a decent stereo at home. While I have a large CD collection of mainly orchestral music, I use them mainly as reference to check out tempi, etc. to prepare for work. I really don't listen to them for enjoyment at this point in my life and would much rather attend a live concert. With piano music it's a different story. The relatively smaller dynamic range lends itself better to car travel, and Arrau's Nocturnes is at the very top of my list of greats. I've listened to them too many times to count and never get tired of them. After an unsuccessful stop at a wooded rest area along the way to check for that big northern chickadee, the Black-capped, I arrived at E. 72nd Street in Cleveland where there were thousands of gulls. I didn't have to lift up my binoculars to see the first new year bird with many Great Black-backed Gulls present. Scoping through the more distant gulls offered sightings of at least 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but no white-winged gulls such as Iceland or Glaucous seemed to be around. No ducks were there either. I picked up just one more species at E. 72nd street when a Peregrine Falcon passed by, stirring up the gulls and bringing my total to 74.

At East 72nd Street I could have photographed Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, but I pulled out the new 24-70 f4L IS lens for it's first real try.


Jan. 9, Lake Erie at E.72nd St. in Cleveland
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 24mm
f11, 1/250th sec., ISO 320

It was readily apparent there is noticeable distortortion that has to be corrected when processing RAW files at 24mm with this 24-70 f4. The horizon was curved. Test reports have shown this lens to have less distortion at the wide end than just about any other wide angle zoom available, but even that little bit is annoying to me. There is not yet a profile out for in in Adobe Camera Raw, and even when it does come out it won't be available unless you get CS6. I'm still using CS5 and really have no need to upgrade. I used the distortion profile for the older Canon 24-70 f2.8L and it seems to work well enough to straighten things up in the above photo. Yeah, I should have used a polarizing filter here.


Jan. 9, Lake Erie at E.72nd St. in Cleveland
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 70mm
f8, 1/1600th sec., ISO 400

Any pincushion distortion that may be present at the long end isn't noticeable and I did no correcting here.

The next stop was a quick and productive detour a few miles east to Sims Park in Euclid where excellent, but distant scope views allowed for me to pick up a few more species, mainly ducks. The highlights were all three scoters. Seven new species at Sims Park now gave me 81 species. I then headed westward again checking through the gulls at E. 72nd St, and the marina at E. 55th Street without finding any new species. There were some ducks at E. 55th, but nothing new to me for the year. Heading west I checked out the West Park Cemetery in Cleveland's near west side where White-winged Crossbills and Common Redpolls had been seen. I saw neither of those finches while I was there, but I did find the big northern chickadee there (species number 82). Onward to the hot water outlet at the Avon Lake power plant. I saw nothing new there. The weather had warmed up, and Lake Erie was free of ice. During the coldest parts of winter Avon Lake can be productive, but I only saw the most common gulls there and no ducks at all. I did pull out the lens again.

xxxx
Jan. 9, Pier by Avon Lake Power Plant
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 24mm
f11, 1/800th sec., ISO 400

Above is the same photo twice. The version on the left shows a bowed light pole and on the right the photo was processed using the distortion profile of the old Canon 24-70 f2.8L.

Onward to Lorain where I had tentatively planned to spend the rest of the day photographing whatever was around from the pier, but everything was fenced off. There was no access to the river mouth and pier from what I could find. I did see a Double-crested Cormorant in the harbor from a different vantage point, but I saw no point in lingering there. I had just enough daylight to go to the Wellington Reservoir inland in Lorain County where I picked up 3 more common ducks bringing the daily total of year birds to 15 and 86 over all.


Jan. 9, Wellington Reservoir
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 35mm
f11, 1/125th sec., ISO 400
 


Jan. 9, Wellington Reservoir
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 57mm
f11, 1/250th sec., ISO 400

So far from what I could tell in real world situations the new zoom is sharp throughout the entire range from corner to corner (at least the corners of the 1D MarkIV frame). At 24mm it is clearly better than any 20-105 f4L I have tried and the distortion is also a lot better, but still present and annoying. In the above two photos there is a lot of minute detail in the foreground ice when viewed at 100% resolution.

On Jan. 10th  I went out for an afternoon drive southward from Columbus along Rt. 23. The first stop was Stage's Pond State Natural Area in Pickaway County. It was another very gloomy overcast and cold day. The ponds were all frozen, but the trails at Stage's Pond go through swampy woods and fields and there was a long list of potential species I could have picked up. I walked the full loop through the area for about an hour or so and only added one new species, Yellow-rumped Warbler, which are always common there in the winter. I then drove around Scioto Trail State Forest for a couple of hours and didn't find a single new year bird. It was eerily quiet there. I hoped to try out the new 24-70 there too, but it was so gloomy I never felt inspired to get it out. One last spot to check for the day was Lake White near Waverly which was open and hosted thousands of puddle ducks and geese. I was only able to add two more species there, Northern Pintail and Snow Goose for a year total of 89. Jan 11th was a day to stay home and catch up on some things, which worked out well since a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paid a visit here (number 90).

With my lack of success at Scioto Trail, I still needed a lot of common forest birds. On Jan. 12  I got an early start and went to the Zaleski State Forest. I'm sure that at least 10 new species for the year for me were present there, but finding them would be another story. I felt that there were 4 that I absolutely had to get and they would be easy : Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, and Eastern Bluebird.  If I didn't see a sapsucker the day before that would have been on the list too. One or both of Wild Turkey and Ruffed Grouse were possibilities. I still didn't have Ohio's 3 most common owls or Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered Hawks. There was also the possibility of northern finches and half-hardy birds such as Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, and Brown Thrasher. Along the way coming across a blackbird roost was possible, and I had no other blackbirds other than Common Grackle for the year yet. Black Vulture is almost a sure bet along Rt.33 south of Lancaster. Getting to 100 was definitely possible but not to be. I did manage six new birds for a new total of 96 for the year. It was very foggy all morning and heavily overcast in the afternoon. If any Black Vultures were along Rt. 33. I wouldn't have seen them in the fog. Of the must get species I missed Fox Sparrow despite spending time in places where I had seen them the previous winter. A Red-shouldered Hawk was a good find just outside the official forest boundary as I entered the area. I did see Wild Turkeys in a few spots, but no grouse. I didn't find any owls in any expected areas. Although I had already seen one at Killdeer Plains, Red-headed Woodpeckers seemed to be especially numerous at Zaleski this winter. There must have been a bumper crop of acorns last fall.  The highlight of the day was a flock of 14 Red Crossbills feeding in pines. The pines were all well stocked with cones, but the hemlocks had virtually none at Zaleski where White-winged Crossbills would have been likely. Despite generally crappy weather and falling short of my goal of 100, it was overall a nice day of birding and gave me more chances to pull out the new 24-70 lens once again.


Jan. 12, Zaleski State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 24mm
f11, 1/13th sec., ISO 250

The foggy early morning at Zaleski gave me a chance to try out my limits with the IS on this lens. 1/13th sec. was adequate here, but any slower than that saw I decrease in percentage of sharp shots handheld. I'm not very good at handholding cameras, and others may have better luck. Of course if I was a serious landscape photographer I would have been using a tripod and cable release with the mirror locked on the camera.
 



Jan. 12, Zaleski State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 37mm
f11, 1/20th sec., ISO 250


Jan. 12, Zaleski State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 35mm
f13, 1/40th sec., ISO 250

24mm on the zoom is ok for sure, but the sharpness and contrast are noticeably better around 35mm with this lens. The edge to edge detail is impressive in the foreground grasses in the photo above when viewed at 100% and is maybe a bit better than similar photos taken in the same spot with the lens at 24mm. The above area is a clear cut that hosted a good half dozen or more Fox Sparrows last winter, but not a single one was present this year although there were plenty of Eastern Towhees. Like just about everywhere else in Ohio, even southeast Ohio, American Tree Sparrows were by far the most abundant sparrow present.

The 13th was supposed to rain all day, and I was going to stay home. When the rain stopped in the afternoon I thought I would check out the nearby Greenlawn Cemetery here in Columbus one more time. I had seen White-winged Crossbills in December there, but still not yet in 2013. Common Redpolls had also been reported there. It didn't take me long to find some crossbills feeding in hemlocks, but I didn't see the redpolls (a species I have never seen in Ohio south of the counties along Lake Erie.) With the rain stopped I made a quick visit to Deer Creek for the first time since the 3rd. With the warmer weather the reservoir had opened up, but few water birds had arrived to take advantage of that, and nothing new was there. With the rain having returned I checked out places where I had seen Fox Sparrows as recently as Dec. 30th without luck. It wasn't a total waste of time, though. As I was spishing for the Fox Sparrows I summoned the curiosity of a Sharp-shinned Hawk to get to the total of 98.

On the 14th I really wanted to wrap up his 100 list. I had a busy week coming up and wouldn't have time to get out for at least another week.  I got an early start heading to the Mohican State Forest. Before arriving there I was fortunate to see a Black Vulture roosting on a pole along Rt. 97 in Richland County for number 99. That made the next species number 100, which was a good one for Ohio, Evening Grosbeak. They had been reported coming to someone's feeder on private property in the middle of Mohican. When I initially drove by the Evening Grosbeaks were feeding in trees right next to the road. I had to park about a half mile away and by the time I got there with my 800mm lens they were far from the road in private property and I got no photos of them. I did try out the 24-70 lens one more time in what was again very gloomy overcast.


Jan. 14, Mohican-Memorial State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 24mm
f11, 1/10th sec., ISO 400

As mentioned, it was a gloomy and overcast day at Mohican. The above photo was warmed up a bit and the saturation boosted. It was another chance to try out the lens and test out the IS. The detail in the fallen leaves and pine needles in the foreground is definitely better toward the center of the frame than the edges. In other similar photos I notice less difference. My initial impression from the lens is that the weakest performance comes from the corners of the frame with the lens at 24mm, but it still is much better than the 24-104 f4L IS.


Jan. 14, Mohican-Memorial State Forest
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L IS lens at 50mm
f13, 1/15th sec., ISO 400

Test results that I have seen so far say that the lens is weakest at 50mm. If that is true, it's not visible here, at least not at f13. The corner to corner detail and contrast in the tree bark is impressive when viewed at 100%. From what I can see in the photos I have taken so far, the lens is weakest at 24mm and is best between 35mm and 50mm. I look forward to using more in the near future, hopefully in better light. Until then I don't want to form too strong of an opinion and will feel free to change my mind after viewing more photo taken with this lens. I haven't really tried it much at 70 and would probably grab my 70-300L  zoom rather than this lens for short telephoto shots if that's what I wanted. The pseudo macro feature on this lens is also not of much interest to me. The working distances necessary are too close for my comfort, and I would grab my 100mm macro lens over this any day.  Overall I have had fun playing around with this lens, and obviously by this time I have used it too much to return it. I think I will hang onto it for now and sell my 24mm f1.4L II, since I can't afford or carry around both.  I wish I could have at least tried out the new Canon 24 f2.8 IS and 35 f2 IS lenses before getting this zoom. I naturally gravitate to those two focal lengths with this zoom and together they are about the same price as this lens.  They would have probably given me better quality, more speed, and less distortion at 24mm and 35mm. Those lenses are also smaller, so carrying one of them around in a pocket is less of an ordeal than this lens when hiking with my 800mm lens. This 24-70mm lens is also priced artificially too high right now and almost certainly it will soon be available with various discounts and rebates. If I do decide to sell it I will lose some money for sure.  Yes, I do have a bit of buyers remorse, but hopefully I will at least enjoy it through the coming spring and summer and get my money's worth out of it. How it performs on a full frame camera, I don't know, but I can't image it being any better than it is with the corners cropped out on the 1D4. For the time being I have no plans to switch from the 1D Mark IV. Getting razor sharp details on small songbirds is my number one priority in a bird photography camera. A full frame camera would have to be 27mp to get the same amount of pixels on a bird from the same distance as with the 1D4. The new 1DX is only 18 mp and way too expensive for me to even consider. The AF is supposedly better, but the AF on the 1D4 is fine for me as is. I don't know why AF speed is so important for so many. The market for photos of flying birds is very small. It would take years to take enough photos of flying birds with the 1DX that couldn't be taken with the 1D4 to make up any difference in profit to cover the price of the 1DX. By that time the 1DX will long be history I'm sure. I am interested in at least trying out the 5D MarkIII when the announced firmware upgrade is available next spring that allows for AF at f8. Until then I'm not interested, and spring is no time to be testing out new equipment for bird photographers. Despite what you might read elsewhere on the Internet, most bird photographers out there who actually sell their photos aren't abandoning their 1D MarkIV's. I asked an agency that sells some of my photos how the image quality of bird photos taken with the 1D4 compare to what they see with the 1DX. They haven't even had any submissions with the 1DX.  When I look at the prices of all these new cameras and lenses coming out it can get discouraging in this economy. Prices paid for bird photos and markets for them certainly aren't going up. It's discouraging to me who already has some great equipment, and I'm sure to the beginner or young person getting started it is even more so. The truth is that there is some great used equipment out there. You don't have to have the latest or supposed greatest. As digital photography matures previous generations hold more value for usability despite the prices coming down fast. Photos taken with cameras like the 1D MarkII and even Canon 10D are still salable to most markets that use bird photos every bit as much as photos taken with cameras made yesterday. As I said at the beginning of this tirade, getting a new English horn that I like and can use is my top priority for 2013. Any money spent on photography will be most likely be on travel this year. In the long run that's a much better investment than sitting at home polishing new cameras with no money to put in the gas tank as far as I'm concerned.

UPDATE FEB. 2013 : I quickly came to really dislike the 24-70 f4L IS lens as much as the 24-105 and didn't keep it long. I ended up picking up what I think is an excellent copy of the 16-35 f2.8L II lens. More on that lens coming soon.....