Excellent pics, Neil. I know you have also used the 300mm f4 PF lens with the 1.4 TC, which is what I use on the D7200. I would be interested in your opinion on how the 200-500 compares to that set-up.
The 300/4 PF is a lot lighter so for walking around it's easier to handle. The range of the zoom is it's advantage. It's useful when shooting from hides when you have a mix of large and small birds. The 300/4 is a little faster when shooting birds in flight.
I haven't used the 300/4 since I got the 200-500/5.6. I like the extra reach and flexibility and don't see much quality difference. I do use if mostly on a tripod though.
If some of you are trying to decide between the Nikon 200-500mm and other affordable hand-holdable Nikon options, you might find Brad Hill's blog entries interesting. See the November 20, 2015 entry comparing the Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E, Sigma Sport 150-600mm f5-6.3 and the Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-5.6. Of course Brad is only 1 reviewer evaluating 1 sample of each lens, and he is perhaps more of a big animal photographer than a bird photographer, but he does write some of the most detailed hands-on comparisons you will find. He also has entries commenting on the new 300mm f/4E PF and more expensive latest 400/500/600mm options.
I think the D5500 lacks the AF fine tune function, but if you ever upgrade your body, you might find AF fine-tuning can help improve your results a little bit; it did for me. I was rather surprised that both my D7100 and my D7200 benefited from the AF fine tune feature on both lenses I use. Not always noticeable, but I think it definitely increases the success rate a little for me.
I noticed yesterday shooting the 200-500/5.6 on the D7200 that the area of sharp focus seemed mostly to be just behind the bird, but also just including the bird at f8. How much adjustment did you need to do?
Dave, thanks for posting the link for the test of the three lenses. I use the Nikkor 80-400mm with a D5500 and have not really been happy with the VR performance. I was using the Normal mode. After reading the review of the VR performance I decided to try the Active mode. Much better and a noticeable improvement. The D5500 also has a neat implementation of minimum shutter speed when using aperture priority. It's a sliding scale with five positions. With the Active mode I've been able to slide the minimum shutter speed to the minimum slider position and still get better performance than I was getting before with the Normal VR and the shutter speed in the middle or maximum slider position.
I've just returned from Florida trip with 200-500 lens received 3 days before I went .
Two things to say :
1 very happy with lens
2 anybody who can't get good shots in Florida doesn't know how to use a camera .They actually walk up to you or sit waiting for their pic to be taken !
I have been putting off for some time getting into DSLR, previously sticking with digiscoping or high zoom bridge cameras more recently. I had convinced myself that I would be steering toward the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (probably with a Nikon D7200, which I don't yet own). Having read the many well-informed opinions and excellent pictures on this forum I have had to think again. Does anyone have any thoughts either way?