Studebaker Bird Photography Newsletter #6



Wood Duck Workshop Report

The Wood Duck Photography at North Chagrin Reservation really couldn’t be more pleasant. Sunny fall days in the 60’s with a beautiful calm woodland pond in front you filled with tame Wood Ducks, and wonderful company to photograph them with: that’s my idea of a fun/relaxing time. Demand for the Wood Duck workshop is increasing so we ran the workshop two separate weekends this year. The weather was miraculously cooperative booth weekends. We had lots of ducks in perfect plumage. The fall colors were quite nice this year as well peaking sometime between October 10th and 17th.


Over the past 4 years I have made approximately 30,000 images of Wood Ducks and I still find my self excited to photograph them and get new and original images on a consistent basis. With all that experience I am able to almost read the ducks’ minds and predict their behavior. My experience with the ducks at North Chagrin along with my three months of fight photography last winter really paid off (ducks flying at the Cleveland Power Plants and Canadian owls). I was able to make a few high action shots of the drakes this season which I have always wanted but never was able to pull off in the past. Along with over a dozen Wood Ducks, we also were able to photograph a Ruddy Duck, American Black Duck, and a Cooper’s Hawk during the workshop. While the park is cracking down on the no feeding rule and expanding that to “no manipulating the bird’s behavior in any way” we still had plenty of photo opportunities and several of the participants remarked how they don’t remember shooting so many frames in a single day.


Other Bird Photography Career News this Month

Look for my work to be published in Birding Magazine (Eastern Wood Pewee on cover), a Cerulean Warbler to be used by the North American Catholic Diocese for their annual Calendar, and the Ohio Ornithological Society, and many more.


Where to Photograph in Ohio in late Fall/early Winter

Late Fall and early Winter is truly the slow time for bird photography in Ohio . I typically consider it the best time of year to catch up on image editing and website updates, or get out of the state and head south. There are however, a few exceptions. Duck migration is in full swing and if you stay tuned to the rare bird alerts, you may be able to find such rarities as Cackling Geese and stray hummingbirds from the western states. The only place in Ohio which I find consistently and predictably offers good shooting at this time is the duck pond at Castalia. With a little patience and a sunny day, you should be able photograph American Wigeon, Northern Shovelers, American Black Ducks, and maybe some other species especially after some of the other local ponds start to freeze up for the winter. This is also a good time of year to double your backyard bird feeding efforts. As natural food resources become scarcer, a good feeding station can both offer great photo opportunities for the photographer, and help the birds survive the colder weather as well. Good bird photography for most winter birds (snow buntings, longspurs, owls, diving ducks, rare gulls, Merlin on winter territories, winter finch invasions) won’t begin until January or February. Last but not least, this is the perfect time of year to call in Screech Owls. If anyone has a predictable bird, let me know, as this is one of the few species in Ohio I have left to photograph in digital!


Arizona Songbird Workshop Update – April 4-8, 2009 – Price will include all group meals, in-field instruction, and mid-day slideshows and Photoshop demonstrations. The first part of April is peak migration and as well as the most pleasant weather of the year for this location. We’ll be changing the workshop up just a bit this year by starting our trip near Sierra Vista at a ranch known for its migrants and regular visits from Scaled Quail. We’ll then target some higher elevation species in the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains and finish with a generous amount of time at a desert water hole near Green Valley , Arizona . The species diversity should be spectacular and we’ll easily walk away with 25-40 species landing on our perches and coming to the water and hummingbird feeders we will offer. My favorite and most predictable species will include Broad-billed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles, Gila and Acorn Woodpeckers, Roadrunner, Gamble’s Quail, Lucy’s Warbler, Pyrrhuloxia, Mexican Jay, and many, many others.

2009 Workshop Schedule Online

My workshop schedule and details can be found here:

  • April 4-8, 2009 Arizona Songbirds
  • April 25-26 Southern Ohio Warblers and More – Shawnee Forest
  • New May 2-3 Southern Ohio Warblers and More – Lake Hope
  • May 9,10,11 Northern Ohio Warblers and More Full
  • New June 17-21, 2009 Loons and Warblers of Michigan
  • August 15-16, 2009 The Shorebird Workshop
  • October 17-18, 2009 The Wood Duck Workshop

Brief Florida Trip Report


Lake Kissimmee, FL | Nov 29, 2008 | Hand-held from airboat

Canon 40D | Canon 600mm f4 IS | 1/2000 f5.6| ISO 200 | cropped from horz capture

Visiting Family in Florida a couple weeks ago I only had a few hours for photography. My primary goal was to photograph Snail Kites in the most cost effective and efficient method possible. I started talking to over a dozen local tour leaders offering boat trips into the lakes in Florida which coincide with the extremely limited range of the Snail Kite. Almost all tours used noisy air boats which I was worried to use. I didn’t think the birds would tolerate the noise and doubted the most of the leader’s ability to distinguish between SEEING a kite and what it takes to make a good PHOTO of a Kite. Others were very expensive. One tour leader, Rob Murchie ( used air boats but also actually seemed to have an excellent working knowledge of local wildlife. He also worked with photographers quite a bit and had even taken film crew of the BBC out to photograph the Kites. When he told me he could put on a male Snail Kite in good light within 4 minutes of me hiring him, I flat out told him I didn’t believe it, but had to give it a try. Captain Rob delivered all I was hoping for and then some, netting many over-the-top fantastic Kite shots in under three hours, along with outstanding opportunities at American Bittern, Limpkin, Bald Eagle, Purple Gallinule, herons, egrets, etc.


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