Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Photographers in Focus

March 19, 2014

Photographers in Focus: Sara Silver

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Mom and little one, Shollenberger Park. All images © Sara Silver

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We first spotted photographer Sara Silver’s work when purusing photos of egrets raised by International Bird Rescue that have been released at Laguna de Santa Rosa in Northern California. Every year, colonies of Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons have made the towering eucalyptus trees on a narrow median in Santa Rosa, CA into their rookeries.

Sadly, many of their young fall from the nests. Were it not for a network of volunteers and bird organizations monitoring the site, those that survive the fall would almost certainly be killed by traffic. These releases are always a testament to the resolve of local bird lovers and the resiliency of these young animals. We’re proud to work with such organizations as the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa.

We recently asked Silver to share some of her favorite avian shots, her methods and her favorite birding spots.

Photographic beginnings and early haunts 

Silver: My interest in photography began about 10 years ago with a simple digital camera. Now I spend as much of my free time out of doors with my camera (and dog) as I can. It was easy to get hooked.

Here in Northern California I am surrounded by natural beauty — wetlands, mountains, rolling hills, sandy beaches and rocky coastline. It is a relatively easy drive to the waterfalls and majesty of the northwest as well as the deserts in the southwest. I soon found the areas I enjoyed exploring were full of birds, and I quickly discovered that birds were not easy to photograph well. Next thing I knew I was taking a lot of bird pictures!

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Black-crowned Night Heron

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California Quail

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Ladies man, Black-necked Stilt

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Snow Geese at Grey Lodge Wildlife Refuge

I was challenged and started visiting some of the local bird hangouts – notably Shollenberger Park in Petaluma, Bodega Bay, and especially a particular group of trees not 2 minutes from my home — a nesting spot I call “The Egret Trees” for lack of a better phrase.

The Egret Trees

The Egret Trees in Santa Rosa are a grouping of mature trees in a residential neighborhood that serves as a rookery for Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets as well as Black-crowned Night Herons. and has for many years. I discovered that it is a wonderful place to observe nesting behaviors and a perfect place to practice bird photography. Over the years, I have spent many enjoyable hours photographing birds in flight, nest building, parenting and sibling rivalry, bird-style.

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Light as a feather

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Reluctant Cattle Egret, Laguna de Santa Rosa, release of rehabilitated birds

This past year I had decided not to go to The Egret Trees as often anymore, after witnessing a couple of incidents which really upset me. One occurred in the natural course of an egrets/heron’s life, but one was the result of people failing to coexist with the seasonal “invasion” of birds. Suddenly it became too hard to spend time there. I just couldn’t do it.

Then a wonderful thing happened. I was invited to attend a bird release — these birds had been saved from an early demise, and nursed back to health, many from the very rookery where I had spent so much time. It was an awesome and positive experience.

Although it may be awhile before I return to the rookery, I have since been given a more hopeful outlook, thanks to the Bird Rescue Center, which rescues, treats and rehabs injured or “homeless” birds in Sonoma County and gives them a fresh start.

If you have the opportunity to observe a release of rehabilitated birds, go and feel good as the feathers fly and the birds make their way out for a second chance. I volunteer my services whenever asked, and hope to offer more in the future.

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Duck portrait

Advice for the novice

If you take the time and make the effort to observe birds, it really does become less difficult to photograph them. It’s never going to be easy. but it is always going to be worthwhile. I think a photograph of a bird soaring through the air is a beautiful thing, but capturing the spirit of a bird is harder. My favorite example of this spirit is something I call that “Crazy Egret Sunset Dance”; if you’ve seen this behavior, you know exactly what I mean. The moves are part Boogaloo and part Bolero with wing flapping thrown in.

Favorite bird? It would be hard to pick just one. I love the silly ones, like Oystercatchers and egrets. Perhaps “all of them” is most true. Or maybe the answer is whichever bird is in my viewfinder at the moment.

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Gull in Flight, Corte Madera Marsh

More on Sara Silver

On Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarasilver/

Website: http://sarasilver.com

A show of my work (my first) will be this summer at My Daughter the Framer inside of Corrick’s in downtown Santa Rosa. I hope you get a chance to stop by. For more information, email me.

Prints – I am a fine art printmaker. For print information, email me.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us with your submission.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Yeray Seminario of Spain,  Graham McGeorge of Florida and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

March 3, 2014

Patient of the week: Great Horned Owl

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Preparing a Great Horned Owl for a wash to remove contaminationGHOW, photos by Jennifer Gummerman

During 2013, we cared for a small number of owls, some brought to us contaminated by petroleum or other substances. Barn Owls, Western Screech Owls and a Great Horned Owl were all patients last year.

Recently, our Los Angeles center received the first owl of the year — a Great Horned Owl transferred from a partner wildlife organization. This bird had been captured in the San Gabriel River, contaminated with a clear substance on its chest and under its wings, rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports.

Our team washed the bird upon arrival and took photos of the process. We later transferred the owl to South Bay Wildlife, and we’re pleased to report the bird is living in a large flight aviary and will soon be released back to the San Gabriel River area.

We’re also proud to report that we’ve received band reports from owls cared for at our wildlife centers, including this recent sighting of a Burrowing Owl, released in Northern California and seen hundreds of miles north in Idaho.

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Finally, here’s the owl, post-wash:

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Related: Check out the Dawn Saves Wildlife webpage for more information on oiled wildlife care.

October 17, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Bill Steinkamp

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Baby American Coot at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center. All photos © Bill Steinkamp.
Bill-Steinkamp

Here at International Bird Rescue, we’re very fortunate to have a deep bench of bird lovers who also happen to be great photographers.

One of these team members is Bill Steinkamp, who photographs birds in care weekly at our Los Angeles center in the San Pedro neighborhood. His work can be seen regularly on our blog and Facebook page as well as Bill’s own Facebook page and Flickr page.

This year, he’s photographed a natural oil seep event in February that resulted in many oiled Common Murres transported to our L.A. center in need of stabilizing, washing and further rehabilitation prior to release. He’s also photographed several interesting patients, from the colorful baby coot seen above to a Blue-footed Booby found injured and wandering in South L.A.

We asked Bill to choose some of his favorite photos, both from the center and in the wild. Here are his selections and the back story of each:Egret, Snowy IMG_4930-L
Steinkamp: I photographed this Snowy Egret on a bird walk at Ballona Wetlands. It was one of the first photographs I saved when I first started birding photography.

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This is a Brandt’s Cormorant in care at the center in October.

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I think Black-crowned Night Herons have mysterious and intriguing eyes.
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I really love this shot of a Cooper’s Hawk. I always try and get a precise eye shot in my bird photos. This was photographed in my backyard in Redondo Beach.

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This is an Eared Grebe at International Bird Rescue being rehabbed. They are much smaller than I thought and so colorful.

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I have hundreds of pelican photos, but I especially liked this one because of the splashing water.

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These Oystercatchers have stunning beak and eye color. Photographed at Ballona Creek in Marina del Rey, Calif.

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Angry birds, anyone? These Barn Swallows are very hard to photograph. Another good example of using high-speed continuous shooting.

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Release of Pelican V50, a victim of human cruelty released 14 months after it was found with its primary and secondary feathers clipped.

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If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Kim Taylor of Washington, D.C., Yeray Seminario of Spain, Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

July 23, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Graham McGeorge

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Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio). 2013 National Geographic Traveler Contest Merit Winner. All images © Graham McGeorge.

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Of the dozens of avian entries in this year’s National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest, perhaps the most striking to date is this portrait of an Eastern Screech Owl in glorious camouflage by Graham McGeorge, a self-described “plumber with a passion for photography” from Jacksonville, Fla.

In the off-hours, McGeorge has had some rather stunning editorial success, with his photographs appearing in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, the Washington Post, BBC Wildlife Magazine and other outlets.

McGeorge’s favorite spots to photograph wildlife are Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado; his go-to cameras are the Canon EOS-1D Mark III and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II.

And his advice for the novice photographer: “Ignore the rules. Think outside the box and develop your own style.”

McGeorge sent us some of his favorite avian photos shown below. His wildlife photographic repertoire is quite extensive: Visit his website for more great shots.

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Eastern Screech Owlets

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Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

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Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

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Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)

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Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis)

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If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Kim Taylor of Washington, D.C., Yeray Seminario of Spain, Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

May 30, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Kim Taylor

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Tree Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va. All images
© Kim Taylor.

Twitter has proved to be quite the matchmaker for our Photographers in Focus series. We recently came across the work of new follower Kim-Taylor@ktaylorphotos, aka Kim Taylor, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and has an eye for the tranquil moments of bird photography, whether on the water or in the sky.

This Mallard Duckling and dragonfly shot (below) is an instant classic. Other subjects, whether a Tree Swallow soaring above, a Green Heron stalking at water’s edge or the droplets spilling off an American Wigeon’s bill, capture that simultaneous moment of joy and tremendous excitement upon seeing a bird in the wild.

The Ospreys in the Washington area are a particular favorite for Taylor: she’s been following one pair for several years now.

Taylor, who recently caught up with us to chat about her photographs, has offered these images as prints for sale with proceeds benefiting International Bird Rescue! Click here to find out more at Kim’s photography website.

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Mallard Duckling and dragonfly, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va. 

Favorite spots

Taylor: While I work and live in a city/suburban area, where wildlife and many bird species are plentiful, I love going to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (in Maryland) and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (in Delaware). Both Blackwater and Bombay Hook are about a two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Washington, D.C. Both offer amazing opportunities to capture wildlife during the year and are great spots during migration in the spring and fall. Many different species of birds winter here or pass through this region.

Equipment of choice

I use a Nikon D3 and D800. My go-to lens is the Nikkor 600MM f4. Other options: 300mm f2.8, 60mm 2.8,50mm 1.8, and 14-28 Gf2.8. My bread-and-butter lens is the 600mm, as I use it for sports photography too.

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Green Heron, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Va.

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Snowy Egret, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna, Del.

Thoughts on motion

Photographing birds in flight takes practice, practice and more practice. I also think becoming one with your camera is essential. While you are watching a bird, the larger your lens, the more you must pay attention to being steady, while following the bird in your viewfinder. All while thinking, Do I adjust my shutter speed? My F-stop? Being one with your camera means knowing by glance at your meter which adjustments to make on the fly for +/- shutter speed and/or F-stop (I am speaking toward shooting on manual settings).

Starting out, you will miss shots — we all did and still do — but missing shots teaches you that the next time conditions are similar, what settings to start with and what to improve from there. Basically, shooting without having to think about what your camera is doing, and instead think about what the bird is doing or going to do. Knowing bird behavior is critical. Knowing by watching will allow you to be ready for that wingbeat shot, say, after a duck or goose preens. Birds will tell you what they are going to do if you just listen and watch.

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American Wigeon, Choptank River, Cambridge, Md.

Photographic perseverance

Standing in half-frozen water waiting for Canada Geese to take flight is difficult. Also going out in really hot and humid weather, even in the early parts of the day, is difficult. But if I know a Prothonotary Warbler is hanging around a certain spot at a park, deep in the thicket on a hot, humid day … I am there.

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Belted Kingfisher, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

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Mallard Drake, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

Memorable shots

That’s a tough question. I have several that fit that description for different reasons. I see some amazing Osprey photos this time of year. There are photos of Osprey emerging from water with fish that are just stunning! (Yes, those extra hard shots are on my list this year.)

Any photo featuring a bird is inspiration. I think of birds as miracles with wings.

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Female Osprey, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

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Horned Grebe, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

Injured wildlife

Sadly, I have seen injured birds, but gratefully not many. I do try to get help for an injured bird; as you all know, sometimes that is easier said than done. I’ve also taken a basic wildlife rescue and rehabilitation class. I carry basic rescue tools (boxes, something to cover the bird’s eyes) and my handy list of rehabbers in the area on my phone. Ironically, two weeks before my rescue class, I rescued a pigeon in a parking lot. It was unable to fly, so I scooped it up and took it to an animal hospital near me.

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Barn Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

A note to the novice

Photographing birds and wildlife takes lots of patience! By nature, I am not a patient person, but give me my camera, let me walk out into wilderness, and I can wait all day for “the shot” if need be. Which is what I have done many times. Unlike other types of photography, you can’t just show up at a spot and expect birds to be waiting for you, the same way you would shooting a street scene downtown at rush hour. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Yes, there are those lucky times — you show up, get your shots and move on — but that is not the norm.

Taking a photo of a duck sitting on water looks easy, but in reality that duck is moving. Taking a photo of a duckling nipping at a dragonfly looks easy, but in reality there were two frames. Two frames — that’s it. To get the photograph, you have to go out there and wait for it and be prepared to take what Mother Nature gives you. So pack lots of patience and learn the behavior of the wildlife you want to photograph, and be prepared to wait, wait and wait some more.

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Northern Pintail, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Yeray Seminario of Spain, Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

April 12, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Yeray Seminario

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A Black-backed Jackal and a Rüppell’s Vulture fight for the right to feed on a dead buffalo near Lake Nakuru, Kenya. All images © Yeray Seminario.

Yeray-SeminarioAdmit it: Your pulse has gone up a few notches.

Viewing this Rüppell’s Vulture looming large as it defends its carrion find from a jackal (one dwarfed by comparison), can provoke a physiological response. And if that’s not a hallmark of exemplary wildlife photography, we don’t know what is.

Your skeptic’s brain may have also kicked in: Is this photoshopped? Is this bird the stuff of myths? The answer to both questions is No. Rüppell’s Vultures were prominently featured using bird’s-eye cameras in director John Downing’s recent documentary Winged Planet. Listed as an endangered species by the IUCN in part due to habitat loss, this spectacular scavenger has a wingspan of up to 8.5 feet and can soar at the altitudes of a private jet.

The photographer behind this shot is Yeray Seminario, our April Photographer in Focus. Seminario, a wildlife veterinarian who interned with International Bird Rescue in 2007 and lives in Tarifa, Spain, recently spent some time with us to share some of his favorite photos from the global field.

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Seminario: The impressive scenery of the abandoned palaces in India is a great background for this critically endangered Long-billed Vulture.

Camera-worthy countries

Seminario: Every country has its distinctive flavor, a particular light that gets reflected in the pictures you take. To me, I find them all enjoyable, but in terms of pure wildlife, Kenya is probably the one that provides more opportunities to capture images of birds and mammals interacting in an open, natural environment.

There are some other characteristics of a country that can inspire you in different ways and make you feel at ease when taking pictures. India and Nepal are probably the second best to me after Kenya, as I feel more “in tune” there. Also, I live in a great place for birding and photography! In Tarifa (the southernmost tip of Spain and Europe) there are always good numbers of raptors around that make it a really exciting place to live if you are into birds and photography.

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One of the highlights for any bird lover in a trip to the great country of Senegal is the Egyptian Plover.

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After almost four years working with the Orange-breasted Falcon in Belize, I got to see them pretty close.

Images that inspire

It is the work of others that inspires me most! I try to think about the technical aspects of the shot, and how the photographer captures the essence of the moment. That said, I am quite happy with the series of pictures that I have of the Orange-breasted Falcon, a species I worked with for almost four years. Some of the locations where I observed them are quite remote and difficult to access, with rain, heat and insects.

Looking at those pictures brings me back to those real wild places where I enjoyed an intimate relation with nature. I hope some of my pictures will help spark an interest in other people to visit some of these places, learn more about these birds and be aware of the conservation issues they face.

You can see some of my pictures on Whitehawk and on my personal website, Light as Feathers.

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Deserts don’t hold a high number of species, but those that survive such harsh conditions are quite charismatic, like these Trumpeter Finches drinking in a small puddle in Morocco.

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Short-eared Owl, Tarifa, Spain

Camera of choice

I use a Canon 7D most of the time, which I found to be an improvement from my previous 50D. I have a modest array of lenses, including the 300mm f/4 with a 1.4X converter, which I use to take pictures of birds and other wildlife. Of course, I would love to have a 400mm or 500mm to have more reach, but I’m quite happy with my equipment, as I can take it with me in a backpack just about anywhere, whether to a high peak in the Himalayas or a sand dune in the Sahara Desert, which I imagine would be more difficult with a heavier lens.

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This young leopard almost jumped into the middle of the road while driving in Kenya. It stayed for a minute and came back into the bush. To see one of these magnificent animals is always a privilege, and to be just a few meters away from such a beauty feels exhilarating.

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Lake Naivasha, Kenya is home to several species of birds, including this Greater Flamingo. This spectacular freshwater lake is being threatened by an extensive flower industry. These huge gardens provide colorful flowers to Northern Europe while draining the lake in the process.

Photographic challenges

I find it very challenging to shoot in the rainforest, where quite often there’s very little light. I’m now trying to improve my skills using a flash in poor light conditions, which I find not easy to control to get the desired results. Of course, when birds are in flight, especially if they are fast and small, like swifts, makes it quite difficult to frame the bird and get a sharp shot.

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Western Banded Snake Eagle seen in the Gambia River, Senegal

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Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Panama

Animal rescue

As you are in the field taking pictures and observing birds most of the time, you find the most diverse injuries in a wide variety of species. Sometimes you can reach them and take them to the nearest rescue center, sometimes not. One of the most incredible things I can remember right now was a Black Stork that had no beak at all! She was flying with a small flock of Black Storks on their way to Africa, but I can’t imagine she could have survived long.

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Orange-breasted Falcon in flight, Belize

For the beginner

My advice to a novice photographer would be to just get out there and take as many pictures as possible. Find a subject you like and experiment with different apertures, settings, times of day and different ways to frame the same shot. I think this is the best way to learn. Reading books about photography, of any kind, helps a lot too. Actually, I should follow this advice more often!

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Northern Gannet in Tarifa, Spain, one of the best places in the world to enjoy bird migration

 

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

Hat tip to Julie Skoglund for nominating Yeray for this installment.

We welcome people from all countries to come and learn at one of our rehabilitation programs. For information on our International Internship Program, click here.

February 4, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Jackie Wollner

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Flammulated Owl nestling, all images © Jackie Wollner. jackiewollner.com

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A self-portrait of Wollner with a piglet

On International Bird Rescue’s Facebook page, there are some photos we post to our loyal following that become instant viral hits, viewed and shared by thousands. The images that resonate are usually either of young and delicate birds (orphaned Pied-billed Grebe chicks, for instance) or of a species looking the camera squarely in the eye with haunting eyes (a Laysan Albatross recently released by our Los Angeles team off the Pacific Coast).

The latest such image to strike a chord meets both criteria: a Flammulated Owl nestling, photographed by Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles. Even at full size, this owl, which lives in old-growth forests of the West, weighs little more than a golf ball. “This is why I miss wildlife rehabilitation… I loved that job,” one Facebook commenter wrote upon seeing the nestling.

Wollner has volunteered as wildlife rehabber (she was trained by our own Dr. Rebecca Duerr) and is an avid photographer of many species International Bird Rescue cares for year round. Here are some of her favorite shots and the stories behind them.

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Black-crowned Night Heron, Morro Bay, Calif. Wollner: This shot was taken in heavy mist and low light. I don’t think it would have been as interesting in bright sunlight.

Photographic orgins

Wollner: I got started with birds as a child because my mother is an animal lover. We spent a lot of time observing the creatures that surrounded us where I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. Some years ago I helped rescue a House Sparrow, and I was hooked. Eventually I volunteered as a wildlife rehabber and was trained by International Bird Rescue’s own Dr. Rebecca Duerr when she was animal care director at another facility that cared for a lot of songbirds.

Regarding photography, I should point out that if it isn’t already clear from my shots, I am an amateur photographer. But I have always appreciated photography. I tell my friends, “I want to see all your vacation snaps” and I mean it. I first started playing around with film photography in college. When digital cameras became available, I really dove in. I grew exponentially as a photographer when I could shoot without the care of wasting film, chemicals or money. Plus the feedback was instant.

So: Birds + Photography = Happy Happy Joy Joy

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Black Oystercatcher, Marina Del Rey, Calif.

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American Crow in rehab care. Adult crows appear to have almost black eyes. This photo was taken in front of a window. The bright light coming over the bird’s shoulder illuminated its eye in an unusual way.

Camera of choice

I have a Canon 1D Mark IIn. It’s big and heavy and never fails to prompt observations from (non-photographer) strangers that my camera is big and heavy. Even the name is big and heavy. Canon really ought to give some thought to its nomenclature.

When shooting birds in the field, I most commonly use the 100-400mm zoom. I’d love to have the 500 or 600 prime, but then I’d have to sell my car.

But what I really want to say about camera choice is that it doesn’t matter a lot. I have no opinion about Canon vs. Nikon. Both are awesome. I’ve seen excellent photos taken with point-and-shoots and even camera phones. It’s kind of a running joke among photographers that people say “That’s a great photo … What camera do you have?” The key is to have a good working knowledge of the equipment you do have, its possibilities and limitations. Also, you need a connection with the subject and an ability to edit your own shots. Editing is the most underrated, under-discussed topic in photography, in my opinion. When I say editing, I don’t mean photoshopping, I mean the ability, and moreover the willingness, to look at the 150 shots you took of an oystercatcher and pick just one or two to show people. It’s while I’m editing that I may refer photography as my “onerous hobby,” but I can’t overstate the importance of it.

When I edit, I first throw out everything with technical flaws, i.e. exposure, focus, etc. Sadly, this is still a lot of shots in my case. Then I look for the shot that communicates the most. Does it tell a story? Above all, is it emotional in some way? I have an engineering/science background, and I know the problems of anthropomorphizing. But as someone who is passionate about conservation, getting the public to care is the first step. People have to feel something before they act to preserve it.

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Hatchling House Finch in rehab care

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Galapagos Hawk, juvenile. Espanola Island

Two memorable shots

Like all the creatures in the Galapagos, this hawk had no fear of humans. It was perched on a pole near a beach on Espanola Island. The light was incredible — a bright, soft overcast. And that bird kept staring right at me, or at my camera, which was even better. Then it started stretching. The result was an unusual asymmetrical pose with that fantastic, direct eye contact. I took that shot with an early point-and-shoot camera, by the way. It was 2001 and digital SLRs didn’t exist yet.

Another favorite is the shot of the nestling House Finch stretching to its fullest and begging for food (above). It’s a favorite because I have cared for a lot of baby finches and my heart always leaps a little when I look at it. That was taken with a more current point-and-shoot camera.

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House Finch fledgling in my front yard. I love the way it is looking up at the sky. It fledged the next morning.

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Sanderlings at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Calif. Sanderlings are usually running in and out of the surf. But every now and then they pause for very brief “micro naps.”

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Snowy Egret with catch, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Calif. White birds in bright sunlight are challenging to expose properly. I usually set exposure compensation to -2/3 stop or thereabouts. Newer cameras with smarter sensors may do a better job without adjustment.

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Snowy Plover, Malibu State Beach, Calif. This was taken on an overcast misty morning. It’s challenging to shoot fast moving subjects in lower light. But I actually prefer soft overcast like this to bright sunlight.

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Another Snowy Plover at Malibu State Beach. These birds are listed as threatened. I find them so delicate and charming. The deep tire tracks illustrate the challenge they face from loss of habitat.

Species of note

I have a particular fondness for corvids, especially crows and ravens. I’m not goth, or into Brandon Lee, or a witch, or anything like that. I just think they are the smartest, coolest creatures on two wings. I’ve worked with them in rehab settings, and I think every corvid rehabber will tell you this — when you look at them, there is definitely some “one” looking back. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they figure so prominently in mythology.

In the field, if I’m surrounded by a variety of shorebirds, I usually find myself photo-stalking the oystercatchers. Those eyes are like egg yolks! They have those big garish red-orange bills. And their legs are the pale pink color of the tights I wore in ballet class as a child. Snowy Plovers are also a favorite photo subject. There is something so gentle and fragile about them.

Ultimately I love all birds. I get all mushy emotional just thinking about all the birdy lives I’ve lost and saved. For me, bird rehab is a crushing and extraordinarily rewarding avocation.

Whimbrel-1480 a
Whimbrel, Malibu State Beach, Calif. This shot was taken in late afternoon “golden hour” light. It was low tide which is a double bonus. Shorebirds are active at low tide and the exposed rock and algae bring a lot of rich color to the shot.

 

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

October 9, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Jeff Robinson


Jeff Robinson with a curious Crimson Rosella

Where would we be without our volunteers?

The answer wouldn’t be a pretty one. Every day, we depend on many supporters who fold laundry, wash dishes, handle birds and feed the flocks. And they also help us to document our work so that we can show it to the world.

Jeff Robinson helps us do that in a big way. He’s an excellent wildlife photographer and videographer who has an eye for detail — most notably the careful steps we take to rehabilitate aquatic birds and release them back into the wild. Here’s his backstory and a sampling of his work:

How did you get started in bird photography?

Robinson: In 2003, I went on an African safari with family and friends. I was eager to take pictures of the classic African mammals. The mammals were indeed fascinating, but I was even more intrigued by the Malachite Kingfishers. Other African birds range from eagles to Cape Sugarbirds, with penguins and many others in between. After my first trip, I was so excited that I returned to Africa within a few months. It changed my life.

For six years I photographed in Africa twice a year, and I started posting my pictures online. Then it dawned on me that there are other birds on other continents. There are even birds in North America! We are fortunate to have many colorful birds, from buntings to Wood Ducks. So I turned my camera to these birds.


Malachite Kingfisher

What led you to volunteer at International Bird Rescue?

Photography led me to watching and identifying birds. Most birdwatchers come across sick or injured birds, and I was no exception. I took a course on how to rescue birds safely and effectively. At the course, I met some wonderful people who rehabilitated birds, and I was soon doing volunteer rehabilitation work myself.


African Fish Eagle

What’s the best part of volunteering?

I am inspired by colleagues who are dedicated to the welfare and treatment of every bird. The effort, thought and time they devote to the birds is just amazing. It is a privilege to work with them, and it is a privilege to be so close to the birds and see every detail of their plumage. Of course, I have photographed many of the species we help. By rehabilitating the birds, you realize how different a Cattle Egret feels and behaves compared to a cormorant. I should also mention that releasing the birds is absolutely one of life’s most thrilling experiences.


African Penguins 


Cape Sugarbird

What about videography?

I tried to take photographs of bird releases but it was difficult to capture a release in a still photo. It often happens so fast. So I changed to taking video. You never know exactly how a bird will behave during release, and that is part of the fun.


A video compendium of International Bird Rescue releases

What are your plans for the future?

I will continue to do volunteer rehab work and take videos of releases. I have started to compile a library of videos of the birds we have in rehab. I have also started to document case studies of some birds — for example, a Brown Pelican lost near Yosemite National Park or a California Gull entangled in a plastic bag (see video below).  I hope the videos will be useful in the future to show to our visitors or other interested parties.


A plastic bag-entangled California Gull treated and released


An American Avocet at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center

For more of Jeff’s bird videos, visit youtube.com/photorobinson.

All images and video copyright Jeff Robinson. All rights reserved.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.


Recent Photographers in Focus:

Matt Bryant

Marie Travers

Christopher Taylor

Want to volunteer with us? Find out more information on our volunteer program here.

September 14, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Marie Travers

Northern Fulmar

Welcome to International Bird Rescue’s latest edition of Photographers in Focus, our tribute to the wildlife photographers who further inspire our passion for bird rehabilitation.

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve seen the work of Marie Travers, Assistant Center Manager of International Bird Rescue’s Bay Area wildlife care center. We tend to post her photographs mid-afternoon, sometimes when we’re in need of inspiration.

And she delivers. Travers’ images — many of birds recuperating from injury, bobbing around in pelagic pools, slumbering in an aviary or incubator — are at once sensitive and wonderfully raw. She even finds humor on occasion: Try resisting a smirk when seeing the bravado of American Bittern chicks or Green Herons mugging for the camera.

The spirit of our tagline, “Every Bird Matters,” resonates in each of Marie’s photos. Here’s her story.


Travers at International Bird Rescue’s Bay Area Center

Where she began

Travers: I started as a volunteer with International Bird Rescue in 2001, and instantly fell in love with aquatic birds and the work. Weeks before volunteering with Bird Rescue, I had never really heard of wildlife rehabilitation. Five months after I started volunteering, I quit my job of six years and dove into it. Working with aquatic birds has been one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I feel lucky to be in the company of such amazing birds, and the truly incredible people who care for them. I have learned so much and have had so many amazing adventures with Bird Rescue.


Killdeer chick

 


Black-crowned Night Heron chick

Camera of choice

I have a Nikon D5000, and also use my iPhone that I always have on me. I have a LifeProof case for my phone that I’ve been experimenting with and used to make some underwater video of Pied-billed Grebe chicks this summer. I am so grateful for digital cameras and technology. So far, I have taken over 20,000 photos at Bird Rescue, many of them blurry shots of birds moving. I wouldn’t be afforded the opportunities for second shots if I had to pay for processing.


Brown Pelicans at International Bird Rescue’s Bay Area Center

 


Brown Booby

A memorable shot

I was at the beach one morning with my husband and my dog, and my husband pointed to a distant, tiny bird in the waves and asked, “Is that a Red-necked Phalarope?” I think I spent a few seconds with my jaw open in shock that my husband, previously not a big bird nerd, was able to identify this awesome, small bird. She was so fierce in the face of waves 10 times her height. I really love the photo of the Phalarope surfing on top of the wave.


Red-necked Phalarope

What inspires

As a species, I think Brown Pelicans are the most interesting to photograph. They have so many different looks, such expressive eyes, and are stunningly beautiful. I am also drawn to photos featuring our patients and the hands of their caregivers. I feel like these shots really capture the relationship between us.


Brown Pelican

Captive photography

It goes without saying that photographing birds at the center is exponentially easier than in the wild, and I often feel that I’m being given an unfair advantage. Outside of the center, being at the right place at the right time is key. Carrying camera gear with you can be a burden, but so often worth it when you get to see something incredible by chance. A few months ago I went out to photograph some Ruddy Ducklings that I had seen earlier in the day and was met by an Osprey plunge diving instead.  It was incredible, and of course, the ducklings were nowhere to be seen.


Eared Grebe

 


American Bittern chicks

Photographic refuge

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding area is a breathtaking place to visit in the winter with all of the migratory ducks and geese. I also regularly visit the San Francisco Bay coast in search of cool birds. In the spring and summer, the egret rookery on Bayfarm Island in Alameda is bustling with loud, beautiful birds and tiny chicks in nests. Bird Rescue has released some Snowy Egrets near there that have gone on to start their own families in the colony, so it’s especially exciting to see them.


Common Murre adult and chick

A parting thought

It is such a privilege to be able to provide a tiny portal into the work of Bird Rescue by sharing photos of our patients. So many of the birds have incredible stories, and recover against all odds. It’s easy to become discouraged by the part that humans play in their reasons for coming to the hospital, and I feel lucky every day to try to help them in some small way. Part of the reason that I take photos at work is in the hope that if more people see the birds and learn their stories, they will be more able to see the connection between us, and feel compelled to act on their behalf. It is not easy being a bird these days, and there is a lot we can do to help.


White-tailed Kite

We look forward to featuring Marie’s future work on this blog, as well as the work of many other wonderful photographers who give their time and creative energy to aquatic birds in need at International Bird Rescue.

All images copyright 2012 Marie Travers. All rights reserved.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

August 21, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Matt Bryant, Shorebird Lover

Welcome to International Bird Rescue’s latest edition of Photographers in Focus, our tribute to the wildlife photographers who further inspire our passion for bird rehabilitation.

 

You needn’t be Mattias Klum to score a terrific seabird photograph. At International Bird Rescue, we’re often as drawn to hobby shots by amateurs who love some of the many species we often rehabilitate as we are to the work of today’s hottest wildlife photographers.

While recently perusing Flickr, we came across some beautiful frames by Matt Bryant (pictured above, with son, Jordan), a Florida native who works for Liberty Mutual Insurance and has a lifelong passion for shorebirds, from the Marbled Godwit to the endangered Piping Plover.

But one species is a particular muse for Bryant: the Black Skimmer, the largest of three Skimmer species. American ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy, as Audubon notes, once described the Black Skimmer as “unworldly…aerial beagles hot on the scent of aerial rabbits.”

Bryant also raves. “There is nothing else like them in the world,” he says of Skimmers on Indian Shores near St. Petersburg, Fla. “They fly so gracefully and with great speed. It’s so much fun watching them skim across the water. They’re the only bird on the planet with a longer lower mandible, as they drag it in the water zig-zagging back and forth for fish.”

Bryant recently took a few minutes out of his day to tell us more about his passion for our small ocean beach companions (as well as magnificent waterfowl):

Willet, Sunset Beach, Fla.

Have you always been interested in shorebirds? What draws you to them?

Shorebirds have always been interesting to me but not until recently have I discovered how fragile they can be. When I was younger, I never realized harm could be caused when chasing a flock of birds making them fly. Now I find myself yelling at others not to do so and educating my own children to have respect for the wildlife. The beach belongs to them, and I’m just borrowing it. I’m drawn to the athleticism of these animals — it’s truly amazing how they can target a fish and pinpoint its direction, then make adjustments within milliseconds to catch it.

Black-Necked Stilt, Florida

What camera do you use?

I shoot with a Nikon. I’m thankful my wife bought me my first DLSR camera, which has allowed me to reconnect with nature in a way I never have before. We are each others’ eyes and ears when out birding.

Black Skimmer, Indian Shores, Fla.

What’s your favorite shot of all time?

My favorite is of the newly hatched Black Skimmer babies. We missed them the year before, and seeing them mere hours after hatching was like seeing a famous celebrity. They’re so tiny as they wobble along waiting for fish to eat. My favorite scene was when the parent brought a fish too big to eat, then took the fish, mashed it up a bit, and made it easier to consume. I still am trying to figure out where he put it, because the fish looked bigger than the baby Skimmer.

Wood Duck, Florida

Have you ever seen injured birds while photographing?  Thankfully I haven’t seen too many. I did see a Willet with a bad leg that looked like the circulation was cut off from fishing line. I got a quick glimpse as another Willet shared some food, then both flew off in the distance. Most of the locations we explore have bird sanctuaries nearby in the event we come across an injured bird.

Sandwich Tern, Florida

Why is wildlife photography important to you? 

As a kid, I could always be found exploring the woods for any kind of wildlife I could find. Now that I have added 500mm to my eyesight, I have discovered a world of beauty I never could have imagined, and it surrounds you everywhere. My own backyard has provided some fantastic shots of wildlife, and I’m a short drive away from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Once you open your eyes and pay attention, the world around you changes. I’ve seen Bald Eagles in the middle of the city, or the Mockingbird that turned out to be a Cedar Waxwing, or a Wilson’s Plover that turned out to be a Piping Plover, currently the sixth most endangered bird in America. If my photos help open up people’s eyes to the beauty that surrounds them, maybe they would think twice before chasing a group of Plovers or Terns, or leaving trash on the beach.

Semi-palmated Plover, Florida

All images copyright 2012 Matt Bryant. All rights reserved.  

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.