Birds of Florida 2017 Workshop report

April 06, 2017  •  2 Comments

Since the planning stage of the Birds of Florida 2017 Workshop, I knew it would be fun, but when I met with my participants and actually started the workshop, it turned out to be a bird photographer’s dream. This report is intended to give you an inside look of what it’s like to “be there” with us.

Day 2 (first full day in the field): We gathered at the wetland at first light and worked our way around to see and photograph typical wetland birds including many herons/egrets, anhinga, ibises and spoonbills. Of course, in Florida, where there’s water, there’s also alligators. We had a great time teaching/learning techniques to shoot silhouettes using Manual mode.

What a tranquil setting in the early morning! Silhouette of Great Blue Heron on palm tree




Silhouette of Anhinga drying wings Silhouette of Red-wing Blackbird calling Alligator floating on a calm morning A few of our participants voiced their concerns to me about the possible absence of birds in the area. (Earlier, they heard from some local photographers that there had been a drought in this area of Florida so they couldn’t find any birds). I reassured them that we will make our own luck. For the afternoon, we proceeded to the next location, and sure enough, we found some birds right away – and not just some birds, there were plenty of birds, including one species we didn’t expect to see: Avocets!

Not bad for "no birds" :)
      This video clip was taken by one of our participants. Thanks Jennifer! :)

Tricolored Heron doing the strut Black-necked Stilt Reddish Egret dancing Avocets At the end of the shooting day, we were treated with a beautiful Florida sunset. We switched to wide-angle lens to capture the landscape view.

We were treated to a very beautiful and unique sunset

Day 3: After stopping to get breakfast and coffee, we headed to a new shooting location. Again, we arrived at first light and were treated to a glorious sunrise. Although the main attraction here was supposed to be a Spoonbills Galore, well there were dozens of Spoonbills there, but we had a rather unusually pleasant encounter with the Limpkins. Limpkin is a common bird only in the state of Florida, there, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails.

Spoonbills Galore! Roseate Spoonbill in flight Roseate Spoonbill in flight Roseate Spoonbill in flight Roseate Spoonbill in flight with nesting material Limpkin in flight

One of the participants in our group, Susan, managed to find a comfortable seat to photograph a Limpkin wading in the water. As the Limpkin worked on finding a meal (apparently, there were a lot of mussels there), it kept moving closer and closer to where Susan was sitting. While everyone in the group was able to get full-frame shots of this “rock star” Limpkin, it was Susan who had the best experience with the foraging Limpkin that seemed to be having a “mussel buffet” – catch, remove shell, eat, repeat!

Limpkin working on a mussel buffet.

When we decided that we had enough shots of the Limpkin, we turned our attention to a flock of Barn Swallows zig-zagging around us. This proved to be a BIF (birds in flight) challenge. Everyone had a go at it.

Barn Swallow in flight

The afternoon session turned out to be a raptor-fest, when we encountered many species within a short period of time: Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel.

Juvenile Bald Eagle taking off Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk American Kestrel (female) Osprey in flight

Day 4, 5, 6: More exploring into other locations

Overall, the bird list photographed included 52 species (plus many more that were not photographed):

Pie-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Green Heron
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Wood Stork
Glossy Ibis
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Mottled Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Snail Kite
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Lesser Yellowlegs
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Barn Swallow
Purple Martin
Carolina Wren
Savannah Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Boat-tailed Grackle
Northern Cardinal

Below are some of the photo highlights from Days 4, 5, 6:

Bald Eagle swooping in front of the camera Crested Caracara in-flight close-up Snail Kite looking angry! Red-shouldered Hawk going after a prey Green Heron "bad hair day" Anhinga spear-fishing Glossy Ibis in flight Purple Gallinule Juvenile Little Blue Heron Red-shouldered Hawk babies in the nest Osprey on nest Bald Eagle nest Great Egret & chicks - feeding time Limpkin & chick Sandhill Cranes Big Alligator on the move 7-foot Alligator crossing a walking trail


2.Evie Chang Henderson(non-registered)
A friend of mine recommended that I take a look at Andy's work and I've admired Andy Nguyen's photos for several years now.
So happy to have spent a couple days in his workshop in FL recently.
I considered this an opportunity of a lifetime.
Andy has a passion for birds (you all know but his ability to push the technicalities of photographing birds to an art form was the reason that I really wanted to work with Andy. I was NOT disappointed. Thank you Andy! I hope to make it back to FL again next year!
1.Sue Williams(non-registered)
Not only is Andy Nguyen a master photographer and teacher, but he is also the best guide for bird photography. His vast knowledge of birds, behaviors, habitats, songs and calls is valuable in the field. Each location provides a beautiful setting teeming with wild birds and opportunities to photograph them in lovely light. Moreover, you learn quickly how to read the light, adjust your camera’s settings, and compose the shot for optimum results.
Participating in Andy’s two-day workshop in sunny Florida, and sharing this time with a small group of other bird photographers was an experience full of learning and fun. I now feel much better prepared in taking on the challenge of photographing wild birds.
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