Arizona Spring Songbirds Photo Tour 2020


Trip One Dates: April 7 - 11, 2020 (Sold Out)
Trip Two Dates: April 13 - 17, 2020 (Sold Out)

Fee: $2800 - does not include airfare, hotels, or meals

Deposit: $800 to be applied to the final balance, leaving $2000 due 90 days before the tour.

From: Tucson, Arizona

Leaders: Matthew Studebaker

Target Group Size: 4 photographers

One of my most popular trips, 2020 will be my ninth year doing this tour. It gives participants the opportunity to photograph some of the most difficult specialties of the Southwest. We will target everything from Olive Warbler to Elf Owl, from Scott's Oriole to Rivoli's Hummingbird.

Travel considerations: Fly to Phoenix (2.5 hours north of our hotel, but usually the cheapest flight) or to Tucson (40 minutes north).

Likely Species on the trip. Species in bold will be the easiest/most common -

  • Gambel's Quail

  • Wild Turkey

  • White-winged Dove

  • Mourning Dove

  • Greater Roadrunner

  • Western Screech-Owl

  • Whiskered Screech-Owl

  • Great Horned Owl

  • Elf Owl

  • Broad-billed Hummingbird

  • Rivoli's Hummingbird

  • Black-chinned Hummingbird

  • Anna's Hummingbird

  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird

  • Acorn Woodpecker

  • Arizona Woodpecker

  • Gila Woodpecker

  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker

  • Vermilion Flycatcher

  • Ash-throated Flycatcher

  • Cassin's Kingbird

  • Bell's Vireo

  • Hutton's Vireo

  • Plumbeous Vireo

  • Steller's Jay

  • Mexican Jay

  • Bridled Titmouse

  • Verdin

  • Bushtit

  • White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Pygmy Nuthatch

  • Cactus Wren

  • Rock Wren

  • Bewick's Wren

  • Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

  • Western Bluebird

  • Hermit Thrush

  • Phainopepla

  • Olive Warbler

  • Lucy's Warbler

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

  • Black-throated Gray Warbler

  • Grace's Warbler

  • Red-faced Warbler

  • Painted Redstart

  • Spotted Towhee

  • Canyon Towhee

  • Abert's Towhee

  • Rufous-winged Sparrow

  • Black-throated Sparrow

  • Brewer's Sparrow

  • Lincoln's Sparrow

  • White-crowned Sparrow

  • Yellow-eyed Junco

  • Hepatic Tanager

  • Northern Cardinal

  • Pyrrhuloxia

  • Black-headed Grosbeak

  • Great-tailed Grackle

  • Hooded Oriole

  • Bullock's Oriole

  • Scott's Oriole

  • Lesser Goldfinch



What to pack

  • Boots: Hiking boots and comfortable socks.

  • Clothes: I recommend against wearing shorts. I always wear jeans to protect my legs, along with a t-shirt, button-up, and sweatshirt layered and take off layers as temperature changes with elevation and time of day.

  • Jacket: You will want a coat. Be prepared for temperatures in 40's at night looking for owls. When we are in the desert, temperatures will often soar into the upper 90's in the afternoon, so wear layers and be prepared for a variety of temperatures.

  • Hat and Sun Protection: A baseball cap and sunscreen is a good idea for the daytime. When photographing owls at night it can actually get cold enough to warrant a winter cap.

  • Bag Blind. No need to bring your own. Blinds will be provided for you.

Camera Gear. Almost all the official photos we are seeking on this trip will be taken with your longest lens. With your crop factor and tele-extenders, you should have 600mm in the very least. I recommend also bringing a landscape lens and a macro if you have room, because we often find a beautiful roadside pull off or interesting lizard and might take a few moments to grab an image while we are making our way to another bird location.  Bring a tripod. If you want to join us for the bat session, bring a cable release (or any device that will allow the camera shutter to be constantly depressed without your finger having to touch the camera.) Most people prefer to bring a flash for owls at night, but it should be possible to simply photograph using the light from my bright flashlights. 

Cell Phones and Internet: The hotels all have wifi. We should also have phone reception 90% of the time in the field (at least for Verizon users).

Weather and Schedule:
Most days it will be common to wake up with temperatures in the lower 50's. Some afternoons we could easily see the 90's so dress in layers and be prepared for some temperature swings. We will use as much photograph-able light as we can each day, shooting sunrise through 10am, and 3pm to sunset.

The following are some images by previous participants on this photo tour:




Sunrise 6:00 a.m.
Sunset 6:50 p.m.

Transportation: There will be a lot of driving during this trip in order to gain access to a variety of habitats. If you are interested, ask about riding along with me in a SUV. Even if you do use my vehicle, you will still need to find a way to and from the airport.

More information to be provided about where to stay upon signing up for the trip. Hotel costs are not included in the photo tour fee.

Meals: This trip takes place near civilization so we'll have plenty of restaurant options. Breakfast will be on your own. Neither hotel has breakfast for us by the time we meet. Drive to a nearby drive through or pack your own fruit, granola bars, or whatever you wish. In general we will have early lunches.

Learning / Slideshows:
The desert sun grows harsh around 9-10am and becomes shootable again around 3pm. This will allow us a liberal afternoon break during which time we will both have a few learning opportunities, slideshows, as well as free time.

My job is to know the area, do many hours of research, know and be able to ID the birds instantly both by sight and sound, and understand their habitat and behaviors, drive you to the most productive areas at the right time of day, be prepared to attract the birds or assist the group in stalking them, advise on how to make the most of each photo opp, ensure that everyone has their physical needs met, and ensure that everyone gets the most and highest quality images in the time we have.

Your job is to communicate your needs and have fun. I want to emphasize that each of you please communicate and keep me aware of your needs.

Physical Requirements:
At least half of our shooting locations will be right near the car. A few birds require a hike though (Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl). No hike will be longer than a mile, but if you do not wish to participate in hikes, let me know, and I will try to set you up with something easier next to the car.

Photographic Objectives:
I want to maintain a balance between seeking out difficult/ high quality species, and simply getting beautiful images of more common desert birds in beautiful settings.