New York Songbirds

New York Songbirds balance
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Trip Dates: May 7, 8, 9, 10, 2020

Fee: $2200 four full days shooting in the field. Does not include lodging or meals. Balance of $1600 due 30 days before the trip begins.

Target Group Size: 4 photographers

From: Salamanca, NY

New York Songbirds

Warblers and songbirds abound in the gorgeous 65000 acre Allegany State Park and Forest. In fact, the Blackburnian Warbler population is at it's most dense here - as high or higher here than anywhere else in the world. Mountainous areas of the park attract more northerly species like Blackburnian, Canada, Magnolia, and Black-throated Green Warblers while valleys host species such as Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Northern Parula, Black-and-white, and many others.

New York Songbirds Deposit
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Our hotel sits just outside Allegany State Park. From here, we will have easy access to the park and state forest areas in the area. Each morning we will meet around dawn in order to maximize our productivity during the trip. My goal is to help each of the four participants walk away with as many high quality images of as many species as possible. We will create set-ups and simply photograph the birds on their own terms as well, depending on the situation. 


The above gallery shows some images made by previous participants on this photo tour:

Cost Includes Four full days shooting in the field.

Photo Tour Goals
Songbirds are usually treetop species and very difficult to photograph. Our goal is to obtain exceptional photos of 1-3 species per day. Quality over quantity. The quality of these images surpasses weeks and weeks of work at migrant traps and has the advantage of depicting the birds in their preferred environment and breeding habitats.

Cell service:
Service will be fairly good during the entire trip.

Be prepared for temperatures in the low forties in the early morning, when the birds are most active. Some years, we see eighty degrees by late afternoon, so dressing in layers is a good idea. We’ll be shooting rain or shine.  Insects are rarely an issue at this time of year, but no one will laugh if you put on bug spray especially as a precaution against ticks. 

Sunrise 6:15am.   Sunset 8:30pm

Each participant must have their own transportation. Carpooling will be optional. Usually each participant follows me in their own vehicle through the forest. Once I find a cooperative bird, we pull off the road and start working on a setup.

Please have breakfast on your own before we meet in the morning. We usually eat at one of the small locally owned and run restaurants near the parkfor dinner.

What to pack:

  • Tripod

  • DSLR camera

  • Your longest lens (600mm minimum when you count crop factor and tele-extenders)

  • Flash plus better beamer if desired

  • Extra memory cards or laptop to download images

  • Rain gear

  • Waterproof shoes recommended in case the grass is wet

  • Bug spray (usually insects are almost non-existent on this trip, but better safe than sorry)

  • Notepad and pencil if you want to take notes during my photoshop demo

  • Bring a sample of your own work if you like. It can be fun to share during lunch break to get to know each other’s work.

  • A positive attitude. One negative person can put a cloud over the whole trip but good attitudes are contagious as well!


Physical requirements:
We’ll shoot primarily from standing positions unless you prefer to bring along a camping stool. The majority of our shooting will take place right next to the road, or a few hundred feet away at the most. This photo tour is not physically demanding aside from requiring a lot of standing, but again, bring a folding chair or stool if you are concerned about getting tired.

Tentative Basic Schedule for photo tour days

  • If you want breakfast be sure you’ve had something by the time we meet. The hotel will have continental breakfast available.

  • TBA, but typically we meet at 6:30 am in the hotel lobby. Brief introductions.

  • Proceed to the state park about 10-15 minutes away and drive the park roads in search of songbirds until light gets harsh around 10:30am

  • 11:30 -1pm lunch – show and tell. I encourage everyone to bring some prints or a laptop with your work to talk about if you like.

  • Slideshow while we wait for food at lunch

  • break/on our own for a couple hours if it’s sunny. Otherwise we’ll keep shooting.

  • More songbird photography in the afternoon

  • When light fails, pack up and head to restaurant near hotels.

Equipment: I recommend bringing a digital SLR with matching lens. When you calculate your digital crop factor (usually 1.5x the normal focal length or so for digital cameras today) and slap on your tele extenders (1.4x or 2x) you should have the equivalent of at least 600mm. Please be familiar with using the equipment you bring. While I have experience with basic Nikon and Canon systems and can help guide you along, you could miss a rare photo opp when adjusting settings or even looking through the viewfinder with new equipment.

Likely Species on the New York Songbirds Photo Tour - species in bold have historically been the most cooperative, and a sampling of other species usually oblige as well:

  • Common Merganser

  • Wild Turkey

  • Veery

  • Hermit Thrush

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

  • Scarlet Tanager

  • Eastern Pheobe

  • Least Flycatcher

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

  • Warbling Vireo

  • Red-eyed Vireo

  • Blue-headed Vireo

  • Louisiana Waterthrush

  • Northern Waterthrush

  • Pine Warbler

  • Blue-winged Warbler

  • Blackburnian Warbler

  • Chestnut-sided Warbler

  • Magnolia Warbler

  • Hooded Warbler

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

  • Yellow Warbler

  • Canada Warbler

  • American Redstart

  • Black-and-white Warbler

  • Black-throated Green Warbler

  • Black-throated Blue Warbler

  • Northern Parula

  • Ovenbird

  • Indigo Bunting

  • Eastern Towhee

  • Dark-eyed Junco

  • Song Sparrow

  • Chipping Sparrow

  • Purple Finch