Utah Winter Raptors

Trip One Dates: January 27 - 31, 2020
Trip Two Dates: February 2 - 6, 2020

Fee: $2500, does not include meals or lodging

Deposit: $750 - to be subtracted from the total tour fee of $2500, leaving $1750 due 90 days prior to the trip.

From: Provo, Utah

Leaders: John Crawley, Matthew Studebaker

Target Group Size: 4 photographers

Utah hosts a higher raptor density in the winter than anywhere I have ever seen by far. It's common to find over a hundred raptors per day, representing 10+ species.  Drive the agricultural fields beneath the mountains and explore the canyons as we search for photo opportunities with these amazing birds.

Travel considerations: Fly to Salt Lake City

This trip contingent on winter weather!! - Most years the Salt Lake City area has snow cover. This forces the raptors closer to the roads, makes the owls hunt during the day, and makes the raptors more likely to come to food we provide. If for some reason there appears to be warm weather for a prolonged period which is effecting the birds, we will cancel the trip. We will try to make the final call about two weeks out, and give a full refund in that unlikely event. Only sign up for this trip if you are able to get a flight refund or are willing to book the flight at the last minute. Again, we don't expect this to be necessary, but we want the trip to be highly productive for every participant, and don't want to take your time and money if we don't think Utah can deliver top results. 

Equipment: I recommend bringing a digital SLR with matching lens. On this photo tour, you will want a camera with a high frame rate and fast focusing ability. Although sometimes the birds come close enough for something as short as a 300mm, most of the time they feel more comfortable when photographers use something in the 500mm range. We don't recommend this trip to new photographers, or people who aren't very comfortable with flight photography. This is a photo tour for the "advanced" photographer. 

The following gallery contains images by the leaders John Crawley and Matthew Studebaker in the areas we will conduct the trip, along with a few shots by participants in 2018:

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

  • Bald Eagle

  • Northern Harrier

  • Cooper's Hawk

  • Red-tailed Hawk

  • Ferruginous Hawk

  • Rough-legged Hawk

  • American Kestrel

  • Merlin

  • Prairie Falcon

  • Peregrine Falcon

  • Western Screech-Owl

  • Northern Pygmy-Owl

  • Short-eared Owl

  • Great-horned Owl

  • Barn Owl

What to pack

  • Warm winter boots

  • Jacket for cold weather

  • Hat and gloves and something to protect your neck and face from wind

Camera Gear. Bring your longest lens as well as something you feel comfortable hand-holding in the 300mm, 400mm, or 500mm range. Bring a camera body with a high frame rate and excellent fast focus. You may wish to bring a bean bag to support your camera while photographing out a vehicle window.

Cell Phones and Internet: The hotels all have wifi. We should also have phone reception most of the time in the field.

Weather and Schedule:
Be prepared for temperatures between 5 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. We will use as much photograph-able light as we can each day, shooting sunrise through 10:30am, and 3pm to sunset, and also use mid-day light during overcast conditions.

Sunrise approx. 7:35am
Sunset approx 5:45pm

Transportation: We will drive as a group in cars provided by Matthew and John. We want each participant to have a door and window, in case we need to use the car as a blind.

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.

Physical Requirements:
Temperatures may be fairly cold, but if you dress appropriatly this should not be an issue. Each participant should also be comfortable handholding medium to long telephoto lenses or good at flight photography from a tripod. We don't expect long hikes or a lot of walking on this trip. 

Photographic Objectives:
This trip will have a heavy emphasis on raptors in flight, but many perched shots will be possible as well. We will feed the raptors mice to entice them closer and anyone on this trip must be 100% comfortable with using mice. Our goal is that each participant will walk away with several high quality images each day, and that by the end of the trip each participant will have excellent images of 6 - 8 species of raptors. 

About the trip leader John Crawley:
John Crawley graduated with a degree in Zoology with an emphasis in raptor biology. He did research for the DNR and NFS on Osprey and helped take care of endangered raptors at BYU as they transitioned to the Peregrine Fund. He has lived in the Provo, UT area for most of his life so he knows the raptors and land intimately.