Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's open season on 'Michigan Birds' photo contest

Great gray owl photo above and others below by James Fox.
Michigan is home to some of the world's most beautiful birds -- proof of which can be seen through images snapped by hobbyists and professional photographers alike. 
If you're among those lucky enough to have seen a great gray owl or sandhill crane through the lens of a camera, consider sharing it for prize and prestige.
The Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon is holding a "Michigan Birds" photo contest.
James Fox
Participants are invited to submit their favorite photo from last year or this spring (as many as two) by 4 p.m. April. 27.
"From bird feeders to lakeshores, there are many places to find photo-worthy subjects," said Michigan DNR spokeswoman Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman. Some examples include cardinals, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and even bald eagles. As of lately, many bird enthusiasts in Macomb County have spotted great gray owls and snowy white owls. "During any season, birds can be seen in every corner of the state in all types of habitats," Brockwell-Tillman said. "Some common non-native species that will not be accepted into the contest include mute swans and all types of domestic or exotic fowl such as farm-raised chickens or geese."
For a full list of contest rules and requirements, visit Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center

Kirtland's Warblers nest almost exclusively in Michigan
How does one capture a prize-winning photo of Michigan birds?
To help get you started there is, below, a recent interview with James Fox, a student of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., and avid bird photographer/blogger from Farmington Hills, whose beautiful photographs have Michigan birdwatchers flocking to his site.

Q: What do you love about photographing Michigan birds?
A: One of the things I love about photographing Michigan birds is the great variety of birds there are in Michigan. Every time I go out to look for birds, I know I can find something different. Especially with the Great Lakes, it is possible to see many birds here that are normally seen only near oceans.

Q: Describe one of the most difficult shots you've taken?
A: One of the more difficult shots was the photo of the Purple Gallinule in Ohio. This is a bird normally found only in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. When I heard there was one only a few hours away in Ohio, I had to go see it. Although it was not that far away from the trail, there were bushes between the bird and me. Eventually, I was able to get a relatively unobstructed shot of it after I crouched down to shoot through a hole in the brush.

Pine Siskin on a tree in Fox's yard.
Q: What's the most important thing for an amateur photographer to remember when photographing birds?
A: Hold still and be patient. If you hold still long enough, the birds will forget you are there and will go back to their normal behavior. This is when you can get the best shots.

Q: Is there any trick to photographing cardinals, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches or great gray owls?
A: It always helps to know the habits of the birds you are trying to photograph. Some bird like chickadees and nuthatches are very friendly. At some parks, such as Kensington, they will even eat seed out of your hand. With these birds it is usually easy to get close and get good photos. Other birds like goldfinches, however, are very flighty. I have had the best luck taking out the screen in one of my windows near a tree they like to be in and photographing them through the open window. Even then, you have to be very careful to hold still and move slowly. 

The Snowy Owl that captured everyone's attention in Macomb and Oakland County.
Owls are some of my favorite birds to photograph, but they can be hard to find as most spend the day perched in trees where they blend in well. It is helpful to look for them if you notice a flock of chickadees, blue jays, or crows that are very excited. Often it is because they have found an owl! Once you have found one, it is important to give it plenty of space so you don't cause it to fly off.

For further inspiration visit: James Birding Blog. For contest rules and information visit Gillette Nature Association

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