WORKSHOPS

NORTHERN WARBLERS AND MORE IN

MICHIGAN’S EASTERN UPPER PENINSULA 2021

Your best opportunity to photograph many beautiful warblers at a bird photography workshop.  Learn how to combine the beauty of the boreal forest with its beautiful songbirds, and learn how to do it well.

Maximum of 4 participants per workshop:

DATE 1:  May 19-23 fee $2,300

DATE 2:  May 25-29 fee $2,300

DATE 3: May 31 – June 4 fee $2,300

Workshop video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msRx1pia7iI

2020 Testimonials:

– David Slikkers: “Paul, thank you kindly for a great and highly productive photography workshop. It was was better than anticipated. Your band width of wild bird knowledge, vocals, behavior, and habitat is second to none. I have never encountered anyone that can ID that many birds without seeing a single feather. Your passion for photography excellence is only equaled by your work ethic. We (workshop participants) get to reap the benefits of all your hard work and scouting…I am thrilled with the number of different species of warblers that we had a chance to photograph, and then you add the females to that; that is nearly 30 warblers…It was fun, exciting, and very rewarding to review the images. I got some really incredible images with your guidance and help. I am already counting the weeks before next year’s workshop.”

2020 Gallery of workshop participant David Slikkers: D Slikkers 2020

– Mark Halonen: “I can’t believe the beauty of these images. I mean they are amazingly beautiful. Our 2 day class went far beyond my expectations, Paul; thanks for creating a great learning experience. You did a great job. We (you) started off in high gear and you never let up. You’re fun to work with.

2020 Gallery of 2 day workshop participant M Halonen: M Halonen 2020

2019 Gallery of workshop participant B Chan: B Chan 2019

2018 Testimonials:

– Dennis Malueg:  “Birder, photographer and teacher, Paul Rossi brought all of those talents together as he led his Michigan Upper Peninsula spring 2018 warbler workshop. Having birded together in the Midwest for many years, I jumped at the chance to attend
his inaugural warbler workshop. For the photography instruction side, the
workshop began with a thorough walk-through of proper camera exposure
settings which was much appreciated as we shot in both sun and shade every
day. As for the birding aspect, Paul surely spent days scouting out the
perfect locations with beautiful backgrounds, allowing me to get many
perfect shots.”

Dennis Maleug 2018 workshop gallery: Dennis Maleug 2018

– Mark Stahl:  “Having birded with Paul a few times and seen his photography for years, I knew he could put us in front of many great subjects. The migrant warbler flocks were incredible, and every location throughout the workshop had beautiful habitat. Learning the proper camera and lens settings before starting was very helpful, and he reviewed images often to make sure I was getting excellent results. His patience and tips before we started to photograph subjects were very helpful.”

Mark Stahl 2018 workshop gallery: Mark Stahl 2018

Songbirds prefer to stay within the trees and shrubs of their habitat because they are vulnerable to attack from a variety of hawks.  This way they can escape as they quickly find cover the hawks cannot negotiate.  They feed in these trees and shrubs almost exclusively, and most nest in them.  Trees and shrubs provide their shelter from wind, rain, and sun. Portraying songbirds with a “smooth background” that has no recognizable feature of their arboreal habitat is unnatural, and we will only rarely do that – if one happens to land in such a situation.  Instead you will learn to portray them within their natural habitat, as pictured below.

See many more images from the workshop by scrolling to the bottom of this page.

The location of this workshop is in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula – near the north shore of Lake Huron, and inland to the north.  This area is excellent for northern warblers at the time of these workshops – the peak of their migration. 24 warbler species breed in the area and 3 more migrate through at this time. Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-headed vireo, and many other songbirds join them.

All of the 24 local warbler species have a breeding range extending further north, and migrants of those species pass through at the time of the workshops. Many of those northbound migrants stay around our lakeshore location after crossing Lake Huron – to feed on the superabundant midge hatches. The midges feed the incredible population of spiders, which the warblers also love. There is so much food for warblers that migrants hang around for days, local territories are fiercely fought over and protected, these territories are shrunken, and tolerance between species is increased.  In other words, the density of birds is tremendous. On a 1.5 acre lot where I live we have had 7 species of warblers breed for over 15 years, seen and heard daily from our back deck – you will have access to this and numerous select locations of our 1.5-mile long private peninsula.

This peninsula is a northern version of Pt. Peelee, another migrant stopover and fallout location, but when the birds arrive this far north they are all in excellent breeding plumage. For over 13 years I have pruned certain trees along the peninsula to reveal excellent perches with great backgrounds at many different forest edge locations with great lighting conditions.  I have developed an alarm call system that draws migrant warbler flocks (+ other songbirds) to these perches, and because the perches are part of trees that provide plenty of cover, as the birds move closer they parade in, one after another (including difficult to photograph females). 8 species of local breeding warblers which are just setting up territories (before nest building) are normally the first arrivals. And the migrants arrive minutes after – sometimes 50-80 birds waiting to take their turn in front of you.

You have access to select areas of this private peninsula and you will learn the alarm call system – it works at many other locations in the Eastern United States and Canada. We also head off the peninsula, along the lakefront, and further inland for many more warblers and other songbirds setting up territories.  Also, bonus non-songbird species such as Common Loon, Osprey, American Bittern, Ruffed Grouse, Pied-billed Grebe, Upland Sandpiper, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Virginia Rail, and Barred Owl are possible.

The past few years there has been a Spruce Budworm outbreak along the lakefront and in many areas we will visit inland. Spruce Budworm specialists such as Cape May and Tennessee Warblers are abundant, and many other local breeding species such as Blackburnian, Magnolia, Canada, and Black-throated Green Warblers have increased their numbers.

Here is an animation of migrating birds in the western hemisphere: http://www.audubon.org/news/see-millions-places-migrating-birds-have-gone-one-gif
It clearly shows that Michigan funnels migrating birds (especially northern warblers of the eastern U.S.) to the area of this workshop at the time of the workshop: mid-to-late May.

We will work with beautiful vegetation and strive for images with excellent composition. The types of opportunities you will regularly have on this trip will only rarely be found at any other North American spring songbird migration hot spot (Magee Marsh, Ohio; Pt. Pelee, Ontario; Cape May, New Jersey; High Island, Texas; South Padre Island, Texas; Dauphin Island, Alabama; Dry Tortugas, Florida), where there can be plenty of warblers and other songbirds but you can only hope that a bird might be close enough and land on an unblocked perch with a decent background. These are good viewing locations but good photographic opportunities are often days apart. We will have many excellent opportunities on most days.

At the time of this trip aggressive experienced males, which are in their brightest plumage, provide abundant photo opportunities in their breeding habitats, especially since many migrants of the same species are around, as well as their own offspring from the previous year, which may take over their food-rich territories.  And the local habitats we visit have plenty of beautiful little scenes we will work with.  At the other migrant hot spots, the vegetation is nowhere near as nice and many of the males are only in partial breeding plumage.  Plus no calls are allowed, and no trees can be pruned. This is best policy at those locations because of the crowds. But at the locations we will be at during these workshops there will not be any other people birding or doing any photography, and rarely anyone in the area.

On our peninsula, my alarm call system is completely harmless to the birds.  During the workshop dates, none of the local breeding songbirds are nest building yet. All potential predator hawks or owls are busy getting their nesting cycles going and there is too great a density of breeding and migrant songbirds that drive them away.  There is so much food around that the songbirds have plenty of energy to devote to inter-species flock communication and mobbing activity.  We take advantage of this natural behavior and the local birds are so familiar with going to the open perches they gain the confidence of the migrants.  And the locals have had successful nesting cycles for many years.

We will do some set-ups and you will learn how to create them. You will learn to find and utilize natural perches surrounded by nice scenes (exemplified in the 2 images above), and how to attract birds to these locations. You will learn the behavior of specific species that are comfortable in certain trees and shrubs. For example – the spruce warblers hunting for Spruce Budworm in spruces. Upon registration, you will be instructed on how to prepare for warbler photography with your equipment, and your skills, so you can hone your hand-to-eye coordination with appropriate practice beforehand, which will give you more opportunity on this workshop and with all future bird photography.

DATE 1:   May 19-23 fee $2,300

DATE 2:   May 25-29 fee $2,300

DATE 3: May 31 – June 4 fee $2,300

WORKSHOP LEADER: Paul Rossi

Fee includes 5 full days in the field, 6 nights lodging.  Also, a selection of your best images will be processed and sent to you (tiffs ready to print and jpegs to share) in the mail – in a thumb drive.

Deposit: $600 (non-refundable, to be subtracted from the final balance due) I prefer payments and deposits to be made by check. Paypal can also be arranged (send email). The balance of the payment is due May 1, 2020. ($1,700)

Please make checks out to: Paul Rossi / 1181 South Palmerlee Road / Cedarville, Michigan 49719

Once I have received your deposit I will send you your complete registration package by mail.

If you have any questions before registering, send me an e-mail with any inquiries to: pwaynerossi@gmail.com

BOOKING AND REFUND POLICIES: https://paulrossibirds.com/booking-and-refund-policy/

Group Size: 4 participants maximum

From: Cedarville, Michigan

If the workshops are full you can be put on a waiting list.

Your stay:  Your lodging is covered in the price of this workshop – 6 nights. You have an option to stay at a nice home on our peninsula. This is most convenient. A motel in Cedarville (14 miles away) is also an option.

Cell service: On our peninsula and in Cedarville AT&T is best, but Verizon works in spots. Service is poor to non-existent while we are shooting in some of the forest areas.

Best airport: The city of Pellston has a small airport but it will be expensive to land there – you must drive another 1.5 hours. Your best option is to fly to Detroit, Michigan and then drive the remaining 5 hours to Cedarville. From Detroit its straight freeway on I-75 to M-134 after the Mackinac Bridge, and east on M-134 for 38 miles to Cedarville.

Weather:
Be prepared for temperatures in the low forties in the early morning, when the birds are most active. It could rarely be in the thirties on some days. Some days temperatures can reach 80 degrees by late afternoon (not often). Dressing in layers is a good idea. We will photograph rain or shine, but not during a downpour. During a light rain using an appropriate towel to cover your lens and camera works well. Your boots could get a little muddy or dirty if we have a recent rain or heavy morning due.

Tentative Schedule:

Arrive the evening before (May 18 or May 24 or May 30) and I will meet you to go over your equipment to make sure it is clean (so auto-focus can operate as good as possible) and make sure you have your camera set-up correctly for this type of photography.   I will determine your results at different ISOs.   In the field, you will photograph at particular ISOs for different lighting conditions, and I will call out the appropriate ISO before the birds arrive in each instance.

Sunrise is at 6:00 am but we won’t have enough light to shoot until around 6:30 am at the earliest.  Most days we will need to head out around 6 am.

HOW OUR DAYS WILL GO:
There will be in-field instruction and photography during the day. On days with sunny conditions we will start in the field around 6:30 am. If the day remains sunny we will take a break and return to lodging at mid-day if we are within 20 minutes. Every day you should be prepared with a packed lunch or snacks because the weather can change even if predicted differently. It could become cloudy on a sunny day. And always bring bottled water. On a cloudy day, we may start a little later in the morning (when there is enough light) but we will continue throughout the day until evening and finish a little earlier (when light is insufficient). Cloudy days can be the most productive. If it is sunny in the afternoon we will shoot until there is not sufficient light. I will get updates on the weather as possible and make decisions accordingly. We should always be back at the hotel by 9 pm.

More information will be provided once a deposit and contract are received.

Transportation:
Participants will need to follow Paul in their own vehicle to the shooting locations. Carpooling is optional. We will get in and out of our cars often: each time I find a flock or cooperative bird with good potential for excellent images. Most locations are within 25 miles of your lodging.

We will photograph mainly from a standing position, behind our tripods. There will be a lot of standing. If you tend to get tired standing often you can bring a folding camping stool. Most of our photography will be from forest roads while we are less than 100 yards from our vehicles. We will sometimes walk to the most photogenic locations with the best light – not more than 200 yards.

My goal is to make you as comfortable as possible during our outings so you can concentrate well on the task at hand. Let me know when you need a bathroom break.

Bring
– clothing that is not white or brilliant in color: dull green, brown, black, beige, dark blue – all work well. Long pants, long shirts, and sweatshirts that mosquitoes cannot penetrate. Make sure that any jacket you use while doing bird photography does not make noise as you move your arms – the noise scares some birds. There will be some mosquitoes and/or black flies at times.  The Coleman Mosquito Head net (available at Walmart) works well to keep them away- your vision is clear and you can look through the camera viewfinder well -make sure you have this item.
– hat with small brim – it helps to keep the sky out of your vision – to limit eye strain on this trip.  Too wide a brim can bump your camera when you put your eye behind it.
– waterproof boots (rubber 12″ boots recommended for certain areas such as bogs, shorelines)
– gloves to protect you from mosquitoes and/or black flies while you shoot. Test them to make sure you can manipulate camera controls while using them. In case black flies are present (usually a few) bring some rubber bands to make sure they cannot crawl into your wrist area. Long pants should be tucked into your boots.
– good-sized water bottle for hydration during outings. Appropriate snacks to eat quickly.

Note that if bugs are very bad in a certain location we will move to another location. There are always opportunities in less buggy areas.

Ticks are possible, so you should bring a hand mirror to help see yourself at the end of the day before going to bed.

This workshop is for photographers with knowledge of how to use their equipment, but Paul will offer tips to make sure you maximize your success.

EQUIPMENT:

Digital SLR with matching lens. You should have an effective focal length of 600mm or greater when combining the digital crop factor of your camera with your tele-extenders (1.4x or 2x). Autofocus must be maintained when the tele-extender is used.

Note: An extension tube may be necessary to make sure you can focus close enough so the bird is big enough in the frame.  Usually, a 12mm extension tube is sufficient – the longer extension tubes can hinder auto-focusing speed. Almost all of the recent digital cameras do not require an extension tube to photograph small songbirds.

Tripod sufficient for your equipment.

A gimbal-type head or ball-head. A gimbal head is much better – for smooth mobility, stability, and balance.

Extra memory cards

Laptop computer to download and view images

Memory card reader for laptop (plus an extra back-up one)

Hard drive(s) to back up images daily

Extra camera batteries and charger

Rain gear in case it rains.

Notepad and pen if you want to take notes during my Photoshop demonstrations or note any specific recommendations or reminders.

WHY CHOOSE TO ATTEND THIS WORKSHOP?

I am experienced and passionate about teaching the skills of bird photography because I have made them a part of my daily life in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.  I have lived there year-round for 14 years and photographed there for over 21 years. I know all of the songs of all of the birds, all of the habitats they utilize, and where they will be found.   I have excellent hearing and identify all birds instantly by song and sight. 

I live in the area where you will be photographing and I daily check a variety of habitats and the progression of spring – with respect to birds.  I  prepare for workshops by finding very cooperative individual birds beforehand.  Special bonus opportunities such as local Common Loon, American Bittern, Osprey, Ruffed grouse, Pied-billed Grebe, etc are always a possibility.  You will be the beneficiary of this opportunity and knowledge. And receive personalized attention and instruction. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology (with an emphasis on animal physiology). I am aware of the well-being of all subjects and their environment and proceed accordingly.

Likely Species on this workshop:

1) Species followed by the # 1 are likely May 19-23; likely at this date range are migrant flocks with potential for Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Philadelphia Vireo. Potential for females and second-year birds of all 27 species of warblers that pass through and/or breed in the area within the flocks. Females of 7 warbler species that nest on the peninsula are likely: American Redstart, Black-throated green, BlackBurnian, Black and white, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, Yellow.

2) Species followed by the # 2 are likely May 25-29. Migrant flocks are not as likely, but can be present, especially on years with a cold spring. Most of the females of the 7 warbler species above are likely.

3) Species followed by the # 3 are likely May 31 – June 4. Females are not likely. Potential for images of males feeding and within developing cones is highest during this date range.

Species without a specific number after them are not as likely, but a good number of them are usually cooperative. For example, during the 3rd date range (May 31 – June 4) a good number of any of the species not followed by the number 3 are usually cooperative.

FEMALES: The first 2 date ranges have the potential for photographing many female warblers. Here is a photo-rich article on those females (photographed on the peninsula): https://paulrossibirds.com/spring-migration-of-female-warblers-in-michigans-eastern-upper-peninsula/

Note that during the first date range (May 19-23), males of certain species typically have not yet made it to their nesting territories in sufficient numbers and are not often found in the migrating flocks, so if you are seeking the best potential to photograph males of those species the first date range is not the best one. Those species are: Canada Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Connecticut Warbler.

Cape May Warbler 1,2,3
Blackburnian Warbler 1,2,3
Magnolia Warbler 1,2,3
Black-throated Green Warbler 1,2,3
Palm Warbler 1,2,3
Northern Parula 1,2,3
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1,2,3
American Redstart 1,2,3
Black-and-white Warbler 1,2,3
Northern Waterthrush 1
Pine Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Ovenbird 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1,2
Canada Warbler 2
Kirtland’s Warbler 2,3
Golden-winged Warbler 2,3
Tennessee Warbler 2,3
Mourning Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 3
Black-throated Blue Warbler 3
Conneticut Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Scarlet Tanager 2,3
Indigo Bunting 2,3
Red-eyed Vireo 1,2,3
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Brown Creeper
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Evening Grosbeak
Song Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow 1
LeConte’s Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow
Pine Siskin
Purple Finch
Red-Breasted Nuthatch 1
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Hermit Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Veery 3
Wood Thrush
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1,2
Pileated Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Winter Wren 1
Bobolink 3
Ruffed Grouse
Least Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher 3
Great-crested Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Pied-billed grebe
Virginia Rail
Common Loon 1
Sandhill Crane 1
American Bittern
Upland Sandpiper
Broad-winged Hawk
Bald Eagle
Osprey
Barred Owl

Below are more of my favorite bird images from mid-May to Early June in the area of the workshop.


There is a bog with some orchids less than 5 miles from Cedarville and other wildflowers in the area at the times of the workshops and after.

See some of the flowers here:   Flowers