Not too long ago, I received a phone call from Bill Lea with some exciting information. He had just had the opportunity to work with the folks from Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, which is a non-profit, volunteer run bird sanctuary just off the Foothills Parkway. Here is the exciting part that he wanted to share with everyone…
“Are you like me, always wanting to photograph a hawk or owl, but can never find one? They just seem to blend into the forest canopy. Of course, I do sometimes forget to look up into the treetops when I ‘m walking through the woods (maybe because I’m too busy looking for bears). Anyway, I recently met Natalie – a licensed bird rehabilitator and owner of Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center. I have also had the good fortune to photograph some of her educational birds and it was GREAT! These are birds that cannot be released back into the wild and thus, are used for educational purposes. They are comfortable around people and they enjoy the opportunity to get out of their pens for a little enrichment (a term used in reference to captive animals who need some variety in their lives – some days I’m behind the computer so long that I feel I could use some “enrichment”).
This year we are going to offer the opportunity for you to photograph some of these amazing birds – like Eddy – the red phase screech owl, Wilson – the gray phase screech owl, and A.J. – the handsome kestrel (sometimes called sparrow hawk) for a fifty dollar donation to the Upstate Birds of Prey. There are other birds we will photograph including a barred owl, a red-tailed hawk, and an amazing barn owl (sorry – I forgot their names). We can have up to 25 people in a session. We will start by shooting a sunrise along the Foothills Parkway and then will travel to the nearby Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center. We will break up into groups of five to a bird and after a while switch off to another bird so we all have an opportunity to photograph at least five different species, up close and personal. The good news is that all of your $50 fee goes directly to benefit the birds. Natalie and her staff are all volunteers – caring for and helping these birds out of the love of their hearts for the birds. Plus, your $50 fee is tax-deductible. Of course, you will not only be helping these birds and getting a tax write-off in the process – you will have an outstanding opportunity to capture some very nice images of these beautiful hard-to-find birds of prey. Oh, and you can bet I will be right there shooting with you!”
So, yes, we are going to add this amazing opportunity to the Summit this year! This will be an optional “field session” since we will be pairing it with a sunrise shoot at Foothills Parkway. Unlike the other field sessions though, we are asking for a $50 contribution to the Upstate Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center since they have been so kind to offer to have enough volunteers on hand to allow us to experience and photograph these birds in very small groups. The sign ups for these sessions are not yet available, but you will receive an email as soon as they are if you are registered for the Summit! We will handle sign ups for these sessions like we do for the Pre-Conference sessions, they will just take place at the same time as the Field Sessions instead of the day before the Summit starts. If you sign up to go to the Upstate Birds of Prey, please keep that in mind when it comes time to register for field sessions so that you don’t double book yourself! Field Session sign ups will not happen until the end of September. We are so excited about this opportunity to not only photograph these beautiful creatures, but to be able to help the rehabilitation center at the same time!