Swallow-tailed Kite flight with insect, Tom Wilson, GNPA
Swallow-tailed Kites and Mississippi Kites
By Tom Wilson
There are plenty of great things about living in Georgia. If you’re a bird photographer, one of them is a particular raptor, the Swallow-tailed Kite, which breeds in Georgia and other southeastern states. While these birds winter in South America (primarily Brazil), they can be found here for a few weeks every summer.
Photo by Tom Wilson, GNPA
A fairly reliable option for spotting these birds is near the town of Glennville, in Long County. From approximately July 20 through August 15 every year, you can usually find numerous Swallow-tailed Kites (as well as Mississippi Kites) at a private farm owned by the Skeen family. The owners have been very friendly to birders and photographers in the past, but it’s critical that we take nothing for granted and exercise courtesy and respect while photographing on their property (important details below).
The farm offers perhaps the best location in the area for photographing kites, which spend the bulk of their time hunting insects on the fly (most of your photo opportunities will be flying birds, so before you go, be sure to read Mark Buckler’s column in this newsletter about photographing birds in flight). You may see more than 100 Swallow-tailed Kites, plus some Mississippi Kites, on a given day.
The Kites start to gather around 9:00 a.m. or so, and begin to disperse in the late morning or early afternoon. You can count on it being very hot and humid. Make sure you are well hydrated with plenty of extra water, wear cool, breathable clothing, and protect yourself against the summer sun. I would recommend you take whatever gear you typically use for birds in flight. I prefer a zoom lens, which offers me the reach I need but also allows me to zoom out when birds get closer. In my case, I use the Nikon 200-500 on my Nikon D500. Also, keep your eyes peeled for parents feeding young birds in order to get a variety of shots.
Photo by Tom Wilson, GNPA
Timing your trip is very important, because the drive is fairly long for most of us. As a result, I urge GNPA members who photograph birds to sign up for the List Serve, Georgia Birders Online (GABO). Mark McShane, who provided the details and map overlays for this article, posts updates in July through GABO. Those include the numbers of Swallow-tailed Kites and Mississippi Kites currently in the area.
Mark also checks to make sure that the owners of Skeen’s farm are OK with birders and photographers accessing the area. That’s why it’s doubly important to check GABO for Mark’s posts this month, both to make sure we’re allowed to access the farm for photographs, and to confirm that the birds are there. Additionally, I will repost Mark’s GABO post on the GNPA Facebook page when it comes out, although if you are a bird photographer, I strongly suggest that you sign up for GABO yourself.
The maps below give the coordinates for the location in Long County. I would urge you also to do a web search for Grady Kennedy Rd. NE, Glennville, Ga. 30427 to plan your driving route. The overlays on the maps provide very good information for locating the Kites, finding parking, etc. Drive safely, and good shooting!
Image from Google Earth
Image from Google Earth
Image from Google Earth
“The Wildlife Resources Division is so thankful for the Georgia Nature Photographers’ Association and the special partnership we’ve built. By providing beautiful Georgia-based photos, photographers are able help the agency spread the message of conservation while also showcasing the talented residents of the state of Georgia.”
Aubrey Pawlikowski, Assistant Manager for Public Affairs, Communications & Marketing
This week we are focusing on the winners of the Close Up category winners from our conservation photography project for Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Division. Close Up photography is a type of shot that tightly frames a person or object. Close-ups display the most detail, but they do not include the broader scene. (Wikipedia)
Week 3 – Close Up Category
1st Place – Sara Asby
Ghost Crab at Jekyll Island, Sara Asby
Focal Length: 8.7mm
Location: Jekyll Island, GA
Date: April 4, 2014 9:39AM
The annual project is a key piece of GNPA’s Conservation Committee, whose primary goal is helping GNPA members become aware of how they can engage in GNPA’s conservation efforts, and help members develop the skills to make valuable contributions to conservation in Georgia.
2nd Place – Ricki Forbes
Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Lens: Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM
Focal Length: 100mm
Date: September 7, 2019 9:20AM
With 8 official conservation partners of GNPA across the state, there is always a need for your help. From documenting cleanup events and families in nature to helping build a database of plants and wildlife, you can make a difference!
3rd Place – Steve Rushing
Lens: Olympus 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 II
Focal Length: 80mm
Location: Terrell City, GA
GNPA is extremely proud of the difference that our Conservation Group members are making to have their photographs inspire current and future generations to connect with our natural world.
To join the GNPA Conservation Group email firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
We are delighted to share with you the first issue of the GNPA newsletter. This is something we have wanted to provide our membership for a long time. The newsletter is intended to deliver valuable, practical information about photography, GNPA and your membership. And, of course, good photos.
We’ve had a great team, headed by Tom Wilson, working to build the GNPA Communications platform. This newsletter is the first big step. We’re very lucky that Ken Dunwoody has agreed to be the editor of the publication. Ken has a wealth of experience as the editor of a number of outdoors-related magazines. The team also includes Brian Lucy, Stewart Woodard, Chris Dekle and Alfie Wace, all of whom have contributed articles and expertise. Brian is taking on the heavy lifting of leading the development of the newsletter format, layout and design. Our newsletter will feature plenty of member content, so thanks to all of our early contributors. Likewise, thanks to these team members for the hard work required to produce this first edition, and develop a platform for the future.
Raise your hand if you’re going to EXPO next year!
We were extremely disappointed, of course, that the 2020 GNPA Expo was cancelled. In light of Covid-19 and the threat of illness, we really had no choice. But it’s a shame, because Alfie Wace had done a terrific job in building the Expo program at Jekyll Island, and other GNPA members and speakers had put a great deal of effort into the preparations. We had a record number of registrants, a full schedule of sold-out workshops, and a great lineup of speakers. On the bright side, we’re rescheduling that Expo so that it can be held at Jekyll Island next year, and we can deliver the great program we planned – and more. The new Expo dates are March 25-28, 2021. While this weekend does conflict with Passover and Palm Sunday, the other options all had serious conflicts or booking issues. Villas by the Sea will remain our host venue.
Coastal Chapter Social Distancing Manager
In addition to the Expo, Covid-19 has led to the cancellation of all in-person chapter meetings, at least through May, as well as field trips. However, we are beginning to ramp up a new webinar program that gives us the ability to offer both webinars and virtual chapter meetings. A couple of our chapters are testing these concepts in May, and we hope to develop a program for ongoing webinars that can supplement the chapter meetings. We’re planning to record and archive our webinars, so members will be able to access them later if they can’t attend the live event.
The GNPA Smokies event is still scheduled for this fall, with some minor modifications to support social distancing. The dates are November 5-8, 2020, so put it on your calendar now. Registration will open in a few of months, with Mike Thornton and Tricia Raffensperger leading that event.
In the meantime, stay safe and make your health the top priority. We’ll return to a new normal soon, and hopefully that will involve plenty of photography. Until then, if there is anything you need, don’t forget our good friends at Hunt’s Photo.
Enjoy the newsletter.
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
In our newsletters, we’ll be featuring short profiles of GNPA members from across the state. This month, it’s Gordon Wilson from the Gwinnett Chapter.
When did you join GNPA?
Seven years ago.
What’s your occupation?
Retired. I was Senior Systems Developer on Student Systems at Emory University.
How did you get into photography?
My father was a studio photographer with his own darkroom in the basement, so I’ve been around cameras all my life. Unfortunately, his skills did not rub off on me. I’m still learning.
What are your favorite photography subjects?
Wildlife, structures and landscapes; sometimes small events and street scenes.
A cardinal in my front yard, waiting his turn at the feeders. Nikon D810, Tamron 150-600G, f/8, 1/160, ISO 400.
What are your favorite places to shoot?
I really enjoy the Georgia coast and the barrier islands.
What would be your photographic “dream trip?”
New Mexico and some of the southwestern states. Possibly Maine coast or Canadian Rockies.
Sandhill cranes from one of Larry Winslett’s Tennessee trips, back when Show Case (now Atlanta School of Photography) was still around. Nikon D600, Tamron 150-600mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO 500.
Which camera and lenses do you use most often?
Nikon D800 or D810 camera body with Nikkor 28-300mm or Tamron 150-600G, or 15-30mm lenses.
What are your go-to websites for photography information?
I am a very visual person, so I find a lot of my information on YouTube-type tutorials.
Have any photographers inspired you?
Ansel Adams is one of my favorites, not only for his great images but also because he, like John Muir and others, was an environmentalist and advocate for the West and the protection of our resources.
What’s your favorite part of belonging to GNPA?
The programs are great, and the members are so willing to help no matter what your skill level.
Something about you most people don’t know:
I’m interested in my Scottish heritage, so I am a director for the Stone Mountain Highland Games, and a director on the board of The Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center in Franklin, NC. I performed with a bagpipe band for more than 40 years.
Where are you from?
Reusset-tipped Clubtail, Tom Wilson, GNPA
Editor’s Note: As a part of each newsletter, we will explore some of the best places in Georgia for nature photography. This issue, Tom Wilson tells us about his favorite May destination for dragonflies and damselflies.
By Tom Wilson
I miss being able to visit GNPA Chapters to share my favorite photography locations, so I’m happy to feature one of them in our first newsletter. JJ Biello Park, at Riverside Athletic Complex (610 Druw Cameron Dr, Woodstock, GA 30188), is a great choice this month for finding both dragonflies and damselflies.
Located adjacent to the Little River, its wide-ranging habitats offer a tremendous variety of species and settings. You can expect to find pond species in the small ponds near the parking lot, gliders in the fields, and many river and swamp species on the back trails that parallel the river. I’ve photographed over 40 species of Odonates here in the past six years, and May is an ideal time to take a loop hike and look for dragonflies.
Photos by Tom Wilson, GNPA
JJ Biello is actually a good venue for dragonflies from now through September. I prefer to visit on sunny days, typically from about 10 a.m. until noon. My gear of choice is the Nikon D500 equipped with a 200-500 Nikon lens, carried on a Black Rapid Strap. The accompanying map illustrates my favorite route through the park, and the photo composite shows only some of the available species you may find.
Base photo from Google Earth