Voices of a Flyway

This April and May (2019) I will be joining the team of the National Geographic Explorer Jacob Job and embarking on a journey along the Mississippi flyway highlighting the challenges that birds and people confront in the face of a changing world. The impact of human activity on the environment is felt not only by wildlife, but also by humanity itself.


Over 2 months we will be travelling with a billion migrating songbirds from the coast of Louisiana to the boreal forests of northern Minnesota. Along the way we will be examining the mutual difficulties that birds and humans face in a changing world, shining light on the common bond that both share with our planet. Through high-resolution recordings of natural sounds, imagery and interviews with people impacted by environmental injustices, we aim to stimulate mindful listening to nature, introduce species and places of our past, and carve a path to a deeper connection with nature that anyone can participate in.

As a species, we find ourselves becoming more and more removed from the natural world we evolved alongside and within. With urban centers becoming more common, a sensory disconnect between ourselves and nature has emerged. “Voices of a Flyway” aims to rekindle, or create the basis for, our connection with nature. Once complete, all you will have to do is plug in your headphones, turn on a monitor, and you’ll be taken on an immersive journey along the Mississippi flyway in a way that you’ve never experienced before. Ultra-rich, immersive audio coupled with high-resolution, intimate photography will be your guides. Unlike other documentaries, this journey will be crafted especially for your ears.


The sounds of nature are often drowned out by the modern world. Millions of people will not escape noise pollution throughout their entire lives. Sound is one of the most compelling, and overlooked aspects of nature. Immerse yourself through “Voices of a Flyway,” and let the spark light the fire that reconnects us to the natural world and get to know nature yourself.

Connection, in all forms, is vital to our existence. To understand these connections is liberating, none more so than our connection to the natural world.

To get more information about “Voices of a Flyway” and to follow us on our journey, visit https://voicesofaflyway.com/about/




Voices of a Flyway

I will also be posting blogs and vlogs on my instagram (Fawlingfeatherz) and her on my website along the way. Be sure to check in during April and May to join in on the adventure!


A Little Patience

I stopped by  the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Washington on my way home from work a couple of days ago. It's a regular place that I check out with my camera on random days with short notice since it's on my way home from work and has a lot of wildlife activity. This last visit provided me with a pretty crazy bird photo opportunity; a blue heron feeding on a garter snake, and the garter snake fought back. 

I spotted the bird hunting a patch of tall grass washed in warm sunlight. I decided to stop and watch the bird for a while since they often find snakes when the springtime sun is out and warming the ground. The heron trudged along for about 25 min without making any strikes, I was starting to get a cramp in my arm from trying to hold my lens motionless, I was really hoping it would find something soon or I was going to have to move and possibly disturb the bird and ruin my chance at catching a prey event.

Finally, it heard something in the grass. It began doing what I call the, "death dance," that herons and egrets often do as they are sizing up and aiming at a prey item. The bird struck and came up with a medium sized garter. I was already super stoked to be close to a heron grabbing a snake, then realized this snake was not going to simply take a few shakes and allow himself to be swallowed. He took a couple of wild strikes at the heron's face all glancing off the base of the bird's beak. Then the snake seemed to gain his composure, even though he was being crushed mid-body. He raised his head, stared the heron in the face to take aim for a brief moment, then lunged for the eye of the predatory bird.

Just as the snake struck, the heron began another violent shake and played right into the snake's aim. The snake latched onto the eyeball of the heron for a brief moment then became locked onto the eyelid of the billed beast!

After a few gentle attempts at removing the snake in a safe, delicate manner, the heron panicked and had to shake the snake off. Needless to say the heron was victorious in the end and enjoyed its meal, but damn did that snake show some heart.

Don't Underestimate Common Species

When I first began photographing birds (which is the only reason I became interested in photography) I was more concerned with getting shots of unusual species, regardless of the overall photo composition, than I was with simply taking a quality photo. I've met many bird photographers that have experienced this same phenomena. It makes sense, when starting out most individuals yearn for capturing an image of something rare and exciting. After all, a rare and exciting subject makes for a rare and exciting photo, right? 

Don't overlook the common birds.

Over time I've found I enjoy a well composed photo that invokes emotion within the viewer more so than a non-exceptional photo of a more interesting species. I've witnessed photographers (I also still fall victim) pass by grackles perched on flower covered branches dripping with warm, saturated, morning sunlight, in order to photograph red-legged honeycreepers deep in shadow on a distant branch where a quality photo is very unlikely. 

In those situations, take the grackles. 

Learn to appreciate photos that have good composition (lighting, setting, clarity, contrast, color, etc...) even if they have a "not-so-exciting" subject. Once you train your brain to favor these scenarios you'll find that you capture a great deal more quality photos. It will also prepare you for the moments when you get lucky enough to spot a quality species in a quality setting. It's important to have your skills honed in on taking advantage of accurate camera settings, quickly, when the big moments come. 

I was thinking through this concept while out taking photographs today. Nothing too special was going on so I decided I would put my attention on a species that I normally don't attempt to capture images of because they are very common, and don't have a particularly exciting coloration (to my eye, anyway). The species: the red-winged blackbird.


I ended up coming away with a few photos that I really like and think are fine photos even though I'm not too personally excited about the subject. Capturing photos of common species with quality total composition will undoubtedly prepare me for the moments when a great subject happens to be in a great spot. With any luck, I'll also get some great shots along the way. 


Site Creation

Just finished putting this site together and put some photos on it. Had to try out the blog feature and figured I may as well start now!

I plan to blog regular entries here regarding birding, photography, birding expeditions... on and on. I'm not entirely sure of the exact direction this will be taking, so it will be fun to see it evolve and gain momentum over time. 

For now, go check out some photos. ;)