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I have just returned from 25 days of teaching and photography in South Florida, mostly around Fort Myers.  If anything, this year was different yet spectacular.  After three plus years of being consistently lousy, photography conditions at Ding Darling were somewhat erratic but mainly fantastic, with many still mornings featuring huge feeding sprees and/or good numbers of Roseate Spoonbills at 60 feet, the latter often posing with their seamless reflections in mercury-quality powder blue water.......  It was as good as it gets. 
Unfortunately, the water level in the Tower Pool was (purposely) raised in early March and immediately thereafter there were virtually no wading birds utilizing this area for feeding.  Similarly, visiting Ding for the photography after the water level was raised was and remains a total waste of time.  As dozens of photographers were glorying in the wonderful opportunities afforded on an almost daily basis, one does wonder why.  (As I have said before, I truly believe that the refuge is managed in a strongly anti-photographer manner.) 
A white morph Great Blue (Great White) Heron returned to Blind Pass for the second year, this time in breeding plumage with fine ultramarine/blue lores.  Estero Lagoon was consistently pathetic for unknown reasons. (I visited only once, that by myself.)  Venice was superb, with Great Egret nesting in full swing as we speak.  There are many perfect birds with brilliant lime green lores, and generally, lots of action.  The fishing pier was excellent; one group enjoyed 3 straight afternoons with strong west winds and blue skies; you could practically reach up and grab the Snowy Egrets and pelicans as they hovered a foot or two from your face..... The biggest surprise was that Shark Valley, usually a good but not great spot, was just fantastic; one participant described it as a bird photography supermarket.  Each of my four groups made the two hour drive from Fort Myers to Shark Valley (after awakening at 4:30 AM) and all were thrilled.  (The number of birds has been diminishing each week, but photography at Shark was still very good on my last visit on 5 March. 
Many first timers joined me this year, but repeat business has been part of the key to the success of my tour business.  It was great seeing IPT old-timers Darrell Miller, Nick Chronis, Joe Peschi-look alike John DiGigorgio, Norman and Cindy Batemen, Cyril Mazansky and Robert Sabin, among others.  Most amazingly, I met Glen and Dora Bianchini of Oxford, MS.  Glen and Dora have been photographing birds for less than 9 months.  They bought and devoured "The Art of Bird Photography."  They use Canon equipment, Glen shooting with the old 600mm f/4 and Dora with the 500mm IS.  So what's the big deal??  During the critiquing session, I was amazed by the quality of their work.  Of the ten images that each shared with the group, I would have been thrilled to add at least five from each group to the BIRDS AS ART files!!!  In many cases, I thought that I was looking at my own work.  When I asked them how they got so good so fast, they said, "Your book is our bible.  We simply read it over and over again and did what you said." 
I was both stunned and gratified. 
For those of you who have never attended a BIRDS AS ART/IPT, here are two unsolicited thank yous that I received recently:
From Cyril Mazansky:

Hi Art,

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.  What a great trip.  I have just completed
going thru my 91 rolls and am extremely satisfied.  I set out on this trip with
a specific photographic agenda and more than fulfilled my goals.  For my first
such trip, I am extremely pleased with my results.  In no small measure this was
due to you.  Your zeal and energy are truly infectious.  Getting us to the right
places at the right time, efficiently utilizing every available moment of the
day, constant hammering into our thick skulls the technical and artistic
lessons, all paid handsome dividends.  More importantly I feel a good foundation
has been set for my next, whenever my schedule will permit.  I loved this type
of bird photography.  Harriet also loved the images and has selected a number to
make cards, which she uses for correspondence and gifts.  These are always a big

Despite that second rate (!!) Nikon equipment, I feel that I got some good
images.  96-98% of the images were taken at std. matrix metering and only on
rare occasions did I bracket.  I will leave it to your critical eye to judge the
quality of the exposures, but overall  I was v. satisfied.  I also good a few
reasonable flight shots with my 300mm F4 non-IS slow focusing lens.  (Nikon's
80-400 4.5 IS is due out this summer and I have already put my name down for one
of the first delivered ones).

Darrell is such a nice person and it was an absolute joy sharing the trip with
him.  i can certainly understand why you like him so much.  I saw a big
improvement on his new Fl. images compared with his first trip.  He and I have
been corresponding quite a bit.  I have also corresponded with Matt.  It was v.
nice of him to put together the list

Please let me know when it is convenient for you to receive my 20 slides for
your critique.  If you don't mind, I will send this priority registered mail
with enclosures for similar return.  They will be originals and I fear
potential loss in the mail.

Once again thanks a million for your dedication, commitment and a great trip.

Kindest regards,

Another from Gail Bunt:
Hi Everyone,
I'm about 50 of 70 boxes of slides in, and awfully happy.  Lots of
keepers. That was a terrific trip.  Artie's a great photographer and
teacher and the group was full of interesting and generous people.  In
spite of having sworn off workshops and birds, I'm now scheming after the
next Artie workshop and one of those big lenses.

Two days after returning from Florida we headed for Vancouver to visit our
daughter.  I spent a morning at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.  It was full
of ducks--Coots, Canvasbacks, Goldeneyes, Mallards, Wigeons, and more, as
well as swans.  The birds are feeder-trained and every time they oozed
away, all it took to bring them back was to rattle the plastic bag of film
canisters.  In my mind's ear Artie was bellowing, "Point your shadow at
the bird."  If you're ever in B.C. ...
I am home for six days and then headed to Nebraska to do several programs for Audubon Magazine's and Nebraska Audubon's Millenium Migration Festival.  See my web site for details. 
Best and great picture making,
Arthur Morris
P.S.   Clean your reading glasses, we will be sending several additional Bulletins during the next few days. 

Listing of Archived Bulletins

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