27 May - 1 June 2011

Limit: 3 Participants

All-inclusive Workshop fee: $3200

Nightbirds, the owls and nightjars, are fascinating birds! Because they are active mainly at night, just seeing them can be a challenge, and photographing them can be even more difficult. Over the last thirty years I have spent countless nights watching and photographing owls and nightjars in the canyons, deserts and grasslands of Arizona. Along with world-renowned birder, Kenn Kaufman, I hold the one day owl record, having seen eleven species in one twenty-four hour period right here in Arizona. Utilizing my experience with nightbirds and familiarity with southeast Arizona, my goal is to get as many of these wonderful birds into your viewfinder as possible!

For four exciting nights during Arizona's prime month for owl vocalization and activity we will do just that - get them in our viewfinders and press the button! You will learn how to find and get close to owls and nightjars, deal with photographing in the dark, and come away with dramatic portraits of these nocturnal wonders!

"I have known Rick Bowers for many years. In that time I have spent a lot of time with Rick and have traveled with him all across the US including Alaska and numerous trips to Arizona. I have found Rick to have outstanding trip leader qualities. His planning and fore thought are unparalled. More importantly, his mastery of natural history information is astounding and he is an excellent photographer. In over 20 years as a professional wildlife photographer and author I have yet to meet a photographer or naturalist with as much photographic experience and natural history knowledge as Rick has. Anyone from a veteran wildlife photographer to a beginner would benefit from a workshop or safari with Rick Bowers."

Stan Tekiela

author/naturalist, wildlife photographer

Elf Owl in Mesquite tree © Rick Bowers. Western Screech-Owl © Rick Bowers
Elf Owl and Western Screech-Owl © Rick Bowers

Hone your shooting skills, add to your portfolio, and learn tips and tricks for getting that special image. Rick's thirty-five years photography experience, twenty-five years of tour leading and his intimate knowledge of the Sonoran Desert's birds make this safari a must for bird photographers. The tour is limited to three photographers so that there will be ample time for individual instruction and attention.


Day 1, 27 May - Arrival and our first Owls.. Plan to arrive at Tucson International Airport this mid-day or early afternoon. A shuttle transports you to our hotel in Catalina, 20 miles north of the airport, where a room is booked in your name. We meet in the hotel lobby at 5:00pm for an orientation and logistics session, followed by dinner and then out to find our first owls. In a nearby Mesquite bosque (dense mesquite forest growing along a water course) we encounter our first species, the Western Screech-Owl. After getting our fill of several Westerns, both Elf Owl and Common Poorwill are good possibilities here.

Night: Best Western Catalina Inn.

Day 2, 28 May - Desert birds and Poorwills.. To take advantage the morning light we rise early to photograph at Rick's specially designed water feature and feeding station - shooting stunning portraits of the numerous desert species that visit for food and water. Working from blinds we photograph Rufous-winged Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Canyon Towhee, Gambel's Quail, Phainopepla, Greater Roadrunner, Verdin, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Desert Cottontail and Harris Antelope Ground-Squirrels that visit year round. When the sun gets too high for good photography we return to our hotel for a break from the heat and to recharge batteries (cameras and our own!) and prepare for another exciting evening.

Common Poorwill © Rick Bowers Elf Owl looking out of Saguaro cactus nest hole. © Rick Bowers
Common Poorwill and Elf Owl are two of our target species. © Rick Bowers

This evening Common Poorwills are our target. This species can be ridiculously easy or infuriatingly hard to photograph. By devoting most of a night, one of the many Poorwills located is likely to cooperate. Depending on where we end up, we may also have our first opportunity for Whiskered Screech-Owls and Western Screech-Owls are possible again.

Night: Best Western Catalina Inn.

Day 3, 29 May - The Huachuca Mountains and Elf Owls.. This morning we go the Huachuca Mountains to try for two difficult species - Spotted Owl and Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl. The Spotted Owls of Miller Canyon in the Huachucas are some of the most easily accessible in the United States. The Pygmy-Owls can be difficult to locate because of their large home ranges. Crossing paths with them is always an iffy proposition, but when you do find them it is all worth while.

This evening we concentrate on the world's smallest owl and a more common species - the Elf Owl. One of the favorite habitats of the Elf Owls is Saguaro-Palo Verde desert and this habitat abounds around Tucson. We photograph at an Elf Owl nest and have a chance to photograph them peering from a nest hole in a Saguaro cactus. We also work on them away from the nest to get whole body shots.

Night: Best Western Catalina Inn

Day 4, 30 May - Desert birds and Whiskered Screech-Owl.. This morning we photograph other desert specialties such as Vermilion Flycatcher, Lucy's Warbler, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Abert's Towhee, Bell's Vireo and Gila Woodpeckers that are common in Catalina State Park. Then back to the hotel for a midday break before heading out for more nightbirds.

Whiskered Screech-Owl looking from nest hole. © Rick Bowers Whiskered Screech-Owl in Arizona Sycamore. © Rick Bowers
Whiskered Screech-Owls are restricted to Southeastern Arizona in the US. © Rick Bowers

In the evening we concentrate on an interesting species, the look-alike cousin of the Western Screech-Owl - Whiskered. These two species mingle in major canyons where riparian habitat in the bottom of the canyon meets oak woodlands. Away from the canyon bottoms the Whiskereds predominate. The differences between the species are easy to note while taking portraits among the oaks and pines. Flammulated Owls often nest near our Whiskered location so we may have opportunities to photograph this new species also. "Flamms" can be difficult to photograph but we will give it our best shot.

Night: Best Western Catalina Inn

Day 5; 31 May - Woodpeckers, Mountain birds and owls. This morning we will concentrate on photographing a Gila Woodpecker or Gilded Flicker nest. Both species are about to fledge young and should be making frequent trips to the nest with food.

In the afternoon we will travel to Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson to photograph at Bill Forbes mountain drip and feeding station. The late afternoon light is spectacular. Black-headed Grosbeak, Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Jay, Arizona Woodpecker, Scott's Oriole and Hepatic Tanager all frequent Bill's setup and offer a wonderful chance to photograph these often difficult species. Check out some images from last years tours here.

After dark we will work on several nightbirds including Common Poorwill, Western Screech-Owl, and Whiskered Screech-Owl. The Santa Ritas offer some different habitats for these species and should provide different backgrounds for our photos.

Night: Best Western Catalina Inn

Day 6; 1 June - Desert birds and departure for Home. Our last morning will be left to cleaning up any gaps in our photos or opportunities we have not taken advantage of thus far during the trip. We will return to our hotel and pack the last of our belongings before the shuttle returns you to the airport for the flight home.

This is an all inclusive tour. Transportation, lodging, meals, guide service, and entrance fees are all covered from the time you are whisked from the airport to our hotel until you are dropped back a the airport for your flight home. It does not include flights to Tucson, alcoholic beverages, laundry, phone calls and other items of a personal nature.


Rick Bowers has been a passionate wildlife photographer, naturalist and writer for over 35 years. Rick's wildlife career began at twelve years old, when the local Audubon members began requesting his help in showing local birds to birdwatchers from out of state. He continued his wildlife training while at the University of Arizona, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology. Even as an undergraduate his field expertise was sought after by professors and grad students wishing his assistance in conducting their field research on wild animals. Rick is expert at finding, identifying, and handling all sorts of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Extremely skilled at setting up photo opportunities based on his extensive knowledge of animal behavior, he has assisted videographers of the British Broadcasting Corporation filming wildlife in Arizona and Mexico. His know-how also includes trees and other native plants.

Before turning to professional photography and writing, Rick led nature-watching tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and his own company. He has led wildlife watching tours throughout the New World from Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost city in North America) and Churchill, Manitoba to Tierra del Fuego (an island at the southern tip of South America), and to the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia as well as Antarctica. Rick is the originator of the Nightbirding tours focusing on the seventeen species of owls and nightjars available in Arizona and now conducted by many bird-watching companies.

Rick's own photo credits span the gamut from National Geographic and International Wildlife magazines to calendars, books, and fish and game publications. Rick has coauthored and photographed six books with his wife Nora including Wildflowers of Texas, Cactus of Texas, Wildflowers of Arizona, Cactus of Arizona, Wildflowers of the Carolinas and the Kaufman Field Guide: Mammals of North America. Rick lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Nora. They can be reached through their web page at

Tour Costs: The fee for this tour is $3200 US per person in double occupancy. This includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on Day 5, transportation, lodging, guide service, and entrance fees. It does not include flights to and from Tucson, alcoholic beverages, laundry, phone calls and other items of a personal nature. A single supplement of $200 US will be charged if you wish single accommodations or if you wish to share a room and cannot find a roommate and we cannot provide one for you.

A $500 deposit is required for tour registration. If you should need to cancel before the tour, a $125 cancellation fee will be charged.

To register for this tour please click this link to e-mail Bowers Photo with your name, address, e-mail, and phone number

After e-mailing with your registration info, please send your deposit check made out to "BOWERS PHOTO LLC" to this address:
14680 N. Swan Road
Tucson, AZ 85739 USA

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call Rick at 520-241-7088.

Thanks for visiting! Hope to see you soon on a workshop or safari.

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