There were two speakers for our NE Regional meeting on April 30. Our first presentation, How to Get a Better Shot, was by Gary Whiting. Gary, a nature and landscape digital artist, teaches photography at the OLLI continuing education program of UNF and is a UF/IFAS Florida Master Naturalist. He divided elements that make the difference between a good and an outstanding image into three   components: Artistic, Natural, and Technical.

Gary does not often use a flash. He prefers to “paint” his images with natural light. This is best accomplished by taking images early morning and late evening, the “golden hours”. Side-lighting and reflections can also provide an artistic component to your images.

He explained the natural component is enhanced by knowing the behavior of your subject. Gary showed breath-taking images of birds and told the story of how the shot was captured because of familiarity with the species natural behavior.

The technical or third component of an outstanding image involves camera settings and techniques of

use. Gary shared some tips on camera settings and the use of focus  points. He then discussed how to improve composition, sharpness, and exposure of images.

This presentation certainly provided us all with tips we can easily follow to improve the images we take.  If you missed the meeting, Gary has posted a summary of his presentation on his website,

Dr. Brett Moyer, Biologist and Bolles School Upper School Science teacher was our second presenter. Dr. Moyer began with How Birds Combat External Parasites, a summary of some of his previous research projects.  While in Australia, he was able to prove feather-lice, a common avian parasite, is indirectly killed by heat. A common behavior of certain birds is to spread their feathers across warm sand in direct sunlight. Dr. Moyer’s research concluded the heat causes the lice to move from crevices in their feathers which make the lice vulnerable to preening. When he returned to the states, Dr. Moyer expanded his research to the relationship of bill shape to preening. He was able to determine the small hook at the end of the bills of many bird species is not necessary for feeding, but is vital for  preening  and  removal  of  feather lice.

Dr. Moyer concluded his presentation with an Overvew of Bolles Bluebird Project which is partially funded by grants from the Florida Bluebird Society. Eight boxes have been installed on the San Jose campus.  Three boxes are already in use by bluebirds.  The unexpected use of cypress needles and Spanish moss as the primary nesting material has been documented. Dr. Moyer hopes to expand the research with the use of HD cameras that can be used to observe and then document what the bluebirds are feeding their nestlings.

The presentations were followed by a light lunch on the terrace overlooking the St. Johns River and one of the nestboxes included in the Bolles School Bluebird Project. The nestlings from the first clutch have already fledged and the parents entertained us during lunch as they appear to be preparing for a second nesting.

After lunch we had a tour of the new bluebird trail on campus and an extensive Q&A session.