When Steve Shunk, naturalist and author of the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America, joined Naturalist Journeys, he brought expertise and familiarity with Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Steve hails from the Bend/Sisters area and his signature tour showcases the best of Central Oregon’s Woodpecker Wonderland. Now, we are excited to offer a brand new Oregon photo seminar in Steve’s backyard. Designed for beginning to intermediate photographers, this intensive woodpecker experience elevates the artistry of your images as you spend four full days photographing up to 11 different woodpecker species, along with other specialty birds and sweeping Cascade Mountain vistas!
Joining Steve to lead this photography seminar, we are pleased to introduce you to award-winning wildlife photographer and author Kirsten Hines. Based in Miami, Florida, Kirsten relies on her biology background to capture intimate images of birds and other animals from around the world. Her writing and photography have appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications. Her six books on Florida’s nature and history include three on south Florida’s national parks and the bird-themed books Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens and Birds of Fairchild. With 25 years of experience leading nature and photography trips and workshops, she assists you both in the field and with post-processing techniques to elevate the quality and aesthetics of your images.
The tour starts and ends in Redmond, Oregon, from which we drive a short distance to the small tourist town of Sisters. Throughout the trip we are surrounded by the region’s impressive Cascade volcanoes and immersed in a broad diversity of habitats—from aspen groves to burned conifer forest—and we enjoy comfortable accommodations and northwestern cuisine.
Our daily itinerary takes us on a quest to photograph all of the region’s 11 nesting woodpecker species. We wander through recently burned forests in search of Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers. We enjoy mature cottonwood and aspen galleries in search of three different sapsuckers. And, we visit older burns and mature mixed-conifer forest for Lewis's and Pileated Woodpeckers, respectively. Each day we encounter ponderosa pine forest, home to an abundance of White-headed Woodpeckers. Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flicker are widespread in the region. Additionally, each day includes quality time photographing woodpeckers at their nest sites, as well as reviewing photos and workshopping each afternoon or evening.
- Share the combined experience of two seasoned naturalists: Steve brings intimate knowledge and experience with woodpeckers and the region and Kirsten with world-class photography and an ecological approach to nature interpretation
- Enjoy a high-quality guided experience within a small group, ideally sized for photo instruction
- Observe and document breeding behavior for up to 11 different woodpeckers, representing half of the 22 North American species
- Explore a wide diversity of scenic habitats, with minimal driving and optimal field time
- Settle into one accommodation for the entire tour
- Enjoy quality northwestern cuisine, including many local beers and wines
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Tues., June 11 : Arrive in Redmond, Oregon | Drive to Sisters
Please plan to arrive at the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) by 2:00 PM. We have a 30-minute drive to Sisters, with plenty of time to settle into our rooms before our first afternoon outing. We spend a couple of hours this afternoon discussing photographic techniques and putting them to use in the field in preparation for the next few days. We get to know each other tonight over our first dinner together in Sisters.
Accommodations at the Best Western Ponderosa Lodge, Sisters (D)
Wed., June 12 – Sat., June 15: Photographing Woodpecker Wonderland!
Our explorations in Central Oregon’s Woodpecker Wonderland take us into a broad array of habitats. In addition to woodpeckers, we also take some time to photograph other regional specialty birds as well as some of the mountain scenery surrounding us. Each day follows a similar routine:
• 6:00 AM – Hotel or bakery breakfast
• 6:30 AM – Head into the field
• 11:30 AM – Break for lunch and photo processing time
• 2:30 PM. – Photo review and discussion
• 3:30 PM – Back into the field
• 6:30 PM – Break before dinner
• 7:30 PM – Dinner
• 9:00 PM – Return to hotel
Depending on our success at finding certain species, we ought to have some flexibility in the schedule for our last day or two. Meals are a combination of favorite local restaurants and some picnic lunches.
Accommodations at the Best Western Ponderosa Lodge, Sisters (B,L,D)
Sun., June 16 : Morning Birding | Departures from Redmond
On our last day in central Oregon, we enjoy one final morning of photography and some casual birding before heading to Redmond Municipal Airport. We plan to arrive back to the airport by 11:00 AM; please plan your flights out after 1:00 PM (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the Journey is $4990 DBL / $5985 SGL, based on double occupancy, per person. The tour price includes airport transfers, 5 nights’ accommodations, all meals from dinner Day One through breakfast Day 6, professional guide services, park and preserve entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost of the journey does not include airfare to and from your home to Redmond, Oregon or items of a personal nature, such as drinks from the bar, telephone, and local guide gratuities (at your discretion, we will give some guidelines).
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM)
Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive June 11, 2024, no later than 2:00 PM.
Departure Details: Plan flights to depart June 16, 2024 after 1:00 PM.
Travel Tips: If you want to arrive early and rest up from your travels, we recommend the Comfort Suites Redmond Airport. You can book this online or call (541) 504-8900 to make a reservation. The hotel offers free airport transportation, and they are within walking distance to a couple of restaurants.
If you want to explore the area more, Bend, just down the road from the Redmond Airport, is a fun city with many things to do. There are plenty of hotels in Bend, but some in the downtown area we recommend are McMenamins Old St. Francis School Hotel and The Oxford Hotel. The downtown area has many shops, restaurants, and craft breweries. You can also take a walk along the Deschutes River. The High Desert Museum, just 5 minutes south of Bend, has exhibits on the people, culture, and resources of the high desert region. They even have a Bird of Prey Center where you can get up close views of owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons. If you’re fascinated by geology, then visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument to see ancient lava flows and learn more about the spectacular geologic features of the area. Other great attractions in the area include Tumalo Falls, a nearly 100-foot-tall waterfall, and Pilot Butte, which you can drive up and have great views of surrounding mountains on a clear day. Taxis and Uber are available in Bend, but it’s easier to get around if you have a rental car.
Items of Note
Photography & Field Conditions
During this photography seminar, you have unprecedented opportunities to photograph an incredible array of nesting woodpeckers with both field and post-processing instruction to ensure you have the tools you need to create images you are proud of not only on this trip but into the future. There is ample time in the woods to practice a variety of techniques, including quality time at multiple nest sites to experiment with elements such as lighting, angle, and framing. Field instruction is combined with indoor discussions of workflow, compositional elements, post-processing techniques using Adobe’s Lightroom, and hands-on practice through photo review to improve the overall artistry and effectiveness of your imagery.
We travel in two minivans, with seating for three participants each and ample room for each day’s gear and clothing. Expect cool to cold mornings and warm to hot afternoons, though we reserve the hottest part of the day for indoor photo processing and review. We could experience inclement weather, so please be prepared for a wide array of conditions. Ground conditions may be dusty and we may spend considerable time standing on open sunny slopes.
A tripod is recommended for nest photography and a laptop for photo processing and review sessions. You may also wish to bring a USB flash drive for transferring your images to the computer that we use for reviewing each other’s work on a projection screen. Please plan to bring a telephoto lens with focal length of at least 300 mm and a comfortable pack to carry your gear on short, moderate hikes through potentially uneven terrain. For those interested in capturing environmental portraits of the birds and/or landscapes, please also bring a mid- (24-105mm) to wide-angle lens (35mm or less)
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Kirsten’s love of nature blossomed with early childhood explorations of emerald rainforests, sea star-filled tidepools, and wildflower-strewn mountains in Washington State. This paired with a love for travel when her family translocated to the Philippines where she lived from ages 8-18. Kirsten’s natural history explorations of the world expanded in college, graduate school and beyond as she studied Augur buzzards in Kenya, magnificent frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands, poison-dart frogs in Costa Rica, rock iguanas in the Bahamas, kangaroos, bowerbirds, and fairy wrens in Australia, and myriad plants and animals in Florida where she worked as a biologist until a camera tweaked the trajectory of her career. Seven continents and 56 countries later, Kirsten now bases out of Florida and Maryland as a wildlife photographer, writer, speaker, nature guide, photography instructor, and conservationist.
Kirsten’s writing and photography have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including six of her own books on Florida’s nature and history, starting with the award-winning gardening reference Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens and most recently Everglades National Park. Her upcoming photo-illustrated books include the coffee-table book Wild Florida: The Animals of the Sunshine State and the field guide Birds of Florida. Kirsten’s images have also been featured in photography showcases, public art programs, and in solo and juried group exhibitions. With over 20 years of experience leading nature and photography trips and workshops, Kirsten’s goal is to inspire enthusiasm for the natural world among diverse audiences. She is a founding member of Phoebes Birding, which connects women through nature, member of the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group and North American Nature Photography Association, and a board member of Tropical Audubon Society and Audubon Florida.
Other trips with Kirsten Hines
Steve Shunk started birding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and he moved to central Oregon’s ‘Woodpecker Wonderland’ in 1997, where 11 woodpecker species breed annually. This phenomenon led to a 20-year obsession studying this charismatic family of birds. Steve founded the region’s woodpecker festival in 2008, and his Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America was published in 2016. He has fed leeches (his own blood) in Malaysian Borneo, and he has watched Spotless Starlings swarming around the Greek ruins of Sicily. Steve’s Alaska adventures have taken him from Ketchikan to Barrow and St. Paul Island. One of his favorite destinations takes him to see ‘eastern’ warblers breeding across the boreal forest of Alberta, but recent adventures have led him to favor the cushion plants and condors of the Peruvian high Andes. Steve speaks at bird festivals across North America, and he returns annually to speak and guide at the Vallarta Bird Festival in far-western Jalisco, Mexico. Steve joined Naturalist Journeys earlier this year, and we are excited to have him on the schedule for 2021 and beyond.
Steve’s work as a field biologist has taken him from the Coast Range of Oregon to California’s Sierra Nevada. Most recently, he conducted point-count and woodpecker surveys for a study in the Central Oregon Cascades. Steve co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy (now East Cascades Audubon), and served as its first president. He also co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails Program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. When Steve is not traveling the world for tours and lectures, he can be found writing, skiing, hiking, and watching woodpeckers at home in lovely Sisters, Oregon.
Other trips with Steve Shunk
Christmas in Costa Rica Full! Take a look at our July Costa Rica tour!December 22 - 29, 2023
Caribbean Endemics of JamaicaJanuary 28 - February 4, 2024
South Texas Birding & NatureFebruary 14 - 22, 2024
Costa Rica: Monteverde & More! Full! Take a look at our July Costa Rica tour!March 20 - 30, 2024, w/La Selva/Sarapiqui extension
Taiwan: Birding & NatureApril 10 - 20, 2024, w/Okinawa & Amami extension
Oregon's Malheur NWR & Woodpecker WonderlandMay 20 - 29, 2024
Oregon's Malheur NWR & Woodpecker WonderlandMay 31 - June 9, 2024
Wild Borneo: Endemic Birding & NatureComing September 2024
- Christmas in Costa Rica
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
- Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Food & Drink
We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and we comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.
Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books. You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please pack light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Dress is very informal. Most summer days are sunny and warm but scattered showers can occur and will cool things down when they happen. June high temperatures will likely be in the 70s and 80s with lows in the 40s. Day and night temperatures can vary by 30 or more degrees. Layering is key! A warm jacket will be needed in the evenings and early mornings. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation, but if you like to wear them by all means bring some shorts for casual time or travel days. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and that is comfortable and easy to wear. Supportive hiking boots are essential for our walks. Sandals may be well appreciated for evenings and travel days.
Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2 pairs
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3 (loose fitting keeps you cool)
- T-shirts or equivalent, 4-5 (remember you may be buying some there anyway!)
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Hat with broad brim
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable walking shoes and lightweight hiking boots – good tread is essential!
- Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings
- Light to medium weight jacket
- Fleece or sweater/ sweatshirt equivalent
- Comfortable clothes for evenings (a cleaner version of your field cloths or a skirt, etc.)
- Bathing suit (optional)
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- Photo Identification
- E-ticket verification
- Walking stick (optional but recommended if you usually use one when hiking)
- Toiletries articles
- Binoculars (a clear shower cap works well to keep off rain)
- Camera and extra batteries, battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos with charger and USB cord (optional)
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Water bottle (or plan to refill one bought on location)
- Sunscreen/lip balm
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent
- Portable packages of facial tissues
- Small flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock, or use your cell phone
- Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
- Umbrella (optional, compact and not brightly colored)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional, guide will have one)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Earplugs (optional)
- Small bottle of antibacterial gel
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing, and your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Air Items
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses – or have at easy reference to call or fax from home) and any medical alerts
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (including band-aids, moleskin, etc. for blisters)
- Health insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Oregon; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Photo Instruction & Resources
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Oregon Birding Association
Woodpeckers of Washington
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
The Nature Conservancy in Oregon
The Conservation Fund – Oregon
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Malheur National Forest
Geology & Geography
Geology of Central Oregon Region
Geography of Central Oregon
History & Culture
History of Oregon
“A Short History of Oregon Tribes in the Contemporary Era” – Article, The Quartux Journal
“Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers” – Article, Oregon Encyclopedia
Culture & History of Oregon
The Central Oregon Mural Trail
Helpful Travel Websites
Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date & Time
Photo credits: Banners: Red-breasted Sapsucker, Steve Shunk; Lewis's Woodpecker (with currants!), Steve Shunk; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steve Wolfe; White-headed Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; Horned Lark, Steve Shunk; Hermit Warbler, Steve Shunk; Pileated Woodpecker, Carlos Sanchez; Old St. Francis School Hotel, courtesy of McMenamins; Pileated Woodpecker, by Bill Pennell on Unsplash; California Scrub Jay, Greg Smith; White-headed Woodpecker, Steve Wolfe; Bald Eagle, Greg Smith; Bullock's Oriole, Homer Gardin; Lewis's Woodpecker, Steve Wolfe; Old St. Francis School Hotel, courtesy of McMenamins; Malheur NWR, Steve Wolfe; Western Tanager, Barb Stone; Williamson's Sapsucker, Steve Shunk; Lewis's Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; Flowers, Steve Shunk; Photo Gallery: Red-breasted Sapsucker, Steve Shunk; Lewis's Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; Black-backed Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; American Bittern displaying, Steve Shunk; Pileated Woodpecker, Sandy Sorkin; Sora, Steve Shunk; Yellow-headed Blackbird, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Lazuli Bunting, Steve Shunk; Magnolia Warbler, Steve Shunk; Band-tailed Pigeon, Greg Smith; Black Oystercatcher, Steve Wolfe; Black-headed Grosbeak, Homer Gardin; Calliope Hummingbird, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Common Nighthawk, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, ALAN SCHMIERER public domain via Flickr.