Veteran bird photographer Steve Maslowski of Maslowski Wildlife Productions photographed the beautiful Varied Thrush that appears on the cover of our February issue, on newsstands now. He shot the photo in 1999 during a trip to the west coast. Here is what he told me about how he took it. — M.M.
The Varied Thrush is a spectacular-looking bird, like a day-glo robin. For years, my brother Dave and I had the species on our hit list, but since we live in the Midwest, it just never seemed to work out.
Finally, I met a homeowner near Seattle, Washington, who said she regularly had Varied Thrushes at her bird feeders in winter. I arranged a trip for late February, when daylight hours would be long enough to provide a reasonable number of hours for shooting.
At least three different thrushes were visiting her feeders. Mostly they gleaned food from the ground. I presume they were getting insects that were living off spilled seed. But the birds also got onto the feeders themselves and seemed to eat small seeds such as millet.
The cover photo was taken from inside a blind at a branch the birds often used while approaching the feeder from the dense tangle they haunted. It was shot with a Nikon F5 with a 300mm lens and 2x converter on an overcast day. (What else do they have in the Northwest in winter?)
Since this photo was taken, we have switched to digital; but the shot shows that film was, and still is, nothing to sneeze at. Then again, with a Varied Thrush, even finger painting would look good.
I photographed a variety of birds there, most prominently juncos and Pileated Woodpeckers. The Washingrton State visit was part of a longer, multi-purpose trip that took me to Alaska to photograph snowshoe rabbits and Bald Eagles.
About Maslowski Wildlife Productions
Steve and Dave’s late father, Karl, started photographing wildlife in the 1930s. Steve went to work full-time with his dad after graduating from Brown University in the early ‘70s, and eventually Dave joined the business. In addition to still photos, the Maslowski brothers have done film and video work for a number of PBS shows, National Geographic, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. And they have produced nearly 50 educational shows covering topics ranging from the ABCs to the solar system.
A photo by Steve of two young Killdeer ran in our first issue in February 1987, and we've been publishing the Maslowskis' work ever since, including these past covers: June 1989, Eastern Meadowlark; June 1993, Indigo Bunting; and August 2006, American Goldfinch.