A Month of Animal Migration – Is Your Camera Ready?

Dec 25, 2008

As the heat of summer begins to cool and the late evening light begins to fade, you may be wondering, “When does the NFL season start?” The plants, animals and insects all around us, meanwhile, are taking note of the same changes and making preparations that will help them survive through the winter.


As a landscape photographer, you know that every season has something special to offer your lens. What you may not know is that the shoulder areas between the seasons can be equally, if not more rewarding.


Here’s a few things to look for during the month of September.


Large Mammals


In preparation for the lean winter months, large mammals travel down from the high country in the late summer and early fall into the Front Range, valleys and parks to fatten up in low meadows and grasslands. In the Rockies, September is the prime month to see Elk as they gather in herds as large as a few hundred individuals. Where there’s prey, you’ll find predators, and fall and winter are also the best times to find coyotes and other predators in open areas looking for a bite to eat.


Monarch Butterflies


Every fall, the magical migration of the monarch butterfly begins. Traveling from theUS and southern Canada during late summer or autumn, monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles south, reaching as far as Mexico City in the mountain sanctuaries of central Mexico. You can find them during summer and early fall anywhere where milkweed is in abundance – typically in fields, meadows and parks – where they lay their eggs.


Migratory Birds


There are four primary routes taken by migratory birds during the fall as they head from Canada and the US south to the West Indies, Central America, and South America for winter:


  • The Atlantic Route off the East Coast through the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles to the South American coast
  • The Great Lakes-Mississippi Valley Route, which is free of mountains and provides a corridor to the Gulf Coast or the highlands of central Mexico
  • The Great Plains-Rocky Mountains Route, which takes the migrants from Canada and the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast in Texas or further south into central Mexico
  • The Pacific Coast Route, which sees Ross’ geese, ducks and various arctic birds travel from the Yukon River Delta in Alaska and the lakes of northern Canada to central California.


Of special note are Bobolinks, beautiful songbird migrants that could fit in the palm of your hand that travel some 12,500 miles to and from the US and Canada to southern South America every year. In North America, they can be found in large fields, hayfields, and meadows in a wide band straddling the Canada-US border, including all the Great Lakes, from the Atlantic coast as far west as Oregon and Washington State.


Established & Aspiring Photographers Welcome!


Looking to improve your craft and have an outdoors adventure with landscape photographer Jim Steinberg?Join a Steinberg Photography workshop or photo tour and get the experiences, the pictures, and the guidance you need to create a calendar or coffee table book. Whatever your goals, we would love to help!


Learn more by visiting the Steinberg Photography homepage.