Florida Birds

East Coast

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The very best place to see and photograph birds and other wildlife during the frigid northern winter months is warm, sunny Florida. It’s at this time of year that the flow of people to the Sunshine State pales by comparison to the massive influx of birds that have flown south to escape the very same conditions. When these migrant flocks add to Florida’s already extensive resident bird populations, they put on a show found nowhere else. That is why Florida is considered a “must visit” winter location by birders and serious wildlife photographers from around the world.
"I got shots beyond my wildest dreams. My birds in flight shots were sooo improved. The close-ups I got of birds are simply delightful."
- Laura D.
Florida’s nesting season will be in full swing and the rookeries are abuzz with the sounds of chicks begging for their share of parental forage. At the same time, other birds are just starting their nesting season and can be seen and photographed as they carry large sticks back to their nest in preparation for their future family.
We get to see it all! Our Florida Birds—East Coast photo tour coincides with the heart of the annual nesting season. We visit three of Florida’s most active wading bird rookeries, each offering something completely different from the next. These rookeries allow us access—often, just by a few feet—to active nests where we are able to photograph habituated great egrets, cattle egrets, great blue herons, American wood storks, anhingas, double-crested cormorants, tricolored herons and little blue herons, among others, at very close range. Along with the nesting birds, the wetlands we visit are home to many other species, such as purple gallinules, limpkins, snail kites, snipes, white ibis, glossy ibis and black-bellied whistling ducks. By shifting our attention up into the trees and sky, we also find bald eagles, ospreys, great horned owls, red-shouldered hawks, northern harriers and crested caracaras. We visit a lake shoreline hot spot patrolled by snail kites and limpkins in search of the apple snails they rely on for food. Spoonbill roseatesThe lake is also home to several active bald eagle nests and our tour is timed to coincide with the fledging of the eagle chicks. Besides the chance to photograph eagles perched in Spanish moss-draped oak trees at or near their nest, we also have the opportunity to capture eagles in flight, sometimes carrying fish back to the nest to feed their young.
We are by no means landlocked during our tour. In order to get up close to the action, we photograph part of our time from very stable pontoon boats. We spend one morning and afternoon on one of the most active osprey nesting lakes in the world, allowing us plenty of opportunities to capture these fish-eating raptors carrying nest material and fish to feed their young. The next morning we board our boat on another lake that is home to a very active roseate spoonbill colony. Often mistaken for flamingos, the vibrant pink roseate spoonbill is a Florida icon and a “must have” species for any bird photographer.
There are plenty of opportunities for bird portraits. But what sets this tour apart is the opportunity for action photography. Besides flight shots, we see the birds doing all of their other behaviors, such as nest building, fishing/hunting, courting, and sometimes arguing and mating. Capturing an anhinga with a large fish impaled on its bill while it swims nearby is a great prize—and happens regularly at some of our prime locations.
BobcatWhile we primarily focus on bird photography, there are many other subjects to photograph at most of our locations, including alligators, turtles, snakes, frogs and raccoons, plus a variety of other wetland creatures. Occasionally, we may be visited by river otters or a curious bobcat.
Join us to photograph in the best of Florida’s bird shooting hot spots. Great wildlife and exciting habitats, combined with the wonderful climate, make this an enjoyable and productive nature photography experience and a great winter escape.  Here is, perhaps, the best possible Florida bird shoot—one you should absolutely not miss!
Why photograph with us in Florida?
  • LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Not all of Florida is created equal. We get you to the right locations at the right times to assure photographic success.
  • Small group size. By keeping our group size to 5 photographers, we are easily able to adapt to any changing situations to take full advantage of the best shooting opportunities.
  • Our tour leader is a south Florida native and life-long resident, and has been professionally photographing the birds and other wildlife of Florida for over 30 years. There is no substitute for this kind of experience.
  • Everything is included. All meals from our first evening welcome dinner in Orlando, all ground and boat transportation—no need for an expensive rental car or to contend with Florida traffic—entry fees, lodging and guide services.

Read Mark Thomas' trip report from our latest Florida Birds photo tour 
For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Mar 7 or Mar 14, 2024)
Arrive at Orlando International Airport. Take the free shuttle to our nearby hotel. We meet in the hotel lobby at 6 PM for a short orientation and our first tour dinner. (D)
Day 2 
We are out before sunrise in our large air-conditioned van heading to one of the premier wading bird rookeries in central Florida. We shoot from boardwalks and trails, so bring your tripod for the best results. We have the entire day to refine our skills with nesting great egrets, cattle egrets, tricolored herons, and many more—often only a few feet from our lenses. (BLD)
Day 3 
We reach our next destination just as the sun is rising. We shoot along the shore of one of the central Florida lakes that form the headwaters of the Kissimmee River. Today we concentrate on bald eagles, crested caracaras, limpkins, sandhill cranes, and many other species that call this lake home. There are three active bald eagle nests in the area and our trip is timed for the fledging of the young eagles. We often have the chance to capture flight shots of both adult and young birds as they fly out over the lake in search of fish. We can stay until sunset and, if the clouds are right, the sky over the lake can be magnificent. Later, we head for our hotel in Vero Beach and gather for dinner. (BLD)
Day 4   
A trio of wood storksUntil now, all of our shooting has been land based. That is about to change. We are on the road before sunrise for the 1-hour drive to a lake surrounded by moss-draped cypress trees. We board our private pontoon boat—built for stability and perfect for photography—and head out onto the lake. All photography while on the boat is either handheld or from monopods. If the morning is misty, we have great opportunities for interesting landscape images. As the sun rises above the horizon, our focus shifts. We are on one of the best lakes in the country for photographing nesting osprey. We spend the entire morning cruising from one nest to the next. We have the chance to photograph ospreys in flight, often carrying fish or nesting materials as they pass. We are back out on the lake in the early afternoon to take full advantage of the afternoon light as we revisit the best locations. By late afternoon we return to the dock and drive back to our hotel for dinner. (BLD)
Day 5 
We load our boat and head out into the morning light on another nearby lake to a roseate spoonbill colony. We have ample opportunities to photograph these pink beauties with their spatula-shaped bills carrying sticks back to their nests. This is one of Florida’s truly iconic birds. We may see them at other locations during our tour, but on this lake we have our best access. While spoonbills are our main subject here, there are often other species nesting in the same trees, including great and snowy egrets, great blue herons, and more. By late morning we return to the dock. We continue our trek southward stopping for lunch along the way. In the early afternoon we arrive at our hotel in Palm Beach County. If there is still daylight available after checking in, we may have time to visit our next shooting location for an hour or two. (BLD)
Day 6 
We are up early to visit one of the most productive bird rookeries in south Florida. Our shooting is from sturdy boardwalks and trails where we can use our tripods for best results. Here we find nesting American wood storks, great egrets, anhingas, double-crested cormorants, cattle egrets, great blue herons, and others. While you are busy shooting, your tour leader searches for the secretive least bittern. Screech owl peeking out of a treeWhile not a guarantee, this is one of the easiest locations to photograph least bitterns as they climb through the bulrushes and spatterdock. Walking among the marsh plants we also find purple gallinules, common gallinules, green herons, tricolored herons, and more. Along the trail we may encounter river otters. We return in afternoon to shoot in the great evening light, then head back to our hotel and meet for dinner. (BLD)
Day 7  
Our final morning finds us on our familiar boardwalk at dawn. We have the entire morning to improve on our shoot from the day before or to capture subjects we missed. We break at lunchtime and then begin the return drive north to Orlando. (BLD)
Day 8 (Mar 14 or Mar 21)  
Depart Orlando for home. A free shuttle to the airport is available. (B)
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Florida Birds

Mar 07, 2024 - Mar 21, 2024

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits we accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and may be paid by check or bank transfer. If you wish to make your final payment with a credit card a 3% convenience fee will be charged.
We must receive written notice of your cancellation. Based on the cancellation date the following apply:

Trip deposits are non-refundable.
150-91 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 50% of the total trip cost.
90-61 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 75% of the total trip cost.
Within 60 days of the start of the trip: No refund.

If, on the trip start date, your space has been resold and the tour is full—as designated by “Limit” number of travelers on the tour website page—we will refund your payment, minus the non-refundable trip deposit and any discounts given to resell your space.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

We strongly encourage you to protect your travel investment and purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. We can provide travel insurance options, or it can be purchased online. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available. Trip participants without travel protection insurance are considered “self-insured.” Without insurance you assume all risks and losses for any conditions requiring your cancellation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you, or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health, including viral illnesses, occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, and applicable health advisories. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or email address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or email messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific details that are included in your trip fee. Generally, these include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch, or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, internal tour air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages, and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry, or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Most of our trips are priced in double occupancy (shared) accommodations. Single accommodation is available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodation or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations, and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins, or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea is included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two people traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motor coach, automobile, van, boat, ship or aircraft or any other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks, or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non -refundable air tickets, visa fees, travel insurance premiums and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure or disease outbreak in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A signed Registration Form with the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be returned by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington.

I have read, understand, and agree to the terms, conditions, and provisions of the enrollment information, as stated on the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris website and the Enrollment Conditions section of this form, especially noting the policy on cancellations, refunds, and limitations on responsibility.

I am aware that during any trip or tour that I am voluntarily participating in under the arrangements of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., a Washington corporation, and its employees, agents and associates, certain risks and dangers exist while traveling in the United States, foreign countries, and wilderness areas in any country or territory that include the possibility of property damage, bodily injury, and death. There is a possibility of accident or illness occurring without access to immediate or timely medical treatment or facilities. There is a risk of tropical or communicable diseases that may require quarantine and removal from the tour at my expense, food-related illnesses, the risk of personal injury and property damage or delay or inconvenience by forces of nature, wildlife or wildlife models, quarantine, political instability, acts of terrorism, strikes, government restrictions or regulations change, thefts, and the risk of accidents during travel while on foot or by aircraft, train, automobile, van, bus, boat, ship, or other conveyance. I understand that such risks cannot be eliminated without jeopardizing the essential qualities of this trip or tour. In consideration of, and as part payment for the right to participate in such trips, tours and/or other activities and services arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates, I have and do hereby assume all risks, and hereby release Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents and associates, and will hold them harmless from any and all liability, actions, causes of actions, debts, claims, and demands of every kind and nature, howsoever caused, which I now have or which may arise of or in connection with any of my trips or tours and participation in any activities arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf, be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this Agreement, I agree to indemnify them and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, I agree to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington and further agree that the substantive law of that state shall apply in that action without regard to the conflict-of-law rules of that state. The terms hereof shall serve as a release and assumption of all risk for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, and for all members of my family.

If any part, article, paragraph, sentence, or clause of this Agreement is not enforceable, the affected provision shall be curtailed and limited only to the extent necessary to bring it within the requirements of the law, and the remainder of the Agreement shall continue in full force and effect.

I acknowledge that if anyone is hurt or property is damaged during my participation in this activity, I may be found by a court of law to have waived my right to maintain a lawsuit against Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents, and associates, based on any and all claims from which I have released them.

Florida Birds: Easy Activity Level

Van and boat travel. Easy walking on boardwalks and pavement. Boating on calm fresh water lakes.
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2024
Fee: $4,995 from Orlando, Florida
Deposit: $1,500
Limit: 5 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy

Tour 1: March 7-14, 2024
Please join our waitlist
Tour 2: March 14-21, 2024
One space available!
Single Supplement: $690
  • Photograph the world’s highest density of nesting ospreys by boat—in flight, carrying fish and at the nest
  • Shoot one of Florida’s newest American woodstork nest colonies with their chicks up close
  • Early morning photography at an active roseate spoonbill colony by boat as early chicks begin to hatch
  • Small group size—only 5 photographers
  • Trip features a wide variety of iconic “everglades” birds that now make Florida’s east coast their home
  • Lead by a life-long Florida resident and nature photographer
  • Includes all meals, lodging, boat and ground transportation, entrance fees, photo guide and instruction
Tour Leaders
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas