Nature photographer focuses on hard-to-see birds, plants

From deep in the trees comes the voice of a bird. Even without looking up from his fishing, George Kirsch can identify it by the sound.

However, when he goes out looking for birds, plants and wildlife, he does his homework beforehand and keeps his eyes open, camera at the ready.

Kirsch, of Soldotna, said he’s always been interested in wildlife watching, but in recent years, he’s combined it with a growing love for photography.

“Bird photography is kind of what I’ve specialized in for the last seven or eight years,” he said. “I started off doing flowers and plants and all that. But I’ve kind of gone from subject to subject.”

A number of his photographs now hang on the walls of the Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai, depicting some of the rarely seen birds and plants of the Kenai Peninsula. The show, which opened Aug. 3, will be on display through the end of the month.

Originally from Montana, Kirsch spent his career as a wildlife biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. During that time, he said he spent a lot of time observing big game animals in the state’s various parks, but these days he is more interested in birds and plants. Particularly, he said he focuses on what he calls “rare things” — not necessarily endangered, but hard to see or rarely seen.

He said he’ll often spend significant time researching a subject before going out looking for it, and other times, he’ll notice something new while he and his wife are out for one of their regular hikes. He’s photographed birds in various regions of Alaska as well as in other areas of the Lower 48 during visits there.

Sometimes spotting a good subject is as simple as keeping eyes open for what may be common somewhere in the world but is rare somewhere else. One recent discovery was a rattlesnake plantain, a flower common in eastern North America that might be easy to miss, he said.

“It’s a kind of orchid (that’s) very subtle, very easy to overlook,” he said.

But after successfully locating a subject, other questions arise, such as whether to disturb the bird or plant to get a good photograph of it.

“To get really good photos in any event, sometimes you end up disturbing what you’re attempting to photograph,” Kirsch said. “… You don’t want your activities to harm them, either. Many times, I’ve passed up good photo opportunities just to not disturb things any worse than it already was.”

With some sensitive plants and birds, it’s an ethics question whether drawing more attention to it will bring harm, he said. But there’s also some opportunity to share a species with other people who may not have a chance to see the particular species, whether because of geography or the species disappearing, he said.

“I do like the think that maybe I can be in a position or allow kids, my grandkids, to appreciate things that they’ll get whatever enjoyment they can get out of it for their own personal reasons … and maybe someday they’ll be in a position where they can benefit everybody through conservation practices or casting a vote for something politically that might be good for habitat or anything,” Kirsch said. “I like to think you can influence some people through photography.”

Kirsch’s show can be seen at the Kenai Fine Arts Center on Cook Avenue in Old Town Kenai throughout August. The center is open Wednesdays through Saturdays between noon and 5 p.m.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at

More in News

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Earthquake Center provides information on a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that struck at approximately 8:18 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. The quake struck approximately 17 miles southeast of Redoubt volcano or 41 miles southwest of Kenai, Alaska, at a depth of 72.8 miles. (Screenshot)
Quake near Redoubt shakes peninsula

The quake was centered 41 miles southwest of Kenai.

From left, John Walsh, John Skelton and Pat Broaders perform at the annual Winter Concert of Traditional Irish Music at Kenai Peninsula College in Kenai, Alaska, on Jan. 24, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Irish musicians return to peninsula

John Walsh, Pat Broaders and Brenda Castles will perform Friday

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters during a news briefing on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy said he doesn’t see his acceptance of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement as hurting his relationship with the state’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial last year and whom Trump has vowed to fight in her reelection bid. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer,File)
Dunleavy says work with Murkowski endures despite Trump nod

Trump last month praised Dunleavy and offered his endorsement, provided that Dunleavy does not endorse Murkowski

The Homer City Council asks Jan Keiser, Public Works Department director, questions about the Homer Green Infrastructure Management System during the Jan. 10, 2022, worksession. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Letting nature do what it does best

New green infrastructure project to solve drainage issues

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speak at the Kenai City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Due to COVID spike, state funds to be used to cover city administrative leave

COVID cases are up 38% from last week, and have risen significantly since mid-December.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is photographed at the Kenai Peninsula Clarion office in Kenai, Alaska, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Pierce joins race for governor

The borough mayor notified local officials in an email Thursday

Laura Dewey’s art is on display at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Art of the wild

New Kenai visitor center show features the vivid colors of nature

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan.19, 2022, in Washington. In a rebuff to former President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court is allowing the release of presidential documents sought by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Supreme Court allows Jan. 6 committee to get Trump docs

Following the high court’s action, there is no legal impediment to turning over the documents

Most Read