Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What kind of birder will you be?

There's an awful lot of chatter about the Hollywood film coming out about birding big years. Well, there is in the birding community. The rest of society has no idea about our world really, now do they? I'll have to reserve judgement on the film. The above trailer doesn't fill me with confidence but that doesn't mean anything. Trailers can be deceiving. At the very least, people that never knew birding even existed will know it after this. But will it bring anyone new into the realm of birding. I kind of doubt it. My guess is that most folks will come away saying, "Those birders are silly." Too bad if thats the case because the book was really amazing. Hopefully we will see some other interesting takes on birding films, preferably more real and less Hollywood. Maybe that can grab a few people to be our new birders.

I guess I'm writing this post in response to a couple of others I've read recently on the subject of new birders and how they will change birding. Gunnar and Alvan have both written on the subject.

I want more people to be birders. Lots more. But as to what kind of birder they'll be, I just don't care. As long as they are in it for love. Some might want to photograph them (I personally have no interest in that side of it), some may want to be crazy listers (I don't really do that much either [beyond my 2011 big year]), some may just want to be feeders (like my mom) and some might want to get deep into the world of bird ID (I like that but it's not everything to me). What's most important is that they love the birds in their own way, respect the birds boundaries and share their passion with somebody else.

I don't think we should limit the way we get new birders. Let's welcome them all in with open arms, teach them as much as they want to know and give them nothing more than what they want. As long as they appreciate and love birds, they'll be much more inclined to care about their survival and therefore be more inclined to care about our planetary ecosystem. Who cares if they're only doing it to continue to get their Blue Jays and Chickadees to their feeder, as long as they're doing it.

I work in advertising and most advertisers see the huge value (to their brands) of youth. They are a powerful group of consumers and advertisers take full advantage of that. I don't always agree with the way they do it but we birders can learn from them. We should target youth and try to bring them into the fold at a young age. If they grow up appreciating the natural beauty of birds, that can only translate into good things for the environment. Check out this blog of a young Californian birder. We need more people as devoted as he is to seeing a bird. (lost this link, will add it soon).

In case you're wondering. I went out birding Sunday morning, trying desperately to squeeze in a couple species before taking the kids to a birthday party of a friend form school by 10:30am. I'm not sure what the hell I was thinking since the drive to the spot is and hour, the drive home is an hour. It left me with about 25 minutes of birding. I guess it was worth a shot. I found nothing I went looking for, though my friend Richard saw them the very next day.

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year


  1. I, too, am a bit wary of this film, given the trailers. It just looks lousy. However, it seems to have already increased the number of birders; Steve Martin has apparently been bitten by the bug.

  2. I'm glad I'm not alone on that. My hope is that the director got great stuff. These actors are all capable of good work, it's the director that needs to make it happen...

    Maybe Steve will let me interview him. I won't hold my breath.

  3. Hi Paul,

    I hope this film will be a positive reflection on the birding world, though I fear it won't be. I wonder how much influence Steve had in the content/direction. The fact that it stars some big comedy talents does not bode well for the films direction (IMHO)!

    I like you comments on birders; we certainly don't need to fit a specific mold (I certainly don't). I agree with your opinion that the only important thing is that they do it for the love of it. Without people interested in birds, we would have no way of protecting them!

    Hope you manage to add a few new species for the year in the coming weeks!

    Tristan (Binocularface)

  4. Thanks Binface. can i call you binface? Hey, I'm getting tattoos tonight. 3 hour session...

  5. I absolutely love this book and have been really excited about the movie until I saw the first trailer. I really hope they focus on their big year quests and don't make a huge mockery of something we all love so much.

    You are dead on about igniting interest in the youth. The more people who love birds the more people we have protecting them.

  6. Hey there! I just came across your blog from a comment you posted on, very cool! I'm a bit of a pessimist and think the movie will probably make fun of birding to some degree, but I'm going to go see it for myself (plus I'm a Jack Black fan). It's possible that it could turn some twenty-something-year-olds into birders. I never got into birding when I was young. I didn't even know what birding was until college. It took one bird-loving professor with a lab with taxidermied warblers and a mist-netting field trip and I was sold. I'm a 29-year-old woman turned bird nerd, and I'm the kind that has gone intensely into bird ID by sight and sound. :-)

  7. Thanks for the compliment Lindsey. I'm trying to keep positive about the film. All those actors are capable of good stuff. It's the director I worry about. I'm not such a huge fan of his other films but never the less this should be good for birding. Any exposure is good exposure. For me, it's what the real community does in the wake of this Hollywood effort that could make a real dent...

    I've been a birder since I was really young but never really got in to the heavy listing or extreme ID stuff. This big year I'm doing has been tough but I've met so many wonderful people...

    I hope you keep following my adventures. There's some interesting stuff to come.

    Paul Riss