In 2011 I wrote an article for Birding magazine about bare-naked birding. The concept is simple.
That’s right; embrace “bare-naked” birding. Find a bird, gather as much information about its identity as possible without binoculars or ﬁeld guides, hazard a guess as to its identity,then put glass to eye to conﬁrm your guess. You will quickly become sensitized to the bird’s every aspect, by noting how it presents itself in life (not just the cartoonish ﬁeld marks of ﬁeld guides) and in the ways all aspects of a bird interrelate to form a living, breathing creature.
Fermata began working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of South Texas in the early 1990s. Our first project involved developing the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail for Texas Parks and Wildlife in that area. We followed that work with the feasibility study for the World Birding Center, the strategic plan for the World Birding Center, nature tourism strategies for several of the communities there such as Mission, Weslaco, and South Padre, a feasibility study for the new centers at Weslaco and South Padre Island, and interpretive enhancements at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen.
Early in our work we assessed the economic impacts of nature tourism in key LRGV sites such as Santa Ana NWR, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the Sabal Palms sanctuary near Brownsville. At that time (at least 15 years ago) we estimated an annual impact of $125 million from nature tourism in South Texas. A number of people were surprised by that figure, and questioned its accuracy. How could birders and other nature tourists contribute so much to that economy?
It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.
A bird person may live next door, date your daughter, or drink a beer with you after work. You won’t know. Bird people are anonymous and invisible, remaining transparent unless outed by their binoculars, bird feeders, or the I Brake for Birds! sticker on the Isuzu in the driveway. Bird people are everywhere yet nowhere. Bird people are everyone yet no one.
The American Birding Association (ABA) is stumbling through one of its cyclical deconstructions. Leaders are being ousted, budgets are being thrashed, and blame is being heaped. You would think that people who watch (rather than kill or maim) birds would be placid, investing their emotional selves in an adoration of nature. Think again. This recreation is constructed around honor (and its kin, ego), and around trust in one’s word. Hunters and anglers drag their game to the scale. Birders ask to be believed. In birding, most of what you see are for others the ones that got away.