To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them…Elliott Erwitt
How many Americans watch birds? How many Americans care to know how many Americans watch birds? More importantly, at least for this essay, how many Americans photograph birds and wildlife, and, in general, nature?
The Outdoor Foundation, in its annual Outdoor Participation Report, estimated that around 14 million Americans watched birds in 2013. That number, around 4.9% of the population age 6 and older, has been relatively stable since 2007.
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.
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.