Creative: Channels I Love, The Birder’s Show

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Welcome to a new series titled “Channels I Love.” YouTube is a wonderful tool for many things, but YouTube can also be a quagmire of epic proportion leading one down the rabbit hole of unboxing videos, street “photographer” wunderkind and swamp buggy racing. People shamelessly using softcore porn to sell just about anything and everything. From living in one’s car to bushcraft survival to global sailing. I refer to this technique as “Thong on thumbnail.” Once you go down that road, in my opinion, you can’t really be taken seriously again. (This technique works people, just look at the view counts. A lot of lonely men out there.)

So how nice is it to find a channel that looks and feels just right? As many of you know, I started “seriously” birding just two short years ago after developing a relationship with two jays that nested on my patio, and would describe myself as a fumbling birder with an identification problem. Field guides open, e-Bird sucking my battery dry and me standing there uttering “That’s not it.” And when people ask if I’m a birder I answer with “No, I’m just paying attention for the first time in my life.”

You might think that birds only began to enter my mind two years ago but that’s not quite true. My mother was an amateur birder who also suffered from an identification problem. As a kid growing up on a ranch in Wyoming I was surrounded by birds. Golden Eagles and hummingbirds were the main course.

Our front porch held a hummingbird feeder and leaving the house put you in the front row for a battle royal each and every day. The Rufous, a copper torpedo coming in hot with tail flared, clearing out the feeder was one of my favorite things in the world. But my mother could never identify anything. Any hawk could be any hawk. Her Halliburton case was ever present. Filled with binoculars, Pentax K1000 and a barrage of lenses. Looking up, she would say “Oh, there’s a Red-tailed hawk…no, it’s a Cooper’s hawk….no, wait, it’s a Ferruginous hawk.” An hour later she would see an hawk and the process would repeat while we sat shaking our heads.

My father hunted birds. But that’s a story for another day.

Several weeks ago, I came across a YouTube channel that caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you. I know that many of you don’t spend much time thinking about birds, but remember, birding and photography are linked. In fact, when I see someone with a 100mm-400mm almost without fail they are attached to birding in some way. Could be hot and heavy or casual but that lens in particular is a real tell.

The channel in question is The Birder’s Show. What first caught my attention was their logo which I think is well done, has the right feel and even has a bit of automation. Their logo is graphic but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Clicking on a random film I was greeted with truly solid production, great sound and smart editing. Not too much drone, not too many jump cuts that always make me feel like I’ve had too much coffee.

The show’s protagonists are Chris Bell and biologist Diego Calderon-Franco who I believe are both based in Colombia.(Don’t hold me to this.) The show consists of interviews, field work and a range of other things. Simple, short, and again, well produced. But here’s the rub. When I first noticed the show I took one quick look at their subscriber count and THOUGHT I saw 241,000. I thought “Cool, that feels about right,” especially after reading somewhere that twenty seven million Americans identify as birders. But upon further inspection I noticed their count was in fact 2,410. (FFS I have over 10,000.)

This of course sent me into a rant about how disappointing the modern human actually is. How does some untrained, unskilled, frankly uninteresting person living in a van have three quarters of a million subscribers? Damnit, the thong! Burned again. I kept going back to The Birder’s Show and noticed that the channel is connected to something called “WhereNext,” which they describe as a “Bird-Loving, Storytelling Agency.” How F^%^%$# cool is that? Not to mention their story began with a long distance cycling tour. Something dear to my heart. They also have a newsletter if you so chose.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, I texted a friend in Peru, someone I used to co-teach photography and bookmaking workshops with. I sent the image below and asked “Ever doing any birding in Colombia or Peru.” Sixty-seconds later my phone rang. An hour later I had an email outlining a five year workshop plan for both Peru and Colombia, some of which now had birding attached.

I’m not a professional birder. Never will be. And frankly, compared to the average birder I know next to nothing. You know how hectic my creative life is, so dedicating significant time to birding just won’t happen for the foreseeable future, but what I love about birding is that I can tuck it in no matter where I am. When I teach in Albania in May of this year I’ll have binoculars with me and my guide book as well. Will this be my primary focus? No, not by a long shot, but it will be a small part of my experience and one that I feel helps me bind with whatever location I find myself in.

Back to The Birder’s Show. Check it out, check them out. Subscribe if you feel like it. My goal here is simply to bring to your attention a channel I feel is doing it right. The story here isn’t the people behind the channel. The story is bird. In an era when many creative turn the camera on themselves at a relentless and sometimes agonizing pace, it’s nice to see someone’s true love, and dedication, come through their channel without making me feel like I’m staring at a used car lot. Onward.