It may be wise to understand that we are also wildlife.

I like birds. I like watching them. I love to photograph them. I follow social media entities about birds and wildlife photography. My email feed receives daily messages from bird and wildlife special interest groups and organizations, of which I consistently devour. I maintain seed in the bird feeders of my front yard more regularly than the food in my pantry. If I’m having an unpleasant day, all I need is to capture a photograph of a bird and suddenly my mood is uplifted. 

I spend many hours doing all of the aforementioned with little concern of consequence. Admittedly, I find myself drawn to similar feelings expressed by the famous avian illustrator and naturalist John James Audubon:

“…I looked on nature only; my days were happy beyond human conception, and beyond this I really cared not.”

It’s an interest, yes. But it’s probably more of an obsession. I’m simply hooked on birds. 

I’m not alone. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, over 45 million people are watching birds, contributing nearly $80 billion to the U.S. economy through the purchase of equipment and travel

My interest in birds, I suspect, is related to what avifauna have and continue to symbolize to humans the world over: freedom and a connection between us earth dwellers and the heavens. Primarily because of their ability to fly, our imaginations take over and we project our own feelings on birds, perceiving their lives to be carefree and filled with adventure. The reality, however, may be anything but.

If there is one parallel between our species and birds that should be exploited, it is our collective reliance on biodiversity, natural resources and the health of the planet which we both inhabit. Like the proverbial canary in a coal-mine, birds tell us how well our planet is doing. Because they are a species that will accommodate their travel for conducive climate conditions, their migration patterns tell us about the most livable parts of the world. Their habitats, or lack of, tell us where the most abundant food sources exist or if these sources are compromised. Their survival–as with all living things–tell us, or perhaps will foreshadow for us, our own. 

I’m a selfish human. I want birds to continue to be abundant because I want to continue to see, hear, enjoy and, of course, photograph them. The world will keep spinning regardless of how many birds are around. Likewise, it will keep spinning regardless of how many of us humans are around too. My preference is to have a world that’s comfortable and enjoyable, not just tolerable. Birds can help us measure that. It may be wise to understand that we are also wildlife.

If you enjoy looking at my images, thank you. I’m happy if they bring you a bit of joy. However, if I’ve done my job well, you may look at these images and see stories, messages, or an urgent memo for our times.

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