10,000 Birds is running a series of articles by and about tour guides, tour companies, eco-lodges, and other birding travel organizations. We want to help the birding tourism industry come back strong from the COVID pandemic. Please consider using the services described in this post or any of the other posts we are sharing this February.
Guiding birding tours is a remarkably rewarding profession. The long hours and extended air travel are more than offset by the joy and camaraderie of sharing wild places around the world with engaged, interesting people. When the pandemic forced Field Guides to temporarily pause our tour operations in March 2020, we began to think about other ways we could put our skills to work in connecting people through the world of birds. How could we continue doing what we love—teaching folks about birds and natural history—without traveling the world physically with our tour groups?
After some deliberation within the company, we landed on the idea of an online video series, OutBirding with Field Guides. We launched the series in September 2020 with eighteen episodes, and we’ve added a new episode each week since.
The programming is diverse, and capitalizes on the particular passions of each our guides. For some of our guide-presenters, this has meant exploring the natural history of highly sought-after species (such as Connecticut Warbler, Baird’s Sparrow, Thick-billed Parrot, and Eared Quetzal), the avifauna of specific ecological regions (Amazonia, Prairie Potholes, Atlantic barrier islands), or bird identification (yellow-bellied kingbirds, raptors). Other episodes provide a window into the process of creating bird art, bringing viewers into the studio and through every step along the creative path. Since in-the-field meals are in the DNA of our Field Guides tours, we also have a Camp Kitchen category that provides ideas and instruction for preparing tasty meals in the field. As birds aren’t the only compelling critters we encounter when afield, some episodes showcase other animals such as marmosets, rattlesnakes, and scorpions, and we even have an iNaturalist tutorial. In addition to showing high-quality natural history footage, each member of our team adds their own personal style and humor to the episodes.
We’ve had a great time creating the video series, and feedback from our subscribers has been very positive. In the context of myriad social stressors that accompany these tough times, maintaining a personal connection with our long-time clients and friends has felt really important to us. In addition, the series has engaged bird enthusiasts who have never even been on a birding tour before, allowing us to reach a new audience. Being able to share our guides’ knowledge and enthusiasm with a diverse group of people over the past months has been incredibly fulfilling, and even as a growing portion of the population is vaccinated and plans for future in-person tours become more realistic, we feel like we are just getting started.
We are grateful to 10,000 Birds for the opportunity to share a bit about our labor of love. With over forty episodes up and running and many membership levels to choose from there is something for everyone. In recent months, we’ve produced trailers for each episode to give prospective subscribers a better idea of the specific content of the series. We hope you’ll come on over and check out Outbirding with Field Guides for yourself!
-Doug Gochfeld and Tom Johnson
OutBirding with Field Guides