Timothy Barksdale is a birder, Prairie Chicken documentarian, and wildlife videographer well-known for his stunning Adventures with Birdman. He’s got a different view on how bird watchers should respond to The Big Year than the one Corey recently expressed here. We’re pleased to share his thoughtful perspective and plea for your consideration…
Dear Friends and Lovers of Birds,
On Friday, October 14th, to my knowledge, the first feature film with the subject being Birding ever made, with any intent to portray birders as human beings, will be released. I am already on record that the story will effectively change birding forever. Because, in between the moments of comedy- beyond the errors of ornithological expertise- lies a story about people who share passions, compete over numbers, and care about the birds. That is a very human thing and from what I know, I believe this film will bring out the humanness of birding along with so many other wonderful aspects.
During my 20 years of filming birds for television and producing products for broadcast, I can not tell you how many times I have heard stupid statements from executives along the lines of “Tim, we are not really interested in shows about birds” or the classic ” Birds just don’t do anything interesting, do they”….
These stereotypes have gradually begun to break down over the years. But in certain sectors- including advertisers- they simply do not get birding nor do they feel birding is a segment of the economy.
When Corey wrote his ideas about spending money on blogs and birders, I felt a very familiar feeling that I have felt for many years: Why are there not 20 birding shows and a Television BIRD NETWORK?
However, I reacted totally differently. In my public speaking to various birding groups over the years, I have been trying to get birders to take more responsibility for the place we find ourselves. We have to take baby steps to promote our way of life.
If you want to do something to help Birding advance as well as help birds worldwide please go see this film and encourage every person you know to do so as well — Every person who knows you love birds, and all of your relatives too. If you can not go Friday then do it this weekend. Do not hesitate, Do not Pass Go.
Advertisers, press and Monday morning news, Hollywood and how people see birders are the issue. If we have a very good box office on the first weekend- the film will stay in theaters longer. People will notice as the film racks up dollars. Advertisers will notice. As our hardcore group of birding attendees- will dwindle at some point, other groups perhaps more interested in the actors or a segment of more family oriented viewers will then take over from us. The more money this film generates the better for birds and conservation in every way.
“Hold it,” you stammer. “How will that help birders? I don’t see how they are connected.”
Simple business. Winged Migration, March of the Penguins, and Pale Male each made money for the producers. If The Big Year makes a good return, birding and birders change. More shows on birds will developed and more series too. The young person who now longs to lead birding tours full time has a real chance to earn a decent living. The bird artist who would like to make a decent living will be able to better compete against the few bird artists currently remaining financially successful. The revenues for every aspect of our lives will increase.
Money will spill over to sponsor research projects, money to support nature centers, money to fund education. The better this film does on the first weekend is critically important to us and the birds.
How will it help Birds?
Even though we spend more money and are far more numerous than hunters this is not commonly understood. Our age demographic is skewed a tiny bit to certain age segment- which while we see ourselves as a very desirable audience, advertisers tend to want a younger 23-54 year old group. We tend to be slightly older than that.
The figures released by the United State Fish and Wildlife Service show there are millions of us…. so… since I am from the state of Missouri: Show Me. Or perhaps even better Show Them.
Go to the theaters with your binoculars show everyone We Are Birders.
Please spread this message to every list serve and every birder you can this week. From the Cerulean Warbler whose home will not be removed by dynamite in West Virginia to the Greater Prairie Chicken who will be hatched on a restored prairie sponsored by a new company who understands for the first time that birders care about birds.