Bird Photography with Gay Bird Explorers

By Norwegian Chef.

I am sitting in today for Lineatus, who is out banding raptors.  Lineatus asked me to write a diary about our  Bird Explorers Project. This is a conservation and environmental education project created by my partner, Polish Chef, and I to promote birds and wildlife generally through digital photography with a particular focus on endangered species and species in very remote areas.

My interest in birdwatching started when I was very young at the hands of my Great Aunt Avis May Herrick of Mayfield, Fulton Co., New York up in the old Adirondacks where my mother's family had their roots. Aunt May was the sister of my maternal grandfather.

Largely through the influence of Aunt May and other family members who nurtured my interest in wildlife and science, I grew up determined from a young age to be a wildlife and environmental advocate, and never strayed from this path.  I got my degrees in science and environmental law.

After I finished my education, I got a Fulbright Scholarship to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to work as a legal and scientific officer for the Ministry of Environment and Conservation. In 1994 I also met my soul mate and life partner Polish Chef who likewise loved nature and wildlife.

Throughout much of this time, both Polish Chef and I had a good general interest in photography, but concentrated mostly on landscapes as the technology for bird photography was very large and unwieldy, and the whole process very expensive especially considering the cost of film.

However in the early 2000s, a few technical changes occurred to make bird photography far more technically easy and much more affordable. This of course involved the digital photography revolution combined with the invention of modern image stabilisers. 

Our first trip was to New Caledonia the day after we bought the camera in search of the rare and endangered Kagu.  As my Aunt May always said, Natures fortunes smile on those who protect Nature, and to our luck in the depths of the deep, darkling New Caledonian rainforest, we encountered what must have been the world's most cooperative Kagu.  

These Kagu pictures quickly made their way around the internet and were all the rage for some time, still featured to this day on the main website of the Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie and also on ARKive.

This initial trip yielded some other cool birds that are rarely photographed.

That first trip turned out so well and was so much fun that Polish Chef and I vowed we were never going to stop until we had photographed every bird in the world in an effort to promote the beauty and conservation of these wondrous creatures. Four years, seven continents and many great adventures later we are now closing in on the 25% mark of the 9,700+ bird species out there.

Our huge Australian photo collection of over 500 species makes up about 70% of the Australian Museum's current photo collection for their bird website.

Our 2005 expedition to the Kenya, Ethiopia border country is now featured in the current edition of the Africa Bird Club Bulletin. This was a great trip deep into the heart of bandit country to find the very rare Masked Lark.

Also our Spinifex Pigeon has just made the front cover of School Magazine, the monthly reader for primary students.  This is great as it promotes bird photography and conservation to a very young audience.

Anyway, that is a bit of a pictorial overview of Bird Explorers.  We have now upgraded to the Canon EOS 20D Digital SLR Camera body and Canon EOS 30D Digital SLR Camera body but continue to use the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens as our main zoom lens due to its versatility.

Getting back to my Great Aunt May. Although her body now rests beneath the glacial soil of the southern Adirondacks, I know her spirit is always there with us in the rainforests, deserts, mountains and valleys.

When Polish Chef and I sit back in our rockers when we are old and grey, we will be comforted in all the great adventures and memories that we have had together, and the knowledge that long after we return to dust, our photos will continue to bring the beauty of birdlife and nature to generations who will come after, and may be the only shots of some species before they too disappear forever.

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