I had the pleasure this weekend of watching Birders: The Central Park Effect and listening to a panel discussion by filmmaker Jeffrey Kimball, Yale Professor Richard Prum (Bio and an article on his work), and David Lindo aka the Urbanbirder (@Urbanbirder and his site). The film is an intimate and in-depth look at the world of birding. While it specifically focused on Birders in Central Park, the film could have been made anywhere. One of the truly special aspects of this film is that you are constantly getting lost in the scenery and you forget that you are watching nature and birds inside of New York City. The cinematography and dialogue let you get lost in the birds and passions of the birders, but will remind you that you are in the middle of an urban metropolis.
In fact, that was one of the main questions or challenges of this film. There was a great sense that birds and nature are highly adaptable creatures and that the this story might wrap up with birds not only visiting Central Park, but flourishing despite the challenges of urbanization. Yet, there is a dark shadow of what is occurring to birds and nature due to human civilization. The film does discuss the decline of birds that has been occurring for the past 40 years and references the Christmas Bird Counts that have provided lots of data collected by Citizen Scientists for just about 100 years at this point. The panel discussion also helped shed light on the birds struggles and their upcoming trials. While the future of many birds is uncertain, the future of birding is also a little uncertain. While the film does showcase a few young birders, they point to the fact that birding still has the stigma of being something old ladies do after church on Sundays. There are couple of cool monologues across different people and figures who are mentioning and defending birding as a worthwhile activity.
In the end, Birds and Birding have a questionable future. Yet where a questions remain, opportunity lies. There is a next generation of birders out there like a next generation of birding. Professor Prum outline the chances of success for many of our birds and how they are being threatened. While we are uncertain as to the specific threats, we know that we cannot allow catastrophic outcomes or the demise of birds and birders. This film goes a long way to helping non-birders see the beauty of birds in a space that they thought they knew well. I know I'll be heading off to bird there sometime soon...
Links to the Movie:
2013 List: 76 (still!)