For the YBN/Global Big Day on May 8, I was going to bike along the beaches of Oregon’s Coast in search of some of my favorite birds which happen to be shorebirds. On top of trying to see how many species I could see, I was also determined to get some good photos for my photo library so I spent quite a bit of time photographing the shorebirds I came across.
As a photographer, I always try to capture birds in their natural habitat, but on this day, I found it hard to photograph birds in their stunning pristine habitat because it was quite developed where I was. In the past, I would have tried all I could to cut out the industrialism and human impacts on this habitat, but instead, I decided to embrace the birds where they were and capture the world from their eyes the best I could. It wasn’t untiI I started looking through my photos that I realized what I had captured. Instead of the usual beautiful bird photos I usually get, this set of photos gave me a completely new perspective on the world.
As a human, I go around life seeing the world in one way. The places I birded on this day are “good birding spots,” “tourist towns,” “busy beaches,” “busy fishing ports,” and “fun places to visit,” but taking these photos gave me a perspective of what the birds see when they see these places and our impact on them. The endangered Snowy Plover nesting only feet away from a busy beach trail, the Marbled Godwit foraging across from the busy fishing harbor, which once was also feeding mudflats, and the Pacific Golden-Plover being flushed every few minutes by beachgoers. Each of these birds is affected by us but barely noticed. These photos really captured for me the impact we have on birds, not from the human perspective, but from the perspective of each of these birds. What do they see? What do they experience?
A study published last year (Kenneth V. Rosenberg, et. al. Decline of the North American Avifauna. Science 04 Oct 2019 : 120-124) found that America has lost 2.9 billion birds in the last 50 years, with shorebirds experiencing a 37% decline. People around the world were shocked, outraged, and saddened by this finding. Yet, when you take a moment to actually see the situation from a bird's perspective, it’s no wonder that they have declined so much. We, humans, affect these birds for their whole lives but never see our impact on them from their eyes. In fact, most people don’t even see them even though they walk right past them (and flush them)!
I ended my big day after 13 hours 40 minutes after having biked over 40 miles and finding 122 species, 18 of which were shorebirds. I hope these photos give you a glimpse into the world of these birds that we will impact for their whole lives. When you change your perspective, the world transforms. This is why I watch birds - they give me perspective on the world that I wouldn’t otherwise see. Changing our perspective, and thus the context, of how we are impacting these birds will give us access to actually making a positive impact on these feathered travelers.
Take a look at these photos again and try, just for a minute, to see the world from each of these birds' eyes. What new perspective do you see?