Friday, December 24, 2010

"That's our golden bird!"

My birthday was earlier this month (doesn't everyone just love to commemorate getting older?) and Sunwiggy was kind enough to buy me the first season of Birding Adventures, a birding-focused television program hosted by a guy named James Currie.

In the program, Currie, an amiable enough host (I think he said, at different points in the series, that he currently lives on the East Coast of the U.S. but is originally from South Africa)visits Florida, Guyana, Panama and California, each time specifying the "golden bird" that he is looking for, usually a rare or endangered one such as the Florida scrub jay, red-cockaded woodpecker, harpy eagle, California condor, etc. Along the way, he interacts with the local people, promotes local attractions, interviews birding guides and conservationists, and enjoys pointing out other wildlife as well as birds.

I like bird-related DVDs to watch in the winter time, when it's dark by the time I get home and the weather frequently sucks, so I can at least enjoy some birds vicariously. My two standbys are David Attenborough's wonderful The Life of Birds, and the full-length feature, Winged Migration, but I have watched those over and over, so it was nice to see something new.

For Birding Adventures, first, the minuses: it is clearly a television program, and sometimes reminded me that although channels such as Animal Planet sound really fun, I've yet to see anything on them that makes me want to spring for the cost of cable TV. The program seems aimed at a general TV audience, that is, there's a lot of filler (despite the fact that the segments are fairly short to start with), repeats of the same shots over and over, the need to "balance" out the birdy stuff with more general interest items, and lots of mildly annoying catchphrases. Also, except for the catchy theme, "Now Is the Time of Your Life" (which is, after all, how one feels on a great day of birding!), the music was pretty cheesy.

I state these things in the spirit of complete honesty, because overall the "plusses" came out slightly ahead. I liked the locations they chose, and the interviews with the conservation experts. It was nice that the program stressed the need for protecting habitat with a consistently positive spin, such as pointing out success stories and that having these wonderful birds should be a source of pride for a community. I did enjoy seeing some of the other animals he stopped to admire too, especially the extra cute silky anteater (I think that was in Panama). Overall, the series met my criteria for the perfect birding book (although this was TV): wacky adventures, birding emphasis, and a person I'd enjoy birding with. James Currie comes across as a fun birding buddy. I just wish the segments had been a bit more in depth, but I guess that's the nature of the medium.

If they release a second season, I will happily add that to my next holiday wish list. And in the meantime, as Currie says frequently in the series, "Let's go birding!"

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