Monday, July 16, 2012

Birdwatchers' alert: HBO screens Jeffrey Kimball's BIRDERS: The Central Park Effect

Making its debut tonight on HBO, from 9-10 pm (Eastern and Pacific times), BIRDERS is a sweet and infor-mative documen-tary about bird-watching in New York City's Central Park, a public place filled with so many human beings that the untutored eye would not expect to find a vast array of bird species. Yet here they are (granted, many of them stop off during their migration), captured by the camera and the flock of birders (bird-watchers) that the film's producer/director, Jeffrey Kimball (shown below), allows us to meet and even get to know a bit. A sure bet for bird-watchers, the program should also prove a generally delightful and informative 60 minutes for anyone with even a modest interest in birds, New Yorkers and Central Park.

Though we meet at least one famous birder (Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections and The Twenty-Seventh City) and another of whom birders may have heard (Starr Saphir, the septuagenarian matriarch of Central Park bird-watching), most of the people we encounter here are "just folk" who have a lot of interesting things to tell us and who open our eyes to the joys they've discovered via this evidently rather addicting hobby.

It can be quite addicting, Franzen notes, adding that he must do it, even though he knows he is using valuable morning work time that will not be returned to him again. But, no: "It's really just biophilia -- the love of the natural world," explains another birder, Jonathan Rosen.

Birders comes in all ages, colors and probably creeds, though thankfully, we don't get into the latter subject (there are undoubtedly some fundamentalists somewhere who would declare this hobby objectionable to the great one). Among of the most charming of the people we meet is Chris Cooper (no, not the actor: the black man shown above), who gives a wonderful explanation of why he does this and what he gets out of it -- his "seven pleasures of birding."

Another very pretty young woman, the fifteen-year-old Anya Auerbach (above,with binoculars), talks about feeling protective of the birds, and also of the "geek factor" found in how birdwatchers are often seen by outsiders. I don't think you'll see Ms Auerbach as any sort of geek.

So what about the birds? They're here, all right, from our standard pigeons and occasional hawks to the geese, the gulls and the more exotic of the migrating species. Above is a variant on the Scarlet Tanager, below a Black and White Warbler. One of my favorite shots is of a little duck stepping gingerly on the slippery ice of a mid-winter Central Park pond.

Halfway along these fast-moving sixty minutes, we learn some sad statistics: nearly a quarter of the Central Park species now show a 50% decline, and Starr Saphir has been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. But she goes on -- following her joy of bird-watching and teaching others how -- and so do the birds, albeit in lesser quantity. Birders: The Central Park Effect is an hour well spent.

Making its cable TV debut tonight on HBO, the documentary will screen again multiple times, with more than 30 showings on various HBO channels throughout the remainder of July. It will also be available OnDemand from HBO through September 3, 2012. You can -- with a lot of effort -- find the various channels and showings by clicking here and then clicking on the word Schedule toward the bottom right of the screen and then clicking your heart out from here to eternity. Surely HBO could make finding all the showings of a particular program a little easier than this? Good luck.

3 comments:

Zumi said...

I am glad that I came across to your blog. I love watching birds
also because for me, they can help us to relax. Thank you.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for your comment, Zumi. I agree: Birdwatching can be very relaxing. You can really lose yourself in it. And I'll bet you have a lot of interesting species in the Philippines that we don't have here.

Zumi said...

Your welcome sir James, my pleasure to visit your post. So true that watching bird is very relaxing. When I am in the province we use to watching birds as they fly and sometimes they form a design. Yup Philippines has a lot of birds species here which you will love.