Takahē might be flightless but they do have vestigial wings. Here the chick is excitedly waving her wings in the hope that Nio will feed her. Note the little claw at the end of the "elbow" (my bird anatomy is a bit shaky so feel free to comment if you know more about what this claw might have been for)
For more years than I can count, I've felt compelled to tell the stories of our precious wildlife, through photography, art, and writing. In late 2017, after completing the 52-week 2017 Dogwood photography challenge, I was in the market for a new challenge, but one focused more specifically on wildlife. I also wanted to encourage my Zealandia "Storyteller" volunteer team to push themselves further too. But I couldn't find anything suitable. Rather than giving up, I realized that I could just make up my own challenges and that perhaps others might be interested in joining me. So just before New Years, I came up with the Art of Birding 2018 Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge and put it out there for the world to join.
It's been a blast! I've been joined by around a hundred other photographers and artists of all ages and abilities and backgrounds and from all around the world. Some have done only a couple of challenges. A few have done them all. One person even did them all twice! But most do the ones that inspire and interest them. It's all good :)
What's been especially exciting to see is the personal development of many of the participants. And even more exciting is being able to amplify the exposure of their stories and photos that are coming out of the challenge. Pam Henderson, editor of the Artists Down Under photo-artistry magazine was quick to pick up on our group and each month publishes the upcoming challenges and a pick of the best photos from the previous month, giving participants (and the species they're advocating for) world-wide exposure. Next year, Forest & Bird magazine are interested in following what the New Zealand participants are doing.
Heartening too is seeing participants gain in confidence and taking advantage of opportunities to cover events for wildlife and conservation organizations. Some of us had our photos used by national media in New Zealand. Others have provided photos for these organizations to use for postcards, calendars, and other promotions and fund-raisers. Most post their photos to social media, but now add extra context to what they're photographing and why its important.
Every little bit makes a difference. We all have a part to play in ensuring the survival of our life-sustaining ecosystems and that includes showing others what we're losing. Making an emotional connection through stunning imagery can still be an effective way to get penetration in this over-saturated online world.
In 2019 we continue the Art of Birding journey with a series of fun challenges where the wildlife advocacy aspects are encouraged further. I'm hoping participants will not be satisfied with just posting a pretty picture but to actively do something with them. By doing each challenge and taking photographs with intention, I know they will end 2019 with a huge sense of accomplishment and a newfound skill-set.
If you'd like to join us in 2019, check out the Art of Birding 2019 Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge webpage here on this site. You'll find all the challenges, a handy calendar, links to the Facebook group and Instagram, and of course if you have any questions, you can ask in the comments below or contact me directly.
And I would especially like to thank Marion Skelton, Catherine Thompson, Kaylene Helliwell, Linton Miller and Andrew Hawke for stepping up as Facebook group moderators in 2019! These folk are kind and encouraging and I'm thankful for everything they do.
#artofbirding #artofbirding2019 #photographychallenge #52weekphotochallenge #newyearsresolution
Those all-knowing eyes! I was completely captivated by this lovely youngster - she's as bright as a button and so curious about the world. She became "Professor Polly", and she reminds me so much of a super-smart friend who became one of youngest female professors in NZ's history (who coincidentally has a daughter named Polly!).
I have long been fascinated with bird intelligence and cognition. Study after study are now showing that birds are incredibly intelligent - just this week there was news about tool-use seen in kea (the kākā's cousin) in the wild. Long gone are the days when scientists thought that tiny brains relative to body size meant tiny abilities. Birds have vastly more dense innervation allowing smarts to be packed in much more tightly than human brains. And parrots and corvids are some of the brightest.
Researchers are quite taken by the kākā as a study subject. They're cousins of the kea, who are thought to be the most intelligent bird species in the world, but kākā are rating similarly on the IQ scales. It is fascinating watching them solve the tasks the researchers set them. The thought was that as social birds they would learn by watching their friends solve problems. From what I've seen, it appears more competitive than that with each wanting to show that they can solve puzzles their own way. It was quite incredible to see how many different techniques there are to solve the simple task of acquiring a cashew nut tied to the end of a string.
Not only are kākā super intelligent but they have complex emotional and social lives. We do of course have to be careful at over-anthropomorphizing, but I fear under-anthropomorphizing has had a negative effect not just on our understanding of animal cognition but also animal welfare. They might not think or feel identically to humans, but they think and feel and we shouldn't assume less.
Judi Lapsley Miller
Fine art inspired by the stories of birds and the natural world. Starting with photographs, I let my imagination take me on flights of fancy. What is real and what is imagined is blurred. What is physical and what is virtual is disrupted. Bursting with colour and life.
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