Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Birders: The Central Park Effect' Aims to Make Birdwatching Cool

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Birders: The Central Park Effect' Aims to Make Birdwatching Cool

Article excerpt

Birders have always had a bum rap as binocular-wearing geeks. Jeffrey Kimballs documentary, Birders: The Central Park Effect, aims to change all that. First broadcast on HBO and now released into theaters, its an affectionate movie about people who are delightedly obsessional about all manner of birds, specifically the more than 100 species that congregate at various times of the year in New Yorks Central Park about one quarter of the total bird species in the United States and Canada.

Kimball is himself a birder, which means he isnt condescending to the dozen or so birders he interviews. And although this is his first feature film (hes spent most of his career doing sound work in movies), he knows how to capture revelatory shots of birds in flight or in repose. The trick is patience. A lot of patience. Hours can be spent waiting for that one moment when a red-tailed hawk or a hermit thrush alights or takes to the sky.

Most of the people he interviews are defiantly upfront about their passion. Chris Cooper (not the actor) says that birding turns every morning into a treasure hunt. His friends understand that from the high migration dates of April 15 to Memorial Day, they wont see me nowhere.

Jonathan Rosen says, If youre not out birding, youre missing something, not just intellectually but almost in a bodily way. Its just some deep human impulse really.

Jonathan Franzen (yes, the author) talks about the first time he really noticed the birds in Central Park it was as if the trees were hanging with ornaments. Hes very funny about the usefulness of birding as a way of avoiding writing, but its clear that the head- clearing that comes with it is vital. (Although not mentioned in the movie, Franzens New Yorker essay My Bird Problem is one of the best pieces ever written about how birding can change ones life. …

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