“I hope my work honors all creatures regardless of size or recognition.” — Jim Roetzel
People and Birds
Wherever you go, birds are all around. Sometimes they are fleeting flashes of bright color. Other times they capture our attention, dazzling us with their singing, their variety, and their feats of endurance. As neighbors who share our spaces, they can be charming—or annoying. Artists are attracted to their beauty. For park scientists, studying birds is a way to measure the health of our environment. What comes to your mind when you think about birds?
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Earth Day turned 50 on April 22, 2020. What do birds tell us about the state of our environment? This slideshow of images by Jim Roetzel explores conservation successes and emerging challenges at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.
Begin by looking closely at this portrait of a black-capped chickadee. As regulars at bird feeders, they are familiar to many people. What do you see in its expression? Jim Roetzel commented, “I am very impressed by small birds. They don’t get photographed nearly as much as top predators such as hawks, owls, and eagles. However, they deserve to be photographed with the same zeal and craft as the larger stars of the avian world. What I particularly like about this image is the pose. There is a suggestion of movement—just before the chickadee flies off—and the look in the chickadee’s eyes. I don’t remember what made it look up, but I think this makes the shot.”
Chickadees are known for being bold and curious. Their habits don’t bring them into conflict with people. In contrast, Canada geese are big and aggressive and often hang out in large groups. We might enjoy looking up at their honking V-formations heading south in autumn, but stepping through goose poop is no fun. In this portrait, the goose is running off a rival at Kendall Lake. “You can usually anticipate a charge by noticing its head and neck going down almost level to the ground or water. That is a warning sign,” noted Roetzel. Tensions are especially high during spring courtship.
If you could photograph a favorite bird, consider what would make the character of the bird shine. Remember the animal comes first, not the photograph. Respect its wildness and follow each park’s rules of distance and approach. In general, don’t do anything that makes wildlife change its behavior because of your presence.
Meet Jim Roetzel
“You have to be out in the wild almost every day to be good at this. Being outside matters most. The camera is just a way to share my walks with others.”
Last updated: May 7, 2020