Saturday, August 05, 2006

The exhibit is up!

I spent three hours this morning hanging my photographs (not as easy as it looks) and I'm pretty pleased with the way the project turned out. If you can't make it to the Madison Public Library to see it, you can always look at the images in my online bird digiscoping gallery.

They said I could place an artist's statement with my exhibit (far right). Rather than blather on about the digiscoping technique, I thought I would pay tribute to the birds, so here's what I wrote:

The Natural Beauty of Wisconsin's Birds

Birds have captured our intrigue and imagination with their freedom of flight since the dawn of civilization - symbols of birds are featured in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Greek myths. Their sprightly behavior, elegant feathers and exquisite songs have inspired art and poetry across the ages.

With their innate and uncanny ability to use celestial navigational strategies, birds might be thought of as the first astronomers. They can detect the Earth's magnetism, sense the circumpolar movement of the stars and use the solar photoperiod (length of day) as cues that tell them when it's time to leave and how far they should fly.

Many of the birds pictured in this exhibit are migratory - they do not stay in Wisconsin during the winter and travel south to warmer climates where food can be found. They will fly hundreds or thousands of miles each year between their breeding and wintering grounds as a matter of survival. The Solitary Sandpiper (pictured in this exhibit) flies from near the Arctic Circle where it nests to as far south as Argentina and Uruguay.

The 1993 Monroe and Sibley checklist puts the number of bird species worldwide at 9,702 and over 300 can be observed right here in Wisconsin. Birds have ruled the skies for over 80 million years, but they base their homes closer to the ground on diverse habitats that include desert, prairie, forest, wetland, tropics, lakes and oceans and sometimes even your backyard.

Throughout the world many bird populations are in decline because there is less habitat for them to survive. According to a study by Standford University up to 10 percent of bird species are likely to become extinct by the year 2100. Their way of life often collides with ours as millions birds perish each year during migration. Great efforts in conservation are helping to tip the balance back in their favor, but there is still much work to be done.

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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