8 Creators Who Teach Us About Birds

Here are 8 creators from all over the world, working in various mediums from photography to needle-felting to poetry, whose work teaches us about birds — how they live, how to look at them, and how they can inspire.
Forest Guardians Birds 1
Whether you are in the city or the countryside, a tropical or colder clime, and whether you know the names of different species or not — you have lived your life among birds. Yet even though they may be familiar, most of us don’t really look at the birds scattering at our feet, soaring above, or creating a background track of song and chatter.
The time is now to pay attention to birds. We realized the true dire extent of bird population decline only within the last few years, but it has been happening for decades. In North America, there are nearly 3 billion birds less than in 1970, including 1 billion less in North American forests. That is a 30% decline in wild bird populations across 529 species, a massive net population change that indicates radical deterioration of many ecosystems. This cannot be ignored.
Scientists and conservationists are actively working on these issues, but they aren’t the only significant players when it comes to taking action in response to biodiversity loss. One thing we need is an attention revolution, in which we rediscover the life that lives alongside us in wonderful and varied ways. The first step in making a difference for birds is remembering to notice them.
All over the world, artists and makers are melding creation with celebration of nature and environmental activism to create works that intrigue, amaze, and urge us to care more meaningfully about our planet. Here are 8 creators from all over the world, working in various mediums from photography to needle-felting to poetry, whose work teaches us about birds — how they live, how to look at them, and how they can inspire.
Will Valentine

Will Valentine (@wills_birdbrain)

Will is a birder based in Washington state, where the landscapes of mountains, rivers and oceans motivate him to share with his camera “even the small, mundane details others may pass by.” One of Will’s mantras is that you don’t need a fancy camera to get great bird photos, nor do you need to go very far. “I think photography’s role,” he says, “is to show us not only the splendid beauty of far away lands…but also how special our own ‘backyards’ can be.”
On his Instagram, Will shares diverse moments of bird life from juvenile herons peeking out of a nest, to a Caspian Tern fishing, to handsome Red-Winged Blackbirds — the species that first got Will hooked. He says that photographing birds started out as a learning tool for him, and he continues that with each new post, often accompanied by warm and witty captions that ask us all to find those moments of wonder and humor in nature.

“To the world I would say, slow down. Take a breath and look around next time you’re outside. It’s amazing what you’ll find. Even in the heart of the city, nature has an amazing way of being present. Say hi to a seagull, run your hand through some grass, let the rain come down on you. Just slow down for those little things and the magic will begin.”

Aimee (@therobinsnestfibreart)

Aimee creates her needle-felted birds from a unique studio: a floating narrowboat in rural Leicestershire named The Robin’s Nest, which is also her home. She started felting as a hobby, and birds at the feeder were companions during a time of illness. Now, Aimee has turned her hobby and the inspiration from those birds into a flourishing practice. Aimee exhibits her colorful and amazingly detailed woolen bird sculptures on Instagram, each complete with realistic feet, beaks, and plumage of incredible accuracy and texture.
Aimee also believes that nature can be a healing force and should be brought into the mental health conversation. “Even small glimpses, such as watching the birds from my window,” she says, “lifts my spirits.” With her art and workshops at the Squirrel At Wellsborough, Aimee guides people to find joy in the details of nature, whether in birds or the natural fibre of wool.
“I think that art, even if it doesn’t have an obvious environmental message, makes people stop and look closely at its subject and (hopefully) admire it. The more people who admire the beauty that our natural world provides, the more likely they are to want to protect it.”
You can learn more about Aimee at her website and buy one of her beautiful birds on Etsy.

D.M. Velay (@offth_ewall)

Writer and artist D.M. Velay combines bright digital illustrations with thought-provoking stanzas. Velay writes poetry inspired by many phenomena of our world, from baguettes to the Celtic language, but much of her work on Instagram invites the reader into the rhythms, sights, and amusements of nature, including those of birds. Her poem titled Sparrows conjures a familiar sight, but with distinct tenderness and a bit of humor:

Quick like mice and full of lice

They swarm the garden looking for

love, and crumbs, and seeds,

until the wind scoops them up

and flings them – chirping –

back into the trees.

Velay says that writing has allowed her “to create imaginary relationships” with the birds she observes in her garden on the North West Coast of Ireland. She feels there is “a touch of something otherworldly” in this region and she “only has to glance out of the window to become entranced and inspired by what’s out there.” I think we can feel the same way about Velay’s poems, as windows into scenes where sea sparrows are ”chirping sea shanties” and swifts “vanish up the magician’s sleeve of night.
In our image-crazed world, we can sometimes forget the power of just a few words, but like many poets before her, Velay’s work guides us into perceiving what we might not have otherwise.
“I believe in the power of words to influence others. Poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but like any of the art forms, it has the potential to elevate the beauty of our natural world, or to highlight the damages we are doing to it, and therefore to inspire us to take better care of it (if we are able to).”
Learn more about Velay’s work and upcoming poetry collection at her website, The Longest Dream.

Sunčana Barbarić (@lifeofsunnyday)

Sunčana Barbarić comes from the pearl of the Adriatic, the city of Dubrovnik, in Croatia. Although she doesn’t paint scenes of Dubrovnik often, she says “the beauty and energy of the place has always been a huge inspiration to everything I do.” Sunčana has also always admired birds: “How they move so elegantly in the sky, and chirp the most beautiful melodies. How they come in so many different colors: from white, turquoise, to red, green, yellow and many more.”
These inspirations are clear in Sunčana’s most recent collection of paintings, which depict girls and birds together in bold colors with white outlining. The personalities of both girl and bird radiate from each piece. “I wanted to show how one reflects the other,” she says, “and the importance of human connection with nature.”
Her paintings include a diversity of bird subjects from the European Bee-Eater (pictured above) to the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan.
“Birds in my work are also meant to show us the spiritual part of a girl…the aura that she reflects to the world. Their relationship is so strong, that they are as one, as we should be with nature.”

Kaitlin Hoyt (@kaitlinhoyt)

New Brunswick-based artist Kaitlin Hoyt only recently reconnected with the nature of her childhood. She remembers seeing a pair of Cedar Waxwings in the Spring of 2019, and feeling the magic from that “moment of discovery.” Now, nature is the subject for most of Kaitlin’s work.
“Art has a way of re-contextualizing nature and provides viewers with a different perspective of something they might see every day. My hope is that by getting this fresh look, they begin to see nature with a little more attentiveness and curiosity. In order to cultivate personal responsibility for the planet I think we must first show people how incredible even the most common plant or animal is.”
Kaitlin was already finding herself drawn to birds as subjects, intrigued and inspired by their “interesting shapes and personalities.” Then, in the face of Covid-19 quarantine and cancellations, Kaitlin decided to “do something crazy” and paint a different bird every day for 100 days.
The “100 Birds Project” as she called it, has been a great success. The colors and smooth textures of her gouache birds evoke a kind of magic and wonder, yet at the same time the paintings are delightfully educational and can teach anyone a lot about bird identification and anatomy. You can see every bird Kaitlin painted at her online shop.
When asked what she would tell the world about nature, Kaitlin said to “get curious. Once you start thinking about how infinitely complex each creature is, how they are so carefully designed, about their relationships with each other and their environment… THAT is true magic.”

Tobias (@swisswildlifephotography)

Tobias is known as @swisswildlifephotography on Instagram, where he curates a stunning gallery of his own wildlife photography, featuring many birds from his home country of Switzerland. Tobias is an expert in looking around his village for wildlife. “I think it is not necessary to travel around the world, because you have beautiful subjects right next to you,” he says.
The clean colors and detail, softness of the birds’ plumage, serene backgrounds and authentic moments make Tobias’s photos an absolute pleasure to explore. In each one you can note the way light, leaves or water interact with the bird, and many give us fascinating peeks into a bird’s life. This photo, for example, shows how a juvenile European Coot, or Blässhuhn, used a reed for an umbrella in the rain.

“I love birds and being in nature, and this hobby combines both. You never know what you are going to see or capture when you’re outside. I think that this combination is why I love it.”

Chloe Morter (@chloemorterdesign)

Chloe Morter brings birds to life with multicolored, multi-textured backgrounds in her embroidery collages made with needle, thread, and fabric. Chloe stitches each bird’s plumage in stunning, shimmering detail, and evokes their habitat through unique combinations of patterned fabric and her own embroidery.
“I do think that embroidery, in my case machine based, is a great medium for the subject of birds. I can really use thread fibres and the direction of stitches to explore body structure, the way feathers lay, and the often-subtle colour variations.”
Chloe also draws from folk art and her knowledge of art history, and the results are pieces evocative of illuminated manuscripts or Renaissance decorative art. She also explores the fact that birds often have spiritual significance, as they have for thousands of years. “They are like totems — a symbol in religious and pagan art from many cultures — and there is a rich tradition here.” Put simply, her collages are a celebration of birds in all their colors and textures, as well as the interconnectedness of all nature. Just as a bird might be entangled with its ecosystems, landscape, and human society, Chloe’s fabrics and stitches interweave and layer upon each other. In a collage, as in nature, there are many parts which make a cohesive and inseparable whole.
In the face of species decline, Chloe encourages people to “slow down, breathe in, and look at their surroundings…down to the smallest blade of grass. After all, everything is interconnected.”
View more of Chloe’s incredible pieces and support her work at Chloe Morter Design.

Debjani Das (@d.d_photography)

The majestic Bald Eagle was the bird that first sparked Debjani Das’s interest in wildlife photography. Watching them fish, dive, and raise a family inspired her to start shooting with a telephoto lens and freeze those moments, seemingly up close. From there, bird and wildlife photography became a passion.
Debjani grew up in Eastern India but now lives in Colorado. Although she loved nature from an early age, she says she used to be one of those people who doesn’t really see birds — at least not the way she does now, where she is attuned to their behavior in the wild. “I always use a telephoto lens which allows me to be a respectable distance from birds and animals,” she says. This allows her to observe their natural livelihood without ever baiting or disturbing them.
“I first trained myself to use a camera, and then took pictures of these amazing creatures to get a better understanding of the beauty that we, humans, are surrounded with — and how important it is to have wildlife in our planet to maintain the balance of nature.”
But with so many species, ways of living, and diverse landscapes, there is much yet to be discovered. “I am still learning,” Debjani says. “And there is a long way to go to understand what nature provides us and how we can give back to nature.” Still, taking a moment to really notice a bird will get us a little closer to understanding the complexity of this planet.

What you can do

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of planetary crisis. But as these creators show, becoming more in tune with nature can be a process full of curiosity, wonder, and meaning. Though nature is all-encompassing and its crises are monumental, we need not turn away from the small, the personal, and the fleeting. Make that little decision to look at a bird with your full attention. Find joy in sunlight filtering through the trees. Support artists and creators who are spreading this message, by visiting their websites and sharing them with your circle.
Having concrete positive impact on bird populations doesn’t have to be complicated, either. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology presents seven simple actions you can do to help birds, right now.
So find hope in the fact that you can be part of a revolution to bring birds back, and to bring us back to birds.
Learn more about bird population decline and what you can do to help here:

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