Oh, 2020. It was a year I dreamt about as a child. Such an appealing number, I used to think. It was all so…even. This year couldn’t make inequalities more apparent, however. Whether it was race, political affiliation, income level, or simply where one came from – differences were amplified during this year of crises.
I’m not going to rehash all the horrors of the past 12 months – although the pandemic hit the western world around March this year that doesn’t mean that January and February were uneventful either. It illustrates the concept of relativity, however. No matter how bad things may seem, all it takes is something worse to make us pine for what we used to complain about before. Throughout this year I have fortunately managed to do a considerable amount of thought-work which has distilled and crystallized much of the arbitrary concepts floating around in my psyche over the years. I have my own ideas of the origins and purpose of the pandemic – drop a comment or send me a message if you’re interested. Maybe I’ll elucidate in another post (not months into the future I promise).
Truth is, it’s not like I haven’t been writing. Quite the opposite actually. I started bimonthly posts for 10,000 Birds this year, really happy about that as I’ve followed that blog for many years. It’s the biggest birding blog, with contributors from all corners of the planet. I’m happy to install T&T as a consistent fixture there.
Even though we’ve only been to Tobago once for the year I’m still maintaining (on average) an article a month for Wild Tobago. These are also published in the Tobago Newsday, and sometimes in the T&T Newsday. I’m still yet to crack the code as to which article ends up in a newspaper I can also pick up here in Trinidad. Full disclosure: I’ve been in Tobago more than once on the day I had an article published in the paper there and never remembered to pick up my own copy. Oh well.
In October I finally dropped the electronic (kindle) version of my book. Originally carded for release two years before (2018 was declared the Year of the Bird so I thought it would be appropriate), it got delayed due to a series of unfortunate events. After moping around for some months I eventually picked up the pieces and got it done. All 600+ pages of it. Unwilling to wait on securing a publisher, I took the decision to self-publish on Amazon, releasing the paperback version in November. Don’t worry, I will be contacting a few publishers in the new year to see if I can get it into local bookstores. After conceptualizing it around four years ago, I am unable to properly describe the feeling of holding the physical copy.
To say it is the proverbial monkey off of my back, or the weight lifted from my shoulders still seems insufficient. Think of a thought that has been occupying your mind throughout the day, extrapolate it into years – toss in hours in the field and even more in front of a screen. Let it all disappear completely, lie flat on the floor and eventually peel yourself up to restart the realization of the idea that matters to you and you alone. Dare I mention that it is all unpaid? An effort to make living better for wildlife and the next generation of humans does not directly benefit the decision makers and the über-powerful.
In the unlikely event you haven’t heard of this book before (I’ve been shoving it down the throats of everyone on my Facebook and Instagram) you can check it out here. It’s gotten 100% 5-star reviews thus far and has been performing well on the charts. Upon release, it sat at #1 New Release for Bird Watching for a few weeks, amazingly (to me at least) surpassing many famous names like Sibley and Weidensaul. I haven’t personally seen it break into the top 10 birding books yet, but I have gotten to #11. I have been made aware of the fickle nature of the Amazon algorithm in the process and accept that I may be #38 one day and #238 the next. I’m still patiently waiting for some official book reviews, I’d be sharing those once they are published.
The purpose of my book isn’t to be the best by any means, however. I’m not in a competition with anyone – the more people who can read it is the better. I made it free for a few days last week and around 200 people grabbed their free copy.
I’m intent on pushing T&T to the tip of everyone’s tongues within the global birding circuit, however. With many voicing their post-plague intentions to visit T&T, it is left to us here to ensure that our environment is welcoming. We have been gifted some time to work on ourselves and I can only hope that we use this time effectively. I gave a taste of what it is like to go birding in T&T in a guest post on Learn-the-Birds, a relatively new birding platform based in South Africa.
In fact, I’ll be presenting in just under a month at a webinar hosted by this website, on birding in T&T. You can view the event details and register using this link.
Regular readers of this blog would also notice my website looks a little different. The revamp was long overdue, and done by my incompetent (at web design) self – I take full responsibility for any glitches or bugs! My galleries have also been condensed greatly and now instead of different galleries for different animals they are separated by general habitat. This is due in no small part to my shifting philosophy on my art – capturing the essence of life and not simply an image of an animal. The timeless question of subject or setting! I spoke about this on a webinar I delivered a few weeks ago. You can view it here, made possible by the COVID relief funds of Catapult Arts Caribbean.
Preparing that webinar led me to realize just how much my formal education and understanding of mathematics plays a role in my current portfolio as a photographer. I’ve been told time and time again about the “naturalistic” feel of my images – and it goes all the way back to the inescapable link between mathematics and nature. Both are as natural as can be, in fact there is a raging debate about whether we invented mathematics or merely discovered it. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.
So much did not happen during this year, but at the same time so much has happened. Change is inevitable and constant throughout the universe, and it would make us incapable of living if we are unable to cope with change. I had originally made a selection of images to go with this article, intending for it to be a photographic review, but then I began typing and well, here we are, several hundred words later. So instead of having 40+ pictures to accompany this post, I’ll share just a few noteworthy encounters and encourage you to follow me on Facebook or Instagram, where I share images daily.
20 from 2020:
- Image #1 from 2020
2. First official birding trip of the year
3. The first chase of the year
4. The last guided tour of 2020
5. Nesting Short-tailed Hawks
6. Getting to know my home-birds
7. Literally the best backyard bird, ever
8. Experimenting with light
9. Pushing the boundaries
10. Really pushing it
11. Shorebird migration
12. More cryptic migrants
14. Sunrise surprise
15. Where there are shorebirds, there will be birds that eat shorebirds
16. Welcome back
17. The next generation
19. Another visitor
20. Ending the year with a bang
Tonight I will hold my breath and attempt to comfort our cat with the barrage of fireworks. Each year it gets worse, and as he is getting on in age he isn’t handling the fireworks well at all. When he was younger he’d easily sleep through it, but now the explosions terrorize him. Hopefully one day soon we can live somewhere that’s more peaceful.
Anyway, I’d like to thank you for getting this far, I promise to blog here more often and most importantly sincerely wish you and yours all the very best life has to offer for the coming year.