A Nanaimo photographer is hoping to nurture the birding community on Vancouver Island.
Spenser Smith had been photographing landscapes for much of the last decade, but this spring the Vancouver Island University student was tipped off about the location of a great horned owl nest in the city. He grabbed his camera to investigate and discovered a new passion.
“Once I got to experience that, watching an owl family and watching the mama owl interact with the babies, that kind of got me hooked,” Smith said.
“It’s just one of those things where, for me as a photographer, wildlife became much more exciting than shooting landscapes, which was kind of stagnant for me. Once I got into that, I just kinda got hooked on it.”
Last month Smith decided to set up a website, www.birdsandbark.com, to chronicle and compile his birding photography and already he’s starting to amass a following. So far he’s caught the attention of Tourism Nanaimo, his Facebook page has grown by 300 followers and people have been reaching out via his online contact form. He said a couple from Seattle travelled to the Island after inquiring about a birding spot in Parksville.
“I thought that was a pretty cool connection and response has been great. I think the biggest thing is I’ve met a lot of people through [the website], other birders, and then kind of in a selfish way those relationships have helped me find new birding spots that I otherwise wouldn’t know about,” Smith said.
“I think in the birding and photography community, for wildlife it’s really important to know people because that’s how you’re going to find out about spots. But then on a more personal level, it’s been great to meet new, like-minded people and kind of develop new friendships.”
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Smith said he’s hoping his webpage attracts other birders, as well as a wider audience of people who may be curious about the hobby or have a passing interest in wildlife observation. He said one of his most popular posts is called ‘Morrell Nature Sanctuary: How to Find a Barred Owl,’ a step-by-step guide on spotting the birds including pictures, videos, a map and a recording of an owl cry. As a creative writing student, Smith said it was important to him to include written pieces along with his photographs.
Smith foresees Birds and Bark as a venue for other local birders to share their work. His inaugural contributor was a birder who contacted Smith to inform him of the location of a falcon.
“I asked him if he wanted to contribute a story and he actually wrote a little story for me and had a bunch of photos in it so it was kind of cool to have that,” he said. “I’m hoping to make a submissions page and … encourage other people to submit as well.”