It would be hard to tally the thousands of hours that famed avian photographer Kate Davis has logged waiting patiently for the perfect photograph.
Anyone who follows her work knows that she’s been successful in capturing still photographs of birds doing some amazing things.
All of that time staring up in the sky gives a person a chance to reflect on matters that most folks would never have a chance to ponder.
Davis’ sixth book is proof of that.
“This one is a total stretch from the others that I’ve done,” she said. “The others were science-based. This one really isn’t so much that.”
“Birds Are People Too” is filled with 120 photographs of birds captured in moments that tickled Davis’ funny bone.
A friend, Cathy Scholtens, originally suggested that Davis do a photo book with captions that would suggest the funny things that birds were saying, thinking or doing.
Someone suggested that she let the public in on the fun and open up the caption writing to people through social media and other avenues.
So Davis went through her extensive photo files to find birds with an interesting expression or in the midst of some kind of action or showing a pensive moment.
As she picked through her photographs, Davis decided that she really needed to be the one to dream up the captions. With a nod to Gary Larson’s “The Far Side,” Davis’ stuffed her pockets full of little scraps of paper before taking her dog and camera down to the river to wait for the perfect photograph at her favorite eagle’s nest.
“While I waited, the captions would just pop in my head and I would write them down,” Davis said. “When I came back home, I would install them.”
She worked on it all last summer.
The Mountain Press-published book has been available for about a month now. It concludes with a list of notes on each photograph that identifies the birds and sometimes offers a little about what was happening when she snapped the shutter.
“I wanted there to be some kind of science in there,” Davis said. “I found that almost all of the photos that I ended up using were from right here around the yard or down by the river. I feel like I need to thank the birds in my yard and vicinity.”
No one really knew — including her publishers — what the market would be for a book like this one.
“The folks at Mountain Press told me it was really a stretch,” she said.
Some people thought it was a kids’ book, but Davis said parents will probably need to be creative if they want their children to enjoy it.
“It’s not really a kids’ book,” she said. “The humor just isn’t for children. They wouldn’t get it.”
One friend decided to test that theory out. She sat her 5-year-old son on her lap and started going through the book and reading the captions.
Davis was right. He didn’t get the captions, but had a great time making up his own.
“They all apparently involved bonking,” Davis said. “They were like, ‘Here he crashes and bonks his head while looking right at the camera.’”
On page 97, there’s a photo of two bald eagles staring intently off into the distance. The caption reads: “Well, would you look at that? Pizza deliveries every night this week. And she puts on such airs at the Farmer’s Market.”
People will get their chance to follow Davis’ lead and write their own caption at a book signing coming up on First Friday, Sept. 2, at Missoula’s Fact And Fiction bookstore.
The photograph that Davis chose for that event is one that’s been making quite a stir in cyberspace. It depicts a male kestrel standing on the head of a bald eagle while both were in flight.
The contest will be open to both adults and kids. Davis will pick the winner.
People stopping by that night will also get to meet Davis’ Aplomado falcon, Sonora.
So far, the book has been a hit and not just to bird nerds.
“I just sold a whole bunch of them at Travelers Rest,” she said. “I was there speaking for the evening. A bunch of people looked at the book, liked it and bought it.”
In deciding what the book should be named, Davis decided a saying she has when doing peregrine nesting surveys seemed to fit the bill.
“When we’re out doing those surveys and we see a falcon streak across the skies, sometimes someone will say ‘bummer. Prairie falcon.’ It’s the wrong species,” Davis said. “I always reply, ‘Prairie falcons are people too.’”
As it turns out, Davis said, so are all birds.
Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.