Humans, Nature and Birds      

Science Art from Cave Walls to Computer Screens

Foreword: Art, Science, & Birds
by Paul R. Ehrlich

[An excerpt]

...Having spent many thousands of hours studying birds in the field, I find that bird art takes me back to special sights—to a Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca) standing on the tundra of the Hudson Bay shore, to a Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) dancing down a stream in Costa Rica, to a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) zooming after ducks in Cornwall. Bird paintings and drawings can depict action that would be very di;cult to capture in a photograph and nearly impossible to observe with the naked eye. That is especially true of acts of predation, which in my more than sixty years of field experience is both rarely seen and usually over with too fast to observe with clarity even with binoculars (see Plate 69). Mobbing is a much more common sight, but I have never gotten the same feel for it in the wild as I get from Carl Brenders’s magnificent painting (see Plate 53). I often wonder whether the artist who etched the 30,000­year­old owl in Chauvet Cave was not in part just trying to evoke the same sense of awe and mystery that comes over me when I encounter a perched large owl and exchange stares with it (see Plate 2). This example points out one of the attributes of or ganizing this book as a gallery.

© 2008 Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy

The worldwide archive of bird art is im­ mense, but by presenting major topics and arranging a small number of examples sequentially, Wheye and Kennedy make it easy for us to re flect on the long relationship between human beings and birds. Some of the bird images will likely evoke personal memories, adding to the pleasure of this form of bird study. And some of the aspects of science portrayed will likely surprise even longtime students of birds. ...