Why Birding is Good for You, with B. C. Robison

B. C. Robison’s career as the “Texas Naturalist” columnist was a nuisance to many of the big developmental pro­jects that currently dot the Texas Coast. His new book A Haven in Sun tells the story of how we share the natural environment of birds and how both of our habitats have changed and will continue to change. Buy it here.

With the dozens of outstanding books available on Texas bird life, what does A Haven in the Sun offer that is different?

This book presents stories of Texas coastal birds as they relate to the human landscape and the ways in which our use of the land has either harmed or nurtured that bird life. As our coastal regions and wildlife today face an ever-growing threat from development and climate change, it is important to understand how our stewardship of the land can help preserve a vital natural heritage, for not only resident birds but also for migratory species from throughout the Western Hemisphere. A Haven in the Sun, through its stories of birds that are unique to coastal Texas — the Whooping Crane, the White-tailed Hawk, and others — asks the questions that we should be considering for the preservation of our very special native bird life and the habitats that support them. 

How have you seen the Texas Coast change in your lifetime? 

There have been enormous changes in the coastal environment over the years, primarily from commercial and industrial development. Housing, highways, agriculture, retail establishments, and industrial facilities have grown tremendously the past several decades, often at the expense of natural habitat for birds. Open, sandy areas where I watched Black Skimmers and shorebirds while visiting my grandmother in Corpus Christi have long since been paved over. There are stretches of beach along Bolivar Peninsula that have practically vanished. But many places have survived; the vast and beautiful salt marsh at the entrance of the Galveston causeway, where I began birdwatching in the 1970s, is still there in all its green, marshy glory.

Our stewardship of the land can help preserve a vital natural heritage

I must admit that I don’t think of birding as a young person’s hobby. Make your pitch: why should more people do this?

Bird watching is simply a lot of fun. But it’s more than fun, it’s educational. And I have always felt that learning things, things that interest and excite you, is a very high form of entertainment. When people become aware of the beauty and diversity of bird life, birding can become a lifelong pursuit. One of the greatest threats the natural world faces for its preservation is the diminishing connection between people and nature. Birding is a fun, easy, and effective way to make that connection.

The book mentions many bird-rich locations. What are some others you enjoy, in Texas and elsewhere?

My favorite Texas birding area outside the coast is Big Bend National Park. Not only is the harsh desert environment so alluring and different from the humid coast, the bird life there is unique. The Colima Warbler and the Lucifer Hummingbird are unique Big Bend species, as are many others. I have searched out the Golden-Cheeked Warbler in the Hill Country. On a trip to Alaska, I saw Bald Eagles practically everywhere, almost like grackles in a grocery store parking lot. And on one cold twilight evening in the lodgepole pines of Yellowstone National Park, I saw a Great Gray Owl, perched on a limb and glaring balefully at me. That was a spiritual moment.