Where would we be without our volunteers?
The answer wouldn’t be a pretty one. Every day, we depend on many supporters who fold laundry, wash dishes, handle birds and feed the flocks. And they also help us to document our work so that we can show it to the world.
Jeff Robinson helps us do that in a big way. He’s an excellent wildlife photographer and videographer who has an eye for detail — most notably the careful steps we take to rehabilitate aquatic birds and release them back into the wild. Here’s his backstory and a sampling of his work:
How did you get started in bird photography?
Robinson: In 2003, I went on an African safari with family and friends. I was eager to take pictures of the classic African mammals. The mammals were indeed fascinating, but I was even more intrigued by the Malachite Kingfishers. Other African birds range from eagles to Cape Sugarbirds, with penguins and many others in between. After my first trip, I was so excited that I returned to Africa within a few months. It changed my life.
For six years I photographed in Africa twice a year, and I started posting my pictures online. Then it dawned on me that there are other birds on other continents. There are even birds in North America! We are fortunate to have many colorful birds, from buntings to Wood Ducks. So I turned my camera to these birds.
What led you to volunteer at International Bird Rescue?
Photography led me to watching and identifying birds. Most birdwatchers come across sick or injured birds, and I was no exception. I took a course on how to rescue birds safely and effectively. At the course, I met some wonderful people who rehabilitated birds, and I was soon doing volunteer rehabilitation work myself.
What’s the best part of volunteering?
I am inspired by colleagues who are dedicated to the welfare and treatment of every bird. The effort, thought and time they devote to the birds is just amazing. It is a privilege to work with them, and it is a privilege to be so close to the birds and see every detail of their plumage. Of course, I have photographed many of the species we help. By rehabilitating the birds, you realize how different a Cattle Egret feels and behaves compared to a cormorant. I should also mention that releasing the birds is absolutely one of life’s most thrilling experiences.
What about videography?
I tried to take photographs of bird releases but it was difficult to capture a release in a still photo. It often happens so fast. So I changed to taking video. You never know exactly how a bird will behave during release, and that is part of the fun.
A video compendium of International Bird Rescue releases
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue to do volunteer rehab work and take videos of releases. I have started to compile a library of videos of the birds we have in rehab. I have also started to document case studies of some birds — for example, a Brown Pelican lost near Yosemite National Park or a California Gull entangled in a plastic bag (see video below). I hope the videos will be useful in the future to show to our visitors or other interested parties.
A plastic bag-entangled California Gull treated and released
An American Avocet at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center
For more of Jeff’s bird videos, visit youtube.com/photorobinson.
All images and video copyright Jeff Robinson. All rights reserved.
If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.
Want to volunteer with us? Find out more information on our volunteer program here.