UW Today

May 25, 2011

Blog profile: Clare McLean's 'Bird Word Girl'

News and Information

Members of the UW community are increasingly expressing themselves in blogs about their interests or professional matters. UW Today occasionally features brief profiles of these blogs and their authors.

'Very encouraging news from the UW heron colony: the number of nests on the western side has at least doubled over last year!' writes Clare McLean on her blog.

"Very encouraging news from the UW heron colony: the number of nests on the western side has at least doubled over last year!" writes Clare McLean on her blog.Clare McLean

Here we visit Bird Word Girl, a blog of words and photos by Clare McLean, a photographer and writer for UW Medicines News, Community Relations & Marketing office. “Im not really a birdologist,” she tells readers at the start, “I just play one on these here interwebs.” You can see more of McLeans shots on her photography website.

Q: How long have you been writing this blog, and how did it get its start?

I began last spring. I’d wanted to do a bird blog for a long time but felt that I wasn’t “qualified.” My thinking was that there are so many much more experienced birders and bird photographers out there that it would be pretentious and absurd to represent myself as some sort of ornithological expert. But the more I thought about it, I realized that blogs are often written by enthusiasts, not experts — and that’s often their appeal.  Once I got past my self-deprecation I gave it a whirl (thank you, Blogger, for making it so simple!) and was immediately hooked. Blogging is incredibly satisfying because it allows me to combine my three favorite things: writing, birds and photography.

Q: Who is your intended audience?

Anybody and everybody!

'Thanks to the expert ear and owl calls of Luis, my birding guide in San Pancho, we found this adorable bundle with delicately arched eyebrows, AKA a  Ferruginous Pygmy Owl,' Clare McLean writes on her blog.

"Thanks to the expert ear and owl calls of Luis, my birding guide in San Pancho, we found this adorable bundle with delicately arched eyebrows, AKA a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl," Clare McLean writes on her blog.Clare McLean

I’ve never met a single person who wasn’t swayed by the beauty or charm of a bird once its pointed out to them, whether it’s in a park, a city street or in a photo. The beauty of birds is very accessible. My hope is that anyone who stumbles across my blog will have a renewed or deepened appreciation for birds and nature.

The bottom line is that birds give me great joy and I love sharing that — I think it’s pretty contagious. Recently, Ive spent a lot of time watching and photographing the Great Blue Heron nest colony on campus. People wander by and ask me what Im doing. I usually offer them my binoculars so they can see the nests up close. Of course they are amazed. The blog is analogous to that — its my way of offering what I see to those around me.

Q: Have you had any interesting interactions with readers, through comments or e-mails?

It’s been nice to get comments from people I don’t know who somehow find my blog. There’s this guy out in the middle of Idaho who’s a poet and a banjo player who sometimes comments on my photos, and tells me something about birds in his area. It’s really rewarding to hear from him because I don’t know him. His interest means he genuinely “gets” my blog. Ive found that birds are a really easy way to connect people who might not talk otherwise. Its a safe topic and is certainly more interesting than the weather!

Q: What are your best — or worst — experiences in having a blog?

No bad experiences at all. All good, but there is definitely room for improvement. I need to more actively tag my entries. Id like to cultivate more followers so that the blog can create more of a community and a conversation. Self-promotion is not second nature to me, so I have to push myself in that area.

Q: Do you have any plans for where youll take the blog in the future?

I’m looking at adding slideshows so that I can show a lot more photos in one entry and create more of a narrative through captions and the order of images. And I have so, so many photos of birds on campus that those alone are worthy of a blog.

The variety of birds on campus alone is stunning. Here we are in the middle of a city and we have eagles, great blue herons, owls, hawks and many, many more nesting and living here. Again, I want to use the blog format to make people aware of the everyday beauty around us. So stay tuned for a campus-specific blog!

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