The Wall Street Journal – Birding Goes Extreme

March 23, 2023

Birding has long been a hobby for nature lovers, but the pursuit has recently gone more mainstream—boosted by the rise of ecotourism and the surging interest in a safe and relaxing pastime during the pandemic, along with user-friendly apps that bird lovers can use to record and track different species. Now, some enthusiastic hobbyists are springing for landscape redesigns, specialty bird food and high-tech bird feeders to attract and photograph feathered visitors.

Susan Gottlieb has spent decades cultivating a garden with native plants and birds on her 1-acre property in Beverly Hills, Calif.  PHOTO: JENNELLE FONG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Steps through Ms. Gottlieb’s garden.   PHOTO: JENNELLE FONG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Now, the Gottliebs’ garden is a local landmark with close to 20 bird boxes, three seed feeders, four mealworm feeders and around 15 hummingbird feeders. Ms. Gottlieb said she goes through about 70 pounds of sugar a month making hummingbird nectar. At roughly $6.50 for a 10-pound bag, that adds up to $546 a year. Over the years, the Gottliebs have opened their garden to visitors and hummingbird researchers from the University of California Davis. Ms. Gottlieb has also published four coffee table books about the couple’s native garden.

“I’m on a mission to get people to understand the importance of native plants and conserving our heritage and our wildlife,” she said.


Ms. Gottlieb goes through about 70 pounds of sugar a month making nectar for hummingbirds.  JENNELLE FONG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Scott Logan, a naturalist and photographer who works with Ms. Gottlieb to document birds and other wildlife in her garden, said he uses broadcast-quality video and digital SLR camera traps, which are triggered by movement to take pictures. He installed them throughout the garden, mounted on tripods camouflaged by branches that are secured with zip ties. Each camera is also covered with wood painted to blend in with the environment.

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