Colombia has almost 2,000 known species of birds, many of which have yet to be included in a national bird book. This is what I want to do.
Staring at the prospect of fatherhood back in 2005, I began to look at alternatives to my job as a naturalist guide in the Amazon basin.
The problem wasn’t the climbing of Kapok trees, the swimming with piranhas, the bog-traipsing for caiman or dragging anacondas out of swamps for tourists’ photographs so much as the stuff I would miss – my son’s first steps, his first solid meal, first words.
It was time to cut back on my time in the field, to spend more time at home in recognition of the inviolable primacy of family. I wanted that rare job that actually does what a job is supposed to do: work to the benefit of home life and not against it. I would make books.
Then, as today, nature and bird watching was the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the world and one of the five most popular of all hobbies – a large and growing market.
I spent many months engaged in market research, questioning tourists, hobbyists, and field-researchers and quickly realized that there were gaps and opportunities in the market for bird field guidebooks in these diverse and increasingly popular Neotropical countries like Colombia.
I didn’t want to make books that read like a scientific paper only bigger. Publishing books, after all, is in part a branch of the entertainment industry. I wanted to make accessible, modern, easy-to-use, concise yet comprehensive field books that would leave no potential user feeling left out.
Birding is a popular hobby, so I was eager to make an innovative product that reflected the market and its changing needs in the 21st century. Greater mainstream interest in birds could only benefit not just the environment, but also the appreciation, understanding and conservation of Colombia as the most diverse country for birds on earth.
With user-friendliness as my guiding light, it turned out I would have to redefine what a bird book for a mega-diverse tropical country can be. I was soon working towards smaller, more portable and concise books that compress more information by bringing together texts, illustrations, maps and other graphic elements into a single, at-a-glance information cell.
For my new Colombian bird book I have found the perfect partner in Rey Naranjo Editores, an independent Colombian company that boasts some of the most talented and original young publishers in Colombia, or indeed anywhere. They have taken the book beyond being a useful field and home reference to produce a creative artistic object that any owner will cherish.
This new edition of my Colombia book brings together 5000 illustrations, many never before published, almost 2000 maps and about 250.000 words to make it one the largest books ever made by a single author. However, it can still be carried and used in the field with a single hand.
The new Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia, by Miles McMullan and published by Rey Naranjo Editores will be out in March 2018.
Author Miles McMullan is a birdwatcher who is currently writing the Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia. You can support his work by taking part in the crowdfunding campaign.