Oh, the irony!
The keynote speaker at my college graduation (Bloomsburg University) was none other than Roger Tory Peterson, who wrote the book (several actually) on birds. On that hot Summer day in May of 1985, every professor in the biology department was on the edge of his seat, hanging on every word. I, on the other hand, was utterly anesthetized, and wished fervently that he would sit down soon. And I was a Biology major. I can only imagine what the marketing majors were thinking and feeling under their blue blankets, odd hats, and the blazing sun.
Fast forward 37 years, and it’s pretty ironic that I have spent not a single day of my career practicing real science of any kind, and yet here I am on the verge of launching a device to enhance the bird watching experience. A hilarious, full-circle joke on me. And it’s awesome.
A few years ago, I found peace through the feeders on my deck. The sights and sounds filled my little kitchen and made me feel good. As Winter took hold on my suburban Philadelphia townhouse, I cracked the door to hear the birds until my frozen toes (and utility bills) could no longer bear the cold, then reluctantly closed the door for the winter. I assumed I had to settle for just watching them silently until Spring.
Or did I?
“Why, I’ll bet I can get right on Amazon and find a device to put outside and transmit the sounds to an empty radio station or something.”
“Surely someone on eBay has a device or plans I can buy to create such a thing, right?”
Despite their marketing promises, I had questions not even the local Radio Shack could answer. I resigned myself to cobbling together a Class IV McGyver, scrounging up various PC and radio parts. That didn’t work either, and I dropped all action on this for a while, discouraged.
Time went by, but the idea wouldn’t go away. Everything you use today had to be thought of and produced by somebody. Why not me? Why not create something the market could clearly use? I got to work. My earliest prototype was an FM transmitter from a company that sells kits. It worked well for a while, allowing me to hear amazing sounds, but as the temperature changed, the tuning would drift and I’d get static. I moved on to getting help (a LOT of help) from a friend and lawyer, Dan Hull, who found mercenary engineers that took pity on me (and surprisingly little money from me) and created various prototypes with wired mics. These worked to a degree, but all had problems.
15 years have now gone by since the idea first hatched, and I can finally see the finish line. Work is done on a full redesign, and prototypes are being produced. Manufacturing and marketing relationships have been established. I’m hopeful we can get a small initial batch out into the field (or yard, as it may be) this Winter to validate that we’ve gotten it right, and that stores are trained and set to move these in quantity. It’s full speed ahead under that assumption.
Because birds should be seen AND heard.