In a word association game, long-time readers of Bird Watcher’s Digest might conjure up these initial thoughts when they hear the name Al Batt: Funny. Minnesota. Chickadees.
Al probably would not object to any of these, since he clearly loves to have fun, loves his home state, and really loves chickadees. But these recurring themes in his column does not mean he is a repetitive man. In fact, quite the opposite: Al has a special way of shining light on the extraordinary in the ordinary, bringing attention to the simple pleasures of bird watching and being in tune with nature. And he does it all with humor, humbleness, and a true joie de vivre.
Al has been writing his popular column for BWD since 2011, and his book A Life Gone to the Birds was published by BWD Press in 2013. (His wit and wise words also appear in our sister publication, Watching Backyard Birds.) Al’s writing style is unlike anything else on our pages—and that is exactly why we and our readers love it. A master storyteller, Al’s voice is almost stream-of-consciousness in nature as he moves through snippets of life in Minnesota, of growing up on a dairy farm, of vignettes of his beloved mom and his bird-loving father, of bird friends and birder friends who have touched his life along the way. And it is all infused with awe, love, humor, great puns, and great fun.
That industrious Midwest work ethic is evident in how many projects Al is engaged in at any given time. In addition to writing for BWD and newspapers and other publications, he posts daily on his blog, featuring delightful photographs delightfully captioned. He collaborates on nationally syndicated comic strips, and his work appears regularly in the prestigious New Yorker. You can also hear him on his radio show, Birding with Batt. He is regularly featured as a keynote speaker at birding festivals and events, serves as a trustee for the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, Alaska, has been honored for his work with Bluebirds Across Nebraksa—and so, so much more.
At the end of the day, though, Al seems to derive the most satisfaction not from all of his endeavors, but from enjoying the beauty of a bird. “I tell everybody every day,” he says, “the only advice I have for them is to do something wild and get out there and look at a bird.”
BWD editor Dawn Hewitt recently interviewed Al Batt for our podcast Out There with the Birds—you’ll want to listen to this warm conversation and hear Al share a bit of his life in his own words!