No one who writes a book, makes a movie, or creates other art does so all on their own, and the same is true of David Sibley, the field guide author, artist, and BirdWatching contributing editor. In a profile of Sibley on the CBS Sunday Morning program, viewers meet two of his inspirations: his father, Yale ornithologist Fred Sibley, and his wife, Mass Audubon ornithologist Joan Walsh.
In the segment, David Sibley shows correspondent Rita Braver art in his studio and explains how his bestselling Sibley Guide to Birds is different from bird guides that came before it.
In an interview with both father and son, we see family photos of a young David in the field with his dad and looking through a scope as a young man. Fred says he and David’s mom didn’t worry when David dropped out of Cornell to pursue studying birds in the field. “His reason, very valid, was that Cornell has a set track that you follow in your major, and that didn’t leave time for looking at birds or painting birds,” Fred says.
Later in the segment, Braver is out birding with Walsh and David and Fred Sibley when Walsh tells the story of the day she pushed David to create a field guide.
“I said, ‘You know, you can keep talking about it, or you can just say you’re doing it,’” she recalled. “And so, he did. And then he stood up and he fainted!” she laughed.
“We were in a hot tub,” Sibley explained.
In a segment of the interview posted only on the CBS website, David Sibley also talks about the fact that, as a kid, many of the adults he knew were like his father – making a living studying birds. He tells Braver that Roger Tory Peterson lived only about 20 miles from the Sibleys. (Let that fact swirl around in your head for a few seconds…)
Sibley says he met Peterson a few times and that the older artist “was very supportive” of his own work drawing birds.
“I grew up thinking that writing a field guide was a perfectly normal, viable career path,” he says with a smile. “It’s just one thing that people do. People study birds and write field guides.”
Of his accomplishments, the younger Sibley says he was “standing on the shoulders of people who have helped me along the way.”