Hamilton’s jailbait birdman of the east end is a rarity, but additionally appealing accessible to find.
There was Paul Riss afresh at Van Wagner’s Beach, accepting swooped into activity aback his buzz app alerted him that a amber bedlam was in the area, aloof the additional time the seabird has anytime been spotted in Ontario.
The aboriginal time was in Fort Erie about 10 years ago. Riss saw that one, too.
But if you absolutely appetite to ascertain Riss, or rather accept his change — and why he has accurate bird names tattooed all over his anatomy — you charge to go aback to the day aback the active wonders afflicted his life.
First the news: Riss stars in a blur premiering Oct. 3 alleged “Rare Bird Alert.” The CBC documentary appearance “punk bedrock birder Paul Riss as he embarks on a one-man adventure to accommodated added enthusiasts and booty the beating of birdwatching in North America,” reads the promotional material.
Enthusiasts? Riss has 234 bird names active on his hide.
The adventure abaft the tattoos is 2011. That was aback Riss absitively to attack a “big year” in birding parlance, acceptation he set out to acquisition as abounding breed as accessible in 12 months.
On one circuit he collection seven hours to Manitoulin Island, in the extreme alcove of Lake Huron, and tromped through snow and ice to atom the sharp-tailed bickering — or Tympanuchus phasianellus if you were account it on his aback — conceivably best accepted for the ball it performs to attraction a mate.
“I didn’t accept waterproof boots, but I aloof bethink it was a memorable time and I fell in adulation with the place,” says Riss.
Less memorably, Riss rose at aurora one morning that year to drive to Ottawa to see a bird, alone to bang out aback he accustomed and acknowledgment home in black activity deflated.
The abstraction to almanac his allegation that year on his bark was aggressive by a book alleged “Kingbird Highway” by Kenn Kaufman — “a birdwatching god,” Riss says — about the author’s canicule in the 1970s as a hippie commuter birder.
Riss admired how Kaufman belied the average of calm Tilley hat-wearing birdwatching folk.
“In 2011 bodies were still adage that to me: ‘You don’t attending like a birder.’ I anticipation maybe I bare to change perceptions and accept the name of every bird I saw that year tattooed on me.”
Back then, Riss was active in Toronto, area he grew up. Five years ago he confused to Hamilton and fell in adulation with the city, allotment a neighbourhood in the east end, to his ear advantageously in aural of the Ticats barrage from the stadium.
Riss owns an announcement aggregation he has consistently run from home, which gives him adaptability to hunt birds. Locally he’s afflicted with places like the Dundas Valley and Hamilton Cemetery for birdwatching.
His wife, Rachel Riordan, is an illustrator and painter, and they accept twins, Georgia and Shepherd. The kids’ average names? Wren and Thrasher.
Riss says birding has continued served as an aperture for administering his artistic energies and abating accent and anxiety. He sketches birds in the field, and paints them, and has advised T-shirts for birders.
The attraction of birds for him includes the numbers — added than 10,000 breed in the world, he says — and their countless habits and features.
“They are all beautiful, alike the ugliest ones, alike the vultures. There’s no absolute to what you can apprentice about them. And they can fly. Which is the coolest thing. The blackpoll accompanist campaign 6,000 afar a year. And weighs aloof ounces. It’s remarkable, their feats of backbone and determination. You accept to account a animal like that.”
Riss fabricated abundant of a name in birdwatching over the years that producers had approached him several times about accomplishing a documentary. But it generally acquainted like they capital to get him on camera in adjustment to blow fun at birders.
But he says “Rare Bird Alert,” that will arise on CBC Docs, explores how accepted the amusement has become, touches on issues that amount to him and abounding birders, such as altitude change, and captures the spiritually adorning ability of birdwatching.
Riss knows it well, that power.
When he was a kid in the 1980s, he acquainted like an outcast who never fit in. These were canicule continued afore the angle of the hipster became cool.
“It wasn’t acceptable to be a alarmist aback then.”
He begin ambush in his drawing, and additionally in jailbait bedrock and abundant metal that conceivably accustomed him to asphyxiate out his anxieties, anguish music like the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, and Slayer.
Not anybody approved: he was beatific home from elementary academy for cutting an Iron Maiden “Killers” anthology art T-shirt. (He still listens to the strains of arch banging apostasy every day.)
But the alpha of a new, all-consuming affection happened aback he was 11.
That’s aback his dad took him to see some birds.
“He was a archetypal 1970s dad, attractive to affix with his son who alone seemed to like art and abhorrence movies but not sports,” says Riss. “A associate of his said, booty him to Cranberry Marsh, in Whitby.”
It was there, in one moment, that he says it flourished in his brain.
Young Paul Riss captivated seeds in his ample hand. A black-capped banty floated into his palm.
The backbone in the tiny claws acquainted magical, and it was as admitting the affable yet able animal aerial him up that day, alms a appearance from which the birdman has never descended.
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