Never say ‘bird watching’, bird watcher Arjan Dwarshuis teaches novice Gisbert van Baalen. Too bad, because the latter had just come up with a funny name for their podcast: The Bird Spotcast.
Dwarshuis: “God damn goddamn.”
Van Baalen persisted, and that’s a good thing. Because that title expresses precisely the light touch that makes this podcast – an episode of about half an hour every week for five weeks – so worth listening to. Master Dwarshuis is a ‘world record holder’ of counting birds; in one year he traveled the world counting a total of 6,852 bird species (never say ‘tick the box’ again). Student Van Baalen is in the art trade and also makes the art podcast My little sister can do that too. He knows nothing about birds, but he is interested.
The two take each other and the listener to the parakeets of the (Vondel) park, count garden birds and look for the black-tailed godwit. A bit of the approach to television programs Bearded men, in which Nico de Haan and Hans Dorrestijn set out with similar ambitions, with an equally cheerful note. Dwarshuis and Van Baalen find their own tone in their podcast.
The recipe: their chemistry. Dwarshuis and Van Baalen have been friends since their school days and can read and write together audibly. They do not shy away from (self) ridicule, which is nice. For ten years Van Baalen had been nagging at Dwarshuis that he wanted to join in birdwatching. ‘Now I finally have a podcast and there may be a revenue model in it, and then I can suddenly come along.’
That is how it often goes. Dwarshuis chills when his friend mistakes a finch for a kingfisher. Van Baalen to Dwarshuis: ‘You look very epic again, Arjan. A bird’s hat on, a bird’s sweater on. ‘ Do they see a black bird and Van Baalen guesses it is a magpie, says Dwarshuis: “No, dude, he’s not black and white, is he?”
But the heart remains the love for bird watching. This emerges in descriptions (never say ‘enthusiastic’ again) of the birds they see and the many backgrounds that Dwarshuis provides, about the sad state of meadow birds, or an imitation of the courting snipe (‘A super cool sound: bob-bob-bob-bob-bob‘).
As a listener you will feel the delight of the ‘gold leaf’ on the back of a kid (a small snipe), or the happiness of five woodcocks on screen: ‘The hat-trick! Full in the morning! ‘
The lesson for Van Baalen: “Every time I look at a Mondrian, I see something different.” Just like you can also watch birds.
The Bird Spotcast
By Arjan Dwarshuis and Gisbert van Baalen
Can be listened to via Spotify and other common platforms