He's called the "Bluebird Man." And if there is such a thing as a celebrity among birdwatchers, it's 92-year-old Alfred Larson, a self-taught conservationist and the subject of a new documentary short, aptly titled Bluebird Man.
"Yes, you could definitely call Al a bit of a celebrity," Bluebird Man filmmaker Matt Podolsky told Boise Weekly. "But the idea was to use Al's story to tell the bigger story of bluebird conservation nationwide."
Podolsky and his crew followed Larson through a season--April-August 2013--on two of Larson's five massive bluebird nesting trails: one in the Owyhee Mountains, the other in and around the town of Prairie, Idaho.
"And he has done this for decades, almost entirely on his own," said Podolsky
It was in the 1970s when Larson, inspired by a growing national movement of citizen scientists to help reverse the declines of bluebird populations in North America, set up a network of so-called "nestboxes" to host the bluebirds throughout Idaho in the spring and summer.
"He's pretty amazing," said Podolsky, who was introduced to Larson through the Golden Eagle Audubon Society (Larson helped found its first Idaho chapter in the 1960s).
Larson will be the special guest of a screening, open to the public, of Bluebird Man Friday, June 13, at the Boise Centre, beginning at 8 p.m. The screening will be a tentpole event for the upcoming 37th annual North American Bluebird Society Conference, held June 13-15 at the Boise Centre and Grove Hotel.
"There will be people from all over the U.S. and Canada for the conference," said Podolsky. "Certainly a lot of folks from the East Coast where the bluebird began being threatened in the 1970s. Needless to say, the continent's top experts on bluebirds will be in attendance."
So does knowing that much of his audience are experts on the subject of his film make Podolsky any more nervous?
"We're definitely excited," Podolsky said. "But yes, there's a little bit of nervousness."
Bluebird Man is also available on DVD and is currently airing on Idaho Public Television. Check idahoptv.com for times. The June 13 screening at the Boise Centre includes a Q&A with Podolsky and Larson. The public is asked to make a $5 suggested donation at the door.