Alum’s new book on birding provides narrative in love and risk-taking
A hobby of birding led Bradley McDonald ’88 to publish a new book, Boobies, Peckers and Tits: One Man’s Naked Perspective. McDonald, chief executive officer of the Wapiti Medical Group in Milbank, South Dakota, chronicles his adventures in attempting to spot more bird species while nude than anyone else ever has.
“It was quite a project and maybe even what could be a book in itself is how I let my publisher get talked into it,” McDonald says. “What I did may never be done again and it ended up being a little insane, but I saw lots of birds, met interesting people and had fun. I wrote it under my pen name of Olaf Danielson.
“Sometimes in life, if you don’t take risks, you don’t get the rewards, and I find using a pen name gives me more courage to be a risk-taker in my writing,” McDonald says.
Under his pen name, he has written novels and an opinion blog at olafdanielson.com.
McDonald attributes his interest in birding to his grandmother Lucille and says that he started birding when he was about age 9 or 10. When he took an ornithology course at Ripon College, he says, “Former Ripon College President William Stott and Professor Bill Brooks helped me to refine my field birding and realize that there was a whole world of birding out there.”
The new book is dedicated to McDonald’s grandmother and to Brooks — whom he once happened to see by chance while birding in Superior, Wisconsin. “The guy standing next to me caught my attention,” McDonald says. “Here was Professor Bill Brooks himself, four feet to my right.”
In his birding book, he describes adventures and misadventures from Alaska to Florida, the Pacific to the Atlantic, the Midwest to the southwest desert, as well as exotic tropical islands.
“This is not a book about hawks, woodpeckers and sparrows; or about a marginally insane, self-professed ‘Swedish-American hick from the sticks’ with a propensity for good humor and spinning witty yarns,” says Jackie Boor, author of Logan: The Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman. “Ultimately, it is the compelling journal of a man in love with his wife and family, devoted to the earth and learning, and intent on engineering remarkable life moments (although, the grizzly bear chase in Yellowstone was a bit over the edge).
“Boobies, Peckers & Tits is a profoundly introspective, laugh-out-loud ‘hoot!’ Olaf Danielson has boldly gone where no man as ever gone before and, to be sure, where no one else will ever be so inclined — unless bitten by the Big Bug to do something wickedly extraordinary – like counting bird species in the nude,” adds Boor.
During his yearlong adventure in birding, McDonald says he traveled 120,000 miles by air, 60,000 by car, hiked more than 2,000 miles and boated a similar amount. “I got shot at in Texas,” he says. “I witnessed two fatal car accidents, and I did some fun things and saw some really cool places. I also saw a lot of birds, a heck of a lot of birds.” The count came to 594 bird species spotted.
McDonald majored in the sciences at Ripon College, but he believes that having a liberal arts education is beneficial. “Just because I majored in chemistry and chem-ecology doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the arts, literature, writing and music,” he says.
McDonald hopes that readers of his book will find the courage to try new things. “I certainly was exposed to and found myself doing things during this adventure I’d never otherwise have done,” McDonald says. “If you have dreams of doing something unique — be it a trip, an adventure, writing a book or anything — the hardest part is taking the first step.”
The book is available on amazon.com.
Emily Mengert ’15