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Meet Ray Brown of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds Radio Show in South End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ray Brown.

Ray, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The inspiration for the show came from two sources. The first was my experience with birdwatching when I lived on Cape Cod — a friend gave me a field guide and I became fascinated with the variety and beauty of the wild birds that exist here in Massachusetts. The second involved a weekend radio talk show that I hosted on WBZ in Boston — one day the topic of wild birds and birding came up and the listener response to the subject was huge. That response convinced me that this was a topic that deserved an ongoing platform, and I launched the Talkin’ Birds show on a Boston-area station.

Our show today airs on 16 stations in New England and New York State and reaches listeners everywhere via live stream and podcast. We’ve heard directly from listeners in every U.S. state, 7 Canadian provinces, and 13 other countries.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Since the subject of our show is a bit unusual, developing sponsorship is always a challenge, but we’ve been fortunate to receive the support of numerous great organizations and companies. Our sponsor list includes LLBean, Celestron Optics, Droll Yankees (makers of high-quality bird feeders), Global Harvest (makers of bird food varieties under the Audubon Park brand), Birds & Beans bird-friendly coffee, and the Birdwatcher’s General Store on Cape Cod. We also enjoy ongoing partnerships with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and BirdWatching Magazine.

Our other main challenge has been convincing radio stations that the topic of wild birds makes sense for radio. But, we’re proud of the fact that, thanks to the wonderful audience response we receive, no station that has begun carrying the show has ever dropped it. Meanwhile, our family of affiliates continues to grow with new stations added just this month in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds radio show – what should we know?Talkin’ Birds is a light-hearted weekly half-hour radio show focusing on wild birds and birdwatching, while also tackling important environmental and conservation issues.

Each week, we interview an expert guest, air a produced feature on a specific bird species, conduct a call-in “Mystery Bird” contest, and host a live chat with our bird feeding expert and brilliantly humorous friend, Mike O’Connor. Mike is the founder and owner of Cape Cod’s Birdwatcher’s General Store, and the author of two best-selling and very funny books (“Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches?” and “Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me?”). There are some other radio shows about birds, but we think ours is unique in its interactive and entertaining presentation. We hear from listeners regularly who tell us that they learn something new each week while having fun listening.

I think we’re most proud of the amazingly enthusiastic feedback we get from our audience. This kind of response led us to create our “Talkin’ Birds Ambassadors” program, in which we send promotional cards to listeners who volunteer to hand them out to friends and associates. We started this effort just a few months ago and have already recruited more than 150 Ambassadors in 42 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and 4 European countries.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We’ve been very fortunate to have had help from many supporters and believers. They include Mark Duffield, who has assisted me in producing the program from the first broadcast in 2006; Mike O’Connor, who has supported the show and provided great content since we started; Betsy Puckett from Droll Yankees, which was the first company to sponsor Talkin’ Birds; Bill Wilson from Birds & Beans bird-friendly coffee, who has provided support and help with on-air promotions for several years running; and, of course, thousands of loyal listeners who provide constant encouragement that inspires us to work hard every week to make our show better and better.

We also offer thanks to Scott Simon, and his producer, Ned Wharton, of National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday for hosting me as a regular guest on that nationally syndicated program; to Barbara Howard for conducting interviews with me on Boston’s 89.7 WGBH broadcast of All Things Considered; and to publisher Lee Mergner for helping spread the word about our show in the nationally distributed BirdWatching Magazine and on BirdWatchingdaily.com.

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