by Stu Dawrs
photos by Jack Jeffrey
"I guess you could say that my life really is ‘for the birds,’" says Jack Jeffrey, knowing full well that his devotion to Hawaii’s avian inhabitants has earned him the right to make the occasional bad pun. Besides, it’s true: As a biologist for the Big Island’s Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Jeffrey’s career revolves around protecting native forest birds and their habitat.
Meanwhile, to wind down on his days off, he engages in a different type of preservation: "Some people meditate; I photograph," he says. Having lived in the Pacific for more than thirty years, first on Guam and now on the Big Island, Jeffrey has photographed native birds throughout Polynesia and Micronesia, including some of the world’s rarest avian species. His "hobby" has led to two books on Hawaii’s birds, as well as publication in such respected magazines as National Geographic, Smithsonian, Life and, yes, Hana Hou!. In September, it also took him to San Francisco, where he was honored with the Sierra Club’s prestigious Ansel Adams Award, which recognizes "those who have made superlative use of still photography to further a conservation cause."
Presented to at most only one photographer per year, the award has only been given out twenty-two times since its inception in 1971. Even so, Jeffrey remained characteristically modest in the face of this latest well-earned recognition. "I can’t really say it’s a dream come true, because it was something that was too much to reach for," he said shortly before jetting off to accept his award. "But I can’t think of a better reward for many years of hard work and patience."