Flight Plan: The Birds of Sunnylands focused on the sanctuary that Walter and Leonore Annenberg created for birds at their home in Rancho Mirage, California. Today, a wide and colorful variety of birds reside within, or migrate through, the 200-acre estate and the Center & Gardens. Through photographs, the exhibition told the story of the Annenbergs’ careful cultivation of a desert environment where birds are encouraged to visit.
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands commissioned National Geographic photographer Tim Laman to document the range of bird species found at Sunnylands. Over a two-year period, he captured detailed images of bird behavior, including courtship dances, hunting habits, and mid-air acrobatics. A selection of the more than 130 species of birds that have been identified at Sunnylands were included in the exhibition. View the Sunnylands bird list here.
The exhibition was on view from September 12, 2018, through June 2, 2019, at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.
From childhood, Walter Annenberg delighted in birdwatching. Like many birders, Walter kept track of the variety of species at each of his homes and encouraged visitation by installing bird feeders. When the Annenbergs began to imagine the Sunnylands project, he made clear his desire for a bird sanctuary. Early landscape drawings reflect a design for the grounds that would attract a wide variety of birds.
The Annenbergs had the birds at their Pennsylvania home documented by avian artist Basil Ede. They explored the idea of doing the same for the birds at Sunnylands.
This exhibition represented the fulfillment of that dream. Using new photographs taken by National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, this exhibition featured many of the birds that reside at Sunnylands or touch down along their migratory route.
Wings, Water, & Wildflowers: Celebrating the Birdlife of Sunnylands was originally featured in the exhibition, Flight Plan: The Birds of Sunnylands, which was on view from September 12, 2018 to June 2, 2019 at Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage, California. Celebrating the local and migratory bird life at Sunnylands, the 200-acre former winter estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, these images were taken over a period of several months in 2017 and 2018 by National Geographic photographer Tim Laman.
The exhibition catalog, Flight Plan: The Birds of Sunnylands, contains an essay by Michaeleen Gallagher, Sunnylands director of education and environmental programs since 2011. She has worked in science education at museums and nonprofits for more than 20 years and served as president of the California Association of Museums from 2015-2017. She received her Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver.
Print edition is available for purchase in the Sunnylands gift shop.