Birding and TV production

Just two of the many interests Fox Run neighbors explore every day

Created date

April 27th, 2020
Marj Taylor hosts a show about birds and birdwatching on Fox Run’s in-house TV station. She's seen here on the set, wearing a purple sweater.

Marj Taylor hosts a show about birds and birdwatching on Fox Run’s in-house TV station.

Marj Taylor, who lives at Fox Run in Novi, Mich., has a Ph.D. in American literature and spent her career as a high school teacher. She worked in the English department at Ernest W. Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich., where she developed a filmmaking course available to students as an elective. She also produced some shows for Birmingham’s Booth cable TV station in conjunction with a film festival her students put on each year.

“I would show some of their films and the kids would be interviewed,” Marj says. “I also did a quiz show with the kids called Mind Your Language. I wrote the show, and I was the quiz master.”

Given her lifelong interest in film and television production, when Marj started researching retirement communities, she was thrilled when she discovered that Fox Run has a TV studio where residents and staff work together to produce programs for the in-house television station.

“I had my eye on Fox Run for quite a few years because I was interested in having activities I could do,” Marj says. “I actually chose my apartment to be near the TV studio.”

About four years ago, Marj sold her house in West Bloomfield, Mich., and moved into her Fox Run apartment home, which is just a short indoor walk from the TV studio where she now spends a lot of her free time. She hosts two regular shows and also writes humorous skits that the TV crew performs on air for different seasons, holidays, or special events at Fox Run.

“We have a lot of fun doing that,” she says.

Movies With Marj

Marj is a member of Fox Run’s movie committee, which selects the movies shown on campus. She hosts a related TV program called Movies With Marj, on which she features a particular movie or actor or explores a topic related to filmmaking.

“I try to tie it in with one of the movies we show here at Fox Run,” she says. “This week, we saw Judy, and my show was on Renée Zellweger.”

Another one of Marj’s longtime interests is birdwatching. She started devoting more time to birding after her kids were grown, and she has been a member of the Oakland Audubon Society for 40 years. She joined Fox Run’s bird club shortly after she moved to the community and is currently the leader of the group, which has over 60 members. At their monthly meetings, the bird club watches films related to birdwatching and hosts speakers, such as a bird expert from the Stage Nature Center, who brought three different types of owls to campus. 

“I also do tutorials on birds,” Marj says. “I did one on the woodpeckers of Fox Run.” 

The club also plans several outings each year. In March, they visited Kensington Metropark to see the great blue heron rookery. But Marj says birders living at Fox Run can see all kinds of birds without leaving the campus.

“We have over 75 kinds of birds we’ve spotted at Fox Run,” Marj says. “I just received a note that a woodpecker had been sighted in one of the trees outside the clubhouse. One of our members is watching screech owls nesting outside his window, so we’re also keeping our eyes on those.”

During the warmer months, Fox Run is also home to quite a few hummingbirds. The bird club did a study on the types of plants and flowers that attract hummingbirds and spearheaded efforts to plant them on campus. 

“The bird that is the logo for our club is the hummingbird, and we have little hummingbird pins that we wear,” Marj says. “We have also had several programs on hummingbirds.”

Marj has combined her interests in birding and television production and now hosts a show called Birdland. The five-minute segments air on Fox Run’s in-house TV station every week.

“I might talk about a specific bird or talk about something like how birds survive the winter or how birds can sing without vocal cords,” Marj says. 

Birding around the world

Marj took advantage of her summers off from teaching to travel extensively. She’s been to all seven continents, and she chose many destinations for their birdwatching opportunities. 

“I went to Antarctica to see the penguins,” she says of those summertime travels. “For birding, Costa Rica comes to mind, and I went to quite a few birdwatching places in England. I was in the upper reaches of the Amazon and went on safari in Africa.”

One of Marj’s most memorable trips was to Machu Picchu with the Earthwatch Institute, which pairs people with professors conducting scientific research. Marj’s group traveled with a University of Arizona professor who was attempting to confirm a theory that the sunlight hits an altar in a certain building on the summer solstice in June.

“On that trip, I was the photographer,” Marj says. “Earthwatch [Institute] supplied me with a camera, and later, some of my pictures were used in publications.”

Engaging her Fox Run neighbors

Like she did on that trip to Machu Picchu, Marj has found similar opportunities to make meaningful contributions at Fox Run. She says that is one of the things she likes most about living at the community.

“The fact that I can do something other people like really pleases me,” Marj says. “People tell me they like my TV shows. Then I have this birding group that I plan the trips and meetings for and people come to them. That is really something that gives me a lot of satisfaction, that I am providing a service for other people.”