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A Chicago Partnership Of Sight, Sound, Love And Birds

By Justin Breen | March 7, 2017 5:12am | Updated on March 10, 2017 10:49am
 Deb Quantock McCarey and her husband Kevin are creators of
Deb Quantock McCarey and her husband Kevin are creators of "Deb's Big Backyard."
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CHICAGO — As they explore Chicago for its natural sounds, animals and wonders, Deb Quantock McCarey uses her ears, while her husband, Kevin, utilizes his eyes.

The husband-and-wife team of 31 years are creators of the "Deb's Big Backyard" Facebook page, which features videos and sounds of birds and other city wildlife.

Deb McCarey, 58, has been steadily losing her vision since she was 22. She has no central vision and can only see things peripherally. But the minimized vision has led to enhancements in her other senses, including her hearing.

So when the couple scout Chicago's Humboldt Park, Columbus Park, Hyde Park, Millennium Park, Wooded Island and other city spots, Deb almost always hears the birds first. Kevin, a news video editor who has worked at NBC and ABC, then takes long-form videos of them, capturing lengthy movements and calls from the birds atop trees, in meadows or near water.

"I hear it, and then we find them," said Deb, a freelance journalist. "It's really incredible. We are partners in crime with this."

"Deb's Big Backyard" originally meant the McCareys' backyard in suburban Oak Park.

But after they had photographed and heard every bird imaginable — and saw insects like butterflies, too — they expanded their "backyard" to the whole Chicago area.

Kevin said they leave their neighborhood at least four times a week to seek other local wildlife hot spots.

"The whole thing is a backyard to us," Kevin said. "And the people who see our videos appreciate it because many times they tell us that where they live, they aren't able to see many birds."

The McCareys first met an improv studio in Lakeview. Their first scene together consisted of Kevin playing a cab driver with Deb as his passenger.

Kevin now drives Deb — who hasn't driven since 1990 — to all of their sites for "Deb's Big Backyard" videos. Their pieces, both said, serve to educate the public about Chicago's natural opportunities.

"What we're doing is so important because the environment is so important," Deb said. "And we're always looking for that 'ahhhh' moment."