Friday, May 11, 2012
The Big Year
Ahhhhh.....birding. Whenever I use that term in a sentence, people always do a double take and say, "what?"
"I've just finished reading The Big Year, by Mark Obmascik, a book about competitive birding," I answer.
"oooohhhhh." they say. "They made movie out of it?" I'll continue, trying to spark their memory somehow, "staring Steve Martin?"
"oooohhhh." they say again.
Okay, so the movie didn't do that well at the box office, but the book is delightful--IF you are interested in birds or birding at all. I guess if you had no interest then why bother?
I found it to be a really fast and fun read. I don't begin to comprehend the reasons people do a "big year" but I admire them.
Oh..what is a big year? It's a race to see how many birds you can see in one year, in your own continent, state, or county. (One man who was bedridden, did his own big year, counting as many different birds as he could on TV that he watched) Birding is an obsession. And a big year can be extremely pricey.
The book is about 3 men who did a big year in 1998. (not together, a Big Year is a solitary quest) This particular year tho, is the only time in history, that three people saw at least 700 species in one year. It's really unheard of.
The book is a fun account of that year, as the three men struggle to win the challenge.
I loved it. If you have any interest in birds, even just a little back yard birding, you will probably love this book too. Obmascik makes birding funny and adventurous. You can not help but admire these guys.
This is what Goodreads says:
Every January 1, a quirky crowd storms out across North America for a spectacularly competitive event called a Big Year - a grand, expensive, and occasionally vicious 365-day marathon of birdwatching. For three men in particular, 1998 would become a grueling battle for a new North American birding record. Bouncing from coast to coast on frenetic pilgrimages for once-in-a-lifetime rarities, they brave boiling deserts, bug-infested swamps, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. This unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a record so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested. Here, prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a dazzling, fun narrative of the 275,000 mile odyssey of these three obsessives as they fight to win the greatest - or maybe worst - birding contest of all time
Next weekend my friends and I are off to the Spring Wings Festival in Fallon, NV.
This is us from last year:
Yes, birders sometimes get sore necks and shoulders from carrying around things with straps: binoculars, cameras, backpacks, etc.
We are, yes, NERDS FOR BIRDS. Mitzi, most of all. She's in the coral colored shirt above. (and yes, all the pictures I have of them are with binoculars up)
Mitzi can identify birds by their song and their flight patterns! The rest of us just go and hope we can identify one by it's feathers!
and now, for adults only.... I have to tell you about the Handyman.
I really did love this book....and I really do love birds.....and I love nature and I love a good writer and I love the wonder of world, so I was reading this passage to him, about a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, who had fattened herself up to weigh as much as 2 pennies. She was getting ready to leave the Yucatan` jungle.
from the book.....
Tonight she would try to fly five hundred miles over the Gulf of Mexico. If she stopped just once to rest, she would die. If she made it, she would earn the chance for two or three seconds of copulation on the ground with a promiscuous male with a brilliant red-throat.
To navigate her non-stop nighttime ocean crossing, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, would rely on a brain smaller than a pea. Humans, with a noggin ten thousand times larger, were still trying to comprehend this incredible journey---the marvel of migration.
At this point I got teary eyed (It doesn't take much to make me cry), seriously weepy at the wonder of it all.
My husband, the Handyman, looked at me and said, " Wow...500 miles a night. Huh. And we can't even make it up the stairs most nights for a few seconds of copulation!"
SERIOUSLY???!!! That's what you got out of this Handyman? Not, the wonder of nature, the glory of God's world, the fighting spirit of a little bird?
He makes me laugh. So I keep him around.
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