Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Big Year Would Be A Little Different

Ooh! A rare something-or-other!

I just saw a blurb in a local college magazine that mentioned Greg Miller's recent visit and presentation on birds. He spoke to biology students and then to the public about his experience tracking birds and as his role as the bird expert during the making of the Jack Black/Owen Wilson movie "The Big Year" which chronicles his story and two others.

Of course, the story was told in past tense, which drove me crazy. That could only mean one thing -- I missed it!!

I read The Big Year a few years ago and was carried away by the story. It tells the true tale of three birders who were actively living a "big year" -- trying to spot as many rare birds as they could. As someone who has never, ever had any interest in birds, the whole thing seemed a little cuckoo to me. I mean, they spent thousands upon thousands of dollars, trekking all over North America just to get a fleeting glimpse of these rare birds.

They followed websites and electronic alerts when a rare bird had been spotted somewhere. Then they'd book a flight, or jump in their cars, and leave their jobs and fly off with their binoculars to spy a bird in a tree, jot it down in their notebooks, and go home.

It was fascinating.

I love it when I stumble upon subcultures I never knew existed, and this was one of them. There's a whole community of birders living various sorts of big years, whether in their states, their countries, their continents, or the world. It amazes me to think of it. But I was totally enraptured while I read the book and even found myself paying a little more attention to the cardinals that nest in my backyard every winter.

So then I thought - could I do it? Could I suddenly learn a little about my fine-feathered friends and go in search of those elusive creatures? Could I spread my wings and fly off to the migration routes of the world?
It seemed such a flight of fancy, and only lasted about a minute. I didn't even make it through the bird house at the zoo before I was bored and forgot what birds I'd already seen. No 'big year' for me.

But I sure would have loved to hear Greg Miller speak.


  1. LOL yeah I'm with you. I'm happy for birders, but I don't get it. And I have to admit, I was QUITE glad when Andy and I went to the Galapagos and did NOT have birders on our tour. Again, nothing against 'em, just nothing in common with them either. :P

  2. I don't mind seeing rare things so long we're shown them. I remember when I was in New Zealand - in the middle of Winter - we were shown the very rare and very shy flightless bird called the Kai. It was walking around the carpark of our hotel; and we weren't allowed off the bus until it had walked out of the carpark, which was fair enough. However, I did try to get a photo of it and failed as the first photo didn't work out - and as I opened the aperture on my camera (it was an old film camera) - some dipstick used a flash and scared the living daylights out of the poor thing and it bolted for the treeline. The same dipstick said, "Well, cool! I got a great shot and we can get off the bus now."... idiot. We never saw another again.

    That bird above is either a rare Pink Cockatoo or a Corella. Either way, they are lovely birds. :D