I took the handle of Troutbirder from two of my hobbies. I’d been trout fishing since I was 21. Mostly I fell into flyfishing because my first teaching job took me to the only county in Minnesota without a lake. I was already a dedicated canoeist and lake fisherman. Fillmore County it turned out had lots of spring creeks brimming with trout.
The second reason was because of an arthritic knee. I had to give up upland bird hunting. Falling repeatedly with a loaded shotgun didn’t seem like a good plan. Upon my retirement I took up birding under the mentorship of a colleague. Then when I started my blog,, I ran across a picture of an Osprey with a rainbow trout in its talons…. Voila! It’s been several years now since I started birding. I do keep track of the birds I see (listing). When I identify a bird for the first time it’s a "lifer." I don’t "chase birds, " meaning to follow up on a report of a sighting some distance away. Still there are dreams…….
Many serious birders dream of doing a "big year", but what does it take to follow that dream as you chase more than 700 bird species across North America? In The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, author Mark Obmascik brings readers into the heart of the most frenetic big year competition in birding history, the 1998 battle between Sandy Komito, Al Levantin and Greg Miller. From January 1 to December 31, from easy yard birds to rarities blown into Alaska, Obmascik creates a captivating read that is both inspiring and cautionary for every birder while simultaneously giving non-birders a glimpse into the obsession that drives every competitive birder.
Obmascik provide background to the history of birding, and the three men who made history in 1998. In the process we learn of some great birding hotspots and their natural history. In reading this particular book, I reversed my usual pattern of reading a book and then see the movie if one followed. The movie was lots of fun. So I downloaded the book on my new Nook and enjoyed it as well.
Only a handful of birders have seen over seven hundred birds in North America in a single year. The photo below shows three of the members of the “seven hundred club. “ That’s Al Levantin facing you on the left, Greg Miller front and center, and Sandy Komito. on your right.
For these three men in particular, 1998 was 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 braved broiling deserts, bug-infested swamps, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. This unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately led one man to a record so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested. In an unbelievable but true 275,000-mile odyssey these three obsessives fought to win the greatest -- or maybe worst -- birding contest of all time. And the winners were…. Well being birders we did enjoy the book and the movie.