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Wednesday, March 13, 2013


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.



Bekkieann said...

I, too, enjoyed the movie. The story was told with warmth and humor. Of course, I'm a big Steve Martin fan, too.

I doubt I will ever attempt a big year or month even on a state or county level. Birders, I've found, can be very competitive. And, frankly, I have an awful lot to learn still about various species. I follow a handful of email and internet threads for Utah groups, and thus get good information about current hot spots. And I did make two failed attempts at seeing the very rare (for here) Snowy Owl. So I guess I will do a little chasing. But mostly I just want suggestions for some casual birding and photography.

Catherine said...

I really enjoyed the movie too!
Birding really is a nice relaxing hobby.
xo Catherine

Primitive Stars said...

Morning, sounds like a good read, will look for it, love watching the birds, Francine.

Montanagirl said...

Hmmmm....I haven't read the book, nor have I seen the movie, but it sounds like something I'd enjoy!

Ms Sparrow said...

I just watched that movie recently. It's hard to believe someone would have the time, resources and passion to carom all over the continent to see birds. But then, if I had the time and money, I might develop the passion!

Jo's World said...

Didn't know the story of The Big Year but did have it in my Netflix queue, just moved it up top, should be fun to see. Not sure if I could be a serious birder though, I do have a life list and love it when I see a new bird. I really enjoy Tex/Wis's blog because she sees some of the greatest birds on her own property!


Ien in the Kootenays said...

Who knew birding could be an extreme sport!

Unknown said...

very nice enjoyment,all of you looking very nice.

Anvilcloud said...

I am sure it's a fun and absorbing hobby.