The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession Paperback – January 1, 2004
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- Paperback : 268 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0965901343
- Item Weight : 9.3 ounces
- ISBN-13 : 978-0965901345
- Publisher : Free Press; First Edition (January 1, 2004)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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Mr. Obmascik began his book by introducing the readers to the three personalities who are the main birders. All three are completely different; the hardest driving and most dedicated is Sandy Komito. This man is determined to win the Big Year of 1998. Second birder is Al Leventin, a very wealthy man who lives in a mansion in the Colorado Mountains. He has wanted to bird for many years. Finally he makes his plans to do so. He becomes very seasick, can't go out on the water without becoming nauseated, needs to throw up and misses seeing birds he needs for his Big Year. Third is Greg Miller, a divorcee, who has been introduced into birding by his father. Greg works full time, is anything but rich and impoverishes himself rushing around the country after birds. The other two can well afford to pay for their trips. Greg has maxed out his credit cards.
Mr Obmascik's third chapter tells how the hobby of birding began. Audubon painted birds, named some species after his supporters. Unfortunately he shot too many of them in order to paint them. The Christmas count began in 1900. Before this date hunters went shooting as many birds as they could on this day. Then Christmas Count is put into practice. Birds are to be counted, not killed. Birding took off, books are written, pictured books are for observance to compare different colors, tail feathers plus other differences. Now there is much interest in birds, birding has become a popular hobby.
This book follows these three birders all over the states plus Canada. I know of a lady who is a birder but was just counting Texas birds. She rushed all over Texas. When she heard of a bird she needed to see she rushed off no matter where she was. She had worn out several cars rushing all over Texas. These men are much the same but have more territory to cover. There is nowhere they won't go to see a bird they need on their list. This book is a fun read with all the rushing around; plus there are so many people chasing these birds, needing them for their Big Year.
One good birdwatching place is Attu, a wind swept island off Alaska. There are many people parking out on this island running around with expensive binoculars, cameras and scopes. 1998 is an excellent year due to El Nino, the year before which has blown birds far from their homes across to strange unknown places makeing all this a birders paradise. And birders are taking advantage of it all.
Sandy Komito does all kind of things to find birds. He rushes all over the United States as are so many others. The birding areas are crowded with dedicated birders. One of the chapters is named whirlewind and there are many whirlwinds. Birders are rushing all over the United States to see a particular bird. Birders are hopping on boats on both sides of the country, around Texas, Florida, hanging out in alligator country to see a particular bird. Comparing birds. looking for details, arguing over what particular species of bird birders are seeing. Greg Miller is not rich, but determined to play this game. All three of these men have been involved in birds since childhood. Greg Miller is excellent in his knowledge of bird calls.
One problem the three have is eating properly. Greg Miller is short on money so must exist on fast foods. The other two are so busy rushing around looking for birds that they will not take time to eat properly. Rush! Hurry! Find a particular bird! Whew! Another problem is missing family and enjoying fun times with them.
But the three, plus many other dedicated birders, soldier on. These three go to out of the way places, strange places, unknown places, wild places with terrible weather to find their birds. Plus they are envious of others successes finding a bird he needs on his list. Two of these men charter a helicopter to fly away up in the mountains to see a bird the third man has seen. Competition! Competition! Competition! This book is filled with interesting facts about birds, birders, birding.
This book is not long, but contains much knowledge. All three of these men are still much involved in birding. This is a fun read, this reader is worn out with vicariously rushing all over the country. Great book. Mr. Obmasick has written an exciting book about a popular hobby. I have learned much about birding; these birders are dedicated and single minded about their hobby.
End of 1998, End of Big Year.
Not the most extreme; that prize probably belongs to Kenn Kauffman, as chronicled in Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder . Not the most compulsive. That prize indisputably belongs to the late Phoebe Snetsinger, as described in her posthumous autobiography, Birding On Borrowed Time , and her biography, Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds . But certainly the best-written. Obmascik does a terrific job of writing to birders and non-birders alike. He provides background on the whole issue of "Big Years" and a history of those who had previously attempted new records. He picked three interesting, wildly different birders and his subjects. And he picked the right year. The result is an amazingly entertaining page-turner.
Great fun. My very highest recommendation.
But be warned: There is a danger that the addiction to birding will afflict you. It's clearly contagious. But almost harmless in all but the most virulent cases.
I hate writing book reviews, especially about "esoteric" subject matter, and I'm sure many people have passed over this book because of the word "Birding" in the title. How could anything about three nuts traveling all over North America in search of just spotting a bird - not even getting really good pictures - and having the highest count, species-wise, be all that interesting.
Well, this is a book that will keep your interest because it's more like a treasure hunt than a birding book. It's about three men who are trying to break the record for the most birds spotted in a single year, three men who travel from the Everglades swamps to the frigid, storm tossed Attu in search of the biggest and smallest birds. There's no great prize. It's almost all ego.
And the three guys are really the interest here. One is wealthy, one well-off, and one close to starving in pursuit of "the prize." There are trials and tribulations, and things that could take place in 1999 that will never happen again. The record is secure first because you can't "max out seven credit cards" today without wrecking your credit score, and you can't fly 350,000 miles at a moment's notice what with the security since 2001 (and wait till yesterday's attempt over Detroit hits a bureaucracy like the TCA!).
So, who wins? How does he do it? What effect does it have with their relationships with their spouses/SOs/etc? How does one who gets sea sick by watching an aquarium slosh get on boats on both coasts to get a checkmark next to a bird that only hunts 50 miles offshore? And how do they survive everything from typhoon-like storms to mosquitoes the size of penguins?
I won't tell. It was certainly a nice break from my murder mysteries. I wish more were written like this. It's a contest, yes. But it's more of a character study of three great characters.