Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn't want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job. He didn't want to think about his failed relationship with 'the one' or his potential for ruining a new relationship with 'the next one'. And he almost certainly didn't want to think about turning 40. And so instead he went birding.
Birding was a lifelong passion. It was only among the birds that Neil found a calm that had eluded him in the confusing world of humans. But this time he also found competition. His growing list of species reluctantly catapulted him into a Big Year - a race to find the most birds in one year. His peregrinations across 28 states and six provinces in search of exotic species took him to a hoarfrost-covered forest in Massachusetts to find a fieldfare; to Lake Havasu, Arizona, to see a rare Nutting's flycatcher; and to Vancouver for the red-flanked bluetail.
Neil's Big Year was as unplanned as it was accidental: It was the perfect distraction from life. Neil shocked the birding world by finding 749 species of bird and breaking the long-standing Big Year record. He also surprised himself: during his time among the hummingbirds, tanagers, and boobies, he found a renewed sense of confidence and hope about the world and his place in it.
©2016 Neil Hayward (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
"Narrator Sam Devereaux flawlessly portrays transplanted Brit Neil Hayward, who gives up his lucrative biotechnology career to bird-watch and heal after a painful breakup. Devereaux's Hayward generously shares the thrill of bird-watching as he quietly hides in cold, wet bushes, awaiting the arrival of these most elusive creatures. With a count of 749 birds, Hayward breaks the American Birding Association's Big Year record. The most fun comes from Hayward's accent and wit, both delivered authentically by Devereaux. When Hayward travels with an array of American bird-watchers, Devereaux continues to present an impressive range of accents. Even non- bird-watchers will enjoy Hayward's musings on nature and life - both human and avian. Listeners will experience Hayward's joy as he regains his confidence and realizes that Gerri, his new girlfriend, is perfect for him." (AudioFile magazine)
I've known a couple of birders - and they're really not that peculiar. I've seen the movie "A BIg Year." I've even been mildly intrigued by the thought of birding - thought never knowing how one actually began. Then, I listened to this book. Part birding book, part self-help/acknowledgement book - it caused me to buy the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds - Western Edition as well as downloading their iPhone app!
In this book we get to follow Neil Haywards birding Big Year. Being a birder, this the birding storyline is interesting and exciting, with good descriptions of birds and birding. The author avoids reducing the species to mere ticks on a list, but in a straight forward but engaging manner he manages to convey his love for birds.
Parallel to the birding story we get a vivid insight into the development of his personal crisis which centers around Gerri, his girlfriend.
What makes this audiobook so pleasurable is how beatifully these two stories are interwoven.
Sam Deveraux's performance is perfect.
A backyard birder, I know that the closest I'll ever come to a Big Year is through a book like this. Hayward writes with a typical British self-depreciation: he must have done very, very well in his work (one of the smartest guys in the room) to have financed the travels demanded by such competitive birding. There's some forgivable repetition of form with the way he tries to interweave his ongoing life and love story with each birding adventure, but his obvious enthusiasm for the birds themselves and not just the chance to tick off a list carries the book. His descriptions of fellow birders show that this sport attracts people of all backgrounds, education, and income levels; and they travel to some hilariously uncomfortable places. Ultimately, the message is to go outside, look around, and be very happy that there are birds.
So many birds
So little time
Can't compare to any book I have read. Could have been a very dry subject but Hayward educated and entertained.
His voice captured the humor, the outrageousness and sincere.
All you ever need to know you can learn from the birds and birders!
A relaxing read that I listened to all the way through as I drove a great distance , scanning the sky for wings in flight. Yes, nature truly does heal. Narrarator read the story with preccision and ease as if he was actually there every step of the way.
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