In frenetic pilgrimages for once-in-a-lifetime rarities that can make or break their lead, the birders race each other from Del Rio, Texas, in search of the rufous-capped warbler, to Gibsons, British Columbia, on a quest for Xantus's hummingbird, to Cape May, New Jersey, seeking the offshore great skua. Bouncing from coast to coast on their potholed road to glory, they brave broiling deserts, roiling oceans, bug-infested swamps, a charge by a disgruntled mountain lion, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. The unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a new record, one so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested: finding and identifying an extraordinary 745 different species by official year-end count.
Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a rollicking, dazzling narrative of the 275,000-mile odyssey of these three obsessives as they fight to the finish to claim the title in the greatest, or maybe the worst, birding contest of all time.
©2004 Mark Obmascik; (P)2004 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"A fun account of a whirlwind pursuit of birding fame." (Publishers Weekly)
"With a blend of humor and awe, Obmascik takes the reader into the heart of competitive birding, and in the process turns everyone into birders. " (Booklist)
"Charming, engrossing, and educational even for people who can't tell a mudhen from a magpie." (Washington Post)
"A rollicking, feather-ruffler of a read, this uproarious adventure...will have you cawing with laughter." (Jeff Corwin)
This book was a joy. The three main characters travel the country, ignore family and friends, stump through swamps, and end up deathly sick on an island in the North Pacific. They endure all sorts of physical indignities to be the one to see the most birds in a "Big Year", the bird watchers' equivalent of a transcontinental running race or world football championship. The author does an excellent job describing the quirks of the trio of hard core competitors and highlighting their personal quest to see over 700 North American birds in a year. While you learn something about birds, you learn much more about competitive spirit and what it takes to be the best birder in the USA. The day after I read this I took my camera to a nature reserve in MA and looked for birds to start my quest as a birder. I saw one old goose, only about 736 more to go!
As a new birdwatcher, I enjoyed this story of birdwatching gone wild--and look forward to a hobby that offers so many joys beyond identifying a bird. I also recommend Red Tails in Love.
I'm not a birder. In fact I didn't even know such people existed. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, but the competition drew me it, and by the end of the book I wanted more. I recommend this book whether you are a birder or not. It's very entertaining and educational. Since I read this, I have gone out and bought my first pair of binoculars. Now if only I knew what a lark looked like.
Admittedly, I saw the movie, and my random attention to birds became an impassioned hobby. (75 ID'd species in two months, still counting) I stepped into this audiobook knowing full well it would likely have less "drama" than Hollywood's version, but, conversely, it had it's own color, humor, and informative yet engaging plot that kept me not only listening, but listening again. Because of this audio book, I purchased the printed one as well. I really enjoy Oliver Wyman's reading style, easy on the ears, funny, touching, a good "actor" in his own right. Unlike many outdoor hobbies, this one, birding, changes faces each season. And as you get to know the characters in this book, you've a slightly quirky, but earnest, group of colleagues to 'take along' with you. As for the movie? It states in opening credits, laughingly, "This is a true story, only the facts have been changed". If it inspired thousands to go on to read the book, pick up binoculars and start birding, then it's all good. Besides, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gave the movie a good review. This audiobook rocks. I hope you enjoy it too.
The book start as others do, by setting the scene. And continues endlessly; well at least to where I gave it a pass.
Environmentalists will find it ironic that a bird lovers would fly to Alaska from New England,contributing to air pollution, to see one bird.
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