Did you see the movie The Big Year, starring Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black? It is based on a true story of three guys competing to see the most bird species in a single year. Someone I met on a Costa Rican tourism best practices trip in January recommended the flick and I expected a couple of hours of entertainment, not the spark for a personal quest, but that is what I got.
Finding myself with extra time off for 2012, I decided to launch my own Big Year using my own rules. They were:
1. Bird species counted were not limited to the US as in the movie
2. I didn’t need a witness to verify a sighting
3. Birds spotted while drinking a beer or a G&T counted (sometimes twice)
With 146 species from my Costa Rica trip as a launching point, I proceeded to add bird watching to the following adventures:
· Prospecting in Montana
· Eclipse watching in Utah
· Hiking the red rock canyons of Utah and Arizona
· Attending the Great Salt Lake Birding festival and meeting Greg Miller, the birder portrayed by Jack Black in the Big Year movie
· Kayaking with beluga whales in Churchill
· Mosquito swatting and swimming with painted turtles in Lake of the Woods, Ontario
· Driving the Alaska, Stewart Cassiar and Dempster (partial) highways
· Grizzly bear viewing in Hyder, Alaska
· Prairie dog watching in one of Canada’s least visited National parks, Grasslands
· Visiting several Antarctic penguin colonies with a penguinoligist from Oxford University
· Standing in the mist of Iguazu Falls, Argentina (called Niagara on Viagra by some)
I also did trips to Monterey, California and Lucerne, Switzerland for conferences. In addition to learning new things, I added more species while barefoot bog walking in the Alps, and sea otter spotting near Clint Eastwood’s stomping grounds.
At the end of it all, I had traveled 97,000km, over twice the circumference of the earth, and spotted 434 species on four continents. I made it to 64 degrees North Latitude and 65 degrees South Latitude coming within 7,000 kilometers of both the north and south poles. I visited both ends of the Pan-American Highway, Delta Junction, Alaska and Ushuaia, in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. I am still working through the backlog of pictures and videos, but the best souvenirs are the memories taken away from this personal quest.
As I ring in the New Year, I will be pursuing the movie line-ups and contemplating whether to make 2013 the Really Big Year or the Near to Home year. I hope your 2013 bring you much laughter, joy, and a least one new bird species spotted!
P.s. Here is a short video on some of the birds I saw this year http://youtu.be/NQz8uRg3TTI