Read: Birding Without Borders

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An international Big Year is almost beyond comprehension and something I have zero interest in actually trying to accomplish but I’m not Noah Strycker. Not many people are. But reading about this adventure in Birding Without Borders should be on your to-do list. Truly enjoyed this book and learned quite a lot along the way.

In 2015, Noah Strycker set out with a backpack and binoculars(and a Leica) to forty-one different countries in an attempt to set the International Big Year record. His goal was 5000 different species across the entire world. No days off, full battle plan, and hoping that Lady Luck would be on his side. Just imagine dealing with the airlines alone. My last international trip got canceled five times before I just gave up and stayed home.

Starting in Antarctica and breezing through the other continents Strycker is relentless but also makes sure to connect with local birders along the way. In fact, working with local bird experts is really the reason he can even make a go at the record. The international birding network was not something I was familiar with, and Strycker takes full advantage. And when considering the scale, range, and complexity in reaching birding areas there really wasn’t any other way.

This book, like Kingbird Highway, isn’t just about birds. This is about nature, the natural world, environmental destruction, climate change, and the wonderful world of feather friends. It’s also friendship, patience, observation, and dedication. Yesterday, while on a short hike, for the first time in my life I noticed a Northern Flicker. I saw motion, up came the twenty-year-old binoculars and suddenly I was staring at this thing staring at me. It was beautiful. So well designed, so sleek, and with a masterful color palette.

Comments 8

  1. Me too, a Flicker showed up under the feeder, ground feeding. Never seen one either, and never knew a woodpecker would ground feed.

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  2. A poem by my late great mother, Alison Boylston Piazza

    Perhaps the thought of presumably sensible folk
    Making lists of birds they had seen always seemed to you like a joke,
    And it seemed rather mysterious
    That anyone could actually be serious
    About the study of nesting habits and patterns of migration,
    And a practice known as “mouth to beak” resuscitation.
    But if you’re suddenly spending the grocery money on bird seed by the bag
    And every day looking more like a hag
    In last year’s dress
    (And couldn’t care less
    Because the cardinal’s scarlet outfit thrills you more
    Than any gown you ever wore)
    And your idea of a Christmas that’s jocular
    Is the gift of a binocular
    The better to see
    Twelve evening grosbeaks in a pear tree,
    If you’re in the woods and fields and in rain, snow, and sleet,
    Not worrying a bit about cold, wet feet,
    And you no longer have time to sit around reading tales of international espionage and murder,
    You’ve become a birder.

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      Boston based?
      I am going to read this to my mother in a few minutes. She will love it. And now I am birding too which I can see becoming a real “issue.” I saw a crested caracara yesterday which was a thrill. A local birder then said “Ya, they are everywhere.”

  3. Dan, my home base is Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, but have lived in Boston at various times of my life and still have connections there and get back up there whenever I can. The poem is part of a collection of my mother’s poetry that I am working on illustrating with my photographs and will be putting into a book to sell in my gallery. I thought you’d get a kick out of it. If you get to Boston you should try to make it over to the Vineyard. We got birds. Hi to Mom.

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      Hey Sara,
      I love the Vineyard. I’ll be in Maine for three months so will here and there over the region. I plan to hit Boston, DC and NY while I’m there.

  4. Everybody loves the Vineyard and eventually almost everybody ends up here at one time or another. Would be great fun to meet you. I live in my childhood home, great big old whaling Captain’s house, hanging on by the skin of my teeth while my little town turns into the Hamptons around me. Stop by my gallery. I’ve got some stories to tell you about the place, maybe a song or a fiddle tune or two as well.

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