Recently in Williamsburg there has been an unusual sighting of a rare bird in the area, a Townsend’s Solitaire. I came across a handful of folks that made more than an hour’s drive to see this western, Rocky Mountain native; folks from Charlottesville, Roanoke and even the brave folks that came through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel on a weekend from Chesapeake. Luckily my daughters and I had to drive about 3 miles to see the bird.
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik details his “Big Year”(a birding term) that birders use to define a year long contest to see who can identify the most species during 365 day period. Obmascik also relates the year long obsession of other birders during 1998, how they cross paths, help each other and he even dabbles in the environmental and societal issues for birders as well.
At break-neck speed the story unfolds, from the western islands of Alaska to the keys in Florida birds are identified and checked off the list only to finally award the Big Year champion in December.
The trials, triumphs and frustrations of these three birders make this book a wonderful read for non-birders. If you are driving to see other rare species and don’t have the time to read the book, the Williamsburg Library offers this selection on audio cd as well. The Audio version was an Audiofile Earphones award winning selection.
2008 is THE BIG YEAR in my household, my oldest daughter and I are keeping track of the different bird species we see this year, and the Townsend’s Solitaire is one that I never would have guessed we’d see near the coast of Virginia.