The Big Year

A few days ago I was on a flight out here to Edmonton for work. For entertainment on the four hour flight, I watched the movie, The Big Year. I’d seen the ads for it when it came out on video last fall and thought that one day I’d rent the movie, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.

Black-throated Green Warbler. How many species can you identify by sight and sound? Check out my bird gallery on the 44th Parallel Photography website for more bird photos.

The plot is focused around ‘the big year’, a phenomenon in the bird world. Born out of a 30,000 mile road trip in the 1950’s, by birding legend Roger Tory Peterson and his colleague, James Fisher, the duo documented 572 bird species during their trip across North America. Since then, there has been this informal challenge in the birding world, to record the highest number of bird sightings in a single year.

The Big Year was the subject of a 1998 book by  Mark Obmascik. I listened to the audiobook last year and sadly, barely managed to get to the end of it. It’s definitely not on my top ten list. But during my flight to Edmonton, I figured I had nothing better to do and so watched the movie. And given my spring-time addiction to bird photography, I thought it was some light entertainment I might enjoy.The movie features the funny trio of Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. I can’t imagine that they could have put together a more appropriate cast for this movie.

So was the movie any good? All I can say is, what a hoot! [Ok, pardon the really bad birding pun]. Seriously, I loved it! The movie was funny, light-hearted, and yet also dealt with some of the serious issues of life. But all in a light-hearted way. There was some great scenery and well, I could really relate to the passion about birds. No, I’m not about to take a leave of absence from my job and do ‘a big year’. I’m passionate, but not crazy. ;o) But I could relate to the excitement of seeing a rare bird or the thrill of seeing a great diversity of birds. And well, I’d never be in contention for top honours for a big year, because I can’t move fast enough, lugging around a 600mm lens on a tripod. And there’s no way I’d be going on to the next sighting until I got a decent photo of the bird of interest. Not that I would go any lengths to get the photo. I don’t believe we should be trampling nature and harming the environment to get a good photo. But I would camp out until I got the photo. Remember one of my earlier posts – patience really is a virtue in wildlife photography.

For those of you who love birds or bird photography, I highly recommend watching The Big Year. It’s fun. It’s light entertainment that will put a smile on your face. It also made me realize how bird-geeky I truly am. When the movie credits scrolled by, accompanied by photos of a diversity of birds, I challenged myself to name as many species as possible as the photos and credits flew by. Hmmm, maybe one day I will do a A Big Year. ;o)





Filed under Birds, Opinion

2 responses to “The Big Year

  1. Terrific, thanks for the tip, I shall dig out the movie and check it out.


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