Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Big Year

 "Most people wake up one day and realize they didn't do everything they wanted to do." ~ Steve Martin in The Big Year

Time to reveal a new layer of my nerd status.  Not only am I really a "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man" deep down inside, but I am also a closet bird watcher.  I won't go as far as to classify myself as a 'birder', as the ranks for that hallowed sport are far beyond my reach, but I do enjoy birds a great deal.  Watching them, identifying them, feeding them, trying to identify them by call, but NEVER hunting them! 

I re-watched The Big Year last weekend which prompted this post.  It's a great little movie.  Even if you are not intrigued by birds.  It features the comedic acting genius of Steve Martin - so how can you go wrong there?  A Big Year in birding terms is contest to see who can see, or hear, the most species of birds in a calendar year.  Yes, real people actually do this!  So, in the movie, Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson are three men from very different walks of life who set out to have their own 'Big Year' and win the title of greatest birder of the year.  It's funny, heartwarming and sad at times but I love the premise behind it.  Maybe because of the birds, but also because I love the idea of people putting their heart and soul into whatever it is they are passionate about in pursuit of wild, crazy and unthinkable goals.  That will get me every time. 

So where did my obsession with birds come from?  I can't say for sure, but when I signed up for a Birding class in college, it pretty much sealed the deal.  Doesn't sound like a real class does it?! Au contraire my friends, it was.  I believe the name of the class was actually Biology of the Birds, so we did learn important things like the anatomy and physiology of the avian species, along with their migration patterns, nesting habits, etc, however the main draw for me was the hiking and field trips to go bird watching!  As a nature and animal lover, this was probably the best science elective I've ever taken.  Well, separating out and preparing a slide of my own chromosomes in genetics class was pretty cool too :)  Nowadays, I don't go bird watching as much but I'm always looking for them and trying to identify them when I'm out and about.  I have a little bird feeder on my patio which attracts whole families of birds throughout the day!  It actually makes me infinitely happy when I see birds feeding there each morning and evening.  The bird feeder sits right outside my patio door which also provides endless entertainment for my cats!  Sometimes, they even crouch down and 'hunt' the birds, which ends with one of the cats flinging himself into the glass door. Hahaha

This is what my set up looks like:

I tried to get a picture with the birds feeding, but every time I got too close they flew away :)

I live in an apt so I just have a small suet feeder hung on my patio.  The birds love it.  They are usually perched all over the railings and the suet block itself chomping away.  If you are interested in feeding birds of your own, you can buy the feeder cage as well as the suet blocks at pet stores or even your local Target or Walmart.  My dad even got one of these to hang on one of our trees back home.  If I ever own a home and have some yard space I hope to have more feeders and some birdhouses to encourage some nesting and maybe see some babies!

I mostly get sparrows at my bird feeder and most often, house sparrows, but I also get some others like mourning doves, goldfinches, and mockingbirds.  When I'm out running, walking, hiking or driving, I like to look for new birds and then try to identify them in my guidebook (I know, HUGE nerd!).  This is the field guide I use, but there are many other good renowned brands out there:

In many ways, this has been a 'BigYear' for me too.  Although I'm not chasing a birding goal, I've been chasing a personal goal to find out more about myself, to live more authentically and to be more aware and 'tuned in' to my life than I had been in the past.  I've made some big changes this year and am beginning to see my life in a whole new way.  No spoiler alert on the movie, but I've really begun to see that the end result is not as important as the journey.  This is big for me, a reforming perfectionist, and I feel that my life is finally heading in the right direction. 

I would definitely recommend the movie, and also to feeding the birds if you get a chance :)

Your turn!

Has anyone seen this movie?

Anyone else a bird watcher out there? 

I would actually really love if some of you sent me pictures or descriptions of birds from your neck of the woods that I could try to identify.  It would MAKE MY WEEK!


  1. Great post! I'll have to check out the movie. I don't have any pics, but I do love to watch the birds that come to our pond. The best sighting occurred last Spring when I saw a blue heron at the pond. I inadvertently scared it away, but that's probably a good thing because I believe it was there to eat the fish in the pond.

    1. Hey Deb! I think I remember you telling me about the heron! How cool!

  2. Nothing wrong with being a closet birder, in fact with the internet, we all get to chat about our passions in a much more open manner. I definitely separate myself from the twitching type too. With the price of fuel and the damage I would be doing by polluting the atmosphere, it definitely makes sense to limit the twitching and bird from your local patch. You may be interested in my sister blog to naturestimeline, which is UKbirdingtimeline but beware, it's seriously lacking in content for the time being.

    Kind Regards


    1. Hi Tony! Thanks for reading and commenting. Sometimes I wish I was a hardcore birder! haha But I just genuinely like watching birds. I think they are so spritely and graceful.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. What a great post! I also have seen and loved The Big Year and identify as a closet birder (although I have six bird/squirrel feeders). Thanks for reminding me of a great movie and to go fill the birdfeeders!

    1. Hi Bill! Thanks so much for your comment. Isn't that movie great? I remember catching it inadvertently the first time I saw it and thought it was so charming - just like the birds :)