Anyone see the 2011 film The Big Year? This was meant to be a comedy with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black overcoming personal obstacles and taking up birding as their means of therapy. For the three of them it became a competition in traveling all over North America to get a glimpse or bird call from everyday birds to exotic rare birds in order to achieve their Big Year.
According to Wikipedia, A Big Year is an informal competition among birders to see who can identify by sight or sound the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical region.
We saw this as an in-flight movie and not only was it funny, it also inspired us to invest in a decent pair of binoculars and take up birding as a hobby. And with over 400 native birds in Florida it seems we landed in an excellent geographical area to begin as novice birders.
It was about this time last year Hali and I picked up the 2016 Checklist of Florida’s Birds while camping at Tomoka State Park on the Atlantic Coast. Coastal birds flourish here, as do migrating flocks from up north. A perfect start to chart Our Big Year.
Considering Florida boasts over 400 native bird species and we were able to identify less than 100 in a year, one might think we missed a few. Yes that’s true, but birding is much more than just wondering around the state with binoculars and a bird book looking up at the sky watching birds. Within every family of birds there may be a dozen species, like the warbler family.
In Florida there are three types of boobies, ten species of hummingbirds, and seven different woodpeckers. I thought the yellow-bellied sap sucker was something cartoon character Yosemite Sam made up. No, it’s a woodpecker and Woody spotted one. There’s also the red-headed, red-bellied, downy, hairy, red-cockaded, and pileated woodpeckers to keep an eye out for.
The birds we were very excited to see are this pair of bald eagles. . .
They have recently taken over this abandoned osprey nest atop this power pole which is a short walk from our house, just across from a small lake. We hear them as the sun rises and just before the sun sets. And throughout the day I’ll take the short walk out there to check up on them and perhaps find a tail feather down below.
In the south it’s mating season for the American Bald Eagle so we’re hoping they settle down and nest. Right now they’re scoping out the nest and redecorating for what we hope is a small clutch of eaglets.
Calling all birdwatchers.
This past week Hali and I were lucky enough to participate as volunteers in the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. As rookie birders we didn’t just wing it, we were buddied-up with two experienced volunteers who are zoologists for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. From 6 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening, we scoured our zone for as many flying, chirping, digging, singing, swimming, soaring birds we could find and identify.
We did the the pointing and counting while our birding buddies identified and documented our bird count. In all, our small group counted 57 different species. Later that evening, folks from 11 different zones gathered, ate, and shared their findings. We were dirty, tired and simultaneously enthusiastic. We have learned a new hobby! AND, up there with stand-up paddleboarding, the fastest growing outdoor recreation in the country.
For the bird fancier, birding is an wonderful way to get out into the great outdoors and explore your local, all-encompassing aviary. Otherwise, cozy up on your couch and NetFlix The Big Year. It just may inspire 2017 to be your Big Year.
While Jack Black was my favorite bird from this flock of characters, Mr. Martin was his wild and crazy self. Owen Wilson? Well, as a long-shot to win any awards, he completed this trio of dodos.
This fella here, native to North America, was adopted as the national symbol of the United States in 1782 and is the star of our 2016 Big Year. Winner of our Bird of the Year award chosen for its majestic beauty, great strength, and long life. . .
We believe 2017 will be an even Bigger Year.
Happy New Year!!!