Discovering the universal nature of humanity’s kindness while pursuing a birding world record.
In 2015, Birding magazine associate editor Strycker (The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, 2015, etc.) set a goal to see half of the world’s bird species in one year. Though his journey took him to all seven continents and over 40 countries—and he eventually clocked in at 6,042 species sighted, surpassing the 5,000 he aimed for when he set out—the author’s travelogue focuses less on the counts than on the moments that made up his remarkable journey. He discusses the evolution and historical context of ornithology and birding, noting that it moved from a process of taming the wilderness through discovering, collecting, and categorizing to a way to rediscover nature “at a time when significant chunks of society rarely venture outdoors.” Through his knowledgeable viewpoint, Strycker celebrates the creatures he followed, avian and human alike. With impressive attention to detail and a sharp eye, he conveys a sense of optimism even as he notes the ecological challenges faced not only by birds, but also by the other animals that occupy different habitats. If anything, cynics might struggle to believe in the spate of generosity embodied in the global village of birders as seen through the author’s eyes. Nonetheless, Strycker’s description of a year “expanded to its maximum potential” will inspire readers to explore the world, “from the tiniest detail to the biggest panorama.” In the appendix section, the author includes a list of his gear, a “Big Year Snapshot,” which lists the total days in each country and number of birds sighted, among other data, and a 50-page list of each of the birds he saw and when and where he saw them.
Colorful but unassuming—and unexpected—lessons for living life fully, presented from a birder’s-eye view.