The Big Year

  • by Mark Obmascik
  • Narrated by Oliver Wyman
  • 6 hrs and 19 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Every year on January 1, a quirky crowd of adventurers storms out across North America for a spectacularly competitive event called a Big Year: a grand, grueling, expensive, and occasionally vicious, "extreme" 365-day marathon of birdwatching. For three men in particular, 1998 would be a whirlwind, a winner-takes-nothing battle for a new North American birding record. In frenetic pilgrimages for once-in-a-lifetime rarities that can make or break their lead, the birders race each other from Del Rio, Texas, in search of the rufous-capped warbler, to Gibsons, British Columbia, on a quest for Xantus's hummingbird, to Cape May, New Jersey, seeking the offshore great skua. Bouncing from coast to coast on their potholed road to glory, they brave broiling deserts, roiling oceans, bug-infested swamps, a charge by a disgruntled mountain lion, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. The unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a new record, one so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested: finding and identifying an extraordinary 745 different species by official year-end count.
Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a rollicking, dazzling narrative of the 275,000-mile odyssey of these three obsessives as they fight to the finish to claim the title in the greatest, or maybe the worst, birding contest of all time.


What the Critics Say

"A fun account of a whirlwind pursuit of birding fame." (Publishers Weekly)
"With a blend of humor and awe, Obmascik takes the reader into the heart of competitive birding, and in the process turns everyone into birders. " (Booklist)
"Charming, engrossing, and educational even for people who can't tell a mudhen from a magpie." (Washington Post)
"A rollicking, feather-ruffler of a read, this uproarious adventure...will have you cawing with laughter." (Jeff Corwin)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Ultra Birding - Competive Bird Watching

This book was a joy. The three main characters travel the country, ignore family and friends, stump through swamps, and end up deathly sick on an island in the North Pacific. They endure all sorts of physical indignities to be the one to see the most birds in a "Big Year", the bird watchers' equivalent of a transcontinental running race or world football championship. The author does an excellent job describing the quirks of the trio of hard core competitors and highlighting their personal quest to see over 700 North American birds in a year. While you learn something about birds, you learn much more about competitive spirit and what it takes to be the best birder in the USA. The day after I read this I took my camera to a nature reserve in MA and looked for birds to start my quest as a birder. I saw one old goose, only about 736 more to go!
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- Chauncey

Did not finish

The book start as others do, by setting the scene. And continues endlessly; well at least to where I gave it a pass.
Environmentalists will find it ironic that a bird lovers would fly to Alaska from New England,contributing to air pollution, to see one bird.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-05-2004
  • Publisher: Random House Audio