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Why on Earth?

It’s not easy, but somebody just has to do it.

I think doing overlapping big years is just an extreme example of what all of us, even non-birders, do all the time. We chose to make our lives more complicated than they already are.  At least that’s how what we do is often perceived by others. I often have difficulty in figuring out why I do what I do, so I’m sure that I do not understand others and I’m sure that there are as many reasons for our behavior as there are people. For now, I’m just going to comment on a few reasons why I (and many others) bird so much.

Looking at my bird photographs is one of the best ways for me to begin to understand why I am such an obsessive birder. Each photograph brings back memories of an adventure, a moment of startling beauty, a delightful glimpse of nature.  Although we all know that birding can sometimes be boring or frustrating or too challenging, any time that I spend birding almost always brightens the day and improves my whole outlook on life. While I’m birding and taking my photos, I’m hoarding the memories for a non-birding day (even I have non-birding days).


Beginning a big year in the middle of a big year definitely reduces the non-birding days. Just when the summer doldrums have made my first big year (“big year A” begun on January 1) screech to a slow crawl, I now have the pleasure of having the excuse to race around for new birds for my second big year (“big year B” begun on July 1). Just yesterday, I was delighted to add Spotted Sandpiper to my big year B big year. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve delighted in finding my first Burrowing Owl for the new big year (at a nearly abandoned prairie dog town), my first Red-headed Woodpecker (one of many on fence posts in eastern Pennington County), my first Sharp-tailed Grouse (a mother and about 6 chicks along a gravel road) and 112 other species, and 112 others. But who’s counting?


So far, there are 223 species on my big year A list and 115 on my big year B list. But especially in my county big year, it’s not really about the numbers. Really. Each number is short-hand for my adventures and moments of wonder that led to that number, as are my photographic samples. Even now, as I write, I’m eagerly planning where I’ll go next (as soon as possible) to add to both big years. Will it be the Black Hills or one of the few lakes in the county or a drive of the gravel country roads or…? I can hardly wait.



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Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber started birding at the age of 7. In 2005, she broke the Texas big year record with 522 species, and in 2008, she tallied 723 bird species in the ABA Area. An account of her ABA Big Year, entitled Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year, was published in the spring of 2011. Her second book, Birds in Trouble was published in 2016. While living in North Carolina, Lynn was active in Wake County Audubon and on the board of the Carolina Bird Club. Moving to Texas in 2000, she was active in the Fort Worth Audubon Society, serving as its president for 3 years. She is a life member of the Texas Ornithological Society, and became its president in April 2009. She now lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
Lynn Barber

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