Almost always I prefer to DO something rather than observe it being done by others. Seeing or hearing about something, for example, birding, that is being done by others almost always makes me want to quit observing the other people and just go out and join the fun.
That is what happened when I met Eric Carpenter, birder extraordinaire from Austin, Texas, early during his 2003 Texas big year. I immediately went into high gear and tried to begin my own big year although until then I was pretty much unaware that there was such a thing as doing a big year. In 2005, after resting and planning for a year, I tried a Texas big year again, and did very well. I was happy and ready to go on to something other than big years, when in January of 2006, I received The Big Year from a friend. I had seen this book in the book stores and had deliberately avoided purchasing it. Now that I had my own copy, and my friend kept asking me about how I liked it, I didn’t have any choice but to read it. It was so hard to read about the adventures of others who were doing nonstop what sounded like such a grand thing. I kept wanting to put down the book and go birding instead, but I persevered. By the time I finished reading it, I had begun a list of places to go and birds to see if I could ever do an ABA big year. Because of the certain huge expenses if I ever did such a BIG big year, it took me until late 2007 to get up my courage (and my credit cards) and finally make plans for my own ABA big year.
2008 was wonderful. I wasn’t just vicariously experiencing someone else’s big year by hearing or reading about them doing a big year.* I was doing IT! Unfortunately, all years including big years end, and “normal” life resumes. This wonderful year was expensive, far beyond affordability for us, and it took a while to recover financially. Since then I’ve done a couple of smaller big years — South Dakota, and now three Pennington County overlapping big years (see previous posts), the first of which is ending right now.
I am finding it difficult to fathom what I can DO next. Not only do I not know what I can do now, but now there is the painful (for me) experience of having to face the Neil Hayward phenomenon. This man has done what absolutely no one else has done. While I do have the “honor” of being in the 700 club, he is alone in being in the “greater than Komito” club (although many have tried). I’m afraid it’s driving me nuts. I so want to go out there and try again, even though I would just be trying to better my own previous total (really) and even though I’m very much older and poorer than before. It’s not that I really care what the final tally is for anyone else, including Mr. Hayward. I just want to be out there living the challenge of doing a big year, an enthusiastic, all-consuming, full year of having a birding high (with a few certain lows thrown in to give the highs more height, of course).
No matter whether or not I ever am up to doing again what I love to do so much, I have to hand it both to Sandy Komito and to Neil Hayward! CONGRATULATIONS BOTH OF YOU FOR YOUR VERY NOTEWORTHY ACCOMPLISHMENTS!!
*PS. Below are a few photos of birds that I especially appreciated getting during my ABA big year, even though they are not all rarities (White-crested Elaenia, Gray-headed Chickadee, Spotted Owls, and Rufous-capped Warbler, the last new bird for my ABA big year)