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The World Of Competitive Birding44:36
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A new Jack Black, Steve Martin movie sheds light on the wild world of competitive birding. How far would you go to spot a fork-tailed flycatcher?

Members of Team Sapsucker search for birds during the New Jersey Audubon's annual World Series of Birding in Crystal Lake, N.J., Saturday, May 9, 2009. The competitive fundraising event asks birders to identify as many species as they can by sight or sound in a 24-hour period. (AP)
Members of Team Sapsucker search for birds during the New Jersey Audubon's annual World Series of Birding in Crystal Lake, N.J., Saturday, May 9, 2009. The competitive fundraising event asks birders to identify as many species as they can by sight or sound in a 24-hour period. (AP)

“Extreme sport” brings triathlon to mind. Cliff-diving. Iron men. Mountain boarding. Motocross. For extreme bird-watchers – “birders” – it’s got a different form entirely. Extreme, but in its own crazy way. It’s called “the big year.”

An extreme birder sets out to see how many species of bird he or she can spot in 365 days in, let’s say, North America. The numbers get nose-bleed high. Six hundred. Seven hundred. More. A wild trans-continental chase. A new movie with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Own Wilson shows it. But we’ve got the real thing.

This hour On Point: extreme birding’s “big year.”
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Mark Obmascik, Author and Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and author ofThe Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

Greg Miller, an avid birder, he did a big year in 1998 which was chronicled in Mark Obmascik’s book “The Big Year.”

Lynn Barber, she did a North America big year in 2008, also did a record-breaking big year for the state of Texas in 2005. She's the author of Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year.

C Segment

Leonardo Urena celebrates after his pumpkin won this year's Half Moon Bay giant pumpkin contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. The pumpkin weighed 1,704 pounds, making it a new California record. The circumference was 195 inches. (AP)
Leonardo Urena celebrates after his pumpkin won this year's Half Moon Bay giant pumpkin contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. The pumpkin weighed 1,704 pounds, making it a new California record. The circumference was 195 inches. (AP)

From Tom's Reading List

The Big Flop "Wow. Thanks to everyone for an exciting opening weekend. I had a great time seeing the movie 3 times this weekend with lots of birders, friends, and family. Everyone helped make this a very special weekend for me. I’m a little bleary-eyed after driving over 1,000 miles this weekend and going right back to work yesterday. Ooofah. But hey! I did stuff like that during my big year in 1998. Only now I don’t get around as easily."

The ABA blog "I’ve seen it twice (so far). I loved it and hope to buy myself a copy. Of course, like nearly everyone else I have a few criticisms too. Following are my thoughts about some of the good things and not-so-good things about The Big Year movie. I’ll try not to give away the plot’s details (which are not exactly the same as those in the book), but I wanted to give you my thoughts on what the movie is and is not."

The Miami Herald "I know that look because it washes over me regularly. When a Golden Eagle swoops down in front of our 4x4 in California's Tejon Ranch; when a hundred thousand hawks and turkey vultures soar over Veracruz, Mexico; when I'm on the bayous of Louisiana, surrounded by Great Blue Herons, prehistoric looking White Ibis and Audubon's symbol, Great Egrets - I'm filled with wonder and humility."

This program aired on October 19, 2011.

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