Birding on the big screen

Can a movie ever really do justice to a book? It’ll be interesting to see how filmmakers convey the excitement that Mark Obmascik put into his book, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession.

I hope the movie will make reference to southern Arizona in the movie because of all the birding opportunities here. After all, it's mentioned in the book's opening scene and in a couple other spots in the book. One of the three main characters sits in a restaurant in Nogales, Arizona just before dawn on New Year’s Day to start his “Big Year” quest.

The author calls The Big Year “one of the world’s quirkiest contests.” How does it work?  Birders traipse around North America (anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada) spotting birds and note the sightings, hoping their fellow Big Year competitors believe them. “At the end of the year,” the book says, “contestants forward their self-reported species to the American Birding Association, which publishes the results in a magazine-sized document that generates more gossip than an eighth-grade locker room.” For all you out there who think birding is boring, read the book or watch the movie (I’m hoping Hollywood does it justice).

Maybe you have to be a birder to truly appreciate it, but if you see the movie you might be intrigued by birding, and Arizona has some excellent birding opportunities.

Want to start birding?

In August, the Associated Press wrote a story about birding in Arizona. Birders come to Arizona to see rare birds not found in any other part of the country. If you want to get in on the action, here are a few resources:

  • Look for local Audubon Society chapters – getting involved with the Audubon Society can help you understand birds in the environment and put you in touch with other birders who share your interests.
  • Attend a birding festival – Cochise County has two large festivals that introduce novices to the world of birding and also cater to experienced birders
  • If you’re looking for birding opportunities in Cochise County, check the Cochise County bird-watching web page. You’ll find tour operators, suggested itineraries, birding hot spots and events geared that will help you start on your own life list.

The American Birding Association has a Code of Birding Ethics that you should read if you want to get more involved in birding. Their main goal is to promote responsible birding (e.g., respecting private property, promoting the welfare of birds and their environment, and respecting the laws and rights of others).

Enjoy the movie and have fun birding!