– Twelve Months, Six Continents, and the Ultimate Birding Record
| By Arjan Dwarshuis | Chelsea Green | 2020 | Hardback | eBook available | 272 Pages | ISBN: 9781645021919 |
The Publisher’s View:
The (Big) Year Flew By is the tale of one avid birder’s epic, record-breaking adventure through 40 countries over 6 continents – in just 365 days – to see over 7,000 bird species, many on the precipice of extinction.
When Arjan Dwarshuis first heard of the ‘Big Year’ – the legendary record for birdwatching – he was just twenty years old. It was midnight, and he was sitting on the roof of a truck high up in the Andean Mountains. In that moment, Arjan made a promise to himself that someday, somehow, he would become a world-record-holding birder.
Ten years later, he embarked on an incredible, arduous and perilous journey that took him around the globe; over uninhabited islands, through dense unforgiving rainforests, across snowy mountain peaks and unrelenting deserts – in just a single year. Would he survive? Would he be able to break the ‘Big Year’ record, navigating through a world filled with shifting climate and geopolitical challenges?
The (Big) Year that Flew By is an unforgettable, personal exploration of the limits of human potential when engaging with the natural world. It is a book about birds and birding and Arjan’s attempts to raise awareness for critically endangered species, but it is also a book about overcoming mental challenges, extreme physical danger and human competition and fully realizing your passions through nature, adventure and conservation.
The Author: Arjan Dwarshuis is a professional bird guide and writer, he holds the current world record for observing the largest number of bird species in a single year. In 2016, he launched his global ‘Big Year’ and ultimately saw more than 7,200 of the world’s roughly 10,700 bird species, setting a record that stands to this day. Arjan also starred in the award-winning documentary Arjan’s Big Year, and appears regularly on radio, television, and podcast programs in the Netherlands and beyond. He is a columnist for several magazines about nature, and he is committed to the protection of birds across the globe. He guides birding expeditions all around the world and gives lectures and workshops on birding.
“Arjan’s story is brilliantly told. I was with him every step of the way. It is much more than just a story about one man’s bid to see as most of the world’s bird species in one year as humanly possible. No, this is an epic journey by a man who’s not only obsessed with birds but who has a deep spiritual connection with the planet as he observes the environments and habitats he encounters. It is clear that we have to do more to take care of our world and all its inhabitants, including us.” – David Lindo, author of How to be an Urban Birder
“Dwarshius’ exhilarating race against time across 40 countries and 6 continents in his attempt to break the world record will thrill armchair readers and bird enthusiasts alike.” – Booklist
“[An] entertaining debut . . . . [that] offers colourful glimpses into the locales the author visits. . . . Part birding journal, part travelogue, this will appeal to backyard birders.” – Publisher’s Weekly
I’m glad to have reviewed this right after reading ‘The Meaning of Geese’. The contrast between the men, the journeys and their implicit take on what is most important are in marked contrast despite the fact that both are mad about birds and that both have been guides taking people on overseas birding holidays.
The former is a personal journey full of insight and the latter very much more indulgent. Of course it is entertaining as we follow, albeit in a disjointed diary, a great and exhausting quest. Who wouldn’t want to see the places and the birds he sped through. Given deep enough pockets there is part of most birders who would love to see as many of the world’s species as they can. We too would probably take most privations in our stride and ignore dangers to see a lifer, or a thousand lifers. But, of course, it begs the question ‘should we’?
Any of us who have birded around the world cannot criticise the air miles travelled and the carbon footprint left. But on the cusp of environmental points of no return we surely should not celebrate a race to hold a record. Green tourism must at least be giving back to local communities environmental conservation along with their tourist dollars.
So I sped along virtually with Ar on his adventure and envied every species I’ve not seen, but feel guilty to have such feelings. If youth, better health and the money dropped in my lap tomorrow I might well jet off to Colombia or Colombo. However, I hope I would spend much more time and money resourcing conservation and doing what my shallow pockets and decrepitude dictate, deeply appreciating local nature and doing my bit to preserve it.