A few years ago I read The Big Year by Mark Obmascik, a funny book about three guys who were locked into a contest about who would see the most birds in North America during one year. It's now been made into a movie with Steve Martin and I'm planning to see whether the movie lives up to the book.
Yet every time I think of the Big Year, I think of Kenn Kaufman's Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand. Kaufman is one of America's master birders and the renowned author of bird guides that have helped millions of Americans in their quest to identify and know the birds they see.
Kingbird Highway is a coming of age story of someone who loved birds and despite being young and self-funded, was determined to win the crown of seeing the more birds than anyone else in 1973. Aged 19, he budgeted $1 per day for food and by hitch-hiking, sleeping under bridges, eating cat-food, and using odd jobs to fund his travels, he found out who he was and studied birds in a way that would forever shape his life. This was not only a remarkable story, but also such a well-written book that it deserves to be a classic in the manner of Kerouac.
One of the great pleasures of my life was having the opportunity to go birding at Fernhill Wetlands with Kenn Kaufman and learning from this master birder and terrific story teller.
The Big Year movie trailer: