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My Big Year in a Small Town

Before I spotted my first Greater Yellow Legs standing in a salt pond in my new hometown of Westerly, Rhode Island a few months ago, surrounded by a flock of snowy white Great Egrets, having a big year meant making a ton of money or reaching a major life goal. I’ve always been a goal setter, a go getter, and I still am, but ever since those bright yellow legs called out to me to take a closer look, the concept of having a big year has taken on a whole new meaning.

I have recently become a Birder.


And I’m setting off on my first Big Year.


According to the Audubon society, A Big Year is when a birder sets out to see or hear as many different Continental North American (north of Mexico) bird species in a calendar year. In the world of serious birders, this unofficial annual quest is serious business, as can be seen (for those interested) in the aptly named 2011 feature film, The Big Year starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson.


The biggest Big Year was 784 bird species in 2016.

My Big Year will not be that big.

First of all, I don’t fly. (No, the

irony is not lost on me.) Secondly,

I’m fairly new to this sport – one

might call me a fledgling, sorry –

and I’m learning slowly as I go.

Field guides, photography

equipment, bird reporting and

identifying websites like eBird and apps like Merlin: It’s all relatively new to me. Birding is not for the dispassionate. It requires dedication, fascination, and a bit of fanaticism.


And I’m loving every minute of it.


Although I’m descending into retirement – I’m still a go getter, a goal setter. I still love a good chase. A good challenge. Something to keep my brain and my body active, to keep me young and searching.


So when a fellow Westerly birder with years more experience than me recently took me under his wing – sorry – he warned me it wasn’t easy, it would take time and patience and it sounded like a gauntlet. I couldn’t help myself. I had to accept the challenge. I had to create my own chase. My plan is to stay fairly close to home for the duration of this first year, exploring the beauty of Westerly and its fascinating and plentiful bird population in an attempt to get to know them both better.

I hope you will join me as I set off on my Big Year in a Small Town. I will be documenting my journey via photographs and blog entries and even some watercolors as I chase after my Life List, counting myself lucky day by day and bird by bird.

This is going to be fun!

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