Make 2012 Nebraska's Big Year for Birds

By Daniel Glomski, Jill Liske-Clark, and Judy Weston

 A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark ObmascikAre you a birder?

Odds are good that you qualify. Over 48 million Americans, about 21 percent of the population, watch birds in one form or another, spending about $36 billion annually on the hobby. The vast majority of birders stick to the backyard, setting up a feeding station and watching to see what shows up. If you fall into this category, you might not consider yourself a birder. After all, don’t “real” birders jump into the car or book a flight at the drop of a hat to chase a rare stray in some distant locale?

Perhaps you land somewhere in that vast middle ground—wishing to see and learn about the birds beyond your backyard without maxing out multiple credit cards. Or maybe you’re a complete birding beginner. Either way, we, the coordinators of Nebraska’s Big Year, want to help you explore the wonderful world of birds.

Nebraska’s Big Year is a collaboration between Central Community College–Grand Island, the Nebraska Bird Partnership and the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center. We have organized a series of birding events, including speakers, field trips and more, to get you out looking for birds—regardless of your skill level.

We’ve organized many Nebraska’s Big Year events around the recent motion picture “The Big Year”—starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson—and the book of the same title on which the movie is based. In the latter, author Mark Obmascik tells the story of three birders independently undertaking “Big Years”—finding as many species of birds in North America as they can during one calendar year (in this case, 1988), with the specific goal of breaking the current Big Year record.

This go-round, two of the Big Year birders are wealthy and have the resources to travel anywhere at any time. The third, Greg Miller, works as a computer programmer. Overweight, going through a divorce and using precious vacation time, Greg manages to exceed his goal of 700 species during his Big Year. But does he out-bird his better-funded competition?

This March, Greg (played by Jack Black) will be in the Grand Island area to relate personal experiences from his Big Year and as a consultant to the motion picture. We’ll offer a screening of the movie and an opportunity to join a birding field trip with Greg.

We encourage you to keep track of Nebraska’s Big Year and related events via our Facebook page. Please feel free to submit your sightings there as well, as we’ll keep track of how many birds participants see collectively. Head out into the field and let us know what you find!


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