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Extreme Birder

One Woman's Big Year

Lynn E. Barber

Publication Year: 2011

One woman . . . one year . . . 723 species of birds. . .    In 2008, Lynn Barber's passion for birding led her to drive, fly, sail, walk, stalk, and sit in search of birds in twenty-five states and three provinces. Traveling more than 175,000 miles, she set a twenty-first century record at the time, second to only one other person in history.     Over 272 days, Barber observed 723 species of birds in North America north of Mexico, recording a remarkable 333 new species in January but, with the dwindling returns typical to Big Year birding, only eight in December, a month that found her crisscrossing the continent from Texas to Newfoundland, from Washington to Ontario. In the months between, she felt every extreme of climate, well-being, and emotion. But, whether finally spotting an elusive Blue Bunting or seeing three species of eiders in a single day, she was also challenged, inspired, and rewarded by nearly every experience.   Barber's journal from her American Birding Association-sanctioned Big Year covers the highlights of her treks to forests, canyons, mountain ranges, deserts, oceans, lakes, and numerous spots in between.  Written in the informal style of a diary, it captures the detail, humor, challenges, and fun of a good adventure travelogue and also conveys the remarkable diversity of North American birds and habitat. For actual or would-be “travel birders,” Lynn Barber’s Extreme Birder provides a fascinating, binoculars-eye view of one of the best-loved pastimes of nature lovers everywhere. "Lynn Barber challenges a traditionally male-dominated pursuit--the birding big year--and is successful beyond her wildest dreams. She is an inspiration for all who love adventure, nature, and birds."--Lynn Hassler, author, Birds of the American Southwest

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Front Matter

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pp. v


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pp. vii-xiv

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ABA Checklist and Checklist Codes

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pp. xv-xvi

The American Birding Association has a list of all of the birds that have ever been documented in the ABA area, which can be found at http://www.aba.org. This is the list that an ABA big year birder studies, drools over, rejoices over, and weeps over. For the less than absolutely fanatic birder, it may be surprising to learn that...

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January: I Can’t Believe I’m Actually Doing It!

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pp. 1-25

I am in Rockport, Texas. Soon I will leave with Debra Corpora, a birder friend at whose house in Rockport my husband and I stayed over the Christmas holidays. I will join the “shrikes,” four women birders from the Rockport area, to do a big day and in the process begin my ABA big year. I understand...

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February: Elaenia, Dovekie, and Bananaquit

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pp. 26-40

Birding has slowed down. Client matters are being given priority, although I did sneak in a bit of birding this month. On February 1 in the late morning, I went down to Johnson County’s Buddy Stewart Park (Texas) for Rusty Blackbirds. Although good habitat puddles were plentiful as in previous years, at first I could not find any blackbirds...

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March: March Madness and More

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pp. 41-59

Yesterday, Debra drove me over to the Newport historic waterfront in the desultory rain spurts. People were gathered about with binoculars and packs and coolers, mostly under an overhanging awning. I went into the office to check in and was told that the captain had canceled the trip due to high winds...

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April: Neither Snow nor Sleet Can Keep Spring Away

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pp. 60-83

I’m driving west toward Big Bend National Park, about 550 miles from Fort Worth. I need to get there to get a camping permit before the Panther Junction visitor center closes. If I get a permit, I will brave the forecast heavy winds, hike to Boot Springs and camp, and try to get a Flammulated....

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May: Warbler Waves and I Go North

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pp. 84-103

We began the day in the dark on another lonely road, listening intently as the wind blew around us, eventually hearing five different nightjars: Chuckwill’s- widow, Whip-poor-will, Common Pauraque, and both Common and Lesser Nighthawk in under an hour. This area is a relatively remote location known to our Classic leader that is sufficiently distant from the sounds of....

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June: Alaskan Adventures

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pp. 104-126

Yesterday I drove up toward Denali, getting as far as the road that goes to Denali State Park before Sheridan called me on my cell phone to tell of a reported Boreal Owl about 80 miles up the Glenn Highway near Sheep Mountain Lodge (about 160 miles from me). Since it was raining and I wasn’t finding much, I turned around and drove toward them. A chance at a Boreal Owl...

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July: Maine Meandering and Nevada Nemesis

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pp. 127-148

My trip to Maine was definitely a success. We heard (and briefly saw) the main goal bird, Bicknell’s Thrush, on the evening of July 1, a long day. After extended delays en route, in the very early morning the plane had arrived in Portland. By the time I found a cab, checked in, repacked for the...

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August: Spotted Owls and St. Paul Sandpipers

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pp. 149-168

Florida turned out better than expected. It started out well because I arrived in Miami a bit earlier than booked. Of course, some of that benefit was eaten up by a long wait at the car rental spot, compounded by a problem car (flat tire warning on instrument panel) requiring me to return the car immediately and get in a shorter line to get a different car. I slept three and a half hours in Florida City and was in such....

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September: Southwest Specialties

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pp. 169-185

I’m hoping to get beyond 666 species today. My plane is scheduled to depart from DFW in 10 minutes for Los Angeles. It will be early afternoon there when I arrive. I plan to bird coastal Orange County today and am enthusiastic about the possibilities. It’s high time that I do California birding...

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October: The 700 Club

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pp. 186-204

My plane is due to take off in 20 minutes. I did not expect to be here in Washington. When I inquired on Birdchat about finding the various “chickens” that I still need for the year, experts e-mailed me to say “better now than later.” Sooty Grouse and Dusky Grouse, which are mostly separated....

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November: Mopping Up an Owl and a Couple of “Chickens”

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pp. 205-221

The two-day pelagic trip (November 1–3) was a first for me—two days at sea, going out about 150 miles, sleeping in bunks, and eating real food at sea. Amazingly, not only did I not get sick but I hardly thought about getting sick. I enjoyed it—except for having to stand most of the time since the boat...

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December: Ending the Year with a Bit of a Whimper and a Big Cheer!

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pp. 222-238

I arrived in Newfoundland about 10:30 yesterday morning. John Puschock has organized this trip to St. John’s, and Debra and I will be rooming together. It was a wonderful cold, crisp day today, cloudy and very birdy. Although I had seen Iceland Gulls in the harbor outside last night after we got to the...

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pp. 239-240

I birded again today to start the New Year, in spite of the miles and hours spent last year. While it was hard to slow down and get out of the big year mentality, it was great to know that I could enjoy the birds that I saw without...

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pp. 241-246

When we read about people climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen or Yosemite’s cliffs without a rope, we do not see ourselves in their place, but driving and flying around the country looking for birds—well, we could do that. Nonbirders, though, will quickly ask, “Who would want to?” Surprisingly, many people. A survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found some 46 million...

ABA Birds Seen in Taxonomic Order

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pp. 247-258

Useful References for Planning and Carrying Out a Big Year

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pp. 258-262

Birding areas through my big year

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pp. 263-264


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pp. 265-283

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446723
E-ISBN-10: 1603446729
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603442619
Print-ISBN-10: 1603442618

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 140 color photos. 3 Apps. Index.
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Birds -- Counting -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • Birds -- Counting -- Canada -- Anecdotes.
  • Bird watchers -- Anecdotes.
  • Bird watching -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • Bird watching -- Canada -- Anecdotes.
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