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Good Reads  Ornithology  Birdwatching

The (Big) Year that Flew By Twelve Months, Six Continents, and the Ultimate Birding Record

Biography / Memoir
By: Arjan Dwarshuis(Author), Mark Obmascik(Foreword By)
239 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Chelsea Green
The (Big) Year that Flew By
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  • The (Big) Year that Flew By ISBN: 9781645021919 Paperback May 2023 In stock
Price: £18.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

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.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • How to see 6852 birds in a year!
    By Keith 22 May 2023 Written for Paperback
    Have you done a big year? Most of us have to a degree – maybe on the local patch or the county … or even the country. But to do a worldwide big year takes things to a whole new level!

    Back in 1968, Peter Alden became the first person to see over 2000 species in a year – something that many of us have done since, thanks to the availability of guided tours. Move forward two decades and in 1989 James Clements managed to see 3662 species. Then in 2008 Alan Davies and Ruth Miller set another new record and saw 4341 species. It was only a matter of time before someone with access to more resources would try to beat that and in 2015 Noah Strycker set himself another goal: to become the first person to see half the world's birds in one year. His haul of 6042 species took things to a whole new level. But just as Sir Roger Bannister set the four-minute mile in 1954 and saw it beaten just two months later, Noah’s record only stood for a year. In 2016 Arjan Dwarshuis managed to see 6852 – and how he managed to do that is the subject of this book.

    There is something quite exciting about reading a book like this; you can travel the world in your armchair and imagine the birds and the places without spending a fortune. Indeed, it’s often satisfying to read of the journeys involved and re-live your own exploits and remember the people you met along the way. This book is full of exciting trips and in total 41 countries are visited, covering over 85,000 miles. The challenge of trying to see an average of 17 new species per day, every day comes at some cost. In fact, around £60,000 of cost! Being aged only 29 at the time he received help from his family, and as the list of acknowledgements shows, many of the world’s birders helped him with local information.

    The book reads well, and it is easy to immerse yourself in Arjan’s journey, worrying about cyclones or monsoons, mudslides and illness. But the one thing that does come across strongly is that Arjan is not a big worrier – he is positive about the challenge and rarely has a negative day. I doubt many of us could keep going with the stamina and attitude that is needed.

    There are flashbacks throughout the book as Arjan takes us back into his early days of birding in the Netherlands and other countries, learning fieldcraft and understanding how birds live. These are key moments in his life, although I have to confess, I was more gripped by his world challenge.

    By early November, Arjan had broken Noah’s record (although to be fair he was using IOC taxonomy which put him slightly ahead anyway), so he then had at least six weeks to see as much as he could with the pressure off. If he did step back a bit there is no sign of it as he heads on through Central America to see as much as he can.

    That final total of 6852 has grown in the last six years thanks to splits of the species he saw – and now stands at 6912. One day I expect someone will beat it – but they’ll need time, money, dedication and good health. They’ll also probably face flak for lots of unnecessary travel! Arjan raised nearly £45,000 for BirdLife International, so I think his conscience should be clear!
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Arjan Dwarshuis, a professional bird guide and writer, 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.

Biography / Memoir
By: Arjan Dwarshuis(Author), Mark Obmascik(Foreword By)
239 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Chelsea Green
Media reviews

"Dutch birders take their pursuit to a higher plane of skill and intensity, as exemplified in this global trek by Arjan Dwarshuis. A fast-paced page-turner and a unique adventure story, The (Big) Year that Flew By is also filled with insights about landscapes, people, and a world of wonderful birds."
– Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway

"Arjan artistically weaves together the beauty of the birds, the importance of conservation, and the complex logistics of non-stop travel. The roller coaster highs of seeing a target bird, paired with the lows of absolute fatigue and exhaustion, are an innate undertone of any birder's big year."
– Tiffany Kersten, birding guide and continental U.S. Big Year record holder

"The (Big) Year that Flew By is not simply a celebration of a broken record but a global call to action to protect the habitats that birds rely on for survival. A Big Year of birding is a massive undertaking, requiring a Herculean effort to successfully plan and execute. While this quest involves daunting logistics and emotional hurdles, the most notable achievement is distilling so much lived experience into a single book. Arjan has conquered both, beautifully capturing remote wild places and conveying the intensity endured to find and observe nearly three-quarters of the world's bird species. Arjan's contagious passion for birds infuses his account of a global avian scavenger hunt like no other."
– Christian Hagenlocher, author of the Falcon Freeway

"An astonishing achievement! Arjan Dwarshuis's year was so big it covered an entire planet. His eagle eyes took in almost 7,000 species of bird and brought into sharp focus their often-fragile existence. Dwarshuis's heartfelt prose reminds us that many of these species are living on the edge – just a generation or two away from extinction. Yet this is a story of hope – Dwarshuis shines a light on the many communities around the world banding together to save their local birdlife. This book is a glorious tribute to the wealth of beauty and diversity found in birds, and a clarion call for us all to care about the future of birds everywhere."
– Neil Hayward, author of Lost Among the Birds

"The (Big) Year that Flew By is somehow both a fast-paced race through and an in-depth immersion in an amazing birding big year. Arjan Dwarshuis does an excellent job of portraying the excitement, stress, and exertion that are part of any Big Year, but that was even more so in his record-breaking worldwide Big Year. I very much enjoyed reading his account, sometimes with my heart pounding, as I lived his journey with him, feeling joy when he managed to find another rarity, concern with his bird-seeking struggles, and sorrow in his very rare misses. As I read, I continued to be impressed by the logistics required for all his travels, and by the excellent people who helped him find all these bird species. His interspersing of tales of his early birding years helped me better understand the how and why he was able to pull off his remarkable feat as well as his passion for birding. Throughout this book, he also explained conservation concerns and advances as they relate to the birds he sought, providing words of wisdom and words of hope. In his conclusion, he admits that while flying all over the world does use much energy, ecotourism in many far-flung places has been and continues to be of great importance in saving birds and habitats. I especially appreciate his conclusion in which he asks his readers to adopt a positive attitude and do their part – 'enjoy nature and look up to the sky.'"
– Lynn Barber, author of Extreme Birder

"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

"[An] entertaining debut [...] [that] offers colorful glimpses into the locales the author visits [...] Part birding journal, part travelogue, this will appeal to backyard birders."
Publisher's Weekly

"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."

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