At the end of 2017, I pulled my husband aside and uttered those fateful words, “I want to do a big year —” I immediately corrected myself, “I AM doing a big year.” A slow, “Okay…” was released from his lips and his brow furrowed as he paused to contemplate what I meant. When I began to explain what a “big year” was the curiosity faded from his brow and quickly turned to dread. Then I told him how many birds I wanted to see — 250.
Big Year O: 250
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With the love and support of family and friends, you can pretty much do anything. Thanks to everyone who helped me achieve my state big year, invited me to their homes, allowed me on their private property, who gave me tips, wished me luck, and called/texted when a crazy bird showed up somewhere. Extra love to those who gave me rides when I was too sick or in too much pain to drive myself. You all rule. (Photo credit: Emily Carter Mitchell.) #latinosoutdoors #latinooutdoors
A few birders scoffed at that number, one woman in particular boasted, with a smile on her face, “I do that yearly,” then added, “easily.” Another birder didn’t think I could achieve the goal of experiencing 250, “Do you really think you can do that?”. Another person, a non-birder, wondered if I might be neglecting my child, “When do you see your kid?”. Seriously. As much as I’d love to say, “Haters! I left them in the dust and shoved my final tally in their faces!” the truth is, I actually spent a few hours thinking about these odd exchanges.
Mostly, I just said, “Cool” or, smiled big until I could get away (this was awkward on stakeouts).
Mostly, I was dumbfounded by these confrontations. Haters gonna hate? I don’t know, maybe. Perhaps it was just strange enthusiasm? What worried me was that I didn’t have a more robust response to the criticism of my big year which, by the way, I titled “Big Year O” across social media. (I should also mention that this is only what was said to my face. Birders, like any group of people, are notoriously gossipy. You know that saying, “a little birdie told me”? It would be more accurate to state, “a little birder told me”!)
Cool. I Guess…
I never quite knew what to reply back. Mostly, I just said, “Cool” or, smiled big until I could get away (this was more awkward on stakeouts). It then occurred to me that maybe these people wanted to know why my number was so low, or conversely, why it was so high, and how could I possibly get so much “me time” away from my family. This year, I’ll be explaining it all on BirdsNatureLife, AnimalPerspectives, and on Medium.
More on why my husband’s curiosity turned to dread when he heard the words, “two-hundred fifty,” later.
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Featured image credit: Animal Perspectives. Chuck-will’s-widow.