Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: The Biggest Twitch

The Biggest Twitch is the story of a forty-something couple who, in 2008, quit their jobs, sold their house in north Wales, and went into debt to fund a year long, around-the-world birding bonanza with the explicit goal of racking up the biggest global bird list in a single calendar year. Their motivation: for the love of birding, and with the hope of achieving "fame in the birding world, bird guiding commissions, [and] ... book deals".

There is a target audience for this book: competition stoked, international-travelling, "big list" birders. If you fit this description, you will absolutely love The Biggest Twitch! I expect your enjoyment of the book will diminish in proportion to how remotely you are situated from the target readership.

I liked this book, and I liked the protagonists, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller. They have guts, nerve and they are obviously intrepid travellers and talented birders. I admire them for their hard work and determination, and I envy them all of the fantastic birding experiences they have had around the globe. The book also has a wealth of information for any birder planning a trip to Australia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Spain or any one of the dozen or so countries that they visited during their year-long adventure.

This book provides a detailed and candid (sometime too candid) look at the logistics involved in such a huge undertaking, the sacrifices that are necessary and the foibles of getting along with each other as well as their various guides, hosts, friends, family members and the numerous other birders they encountered.

Birders who have read Wild AmericaKingbird Highway, Call Collect, Ask for Birdman, The Big YearBirding on Borrowed Time, or To See Every Bird on Earth will recognize The Biggest Twitch as belonging to the same genre. The premise is not original, but the authors definitely deserve credit for elevating the idea of a Big Year to a grand and global scale.

On the binocular scale, from Tasco on the low end to Swarovski at the high end, I rate The Biggest Year a Pentax.

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