Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: The Big Twitch

In The Big Twitch, Aussie birder Sean Dooley goes to extreme lengths to see the most birds of any person in a singular calendar year.

The year is 2002 and the Australian big year record stands at 633. Dooley sets for himself an ambitious goal of 700 species and then proceeds to go full tilt for the entire year.

As I've mentioned before, the "big list" premise is not original, and perhaps even a little cliché. Obviously the novelty with this book is the geographic locale; reading this book is a great first step to becoming familiar with the birds of Australia and their distribution. The book is well planned out and well edited, making it enjoyable to read. The pace of the book is very even; no big gaps are left in the narrative, and the author shows a lot of discipline by allocating the 300 pages of writing equally throughout the year. Dooley has a self-deprecating humour which makes him likeable, and also reveals some very sad aspects of his life. His humour, though sometimes crude, shows great wit and insight. Dooley also possesses something very rare in an accomplished birder: modesty and self-awareness. Unlike many birders, Dooley has a realistic grasp of the bigger picture outside of the birding sub-culture.

Overall, this was an extremely fun read, and a useful introduction to Aussie birding. On the binocular scale, I rate The Big Twitch as a Kowa.

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