"Nutting's Flycatchers can be elusive, hiding in dense foliage and waiting for insects to fly by before darting out in pursuit. I waited patiently as the calls got louder and closer. Wheep! Wheep! I was using my ears to triangulate the call, while my eyes were poised for any movement...And that's when it popped out, a brown missile flying to the edge of the road. It sat there on a bare mesquite branch, tilting its head, surveying me as if it had never seen a Neil Hayward before and needed one for its life list."
When 2013 begins, Neil Hayward finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Having quit his job in 2012, he still has no idea what he wants to do next. He's turning 40 at the end of the year. He's in a new relationship that's going a little too fast, but that he doesn't want to end. He's struggling with depression. And he fears that the best parts of his life are in the past.
To escape, he goes birding. Because birding is the one thing that always brings him peace and makes him feel better. At first, it's just for one trip to Arizona. Then he goes to Texas. And Florida. And Alaska. Then, without really planning it, he finds himself in the middle of doing a Big Year...and on track to join that elusive club of birders who manage to see over 700 different species of birds in just one year. In the end, he sets a new birding record: 749.
"It's difficult for non-birders to understand the rush of adrenaline and love that you feel when you see a bird you've dreamed about. It's like planning a trip to India. No amount of poring over the guidebooks can quite prepare you for the moment when you walk through the large brass doors in the Southern gateway and behold the bone-white marble of the Taj Mahal...That serenity and sense of timelessness is what seeing a Connecticut Warbler feels like to me."
I loved this book! Probably because I love birding, too. I am nowhere on the same level as Neil Hayward, but I do know the wonder and joy of seeing a new bird for the first time. This book was such an enjoyable read. Hayward's well-written narrative is conversational, insightful, and humorous. And it's not just about the birds and his travels across America; he also deals with his depression and his relationship with his girlfriend. I found it to be both honest and heartwarming. For me, this was a 5-star read.
Other excellent birding books:
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik
Red Tails in Love by Marie Winn