The big year: a tale of man, nature and fowl obsession.

The big year: a tale of man, nature and fowl obsession. Mark Obmascik.

New York: Free Press, 2004. Octavo, paperback,

WAS $25. Ever since Roger Tory Peterson recorded seeing and hearing a total of 572 bird species in North America in 1953, fanatical bird watchers have pursued the "big year," hoping for a record number of observations. In 1998, Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, and Greg Miller each sought to break Komito's standing record of 721. Mark Obmascik dramatically and hilariously relates how the El Niño year, with amazing numbers of lost, rare birds blown into North America, fueled an intense yet gentlemanly competition that has yet to be surpassed in the birding world.

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