Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder Paperback – Apr 11 2006
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As ornithologist Kenn Kaufman recounts in his lively memoir Kingbird Highway, he's managed to do what other birders only dream of doing: take a year and chase winged creatures from one end of the country to another. The year in question was 1973, when Kaufman was 19 years old, and a few dollars and an outstretched thumb could go a long way. Armed with binoculars, notebook, and the blessing of birder patron saint Roger Tory Peterson, Kaufman set out to capture the record for most species spotted in a single year. He came close, closing with 666 species sighted from Alaska to Florida and back again. More important, he racked up a lifetime's worth of adventures on the road. These stories form the heart of his book, a narrative in which spotted redshanks, white-eared hummingbirds, marbled murrelets, and black-capped gnatcatchers are among the chief supporting players. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kaufman set out on his first solo birding trip when he was 16 years old, on a Greyhound bus, starting in Wichita, Kansas, and ending up in a California jail, for it was illegal for minors to be in that state without adult supervision. So began his quest to set a record: spotting the most North American bird species in a one-year period. Kaufman did just that in 1973, sighting what was then a record 229 species on a grueling hitchhiking trip that took him from Puget Sound to the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. Other birding trips followed, from North Dakota to Alaska, from Alaska to Maine, from Maine to Mazatlan in Mexico, and from Arizona to New Jersey. On those arduous trips, too, the author hitchhiked, stopping to work at odd jobs to earn a few dollars. His book is a fascinating memoir of an obsession with birds. George Cohen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The aim is to find birds. The surprising reality is while starting off alone, he soon meets other "birders" of all ages & description, including college students around his own age, who thrive on adrenaline & the challenge of extending 'the list' & at a mad pace traverse distances over a weekend. Addictive birding. He also links up with experts, who aren't competitively 'listing' but for the interest, & genuine passion for our fine-feathered- friends.
Each segment - and there are many to add up to 69,,000 miles , features a map. of N.America, and what route he's taken. Amazingly, there's a network of birders who share there discoveries, report in as sightings take place; word travels. Birders will travel great distances to see one bird. You might be thinking, a strayed blue McCaw, giant parrot, whereas, it might be a small crow or sparrow . There are a few of his b&w sketches of birds, but not many.Read more ›
If you're a birder, or at least trying to be a birder, you'll be jealous of the amount of ground Kenn Kaufman covered in the span of a few short years to see and marvel at 100's of birds.
If you're a writer, whether published or not, you'll be jealous of Kenn Kaufman's ability to write a such vividly-rendered account of his souped-up travails engaging in one of the most sympathetic pastimes to develop among modern humans, that of birding, contextualized with his growing awareness of the impact of human encroachment on the wilderness as an increasingly serious environmental problem. Whether the story surveys Kaufman's encounters with the awfully unlucky Myrtle Warblers stuck on North Carolina's Outer Banks in the winter of '73, the transplanted Skylarks of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest, or the migrating warblers stopping for a respite at Fort Jefferson in the Tortugas; or whether Kaufman is birding with his group of friends self-dubbed the "Tucson Five," or enduring the numbing experience of "thumbing" on the road for months on end; he makes you see what he's seeing and feel what he's feeling.
Finally, if you're someone who treasures the comforts of a soft pillow at night and a warm, dry roof over your head, you have to admire Kaufman's tenacity in dealing with -- and his almost joyful tolerance of-- bad weather, having to hike for miles before finding that much-needed ride or the 669th bird for his Big Year List, and, especially, the hunger born of a budget that probably didn't quite reach shoe-string level.
And so it was for Kenn Kaufman, a bright young high school student who quit the academic life (bored stiff) to explore the one thing that had grabbed and held his attention from an early age - BIRDS.
Kauffman's approach to birding is simple. Work just enough to accumulate funds for travel, then hit the road with your thumb extended and a backpack full of field guides, the cheapest food you can find, and the rudiments of self-hygiene. When I tell you that Kauffman once ate dry cat food to save money, you will understand why the subtitle of this book is "a natural obsession that got a little out of hand." Kauffman is definitely eccentric, though delightfully so, and it quickly becomes apparent that he is in search of more than birds on his journey.
Kauffman's travels take him back and forth across the North American continent, up to Alaska, down into Mexico and occasionally out to sea, where in addition to finding birds he connects and makes friends with a large network of equally obsessed birders. Meet Ted Parker, the wonder kid of the birding world described as a "super being." Then there are Peli and Rose Ann who give him the nickname Kingbird, and the Tuscon Five, Kauffman's band of birding buddies who are willing to drop their college studies at a moment's notice to follow him into the field. Other memorable characters include a falconer turned conservationist, Diana who drives Kauffman to the local dump in search of Mexican crows, and Charlie who "...had not held a regular job in 30 years."
In addition to unusual characters, you will be introduced to the world of "Lists," "Big Days," "Christmas Bird Counts," and "Big Years.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is a very interesting and quick read...you almost feel like you're on the road with Kaufman... You will love it if you love birding!Published on March 7 2013 by LJM
Great read. Any serious birder will like it as will a general audience that likes books along the lines of William Least-Moon.Published on Aug. 1 2003
For anyone interested in birds, birdwatching, or following your dreams this is a good read. For a teenager to have such a year as recounted here and be able to write in an... Read morePublished on Sept. 21 2001 by Charles H. Jamieson
I usually give books away after I read them, but this is a keeper. I know I will want to read it again, probably more than once. Read morePublished on March 21 2001
Kaufman's FOCUS guide sure pulled me out of an ID problem I couldn't solve with my standard bird guides. Read morePublished on Dec 13 2000 by mason sinclair
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