For its own “big year”– its 50th anniversary – the Athol Bird and Nature Club will present “Big Year” birder Greg Miller in two special events.
In birding circles the Big Year is an informal competition to locate and identify as many unique bird species as possible within a designated geographic area in a calendar year, and Miller’s 1998 effort, along with that of two other birders, was chronicled in a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mark Obmascik, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession. The book in turn inspired the 2011 feature film The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.
ABNC will show that film on Friday, November 8 at 7 p.m. at the Millers River Environmental Center (100 Main St., Athol) Then on Wednesday, November 13 at 7 p.m. at Liberty Hall in the Athol Town Hall (584 Main St.), Miller himself will be present to describe his experiences. Filmgoers are invited to bring a pillow; popcorn and cold drinks will be served. Those coming to the annual meeting will be treated to light refreshments and beverages.
Both events are free and open to the public, but donations will be gratefully accepted.
Miller says that during his Big Year, he zigzagged 130,000 miles across the continent while continuing his full-time job at a nuclear power station. “It was an incredible experience passing the 700-species mark – an achievement many birders aspire to in an entire lifetime,” he said.
But there was competition. Two other birders, Sandy Komito and Al Levantin, were also doing Big Years in 1998. Komito actually “won” the competition with 745 species, still the United States record.
The Athol Bird and Nature Club is an active group of people sharing an appreciation of nature’s many forms. In its 50-year history the club has managed the Millers River Environmental Center and its natural history collection, held meetings featuring members or outside speakers, offered field trips all over southern New England, hosted intensive workshops and institutes on specific natural history topics, and organized regional biological inventories, including biodiversity surveys, bird counts, and butterfly and dragonfly records.
More information is available at www.atholbirdclub.org. New members are welcome.