Have you ever heard of a "thing" called the "Big Year"?
Apparently, amateur birdwatchers venture out into the wilds of the planet in order to see how many different species of our avian friends they can spot in a single calendar year. They are absolutely on the honour system, they spend a shitload of money traversing the globe, and the only thing that they are permitted to shoot is a camera. Sometimes the contest is done within a single geographic area and sometimes the entire world is in play. The current record for a Big Year in North America is 839 species while the world big year record of 6,852 species was set in 2016 by Arjan Dwarshuis of the Netherlands.
The first time I was made aware of the Big Year was in a movie of the same title starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. Frankly, I thought the entire escapade was ridiculous and boring as hell but guess what...
I've become one of those people.
I am officially a bird-watching fanatic. Sign me up for a membership in the Audubon Society. Take me to the wilds of the continents to discover the mating habits of the Great Blue Heron or perhaps the Baltimore Oriole. My fascination is real and deep. Today, I put an app on my phone that will help identify various species by a simple photograph and attended a lecture on the endemic and indigenous fowl of the Galápagos Islands. I am in it up to my armpits.
And nothing helps to stoke a fascination and a burgeoning hobby like an eco-vacation. I find myself looking up into the sky as often as I do onto the ground or into the water. I was truly amazed by the diving and feeding habits of the Galápagos brown pelicans that we saw today at dusk of the beaches at Rabida Island. I loved that the Galápagos flycatcher that landed on The Husband's camera lens this morning on Santiago, was so fearless that he was almost posing for the shot. The flamingos that came to feed in a tidal pool in the red sands of Rabida were so at peace with us idiot tourists that they didn't even seem to mind us photographing their evening meal. The American oystercatcher was almost proud and puffing to show off her two eggs in her nest on the black volcanic rocks of Santiago. And me...I just lapped it all up like a thirsty puppy.
The sea lions (we saw a mom nursing her pup. Bestill my heart.), fur seals, various varieties of crab, and...yes...those weird-assed iguanas and lizards are truly something to see but for me, it was the birds. Sorry, Mom. I know that you have a fascination with the reptiles but I will stick with the marine mammals and the brilliantly feathered.
A few tidbits.
1. We haven't snorkelled yet and that is my doing. The Husband is unable to breathe out of a tube and I simply didn't want to go without him. There will be other opportunities still to come, so stop nagging me, Twin Son's Better Half. 😉
2. We are incredibly impressed with Celebrity and this tour. If anybody wants to ask me questions for a future trip, private message me. My only mistake so far was not bringing water shoes. Those wet landings in bare feet are making for some interesting markings on my soles.
3. My vegetarian food choice has been very much validated and not for the reasons you might think. I am watching the food chain and natural selection happen in real-time while here and I have no illusions about eating meat, but the ecosystem is so very fragile that one alteration to even the smallest of lichen or plankton can have catastrophic consequences on the whole. I feel very strongly that the planet is in crisis and doing my small part to keep it in balance is important. We all have choices to make, and I am certainly not advocating that anyone choose to become vegetarian or vegan, but practicing some conscientious eating is something that we all should strive for.
4. If you aren't following The Husband on either Instagram or Facebook, you are missing out on the best photography on this tour. If you are reading this and don't know him, ask a friend to send you his info. A few of his masterpieces can be seen below.