With intrepid intentions, a phalanx of binoculars and cameras and sly humor, Missoula author Sneed Collard recounts the Big Year of Birding he undertook with his then 12-year-old son Braden. Together, they aspire to count 350 species.
The prolific author’s 2018 release was recently named a finalist – or honor book – for the Montana Book Award.
From periodic bouts of “birder battle fatigue” to the enchantment of the Galápagos Islands, the duo scours the western hemisphere for rare and common bird species, aiming to tally 350 birds in 12 months.
They’re a good pair. While his son absorbs identification details “at rates rivaling a Pentagon supercomputer,” Collard – a biologist and nature writer by trade – struggles to distinguish species in the field. Hence the omnipresent camera, which allows him to capture the birds first on film, then confidently identify them later in his birding book.
Highpoints include seeing six California condors soaring “over the ridge like a squadron of B-52s,” a Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler and a Roseate Spoonbill on a particularly fruitful outing in Texas, and on the very last day of 2016, a Northern Pygmy-Owl, tucked into a tree near Maclay Flat on the outskirts of Missoula and dubbed by the duo Bird of the Year.
As the Seattle Times writes, “Accompanying Sneed and Braden Collard is a pleasure whether or not you’re a birder.”
It’s a fun and fertile book for anyone who’s enthusiastic about birds, nature, or parenting. Hear an interview with Sneed and Braden on Montana Public Radio’s The Write Question and learn more about the author’s many books at sneedbcollardiii.com
– Kristi Niemeyer