It was standing room only in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room Saturday morning as self-proclaimed “bird nerd” Noah Stryker shared his experiences as the first human to see more than half the planet’s bird species — over 6,000 birds — in less than a year.
Stryker was the opening speaker Saturday for Puget Sound Bird Fest, an annual event in Edmonds, which continues through Sunday. Learn more at pugetsoundbirdfest.org.
Strycker, a photographer, is the bestselling author of “The Thing with Feathers,” “Birding Without Borders” and “Among Penguins.” With only an hour to describe a whole year of birding, Strycker got down to business, and ran through his experiences with time to spare. He began with what inspired him to embark on his own “Big Year” of birding: He had seen the record for most bird species viewed in under a year, and knew he could break it.
While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Strycker started thinking about his next great adventure, and sketched out a rough plan in his head. He was determined to become the first human in recorded history to see 5,000 species of birds in one year, and write his next book about it. He packed only a 40-liter backpack, contacted local birders to accompany him, and from there, his adventure began.
Strycker traveled to 41 countries and all seven continents in less than one year, covering almost 100,000 miles total in 2015. Starting in Russia, he flew west to east, and his vivid description made the whole audience feel as if they were on the trip with him. From Peru in February, to Norway in May, to Australia in December, he listed and recorded each species he saw.
His “Big Year” was filled with interesting people, places, adventures, misadventures, complications and culture, and he had the time of his life. By October, he had already met his 5,000-species goal, and decided to keep going. On Christmas day, he saw his 5,959th species, and in the next six days before his year ended, knew he had to reach 6,000. With help from locals in India, he saw over 80 birds in the next six days, with a total of 6,042. In one year, Strycker had seen about 60 percent of the world’s bird species, and beaten the existing record by 1,700.
However, Strycker was adamant that the birds and the records were not the most important part of his trip — the birders were. Everywhere he went, he was accompanied by local bird enthusiasts, and they — rather than the records or the birds themselves — were who he remembers most vividly from his “Big Year.” For him, the best part was being able to make friends and connections with people all over the world.
“The thing about birds is that birds are everywhere,” he said with a smile. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. . . Birding is an almost internationally shared language, and so if I can help spread some of that inspiration far and wide and get people interested, that is the best outcome of all.”
For more information on Noah Strycker, visit his website: noahstrycker.com.