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Birders crow about movie

Sun., Nov. 6, 2011

‘The Big Year’ brings nature to big screen

“The Big Year,” a film based on the more tedious true story (and book of the same name) is flying high at movie theaters across the country.

The movie follows birders devoting 12 months to setting a record for logging as many bird species as possible across North America.

The flick is getting all sorts of reviews by birdwatchers, including this Inland Northwest Birder’s comment by  Catherine Albright Temple of Clarkston:

“Caught the movie ‘The Big Year’ this afternoon. Very enjoyable, feel-good movie. My husband noticing that I was really getting into it leaned over and said, ‘Don’t even think about it!’ ”

The cast includes Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin.

“The release of this type of film with this type of talent indicates that birders have finally arrived,” says Woody Wheeler, a West Side naturalist and birdwatching guide.

“In the last decade, bird-themed films like ‘Winged Migration,’ ‘March of the Penguins’ and the ‘Parrots of Telegraph Hill’ surprised the film industry with their popularity,” he said.

“These films demonstrated that there is a large market sector, or demographic, that cares about birds and natural history.”

Although it’s about a special breed of birdwatchers, the film has a potential audience that might surprise the uninitiated:

• According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 48 million Americans consider themselves “birders.”

• The purchase of optics, feeders, bird guides and other supplies has become a major industry.

• Birding books have been best sellers, including “The Big Year” by Mark Obmascikand the “Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley.

Northwest birders have zeroed in on where the movie was filmed.  Thor Manson in Oliver, British Columbia, said, “Most of it was filmed in B.C. The inland drier-looking scenes were filmed in the Okanagan Valley. 

“For example, the scene where they are supposed to be at Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona is actually a place called the Vasuex Lake Nature Center, which is about 5 or 6 miles north of the town of Oliver. 

“The pelagic departure scenes were filmed in Tofino, which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the scenes that are supposed to represent Attu were filmed around an area called Tombstone Territorial Park, which is located not too far from Dawson City, Yukon.”

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