Dorian Anderson, PhD, was riding his bicycle around Sawgrass Lake County Park near St. Petersburg the other day. He’s a long way from his latest home in Boston, and he’s enjoying the warm weather.
He’s not interested in getting a tan, though, and he’s not much interested in the road, either.
Anderson is keeping his eyes on the sky. Soon he sees what he came here for. A short-tailed hawk called a Buteo cruises over the treetops across the lake. It happens too quickly for him to get a photo, but he does have a positive identification.
He pulls out his notebook and jots down #244 — Buteo. The number 244 notes how many birds he had seen from his bicycle so far this year. As of Wednesday, he’s spotted 248 birds from No. 1 – snowy owl, to No. 248 – eastern whip-poor-will.
Biking and birding
Anderson is an avid birder. He’s bicycling around the United States trying to spot as many birds as possible. In birding parlance, he’s going for his Big Year. You can read about his adventures at Biking for Birds: A year-long, self-powered, bird-finding adventure.
Other birding fans who go for a Big Year put thousands of miles on their cars or RVs, fly to distant mountains or take boats out to remote islands. Not Anderson. He’s doing this all by bicycle or kayak.
He writes at his blog, Biking for Birds:
“During 2014, I, Dorian Anderson, will travel only by bike, foot, and kayak as I move about the continent in search of birds. My movements will be unaided by petroleum, natural gas, and electricity. I will not have a support vehicle; everything I need will be carried on my person and my bicycle. This Big Year permutation will certainly add an unprecedented level of adventure to the endeavor, and it should set a new standard for environmentally sustainable travel. “
As Anderson rides around the United States, he hopes to identify between 550 and 600 species of birds. He also hopes his efforts will raise more awareness and interest in bird-watching and bird conservation, as well as demonstrate that the bicycle is a “healthy and sustainable form of transportation.”
Finding new path
Anderson expects to travel some 12,000 miles by bicycle this year. Starting on Jan. 1, so far he’s pedaled from Massachusetts to Florida, clicking off 3,100 miles along the way.
Recently catching up with Anderson, a reporter at the Sanibel-Captiva Islander wrote that the 35-year-old had spent his whole life in education, earning a doctorate in developmental genetics and molecular cell biology. He wasn’t completely happy following the path of the professional scientist, however, and decided to spend this year with his true love — birds.
So he’s undertaking a Big Year, an achievement that’s recognized by the American Birding Association. The record is held by Sandy Komito, who saw 745 species in 1998. A sort of contest among several birders that year resulted in a book and later a movie entitled The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.
Maybe someone will make Anderson’s bicycle adventure into a movie.