6,852 bird species in one year, film review


This Dutch September 2017 video is the trailer of the film Arjan’s Big Year. The film is about Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis, who set a new world record by seeing over 6,000 bird species, all over the world, within one year.

This video is from before Arjan went on this journey around the world. His aim then still was a ‘modest’ number of 5500 bird species. So, before he broke the over 6,000 world record in Costa Rica in November 2016. The final count for the year would become 6,852. The video says about itself:

Nerd Nite Amsterdam, Friday 23 November 2015

Arjan Dwarshuis speaks at Nerd Nite Amsterdam about his crazy adventure of trying to spot 5500 bird species in one year.

I went to see the film on 17 March 2018, in a packed cinema.

In the film, Arjan says that in New Year’s night 2016, when his Big Year started, he could not sleep well. In the Netherlands, there are many noisy New Year’s night fireworks, making it difficult for birds and humans to sleep. Arjan felt nervous whether he would reach his ambitious goal for 2016. Then, a robin started singing. A common bird in the Netherlands. But a very special bird when an individual arrives in the Gambia in Africa; or in Beijing in China, attracting hundreds of birdwatchers with cameras and binoculars. Also, a very special bird for Arjan. He noted the robin as the #1 species for his world record birding attempt.

He went to over 40 countries, seeing birds from the big ostrich in Africa to small hummingbirds in South America.

It is a pity that many of the beautiful bird species are shown fleetingly, with just their (English) names mentioned, and nothing told about their lives.

There are exceptions to that, like the maleo of Sulawesi island. These birds make their nests in warm volcanic soil; meaning the parents don’t have to sit on the eggs. In Sulawesi, Arjan saw not only wild maleos, but also birds in a breeding centre. When young maleos are about two weeks old, they are able to fly. So, they then can be freed into the wild. Arjan adopted a young maleo. It sat on his hand; then, it flew away into the Sulawesi forest.

Another species with more attention than others in the movie is the white-necked picathartes in Ghana.

This Dutch language 4 August 2016 video is called The Birding Experience: Suriname. With Arjan Dwarshuis, Humberto Tan, Sean Dilrosun, Michiel van den Bergh and Fred Pansa.

The Suriname part of the film brought back fond memories to me of the great kiskadee and other birds which I had seen in Suriname.

Eg, the Brownsberg nature reserve.

The Costa Rican part also pictured people and birds which I had seen there.

This video from the USA says about itself:

5 January 2017

On his way to setting the World Big Year Birding Record in 2016, Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis visits Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog.

The movie shows birds which Arjan saw in the USA, but does not mention the Minnesota part of his journey. As one can hardly put forty countries and one year in ninety minutes of film. I have added the Minnesota video because it was the only part of Arjan’s Big Year, not included in the movie, which I could find on YouTube.

At the end of his Big Year, Arjan arrived back at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands. His parents greeted him there. So did his girlfriend, birder Camilla Dreef. They had met during the Dutch TV birdwatching show Fascinated by the condor, and had fallen in love there.

Arjan had worried that after seeing nearly 7000 bird species all over the world, he would have been unable to enjoy the often less spectacular birdwatching in the Netherlands. However, that fear proved to be unfounded. He found out he really enjoyed watching birds together with Camilla at the Kwade Hoek nature reserve. Camilla had especially studied spoonbills; and Arjan loved looking at these beautiful birds together with her.

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