Greg Miller, one of the three key characters in Mark Obmascik’s book The Big Year, answers some of our questions. Be sure to visit his website, too.
Was the book an accurate portrayal of your Big Year?
Yes. I thought it was quite an accurate account.
What was the relationship like among you, Sandy and Al during your Big Year?
Cordial. Respectful. Always competitive.
During your Big Year, was there a bird you missed that really bothered you?
Missing the broad-billed sandpiper in New York that year was really harsh. I was in California when this mega-rarity showed up. But I had already committed myself to the numbers game. I stayed in California and finished my planned trip. At the end of the trip, the New York bird was gone.
Is there still a bird on your list that you haven’t seen?
I have several fairly regular birds that I missed during my Big Year that I still don’t have on my life list, like the Arctic warbler, bristle-thighed curlew, red-legged kittiwake and whiskered auklet—all Alaskan birds.
How much did you spend on your Big Year?
Just over $31,000. It took me until 2004 to pay off all my credit cards.
What advice would you give a birder attempting his or her own Big Year?
Good planning will take you far. Nothing beats being lucky in migration for time-saving efficiency in a Big Year.
What are you doing now? Have the book and upcoming movie had an impact on your day-to-day life?
I had been jobless for the last two years, until I recently got a short-term computer contract that will take me into midsummer. I do some bird guiding, too, but not enough to pay the bills. The movie has an impact only if I tell people about it. Most people don’t recognize me. I live a pretty normal life. But if I go to some birding location, that has changed. I meet a lot of fans in the birding world.
How do you feel about Jack Black playing you in the movie?
I’m quite blown away that there are A-list actors starring in this film. It’s rather surreal. I could never have imagined this happening. (You can read more about Greg’s take on the movie from his recent blog post.)
What was in the book that you hope might make it into the movie?
I don’t know. It’s all exciting and scary at the same time.
Anything that you hope doesn’t make it into the movie?
Ha! There is a laundry list of that. But I can’t change that now. What’s there is there.
Anything else you want to add?
I really do hope everyone is entertained by the movie. I hope folks who’ve never been exposed to birding will have their eyes opened to a brand-new world. And finally, I hope that in all this, the real stars are not forgotten: the birds. After all, there would be no Big Years, no stories or books, without the wonderful creatures that motivate us.