The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 4, 2013

Extreme birder coming to Mankato

MANKATO — You’ve probably never heard of Lynn Barber.

But to people in the birding world, she’s kind of a big deal.

Since the turn of the millennium, no one has done the kind of birding she’s done, and no one has seen as many species of birds she’s seen. She’s among just a hand of people in the upper echelon of birders, the kind of people who, for example, will routinely drop everything for a 10-hour ride to southern Texas for a chance to see a drab but rare bird.

And she’s coming to Mankato to be part of the Mankato Area Life Long Learners schedule of special talks and presentations.

She was invited to come and talk about her so-called “big year,” a term common in birder conversations. Doing a “big year” means counting up as many birds as possible in one year in a given geographic area. In her case, that big year took place in 2008. What made hers unique, though, is that the geographic area she covered was the entire coverage area of the American Birders Association, which is everything in North American north of Mexico (not including Hawaii). Her adventures were captured in her book, “Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year.”

She covered a lot of territory, for sure.

To do it, Barber — who happens to be a patent lawyer — and her meteorologist husband maxed out a few credit cards and did what they had to to make it work. By the time she was done she’d traversed the country several times, including a pair of flights to Alaska. She counted 723 birds, more than anyone else since 2000 and second most in history.

“I really just love birding,” Barber said via phone this week. “The big year thing gives you an excuse to do what you love.”

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