Get out your binoculars, field guides, and enthusiasm for birds — it’s almost time to be part of the inaugural Tahoe/Truckee bird count, also known as the Tahoe Big Year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, people from all over the Tahoe Basin, the Truckee area, and beyond will report sightings of birds to the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS), which will keep a running tally of each person’s sightings for the full year. Whether sighted from a kitchen window, a hike, or a walk around town, every new bird species will be counted as part of the event. How cool is that?

It works like this. First, register on the TINS website at at any time, even midyear, although TINS encourages everyone to sign up by Jan. 1. Everyone can participate. There are two age categories, 15 and younger and 16 and up. To see the area included in the survey, click on the map on the website. Second, submit your bird sighting once for each species. For example, only report a sighting of a mountain chickadee, robin, or red-shafted flicker one time, not every time you see it. If you see a bird you’ve never seen before, write a detailed description of size, coloring, and markings so TINS can help identify it.

As an incentive to pre-register for the bird count, TINS is holding two drawings for a pair of Northstar lift tickets; the deadline to register for the second drawing is Nov. 30. TINS will also hold monthly random drawings all year with prizes from local businesses for active participants of the Tahoe Big Year. Finally, this is a competition and major prizes will be awarded for the top three lists with the most species in the two age categories. Do well and you could win a new pair of binoculars.


The Tahoe Big Year is based on the book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik, which chronicles the 1998 North American Big Year, the greatest birding competition of all time. The book was developed into a movie of the same name in 2011 starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin, and John Cleese. Will Richardson, TINS co-founder and co-director, is excited to report that he is working with Squaw Valley Institute to bring Obmascik to Tahoe.

Throughout the Tahoe Big Year, TINS will offer bird outings for amateurs as well as experienced birders. Check out the calendar of events on its website and all other associated links for the Tahoe Big Year. “We hope to make the Tahoe Big Year an event that will inspire people to explore and experience Tahoe’s natural areas, put Tahoe Truckee on the map as a birding destination, and cultivate a thriving community of nature and wildlife enthusiasts,” according to the TINS website.

I spy a red-breasted nuthatch and an Oregon junco. What do you see?  

Do you have a question about our region’s natural world? Email

~ Comment on this column below.


  • Eve Quesnel

    Eve Quesnel has lived in Truckee for 35 years with her husband Bill, once-upon-a-time daughter Kim-now on her own-and many dogs through the years, currently a Border Collie-Aussi mix. Her favorite pastimes include walking in her neighborhood and nearby woods, hiking in the high Sierra, and reading and writing. Quesnel is now retired from teaching English at Sierra College in Truckee but continues to pursue several writing projects. She is intrigued by the natural world of which she explores and writes about for the column "Nature's Corner" in Moonshine Ink.

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