Noah Strycker

American birdwatcher

Noah Keefer Strycker (born February 9, 1986) is an American birdwatcher.


All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-544-55814-4, 4th printing
  • The worlds most frequent flyers don’t have platinum status, free upgrades, or even passports. Every hour, millions of these undocumented immigrants pour across major political borders, and nobody thinks of building walls to keep them out. It would be impossible to anyway. Birds are true global citizens, free to come and go as they please.
    • Chapter 1, “End of the World” (p. 3)
  • There is a special joy in watching an actual Scarlet Tanager instead of looking at a virtual red bird, however spectacular, on a phone screen.
    • Chapter 1, “End of the World” (p. 5)
  • And by setting their sights on the freest creatures in the world, birders have a unique perspective about how their subjects stitch together even the furthest parts of our globe. Birds teach us that borders are just lines drawn on a map—a lesson we can all take to heart.
    • Chapter 1, “End of the World” (p. 5)
  • I learned from reading bird books that nothing happens outside of historical context. In birding as in everything, personalities and events unfold over time, one thing leads to another, and pretty soon you wake up to discover that you are part of the stream.
    • Chapter 4, “Over the Years” (p. 36)
  • Culturally speaking, we millennials are significantly different from the baby boomers or even Generation X: we are more progressive, less religious, more educated, less family-oriented, more urban, less political, more narcissistic, less environmentally minded, and, above all, more technologically dependent. For better or worse, my generation lives on computers and smartphones; we are children of the Internet.
    • Chapter 4, “Over the Years” (p. 47)
  • For birds, Ecuador offers nothing short of a tropical paradise. Virtually every habitat is represented, from coastal deserts to snow-capped peaks to the Amazon basin, and more than 1,700 species have been recorded—16 percent of the worlds birds on less than 0.0006 percent of its land surface. For birders conditions are just as alluring: unlike neighboring Peru or Colombia, Ecuador has a long history of conservation, is relatively stable and safe, has a well-developed infrastructure, and is small enough to cover efficiently. If you want to see the most species of birds in the shortest amount of time, Ecuador is without a doubt the best place to do it.
    The importance of natural diversity in this tiny nation cannot be overstated. It’s even written in the constitution: Ecuador is the only country in the world to recognize “Rights of Nature”—the idea that ecosystems have inalienable rights, just like people do—at the highest legal level. “Nature, or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence,” states Article 71 of the country’s constitution, in accordance with the Ecuadorian concept of Buen Vivir, which emphasizes harmony with other people and nature above material development.
    • Chapter 7, “An Angel of Peace” (pp. 99-100)
  • “Don’t worry about the weather!” Kalu replied. “We can’t control it, and these days we can’t even predict it. For the past few years, the wet season has been very strange; nobody knows when the rains will come. The climate is changing here.”
    I had heard versions of this story in an unsettling number of places this year, and many of the birders who accompanied me had complained about unpredictable seasons. It was difficult to tease out other effects, like deforestation and overharvesting, but my view of global climate change had shifted lately after hearing enough local people talk about it. It wasn’t just something for academics and politicians to argue about; these changes were already affecting those who depended on the land and environment.
    • Chapter 11, “Kalu” (p. 166)
  • I couldn’t keep up with the virtual world while living so large in the real world.
    • Chapter 13, “A New World Record” (p. 201)
  • That the culmination of my yearlong world tour, into which I invested all my creativity and resources, was embodied in this obscure gray bird on a nameless hillside in a remote province of India seemed perfectly appropriate. Birding is about appreciating life’s infinite details—and if subtlety is beauty, then a birder will never run short of wonder. That number 6,000 did not seem like a conquest—it felt like a fresh beginning.
    • Chapter 16, “From End to End” (p. 254)
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