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Book Signing: My Big Year: A Search for Birds and Peace of Mind by Fred Pratt
September 9, 2022 @ 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
September 19 | 9:30 AM | Follows the Friday AM Birding Program
Review of My Big Year
By Chris Rimmer, Executive Director of Vermont Center for Ecostudies:
Fred Pratt doesn’t mince words, but he turns them masterfully in his chronicle of a yearlong birding odyssey that begins in the southwestern U.S. as he journeys back to his home state of Vermont. Here he focuses on the state’s two southernmost counties (Bennington and Windham), his final two targets in an epic quest to become the first birder to record 150 species in all of Vermont’s 14 counties, each within a single calendar year. His feat is borne of an abiding love, not only for birds, but also for his beloved late wife Chris, his life-long birding partner.
Fred writes with a delightful economy of words, absent of any pretense, also with wry humor and with unabashed enthusiasm for both the birds he encountered and the many human partners who aided his quest. Although he chronicles his birding adventures during calendar year 2019, he spices the narrative with current (and often politically shrewd) reflections during his actual writing of the book in 2020. This juxtaposition, Fred’s deft maneuvering between birding and personal anecdotes, and his lucid storytelling combine to make “My Big Year” a truly entertaining, absorbing, and, at times, poignant read.
Fred Pratt earned his AB in history from Harvard in 1955 and his MA in German from Middlebury College in 1967. After serving in the U.S. Army as a linguist while stationed in Frankfurt/Main, he was a teacher of German and European history at the Moses Brown School in Providence for 23 years. In 1981 he and his wife Chris moved to Vermont, where they already owned a rustic cabin and 160 acres on Ward Hill in South Duxbury. That same year they lost their only daughter Theresa to an automobile accident.
An avid and passionate birder, Fred served on the Vermont Bird Records Committee for twenty years. He now has a “life list” of 323 species for the state of Vermont, but he and Chris also traveled extensively both here in the U.S. and abroad. Among their favorite birding destinations were Florida, Arizona, Texas, England, Scotland, Cyprus, Morocco, South Africa, Belize, and Costa Rica.
After his wife Chris died in 2017, Fred donated their cabin and land on Ward Hill to the Vermont Land Trust. He now lives in Middlebury, Vermont.