Before seeing "The Big Year," the  movie starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, which was based on the book by Mark Obmascik, I was clueless as to what a "Big Year" is. Those in the birding community know - it's seeing (or hearing) as many birds as possible in one year. More than 480 bird species have been spotted in Florida and Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has seven sections of the Great Florida Birding Trail making it a birder's paradise! One of the great things about my job is guiding travel journalists throughout our portion of Southwest Florida and last month, we hosted six journalists on "The Big Year" Birding Weekend in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands. Over the four-day trip, we spotted more than 30 species of birds including Florida Scrub-Jays, Wood Storks, White Pelicans, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Sandwich Terns. The group paddled their way through mangrove tunnels, walked with a guide through Tippecanoe Environmental Park, cruised Charlotte Harbor and walked the beach of Palm Island in the pursuit of birds. In addition to birding, the group experienced some of our other natural amenities and   VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official source for travel pl anning, awarded a Cultural Heritage and Nature Tourism Marketing Grant in the amount of $2,500 to the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau to use toward the trip.