Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

The List

Filed under: Birds — Lowell Christie -- January 6, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

The ListIt was cold before dawn on the first day of the New Year as Kaye broke ice off the water container outside our office window. We put it there for the birds, but the squirrels and an occasional deer make use of it too.

We don’t make too much of New Year’s Eve, but look forward to the excitement of the following morning. It’s not only a new year, but time to start a new list. We join millions of birders around the world who keep close track of the comings and goings of their avian neighbors.

For some this is a casual pastime, for others a meticulous duty, and for a few an obsession. You’ll have to guess where we fit into this mélange of birders, but we certainly write down what we see.

Not surprisingly the first entry was a Dark-eyed Junco, one of the most common birds at winter feeders across the United States. Number two was a White-crowned Sparrow, and these two birds will be with us for the entire winter. But the list goes on for the following 365 days.

Why do people keep bird lists? Although there can be some scientific value, I think for most birders it’s a sense of competition, but in this case the competition is personal. Everything is on the honor system, and only you will know whether you really got a good enough look at that bird to add it to one of your lists.

You read that correctly — lists, plural. We have a year list, a life list, multiple state lists, an area list, and of course a backyard list. Oh yes, there is also a list for each of the nearby National Parks, and one for every wildlife refuge within driving distance. Let’s not get into our other animal and flower lists. We use a computer program, Birder’s Diary (see below) to help us keep track of all our lists.

We don’t think we’re really obsessive about this enjoyable pastime. But we have some friends that are. We were bird watching with a couple we have known for years when Phyllis suddenly called out “Lowell, get the name of that bird!”  Up came my binoculars, but the flying object disappeared before I could identify it.

When I asked what the excitement was all about Phyllis said “I needed it for my s**t list,” wiping her face with a handkerchief.

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