06 September 2009

To count or not to count?

Today was a pretty dead day bird wise. Besides the Brown-headed Cowbirds (7000 was our final count?), the Northern Waterthrushes an a cooperative Yellow-billed Cuckoo, not much was out an about. The skies seemed empty now that the Wood Storks had moved on, and a Roseate Spoonbill flying alone overhead was merely an echo of what was here before. However, while we were wandering around, the rapid hoots and subsequent whinnies of an Eastern Screech-Owl got out attention. As we sat there looking towards the dense underbrush, I realized one of the qualms about listing: the notorious heard only bird.

Throughout my life, I have only counted birds I have seen, and have gone to great lengths to see said birds. Getting views of birds such as Buff-collared Nightjars and Great Gray Owls can be difficult (unless you get lucky), but is very rewarding in the end. However, there are the occasional birds that you can never seem to get a good look at. The rocky pillars and odd canyons of Chiricahua National Monument managed to hide the Eared Quetzal from me the entire time I was there, only allowing it's unique squealing call to escape from the labyrinth of hodoos. It was birds such as the quetzal that made me start to count heard birds, but now, I am taking another approach. I have set up my life list with two columns: one for Heard Only (H/O) birds, and one for my 'Life List.' It seems only right to count the birds that you have seen, as you miss critical details and, in a way, the essence of the bird if you don't see it. Now, for competitions, year lists, and work I count heard birds regularly without giving it a second thought. But my life list not some competition or work related thing. It is like my personal diary. I can look through the spreadsheets at the birds I have seen and where, and remember everything I did around the time that I saw the bird. And, for that reason, my life list will only include seen birds.

As it stands now: Life List = 572 (H/O = 8).

And as a side note: I got attacked by fire ants for the first time today, but am fine.

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