“Trogon. Okay, got it. Where do we find the gnatcatcher?” I lifted my eyes from the binoculars, away from the bird sitting mere feet away. “We usually find the gnatcatcher at our stop down at the coast, there’s lots to see here yet.” I replied as I returned to the gorgeously gaudy bird that was calling, looking for the non-existent Cuban Trogon it had heard. Others in the group, were talking excitedly about the Trogon as another was calling farther down the bank, coming closer. The gnatcatcher seeker moved off, looking for something new.
I think that it is in our nature to keep lists. We humans seem to long for bringing order into our lives, we categorize, compartmentalize, organize. Like so many other people, who enjoy birds, I keep a life list. The list is simply a way of keeping some order, keeping track of the birds that have come into my life. There are no year lists, no Territory lists, no yard lists, no Birds seen on TV lists (okay, at the risk of offending someone, I know someone who keeps a TV list). On those now rare occasions when I go on a trip somewhere out of the country I'll keep a list, mostly to to transfer to my life list (eventually, I still think I need to enter the last Cuba trip there, and that was years ago).
I've never thought of the list as the goal. As much as I would love to see every species of bird on earth I could care less how many birds are on my life list. I can't, for the life of me, understand why someone, upon seeing a Cuban Trogon perched 10 feet away calling, would immediately want to move on, to find one more endemic, or one more for this list. I can't understand this search for one more tick on a list, one more species to stroke off and move on.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that listing is wrong. Whatever gets you through the night, you know. You don't have to look very far to find people who extensively list who have a deep appreciation for birds. Charlie, of Charlies Bird Blog, has a 2006 list that for January alone has more birds on it than I will no doubt see in the rest of my life. I have to admit that I covet deeply each and every one of those birds on that list, or his life list, the birds. But you'd be hard pressed to find someone who cares more passionately about birds, and ethical birding than Charlie. Unless you looked at nuthatch of bootstrap analysis, or Mike at 10,000 birds, or well that list is pretty extensive and I could go on and on.
There is little doubt that recording observations, a la Christmas Bird Counts, Breeding Bird Surveys etc plays an important part in our understanding of birds, and their populations, and that people get a great deal of satisfaction from their lists. That they can be touchstones, a way of reliving specific trips or times or birds. And I am impressed with the Big Years, the big lists and the lot. There are amazing numbers out there, amazing accomplishments, amazing drives. I devoured Mark Obmascik's The Big Year. I guess I just don't get what it has to do with birds, perhaps if it was called something other than Birding.
But, having said all that, I offer for you here, my current 2006 World Bird list. Bow down before my amazing and superior abilities.
2006 World List
No. Common Name Scientific Name Date Location
1) Northern Raven Corvus corax Jan 1 Arctic Bay NU