Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Counts and Lists

It's Spring Migration, Warbler time of the year, and one of the big "list" seasons for many birders. Bird forum members are serious about their lists. Some lists are casual and obviously created from recall..."I counted 4-5"... of a particular bird...well now was it 4 or was it 5? Other lists are more specific, noting for example "I counted 120 pelicans"....how one can accuratley count that number of anything that is flying is a mystery to me. There must be a special formula!

Go on a bird walk and you'll observe more counting and listing activity. Some scratch their list out on a well worn pocket-sized notepad with a stubby pencil; some have little electronic devices that they tap or talk into. Some make check marks in the back of their field guide, and some show no evidence of listing at all until they spew out a number that their count has reached. I admire a memory like that. Last but not least, there is the obsessive counter/lister...the one you hear say "I'm up to 59. I need one more bird." When I hear this I feel just a little guilty that I've not been counting or listing at all. So when I get home I flip thru a checklist, such as one you'd pick up at Volo Bog, and remind myself of what birds I got a good look at. That brings another question to my mind. Just what is the criteria for adding a bird to your list? Do you count- do you list- the Connecticut Warbler that you "know" was there but you didn't exactly see, but you think you heard? It's all just too complex for me.

But these counts, these lists, they are important. Important for the study of, and ultimatley for the conservation of birds...something that can't ever be taken lightly. So we non-counters, non- listers must seriously thank all the listers and counters out there for doing the work for us all.

I do keep track of how many different baby birds that visit my deck.....

I think this one is probably a very young red-winged blackbird.