Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 6: Up to 190!!

Pip birding with me at Thunder Lake Wildlife Area
I started my life list on March 2, 1975. By June 6 that year, my life list totaled 40. I built up my list bird by bird, painstakingly working out each identification. A year later, on June 6, 1976, I'd gotten my life list up to 188. I got quite a few of those species during field trips in my ornithology classes, though I spent so much time outside of class birding that there were few birds I saw in class that I didn't end up finding on my own pretty quickly, and even in the classes, I was finding quite a few of the birds before anyone else saw them. I was very proud of every one of those 188 species.

I started Pip's life list on March 20, 2015. By June 6, 2015, her life list was already up to 190. She's way way ahead of me, but doesn't seem all that proud of the accomplishment.

This is proof that a life list number is just that--a number, that doesn't necessarily reflect on a birder's skills. Many birders get virtually all their lifers while on tours and field trips, relying heavily on their leaders' and guides' skills rather than finding birds and teasing out their identifications on their own. Like them, Pip has the numbers without the slightest interest in identifying her own birds. 

Some people with hunting dogs chuckle at the very thought of a little foo foo dog being interested in birds at all, but Pip focuses on them, by sight and sound, far more than any dog I've ever known, including our golden retriever, springer spaniel, and black lab. She often looks up into the sky and tracks flying birds, and looks into trees when she hears a bird singing. We stayed in a cabin in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, this weekend. When we stepped outside early Saturday morning, a loon was calling. Pip instantly sat down and stared out toward the lake, transfixed. So like many birders, she may not care about her life list, but sure does enjoy birds. And I sure enjoy birding with her. And that's all that counts. 

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