A new year is upon us, a time of resolutions and commitments for a number of us. For many birders it’s time to start a new year list, an ongoing tally of the birds observed during the course of the year. Many birders are obligate “listers,” tallying birds seen on a particular outing, at a particular spot, on a particular day, etc. Almost all birders keep a “life list,” a tally of all the birds one has observed, usually with info such as date and location. Some keep state lists, tallying the birds observed in different states, some keep county lists within a state, some have yard or neighborhood lists, and some world travelers maintain lists of observations from around the globe.
While listing offers a historical record of one’s observations, it may also record a moment in time, a recollection of circumstances, such as an outing with a group of friends sharing in the sighting of a rare bird, or a solitudinous moment on a windswept winter beach while at one with the works of Nature.
Maintaining annual lists of birds along with the dates observed may also help to track changes in species’ movements, occurrence and distribution over time. Migratory birds are closely linked to environmental factors, and their behavioral patterns have arisen over countless eons of evolutionary time. As weather patterns change, the seasonal cycles of plants and insects change, which in turn affects the seasonal behaviors of other creatures, especially our feathered friends.
Some make competitions of their listing activities, with individuals or groups attempting to best one another in the number of birds observed over the course of a specific period of time, while others are content to merely maintain a list of birds that visit their backyard feeding stations.
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The technological advances in digital photography over the last few years have made it incredibly easy to collect visual images of observations, which aids in not only documenting a species occurrence, but may also be helpful in identifying an unknown species later at one’s leisure. A good, recognizable photo can help to document a “first-ever,” rare or unusual bird’s occurrence for the state’s bird record committee. Reviewing one’s photos also helps to relive those moments in time, as well increase one’s knowledge and recognition skills of various species, especially those not frequently encountered. Photography provides an ongoing challenge to improve one’s skills, and photographing birds offers continual lessons in humility.