Thursday, March 13, 2008

Counting Birds

There has been a long debate among bird watchers as to whether creating lists is the "right" way to be a bird watcher. Some claim that keeping a list causes you to hurry through the species instead of enjoying the behavioral aspects of bird watching. The other side would argue that keeping the list gets them out into the field more in a higher variety of places. As with most debates such as this, it really comes down to personal preference.

I, as an engineer, do appreciate the numbers and have been keeping lists for the past 4 years. I like checking off new species and I enjoy the return of old favorites. I like to track how the species change throughout the year. I also like to have "great birding days" when I see many species in one day. Although my goal for the year lies with a single species. I hope to see a Peregrine Falcon hunting in a stoop.

I also enjoy watching the species in my backyard that really don't change that often.  The Pine Siskins and Goldfinches being the core of the population right now. I like watching the Siskins hang upside down on the thistle feeder until another comes by, lands on the same roost, then pecks the first one on the butt so that it flies off. I like observing the hierarchical displays of aggression within the species. I also like seeing the rare visitor passing through, a Downy Woodpecker that comes by, or the pair of Black-capped Chickadees which probably visit daily while I am away.

Overall I am more of a list guy. Most of my bird watching not in my backyard is performed while hiking between point A and point B.  The result is that I make lists and count, but spend less time observing the details. I do submit these lists into an online database accessible to bird scientists called E-Bird. This database also helps me to keep track of my personal sightings.

To the numbers. My "Life List" currently consists of 367 species. It's not really a life list, instead it is a 4 year list. The list was helped along tremendously last year when we spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica Birdwatching. Costa Rica expanded my life list by a whopping 203 species! Since then I have only added 5 new birds.

E-Bird also provides yearly totals, monthly totals, site totals, and lots of other geeky data analysis. For example, so far this year I have found 53 different species (at least that I could identify).  Here is the list so far:

1 Dark-eyed Junco        Rob Home + ID 12 Jan 2008
2 House Finch       Rob Home + ID 12 Jan 2008
3 Pine Siskin        Rob Home + ID 12 Jan 2008
4 House Sparrow       Rob Home + ID 12 Jan 2008
5 Canada Goose       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
6 Common Merganser       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
7 Great Blue Heron        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
8 Bald Eagle       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
9 American Kestrel       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
10 Mourning Dove       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
11 Black-billed Magpie        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
12 European Starling       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
13 Common Raven        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
14 Northern Flicker       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
15 Rock Pigeon       Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
16 Red-tailed Hawk        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
17 Ring-necked Pheasant        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
18 Northern Harrier        Barber Pools + ID 12 Jan 2008
19 American Coot        Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 19 Jan 2008
20 American Dipper        Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 19 Jan 2008
21 Common Goldeneye       Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 20 Jan 2008
22 Barrow's Goldeneye       Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 20 Jan 2008
23 Mountain Chickadee        Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 20 Jan 2008
24 Hooded Merganser        Cascade Reservoir--South + ID 20 Jan 2008
25 American Goldfinch        Rob Home + ID 01 Feb 2008
26 California Quail       Sandy Pt./Discovery State Parks + ID 01 Feb 2008
27 Great Gray Owl        Sandy Pt./Discovery State Parks + ID 01 Feb 2008
28 Golden Eagle        Sandy Pt./Discovery State Parks + ID 01 Feb 2008
29 Sharp-shinned Hawk        Sandy Pt./Discovery State Parks + ID 01 Feb 2008
30 Northern Goshawk        Military Reserve + ID 03 Feb 2008
31 Steller's Jay        Military Reserve + ID 03 Feb 2008
32 White-crowned Sparrow       Military Reserve + ID 03 Feb 2008
33 Mallard        Hulls Grove, Boise + ID 09 Feb 2008
34 Red-winged Blackbird       Hulls Grove, Boise + ID 09 Feb 2008
35 American Robin       Hulls Grove, Boise + ID 09 Feb 2008
36 Great Horned Owl        Hulls Grove, Boise + ID 11 Feb 2008
37 American Crow        Hulls Grove, Boise + ID 14 Feb 2008
38 Song Sparrow        Military Reserve + ID 15 Feb 2008
39 Downy Woodpecker       Rob Home + ID 16 Feb 2008
40 Cedar Waxwing        Rob Home + ID 16 Feb 2008
41 Wood Duck        Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
42 Eurasian Wigeon       Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
43 Northern Shoveler        Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
44 American Wigeon       Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
45 Yellow-rumped Warbler        Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
46 Belted Kingfisher       Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
47 Ring-billed Gull       Kathryn Albertson Park + ID 17 Feb 2008
48 Gadwall        Park Center Greenbelt + ID 18 Feb 2008
49 Ring-necked Duck        Park Center Greenbelt + ID 18 Feb 2008
50 Pied-billed Grebe       Park Center Greenbelt + ID 18 Feb 2008
51 Black-capped Chickadee       Park Center Greenbelt + ID 02 Mar 2008
52 Killdeer        Boise + ID 09 Mar 2008
53 Turkey Vulture        Park Center Greenbelt + ID 10 Mar 2008

More data than I know what to do with. Enjoy the birds.

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