New Year = New Birding Goals

For birders, January 1st represents a restart. Most birders are listers and one of the most important lists, after the life list, is the year list – a list of all the birds seen within a specific area during the year. The area can be the entire world or as small as a yard – or even a particular feeder or tree/plant/shrub within the yard. For most birders, state year lists are popular and thanks to ebird.org, county lists are now easy to track.

When I first started birding, I didn’t understand the attraction of a county list – or really, even a year list. Why not just keep a life list and call it good? One of things I’ve learned about lists, good or bad, is they keep you out in the field looking for birds – and really, isn’t being out in nature looking for birds what this is all about? Besides that, it’s kind of fun watching your county life list grow from year to year. The year list is a little easier to understand – just like resolutions set for a “new year,” a clean slate so to speak, January 1st is a chance for birders to start over. So come January 1st, a Robin or a Crow counts just as much as an elusive Gyrfalcon.

In 2013, my year list goal for Wisconsin was 200. I came up just short at 189 which I blame entirely on a 6-week stretch in September and October when I was working to much and birding to little. This past year, 2014, I decided to really kick it up a notch and set a goal for 250. As of this writing – meaning I have no chance at adding another species unless a Purple Finch shows up at my feeders – I will finish the year at 228. Again, since I like to make excuses and put the onus on something besides myself for failures, I’m pointing my big accusing finger at the house I bought, the birdscaping I did, and all the hoopla of moving and becoming a first time home owner. I was on a good pace until that crazy idea to blow all my time and money on a house took hold of me and I ended up missing some “easy” birds like Dicksissel and Great Horned Owl. Seriously, it was a great year of birding and I’m happy and privileged to have seen 228 species in the state this year. It truly was a great year of birding and all the experience I gained this year will help me be a better birder in the future. Besides the birds, I also made some new birding friends, strengthened other relationships, and spent quite a bit of time birding with one of the states top 5 birders – and in my opinion, the top youth birder in our state!

Ok, enough is enough – what are my 2015 birding goals?

  • Year list (for Wisconsin) = 250
    This will be a tough goal to hit, but one I hope to accomplish!
  • Lead Calumet County for the year
    I did this in 2013, but didn’t get a chance to bird the county as much as I’d like this year. I’m focusing on Calumet County because besides High Cliff for warbler migration in the spring, it’s also home to the under-birded Killsnake Wildlife area which I’d like to spend more time in and has shorebird habitat that should be checked on a regular basis.
  • Continue planting flowers for my hummingbird/butterfly garden
  • Costa Rica – I will be going on my first birding specific vacation; two weeks of birding, birding, and more birding (more info to come, hopefully, in the following weeks).
  • Most importantly, spending time with the birds and not rushing to “tick” them off my year or life list.

I know this last goal seems contradictive to my year goal, but I’d rather fail at seeing 250 species this year in order to enjoy viewing the ones I do see. One of the greatest pleasure of birding is being in the moment – birds have a unique way of reminding me that only the present moment matters, there is no “past” or “future” – when the future gets here it will be the present. I want to enjoy more of those “present” moments and not worry about rushing off for a future bird.

Well, there you have it. Those are my birding goals for 2015. Now just a day and a half before the slate wipes clean and the fun of a new year begins. Have fun, bird it up, chirp, chirp!

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