Musing over a life list
Outdoor Ontario

Musing over a life list

Dinusaur · 92 · 18431

Dinusaur

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The other day I had some time to kill; so I decided to create a life list for birds that I have been photographing since the middle of 2012 when I first acquired my Nikon D7000 and a 70-300mm lens at Henry’s photo show in Toronto. Since then I upgraded my equipment in never ending search of better pictures; however, the fundamentals remained the same. The excitement of finding and identifying a bird for the first time is greatly satisfying.  It also has its health benefit; you tend to walk around a lot especially if you happen to be at Leslie Spit.

I first heard about the word ‘lifer’ or ‘life list’ sometime in 2013 during a photo shoot of diving Ospreys; a couple of birders around me were talking about it. Later I clarified through Google that they were talking not about jailbirds but the actual wild birds seen and identified for the fist time. I decided to follow the suit – photograph and identify as many new species of birds as possible.
 
According to Wikipedia there are about 478 bird species found in Ontario, of which 291 species are known to breed here. How many have made my lifer list so far? With a little help from some of you on this website in identifying the birds I have managed to add a total of 118 species of birds to my life list in little over year and half. Not bad for a casual birder. Of these 118, 82 species are photographed in Ontario (honestly it’s just in and around GTA). I have also added another 36 species outside of Ontario, half of which are found here at different times of the year though I haven’t seen them yet.
 
Like any life list my initial list grew fast when I first put up the feeder at the backyard. 21 new species in a little over 4 months. The other times I saw more species in shorter span of time were when I made trips to Las Vegas (16 in 4 days) and Aruba (20 in 5 days). I am slowly building my list; let’s see what the spring begins.

Why not share your life list if you have any?

Cheers
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Henrique Pacheco

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I enjoy having a life list. It's one of the many fun things of birding. Currently I'm at 199 for North America. For 200 I'm thinking about seeing that Heermans Gull in Hamilton or the Great Grey in Whitby.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Trillian Flummox

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When I think about my list, I like to remember a conversation I had last spring on the ferry to Ward's Island. This birder expressed envy that I still had so many lifers to look forward to, for his own list was so large that getting a new "lifer" had become a rare occurrence indeed. So although I love the thrill of seeing a new bird, there is only one first time for each. As your life list grows, the list of remaining birds shrinks - such an obvious equation, but it has made me try to more fully appreciate the experience of each one when it happens. Ok, sorry if that's starting to sound a little Zen! lol.  

-kris ito

Oops, forgot to add my own number! It's 241, with most found in the Toronto area since I rarely get to travel.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 06:56:43 am by Trillian Flummox »


Reuven_M

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I've seen 295 species in Ontario with another 40-odd from a childhood trip to Western Europe. Lifers are not all created equal - my first Great Gray Owl this summer was an incredible experience - after tramping through dense forest and wet meadows we came upon the owl and were able to watch it for quite some time as it preened and hunted. The Elegant Tern at Fort Erie was the complete opposite - we walked up to a crowd of people watching the barely identifiable bird across the river, and I probably spent less than ten minutes looking at it.

There's not much that compares to the first few good migration days I experienced - seeing 10 or 20 birds you've never seen before in a morning is an awesome feeling.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


mc

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i like to muse about...........spring.........noticing a starling's beak change....hearing a red winged blackbird....spotting a grackle.......but, ahh....a ROBIN!!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »
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mc²


Trillian Flummox

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Reuven really nailed it with "lifers are not all created equal". There is only limited satisfaction (for me) in ticking off the rare bird that is well publicized and constantly surrounded by the masses. Conversely there is great joy in finding the bird that you have to work hard for, or one that simply appears unexpectedly like a gift. These are the ones you will remember with most clarity.

-kris
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Rob'in'To

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Kris and Reuven both share my feelings on the life list.

I never gave it much thought over the years and only after talking to some 9 year olds at a banding station and the one's comment, which made me laugh out loud in a good way...  "I've seen 247 species of birds in my day.  I think that's pretty respectable for a 9 year old."  It got myself and Angie thinking.  I'm just over 200 species, not remembering the exact number or if I'm missing any, but also not really caring too much either.

I'm not much of a ticker.  Sure I would like to see new birds but won't go crazy for it.  And it is about the moment, preferring the zen, a peaceful and memorable one.

Funny my Great Gray moment is similar to Reuven's.  It was Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.  We were invited an opportunity to hopefully see one but with no guarantee of course, up Algonquin way.  Four of us left in the wee early hours of the morning, or more like the middle of the night, to be in the park for shortly after 7am.  The weather was sketchy the whole way up.  And once we hit Huntsville, it was really heavy snow.  A bit of searching after we met our friend in the park, we finally spotted the Owl some ways out in a bog.  But the snow was so heavy and big, we could barely make the bird out, not to mention it was still rather dark.  10 minutes of wishing and hoping we could get a better view, the snow stopped, the skies opened up and we were blessed with a beautiful landscape of snow covered branches and one Great Gray Owl amongst it.



I have a few great memories of first bird sightings.  First Scarlet Tanager was brought out in front of me in High Park thanks to an aggressive Northern Cardinal chasing it.  My first Black-billed Cuckoo was Spring migration in the Humber Arboretum, I was all alone and had no one to share it with.  Funny he too was being beat on by other birds, this time a pair of Baltimore Orioles.  The Cuckoo finally got a time out on an open tree branch just above me.

I can't think of too many not as great lifer moments but I'm sure there are a few in the back of my brain.

So yes to a life list and enjoy it as it grows.   :D
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »
A birth certificate shows we were born.  A death certificate shows we died.  Pictures show we live.


paul_reeves

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I started birding in the late summer of 2011 when I photographed a male Goldfinch feeding a juvenile and asked myself "I wonder how many other kinds of birds are out there".

Photography has been my passion for 30 years so when I learned about Life Lists, I decided my list would have to be birds I have successfully photographed and posted on my website http://www.paulreeves.ca/html/nature/birds/birds.html. Two and a half years later that list is now 225 birds. But for me it is as much about watching and enjoying birds as it is getting a new bird. I will admit that I really, REALLY want to get a photo of a Short-eared Owl, but I also really enjoy watching the antics of a flock of House Sparrows or Chickadees.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 05:08:09 am by paul_reeves »
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Pat Hodgson

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I use software (Avisys, I do recommend it) for listing since it is so easy to look things up, generate reports, etc.  I have 284 in Ontario, 567 in the "ABA Area" (Canada plus US minus Hawaii) and 1248 worldwide.  I am at the stage where I have to get out of North America to see more than one or two lifers in a day (except Alaska and Pacific Ocean pelagics).  The lifers come very very slowly now when not travelling.  In fact, I can easily see that I have only got 5 lifers within Ontario in the last decade.  I do not chase everything in Ontario just to build the list, especially if I have seen the bird elsewhere.  My main birding goal is to see all the breeding birds of North America.  I do miss being able to find a new thing near home, but it is inevitable that it will happen this way.  This is why many take on a challenge of a yard list or county list, to have something to try for without all the travel.   Of course I love to travel also!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »
Pat Hodgson
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Rotarran

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I started about 1 year ago (January 12 2013) and so far have seen 254 species of birds in Ontario and 282 worldwide (from a trip to Eastern Europe in August).  I am a bit competitive so I did get into the species counting very quickly.  But that was only for 2013.  This year I have decided to take it easy and just visit local parks including Charles Sauriol, Downsview, Rosetta McLain..etc and be content with whatever I see.  Chasing birds in 2013 was thrilling and exciting but it was also draining and stressful.  I just couldn't keep going on indefinitely.  But it was an amazing experience and I discovered so many different places that I want to go back to and share with my family and friends.  

I also gave myself the extra challenge of photographing every species that I see for the first time...otherwise I wouldn't count seeing it.  I succeeded in photographing 280 species but missed out on a couple of them including:
- American Woodcock...I did get a fleeting video of it, however, and also audio of its distinctive peent.  It wasn't a photograph, but I figured it was close enough.
- Ruffed Grouse...I only had a couple of encounters with the Ruffed Grouse and only once did I have a camera on it (at Algonquin) but it disappeared before I got the shot.  Then the ice storms hit, we didn't have power for close to a week and I simply couldn't go back so I thought I'd break my own rule for this one elusive bird because of these special circumstances.    It was there at the feeders every day and I'm sure I would have gotten it if I went back.  Sometimes life gets in the way of certain goals and rules and you just have to accept it and move on.

Well we'll see what Toronto's parks have to offer this year.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »
Today is a good day to bird!


thouc

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Speaking of lifers not created equal. The least exciting are the taxonomical lifers, like when the Common Moorhen split into Common Gallinule and Eurasian Moorhen I got an extra lifer without seeing any new bird...just an old observation becoming a lifer several years later.

My life list (according to the taxonomy in e-Bird) is currently at 597, Ontario at 273, North America at 280, Europe at 311 and Africa at 190.

I got 9 new lifers last year, all in Ontario: Townsend's Solitaire, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Least Bittern, Sora, Purple Sandpiper and Elegant Tern.

/Thomas
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Dinusaur

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What a great reading this has been; please keep them coming. Photographing adds a new dimension to life list; even when you don't find a new lifer you still go out hoping to better the last picture of the bird you took.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Bluffs Birder

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According to the Ontario Bird Records Committee checklist, there have been 487 birds accepted as 'Ontario' birds.  A few more are sure to be added to that list from 2013 including the Brown Booby and Elegant Tern.

Although I've always been interested in birds and nature in general, it wasn't until the Fall of 2007 that things really took-off for me.  Due to other hobbies that I had prior to birding, the 'listing' came naturally.  I learned years ago that keeping data logs was not only useful but also helped to keep my interest piqued.

Here is where I am for the province:
Ontario 'Lifer' Birds - 280 (plus 1 not recognized as yet)
Local Park Birds - 177 (Rosetta McClain Gardens, Scarborough)
Backyard Birds - 87
Photographed Birds - 214 (plus 1 not recognized as yet)
Year Birds - 29 (only one outing so far in 2014 but got 2 lifers!)

Not including my first year where everything was new and a 'Lifer', my best year so far was 2012 with 233 birds observed and 32 lifers.

Happy birding!
Walter :)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


Rotarran

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Quote from: "thouc"
Speaking of lifers not created equal. The least exciting are the taxonomical lifers, like when the Common Moorhen split into Common Gallinule and Eurasian Moorhen I got an extra lifer without seeing any new bird...just an old observation becoming a lifer several years later.
/Thomas

That's interesting.  Conversely you could have species taken away through the merging of two species into one.  I think they're considering that for the Glaucous Gull if I'm not mistaken and merging it with the Herring Gull.  But I might be remembering it wrong so feel free to correct me. I can't remember where I read it and I can't find the site now but I'm fairly certain it involves the Glaucous Gull and eliminating it as a full species and reducing it to only a sub-species.  In any case for this reason I've been rather lackadaisical in my efforts to see the Glaucous Gull.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »
Today is a good day to bird!


thouc

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Gull taxonomy is very complex, but the Glaucous Gull is very distinct from Herring Gull (much larger and different plumage) and I haven't heard of talks of merging the two. Thayer's Gull, however, might be merged with Iceland Gull (and was previously treated as a subspecies of Herring Gull).

Article from British bird about the taxonomy of the Herring Gull/Lesser Black-backed Gull complex: http://www.britishbirds.co.uk/search?model=pdf&id=9395
Among other things stating that (European) Herring Gull and American Herring Gull are not particularly closely related and should be treated as different species. This has been implemented in Europe, but not in America. Also states the Palearctic (Europe, Asia) and Nearctic (North America) Glaucous Gulls aren't closely related.

Article about the status of the Thayer's Gull: http://www.ofo.ca/site/page/view/articles.thayer
Suggesting that Thayer's Gull should be merged with Iceland Gull.

Summary of taxonomy in Thayer's Gull: http://www.hbw.com/species/thayers-gull-larus-thayeri
Noting that merging Thayer's Gull and Iceland Gull would cause problems, haven't found a more detailed source for the reason behind it.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »