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Carolina Century Club

October 15, 2009

Ever since the baby put a cramp in my state listing style, I’ve been looking for new ways to feed the all-consuming twitching urge that crops up in birders from time to time.  I’m not typically a green-eyed twitcher of the sort that gives birders a bad name (not that I even really think those people exist), but I won’t deny that the urge to find new birds occasionally drives me.   We all have a competitive urges, even if we seek to suppress it most of the time, and letting it out in managed ways keeps us sane.  It doesn’t prevent me from enjoying birding for birding’s sake, and in fact, makes me more aware of seasonal changes and opportunities for something novel.  Besides, a new bird on any of the many lists I keep might prevent me from going postal when I lose that game of Scrabble to my wife (I kid, I kid… maybe).

So anyway, as I’ve become more enamored with entering my daily checklists into eBird, I’ve been watching with interest as my county lists grow.  I hadn’t given these tiny administrative divisions much thought before, but as eBird does a great job keeping track of that stuff, I saw them as opportunities to get a listing fix by trying to build up a list within their borders.  With a baby and a wife at home making longer trips difficult if not impossible, I could burnish my local birding credentials by striving for the longest list in Chapel Hill, all the while hitting up local hotspots regularly and thoroughly.  This is hardly a unique idea, even if the possibility seemed new to me.  But I’d like to take it farther.

Texas has a fun competition called the Texas Century Club.  The goal there is to see 100 species in 100 of Texas’ 254 counties.  While Texas is obviously a premier birding destination, most people only bird in fewer than 20 counties.  The idea is to encourage people to get off the beaten path and explore the less well-known parts of the state.  I suspect North Carolina, and any state actually, is in the same boat.  The well-known birding spots are heavily covered, but they make up maybe 10 or so counties in the entire state.  So in the interest of getting underbirded places their due, and to keep me busy for the foreseeable future, I propose the Carolina Century Club.  North Carolina has 100 counties and South Carolina an additional 46, to be able to get 100 species in 100 total combined counties would be a worthy goal indeed.

Currently I’m at five.  My home county, Orange, and the three others in the triangle, Chatham, Durham, and Wake, where I do most of my birding, and Dare County, which includes the Outer Banks and is simply one of the best birding destinations in the nation, let alone the state.  Several others are within striking distance, some farther away distance-wise than others, and a couple nearby counties I’ve yet to even start on.  I encourage other Carolina birders to join me, perhaps I can even get the Carolina Bird Club on board and make this an officially sanctioned competition per the Texas Century Club.  It could certainly encourage birders to use eBird since that program keeps the data so neat and clean for you.

I’ve got no hurry though, I have a feeling this project is going to keep me busy for some time.

  1. October 15, 2009 2:07 pm

    This sounds like a great idea.

    I have currently have 100+ species in 7 of New Jersey’s counties. Unfortunately there’s no way for me to make that 100 counties in my state.

  2. October 15, 2009 3:39 pm

    Sounds like you hit upon a great challenge! I just checked my eBird stats and I’m over 100 in six NY counties and vaguely close in a couple of others. I’m not doing so hot in NC, and I’m flag-out zero for SC counties.

    Good luck in your endeavors, I look forward to hearing about your county-by-county adventures, especially if others join in the competition!

  3. October 15, 2009 4:32 pm

    Harry LeGrand is doing that with butterflies. I think it is like 50 species in every county or something.

  4. October 15, 2009 4:34 pm

    I have 100+ in 3 counties

  5. Nate permalink*
    October 15, 2009 7:49 pm

    @John- It’s not as easily done in the smaller states. Maybe something like 150 or 175 birds in each county might keep you busy.

    @Mike- It’s something I might throw out to the NC birding community. Not only would it encourage people to use eBird, but it might appeal to some of the folks in far-flung counties.

    @Ali- That’s some total for Wake County! I’m sitting at 138 for Chatham, 135 for Orange, 118 for Durham, 115 for Dare and squeaking over at 102 for Wake.

  6. October 16, 2009 8:56 pm

    Several GA birders have seen 100+ in each of the state’s 159 counties (second most in the country, to Texas, of course). I keep track of the counties in my records (even in other states), but I have yet to succumb to the county listing siren call. But it does have many benefits. Even the most common bird in a new county can be exciting. And it does get you out beyond the usual hotspots, as you mentioned.
    So go for it! And good luck

  7. October 18, 2009 1:06 pm

    A bit old, but there’s a California version.

    Not enough counties in Massachusetts for this, but I bet 100 in 100 towns would only be slightly harder than doing 100 counties. I’m about 10% of the way without any effort. Biggest issue might be that it’s harder to know which town you’re in than which county.

  8. Nate permalink*
    October 19, 2009 10:31 am

    @Grant- I wouldn’t be surprised if several long-time Carolina birders have done it as well. It’s a fairly easy thing to get 100 species in the coastal counties on only a couple trips and or even one good day in the mountains (though the mountain counties are so small and close together you’d start a new list nearly every half mile), both of which nearly everyone who has been birding for any period of time in the state has done. It is fun though, there’s no such thing as a junk bird when you’re looking for Starlings in as many counties as possible!

    @Jason- The smaller states are certainly at a disadvantage, but you could always up the # of species. I would think the search for 200 in each county would keep you busy for a while too.


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