My Life’s Birds: #496-497
January 30, 2010 – Essex Co, Ma – The thing about listing, at least on the ABA level, is that it’s not a whole lot of chasing mega rarities. There just aren’t a whole lot of those birds when it all comes down to it, and the opportunities to see them are appropriately few and far between. No, the secret to racking up a big life list, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you, is covering the continent like a blanket. You just need to go where the birds are, and a big life list is not so much an indication of skill (though that can’t be understated) so much as it is an indication of opportunity. And having the opportunities to visit new places means the opportunities to get new birds.
When I started doing the Super Bowl of Birding I had never been to Massachusetts period, let alone in the winter when all of the amazing owls and finches and alcids sneak down the coast and put themselves within the range of so many eager birders. And why would I? Despite Essex County being one of the finest winter birding sites on the continent, I was unlikely to go there. Until of course, Christopher of Picus Blog instigated the greatest collection of blogging talent in the northeast (and one bum from the southeast) to do just that. And that, in short, is how I was in the position to take a gander at an amazingly distant Thick-billed Murre offshore on competition day. That is a bird I could have waited years to get in North Carolina, where there are fewer than 20 records. But in Massachusetts? Tick.
My birding experience prior to the SuperBowl years were exclusively south of the Mason-Dixon Line. There was southern Missouri where I grew up, and North Carolina where I hang my hat now, and between those extremes trips to Arizona, Texas, and Florida. So the far north held lots of great birds for me, like a Black-legged Kittiwake cruising nearshore, a regular visitor to North Carolina but not a common one by any means. Now that I’ve visited for three straight years, the number of new birds possible slowly decreases until, eventually, I’ll visit Massachusetts and come home with nothing new.
But that’s ok too, because with the Bloggerhead Kingbirds still seeking that elusive Super Bowl win, there are other reasons to go other than chasing lifers anyway