For reasons I cannot rationally explain, I have been sorting out exactly what birds I have seen. That might sound a bit obvious but, with the availability of the International Ornithological Congress’ (IOC) World checklist, a checklist including subspecies, the incentive was there to go through all my notebooks and just get it all sorted. The process has naturally been painstaking, there are many splits to figure out plus a few lumps too but I am happy that I am finally there. My motivation was two-fold. One was just curiosity, the other as a direct result of my phylogenetic species concept leanings, I can’t preach if I don’t follow the mantra!
Luckily! I have not been to that many places and so the basic list – ex my residency in Europe and North America, I do know exactly what I have seen there – is already known to me. All I had to do was to sort it out as best I could. The IOC list includes comments where splits or lumps have happened plus there is always Google to sort things out regarding former names. It was frustrating at times and I spent hours leafing through notebooks convinced that I was missing the odd species. In many ways it was remarkable that I remember trips from the dim and distant past as I have been to sleep since then, however, I did dig out the odd missed tick here and there, much to my personal satisfaction. I also had ample chance to remember the many times when I didn’t try harder for something having stated that ‘I just want a good birdy holiday and a big list is not the be all and end all’. I still stand by that but, there are irritating gaps.
Perhaps the most galling thing in doing this is realising that you didn’t see (or at least make a note of) something described as ‘common’ in the field guide. Worse still is when it says ‘very common’ and yes, I have a couple of species missing that fall into that category. The only logical approach would be to re do all of the trips again and be sure to see the ones I supposedly missed, sounds like a crowd-funding opportunity to me, especially as it would be for a very serious purpose and not some foreign jolly looking at great birds…
The upshot of all this tosh is that my official (but not eBird) life list is a checked and double-checked 2698 species. I have 154 families, that is having seen at least one representative of any given family and I have 3587 at sub-specific level, including the nominate.
We are just a few days away from the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and you can be sure that the weather will turn, it will blow and those CBC gems that have been earmarked will not cooperate. This year it will be interesting to see how many of the fall-out birds have lingered. Grey Catbirds won’t be a problem but after that we might be scraping around a bit – many of the goodies seem to have slipped away. In truth, eBird has superseded the CBC with its continual assessment through birder reporting although I don’t see anyone abandoning the CBC in the near future.
It is also winter listing season and so I have a policy of trying to see winter birds new to my list (yes lists again, and?). I don’t go far ad in many cases the birds are where I might go birding anyway – still on course for a 365 year. On exception was a trip to Liverpool recently. We both rather like Liverpool as a town but rarely bird in Queens County. A Yellow-breasted Chat was a good excuse to visit, the year list doesn’t end until, well the end of the year (or the apocalypse whichever comes first). The chat had been found in a cemetery so we went and had a poke around on a cold and blustery day. We didn’t get it and were anticipating coming with nothing more than seven Northern Cardinals in the same bush when a couple of sparrows popped up, one of them quite a pale individual. Photos were taken and one was clearly one of the Clay-coloured Sparrows found by James Hirtle and Dorothy Poole at the beginning of December. The second was a bit darker but the line through the eye clearly does not make the lores so another Clay-coloured.
Thanks to a call from Johnny Nickerson I finally got to see Clyde’s Stumpy Cove, Cape Sable Island Snowy Egret. I have no idea where it goes in between its visits to the cove but it was a very welcome winter tick addition and besides, any CSI Snowy Egret is worth the effort.
Off Daniel’s Head there is a loose raft of Black Scoters at present. Normally I count them, but during the early part of December the weather precluded much out-of-vehicle time. Recently, even though the cold wind blew and the rain she fell, I set up the van so I could use the birder’s tailgate and did a sea watch. Not the hoped-for shearwaters, that tubenose has probably flown for the year, but a smaller brown blob in with the scoters turned out to be an immature Harlequin. I’m pretty sure there are a few bobbing about on the open-ocean shores of The Cape but it is unlikely that I’ll get out there again this year.
Crappy photo but this Common Gallinule chose a small pond near Overton, Yarmouth Co to be resident in and it chose the winter listing period – tick. We are hoping it remains to the CBC, pity it wasn’t a Purple Gallinule though, the same pond did host one pre-Dennis residency in Nova Scotia.
This Hermit Thrush posed nicely in early December. Cape Forchu often gets this sort of thing late on.
Finally, there are lots of Eurasian Starling around at the moment. This view down the road to Daniel’s Head shows a typical view of not detail.