Posts Tagged ‘Bahama Mockingbird’

I’m feeling philosophical as we start a new year. It’s more than a new year for me. With my move to Florida in 2022, it’s the start of a new chapter in the story of my life.

The American White Pelican below doesn’t have anything to do with this story, but you’re not going to keep reading without pretty pictures, are you? I photographed this lovely bird recently in Pinellas County, Florida.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to spend my time. I commented to a friend recently that sometimes we do things just to say that we did them and sometimes we do things for the sheer joy of doing them. Initially, I characterized the first reason as competition, but I think it’s really more wanting to be accepted by a particular group of people. I was not able to run in this year’s Best Damn Race for health reasons and it hurt a bit to be there with my friend, David. I loved watching the participants and I could feel their exhilaration, excitement, and satisfaction in achieving a goal. I kept thinking “I want to be one of those people.” But to be one of them, I have to actually run. Certainly, many felt the joy of the doing, but I’ll bet that some just did it because that’s what runners do. It’s the same with any activity. I confess that there are days that I’ve gone birding when I didn’t really want to, but that’s what birders do and I want to be accepted as a birder.

I photographed the Rose-breasted Grosbeak below in my NC yard. I’ve yet to see one in Florida.

So, what triggered all this introspection? The move to Florida, of course. In particular, the differences between birding my home county in North Carolina and my new home county in Florida where there are more birds and more great birders. I still remember when I first started birding and wondered what one would do after finding all the easy life birds. And, then I learned that there are many games birders play. In Forsyth County, NC (and almost certainly most counties in the country), the game that most serious birders play is trying to see as many birds in the county as possible every year. I did it, too, for many years. Between 2007 to 2020, I came in at #4 five times on eBird’s “Top 100” and I was never lower than #8. I am #8 in eBird’s all-time ranking for Forsyth County. In Pinellas County, I was tied with four others for #60 in 2022, but my all-time ranking is even lower at #168. I’ve been trying to work on my Pinellas County list, but it’s hard to motivate myself when I will never be a top birder here. Plus, I’ve already seen most of the birds that I “need” here many times. Add my recent obsession with iNaturalist and desire to run, learn to ride a bike again, and such and it quickly becomes obvious that there is not enough time to do it all. Yet it’s hard to let go of that quest for home county birds. I almost feel guilty, like I’m not a real birder if I don’t spend every day seeking new county birds. However, I’m going to try to let it go a bit.

Or, maybe nothing that I just said makes sense. Maybe in real life the hits and misses (ticks and dips in birder lingo), joy and pain, competition and acceptance are all mixed up and inseparable. Life is complicated.

So, what am I going to do? I’m going to continue to have goals because they give me a direction. But, at least for 2023, I will try to curb some of my competitive instincts and do things that bring me joy.

For 2023, I will NOT obsess over my Pinellas County list.

I WILL obsess over spend time and effort on the following birding activities:

My life list. The primary goal for most birders. Today my list stands at 1,762. Can I reach 2,500? That would be almost one fourth of the world’s birds.

My most recent life bird was this Bahama Mockingbird, a rarity in Florida.

A daily eBird checklist. My current streak is 1,141 days and I don’t want to lose that without being absolutely certain that I don’t care about it. Today I still care. It makes me think about birds and do something every day. And it’s easy.

My 5-mile radius patch. I love this idea embraced by many birders with concern about the environmental impact of travel. And, it’s nice to spend time actually birding rather than driving.

County birding. Not the single-minded focus on just my home county, but trying to get new birds in every county where I travel. I will also try to bird every county in Florida as I did in North Carolina. County birding teaches the distribution, habitat, and seasonality of birds. I like to see new places and it’s fun.

Road trips. I loved the road trips that I’ve done and it’s time for more. Maybe I can see birds in all 49 continental states (only 5 to go). Goals like that only give me a direction. There is satisfaction in accomplishing the goal, but more importantly much joy in the journey. To read about my biggest road trip so far, start with Prairie Road Trip: Days 1-2 – The Adventure Begins. Stay tuned for a trip to South Dakota’s Black Hills this summer.

You don’t see birds like this in America. Rufous-tailed Babbler from my 2019 trip to Yunnan, China.

I’ve saved the best for last. International travel. I love international birding trips because you also get to see other wildlife and landscapes, meet people and learn about their culture, and eat local food. And, this is the best way to build one’s life list. I’m making a bucket list and I’m going to start on it as soon as I sell the North Carolina house. The list will be a work in progress for years, but here’s what’s on it now.

Southern India. My friend, Linda, currently lives near Bengaluru (Bangalore) and I want to visit while she is still there. I have been to Northern India, but not this part of the country. Linda is interested in birds and other wildlife and she is really good at exploring local cultures. I am so much hoping that all the stars align so that this trip happens.

The pantanal of Brazil. It’s time that my friend, Diane, and I shared another big trip. We’re both excited about Sherry Lane’s (LifeBird Tours) next tour here in 2024.

Australia. I solicited suggestions from my co-participants who had seen me struggle with my poor vision in the forests on the Yunnan trip in 2019. They unanimously recommended Australia where they are many big, easy birds. Now that my son-in-law has a place there, I’ve got one more reason to put this near the top of my bucket list.

After those trips, I have a list of wonderful suggestions from to my well-traveled Facebook and real-life birding friends. It has some very exciting possibilities including Botswana, Malaysia, Spain, Patagonia (Argentina), and Mongolia.

In addition to birding, I want to spend time with iNaturalist. I love all wildlife, and plants, too. A single observation at a time makes it easy to learn about the amazing diversity of life on this planet. I’m only competing with myself to find interesting new discoveries. This is another activity that’s easy and fun.

My latest iNaturalist observation, a pretty Ornate Bella Moth at Fort De Soto.

Thanks for going on this exploration of emotions and motivations with me. I suspect that a few others may relate to some of what I’ve shared here. If any of this resonates with you, please leave a comment below. And, whatever goals and activities you pursue, be sure to find some joy every day.

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