Seeing 200 North American bird species is not much compared to the 749 species Neil Hayward saw to win the American Birding Association Big Year in 2013. (A Big Year is when a birder counts all the birds she sees or hears within a single year and geographical area – check out the 2011 movie with Jack Black and Steve Martin for a hilarious look at what they can be like.)
BUT, for me this moment is one I’m pretty proud of. It didn’t all happen in a year. I’ve been casually listing birds for quite a few years actually. As I crept closer to the 200 mark, I started to look for opportunities to break it. And today I did just that. I reached 201 bird species in my Sibley birding app.
It’s not really about the numbers though, even if that can be a fun part of it. Paying attention to the birds around me has given me some great moments to remember.
Like that time I saw a verdin flitting around and flourishing in a desolate, but beautiful desert. Or the roseate spoonbills, anhingas and purple gallinules I saw while kayaking through Florida mangroves. There was the American redstart bouncing quickly from trees to the cliff-faces I climbed in Arizona, all the while flashing its black and white wings and tail to startle insects.
There were the Brewer’s sparrow’s long, intricate, trilling songs cutting across the dawn air above sagebrush in Wyoming. Or the time my husband and I spotted brants, pigeon guillemots, harlequin ducks, glacous-winged gulls, bald eagles, black oystercatchers, rhinocerous auklets and surf scoters while floating on a tiny skiff in uncommonly peaceful waters off the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada. I saw a peregrine falcon ripping into a small mammal with its hooked bill and, nearby, critically endangered, dinosaur-sized California condors mating on top of a granite boulder in Pinnacles National Park.
So, thank you birds. You bring so much feathered beauty to this world (even you, condor).
Photos from wikimedia commons, except painted redstart which is from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=575116)