January 10, 2013
Spectacled Eider, Barrow, AK
Spectacled Eider, Barrow, Alaska

You may recall my December 31, 2009 column (jimburnsphotos.com/pages/12-31-09.html) in which I wrote, as a New Year’s resolution of sorts, that I was through with listing forever and burning my bird lists.  Several birding friends and one special family member rolled their eyeballs, feeling with certainty I’d never fully recover from my listing addiction and would probably backslide before the end of that year.  They should have known better that the been-there-done-that facet of my personality would trump my competitive genes.

In the ensuing three years I’ve come full circle to embrace again the things that appealed to me about birding in the beginning, the same things about birds that appeal to all of us who are first delighted by their beauty and flight, then hooked by the diversity and complexity of their natural history and the way that history is interwoven with the threads of our lives and the life of our planet.

Here’s a sampler, in random order, of things I’ve been able to do because I no longer choose to spend time, money, and fossil fuel chasing birds I haven’t seen:

1)  Watch the sun set over the Pacific without reaching for camera or binoculars.
2)  Devote ten days in Alaska to photographing just three species I had already seen.
3)  Visit, with no regrets, long lost relatives in a city famously unattractive to birders.
4)  Sit for three days behind a Creosote bush watching nesting Le Conte’s Thrashers.
5)  Enjoy multiple trips to Costa Rica even knowing I’ll never see all that country’s birds.
6)  Make multiple trips in multiple years to a Peregrine aerie during breeding season.
7)  Come full circle in my photography back to macro and landscape where I began.
8)  See a Northern Flicker fashion earthen metates in our backyard to open olives.
9)  Decline a trip to southern Arizona for a lifer to watch my grandson’s swim meet.

Oh, and I’m laughing, not out loud but in my heart because I once was there, at all the listers in an uproar debating feverishly and endlessly over the recent announcement that Rosy-faced Lovebird is now countable--if you saw it before it was countable, can you count it now?  If the Phoenix population provided the basis for countability, can you count the ones you saw in Florida?  “People, people,” as Clay Thompson would say.  It’s your list!  No one’s taking names and writing them down.  Get a life.  Birding may be life, as the signature line on my email states, but listing is not life.

I’ve written in this space (jimburnsphotos.com/pages/3-17-06.html) that listing will make you a better birder, and I’ll always believe that, but competitive listing is a different animal fueled by different fires that have little or nothing to do with appreciating and enjoying the outdoors and the birds that live there.  If you’re a competitive lister, more power to you.  It’s your thing.  It’s no longer my thing, and I’m a happier birder and a better person because of that.

Sorry.  Gotta run.  I hear the lovebirds out back at our feeder.  I never get tired of sitting and watching these wonderful little avian rainbows.  And yes, back in the day when I was a lister, I counted them the first time I ever saw one.  That was before they were “countable.”  Sue me.
Rosy-faced Lovebirds at our seed feeder
Rosy-faced Lovebirds at our seed feeder