I was walking along a lake, part of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary in New Delhi, India, when I spied a familiar duck. Could that be a Green-winged Teal? But after looking through my field guide, I discovered that Green-winged Teal wasn’t one of the options. There was, however, an illustration of a Common Teal that looked similar, so I jotted down the name and, for insurance, snapped a photo of the bird:
It’s a brand new year, and we’re celebrating with old traditions. Were you up late last night? Did you watch the Rose Parade this morning? Did you make resolutions? Did you decide what bird lists you’re going to keep this year?
Starting a new list, or setting a year goal, has a lot to recommend it. Birders are often passionate collectors. We’re no different from someone who collects stamps or teapots—we just collect birds, accumulating a life list. (And we don’t have to find space for our collection, or dust it.)
Face it, you’re hooked. You didn’t think it would happen to you. All you wanted was to know the name of one bird. You naively picked up that field guide. Was that bird at the feeder a Black-headed Grosbeak? Or perhaps it’s a Spotted Towhee? Hmmm… there are so many birds in here. And they all look so interesting! You’re familiar with a few—Robins and Pigeons, House Finches and House Sparrows. But wait! Is that really a House Sparrow? Perhaps it’s a Black-throated Sparrow instead! And there are two kinds of goldfinches at your feeder? Better look more closely.
Then you realize that lots of those birds in the field guide never come to your backyard feeder. Where are they all? Maybe it would be fun to plan an outing to the local nature center. Better bring those binos, just in case.
One day you wake up and realize that what all began so innocently is now a full-fledged addiction. You’re a birder. Now what?
Once you have started finding and identifying birds, the natural next step is to want to keep a record of what you have seen. While not all birders keep lists, most do. Many keep more than one list. It all depends on your personality.