Sometime over the next few weeks and months I will be surpassing some "birding" milestones.One of those will most likely occur first, and that will be the 10th anniversary of my interest in birds (whenever it actually occurs - see below). The other milestones involve the numbers of bird species I have seen and/or photographed - more on those in a minute, too . . .
The fact of the matter is, I don't know exactly when the anniversary date is, just that sometime in late September or early October of 1999 I went looking to get some photos of herons and egrets down at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville, Florida. At the time I was perfectly content to work away at my "second job," photographing auto racing. But a client at my primary job was a bird photographer who's work caught my eye, and I thought it would be kind of fun to take a few pictures of birds myself, just for a diversion. Now, in a way I was actually returning to a place I'd been before because, when I bought my first camera much of what did, and how I learned the basics of photographic techniques, was by making nature images (mostly in black & white). I ventured out a few times to the refuge, made a few nice photos, and then I saw "The Bird(s)."
One afternoon down at the refuge I saw a pair of Bald Eagles and was just amazed at how magnificent these birds were (had never seen them in the wild), and kind of became, shall we say, obsessed with getting a nice photo of one. It took a while for that to happen but, in the meantime, when there weren't any eagles around, I'd cruise around the wildlife drive at the refuge taking photos of herons, egrets, spoonbills, and whatever else I could find. Then I started noticing the birds in my yard, eventually joined my local Audubon chapter, and, though it would be a few more years, quit shooting cars and concentrated on birds. (This is one of the eagles that maintained a nest near the entrance to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive that first caught my attention. Many years ago I loaned a large framed print of this shot to the refuge to hang in the Visitor Center; as far as I know it is still there. The eagle had just flown into a tree talons first, broke this piece of branch from the tree, and was carrying it back to the nest.)
So, this 10th anniversary of my "relationship" with birds is milestone number one.
Unlike others who keep lists of the birds they've seen, I always been more concerned with the birds for which I have photos, only casually keeping a "life list." Some time ago I started marking off species I'd seen on an AOU checklist, noticed that I'd surpassed 350, and so started to look for a better method of keeping track. I tried a couple of online things, looked at software birding diaries, and finally settled on just a plain old spreadsheet. Over the past several weeks I've moved all that data over to this spreadsheet so that I can monitor things a little easier, mainly because I knew I was approaching 400 species I had seen. In fact, a few months ago, I realized it was within reach, and by the time I hit 382 got to thinking I might be able to hit the target by the end of the year. I really had my doubts as to whether or not I'd make it and, without a little luck, it will be tough with Winter approaching. But I've been slowly pecking away at it and, as of this morning, have but five to go to attain that goal. I've been helped by the fact that a couple of days ago I discovered a photo of a Horned Grebe, a species that wasn't on my list, and, in going through some old blog entries, found three additional species I had seen but not recorded.
What I need to do now is go through the Utah state checklist and see what might be out there that I haven't seen to get me to the goal. Tundra Swan would probably be a "gimme" in late October if I drive up to the Salt Lake area, but after that it will be a challenge to reach 400 by December 31. I'll keep you posted!
So there ya' go, ilestone #2 will be reaching 400 species on my life list.
Another milestone I'm approaching is the total number of bird species that I have photographed. This particular total represents only those species I've made images of that I consider worthy of being placed in my portfolio; I've photographed more than this total, but you know, some just aren't "keepers." Sitting now at 294, so I'm closing in on 300. Though may be a few in my slide files that I don't have in digital and I haven't counted yet.
That really kind of takes care of the upcoming milestones
Elsewhere, my Bryce Canyon list is at 145 species, so I'm nearing 150 there (out of 210 possible, 35 of those quite rare). Within the state of Utah I added 2 species yesterday down near St. George (Verdin and Greater Roadrunner) for a total of 172.
It'll be interesting to see what the next 3-1/2 months brings . . .