13 December 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

I've gotten a lot of questions about this attempt to see as many birds as I can in Cache County in one year. As the year draws close to the end, I thought I'd answer a few of the most frequently asked questions here. (Photo of me birding by Stephanie Cobbold.)

Will you do it again next year?
No. It has been a blast, but my main motiviation for doing it was to get to know the area better, both geographically and ornithologically. I've accomplished those goals and more, and now it's time for something else. I might do another county big year the next time I move to a new county, but I don't plan to do another one here. I'll probably bird a lot less in 2009. Maybe I'll work on my county life list, since I've got a pretty good start so far.

Will your record last?
I doubt it. I travelled a lot this year, and there were many birds that know I missed, like Say's Phoebe, Sage Thrasher, and Lewis's Woodpecker. Of course, we'll never know the birds I missed that everyone else missed, too. I think my record will last only until someone decides to break it. I had a great year of birds with some real surprises, but anyone who could commit even more time to birding could probably see more birds.

What was the best bird you saw?
I'll be answering this one in some detail soon. Watch for a "top ten best birds" list as a future post.

How much time did you spend birding?
This is a hard question to answer. For one, I didn't keep track. Even if I had tried, it would be hard to say, because in a way, I'm always birding. Some birds I found for the first time while I was doing something else, like my first Yellow Warbler of the year on a bike ride to school, and my first Red-breasted Nuthatch on a walk home from school. But it wouldn't really be fair to count every trip to school as a birding trip, because that wasn't my main objective. The same thing goes for hiking in the mountains - if I go for a hike with some friends and bring my binoculars, does that count as a birding trip? I guess that the best answer I can give to this question is that on average, I'd say I spent about one full day every week where my main objective was birding. That's a rough estimate and the range is from three weeks without birding (while travelling out of the county) to maybe four full days in a single week.

Are you the best birder in the county now?
No. I am certainly a better birder than I was a year ago, but I know that there are much better birders than me in the county. Some of them I bird with regularly. I only saw as many species as I did because I put a lot of time into it, not because I am more skilled than people who saw fewer species. Luck also played a role: there were many good birds found this year, by myself and others, some of which had never been seen in the county or even the state before.

Was it worth it?
Absolutely. But only because it was never REALLY about counting the birds. It was about learning the secret spots of Cache County. It was about getting to know my fellow birders. It was about getting in touch with the passage of the seasons as translated by bird migrations. It was about learning the subtle details of plumage that mean nothing to the average human but everything to survival and identification of bird species. I certainly learned more about birds and birding than I have in any year so far. And for all these reasons, it was absolutely worth it.

1 comment:

Ryan O'Donnell said...

An anonymous writer for the Bridgerland Audubon Society has taken a guess at one of these questions. In their January newsletter, where they published the complete list of species I saw in the county in 2008, the author writes that my record will "most likely stand for decades". We'll see!