Birding breadth vrs. birding depth
As some of you might know, I only became a birder this year.
My life-list stood at 59 before heading to the west coast a couple of weeks ago.
I spent several hours 3-5 days a week in the forests and wildlife refuge near my home watching birds and trying to learn how to quickly identify species.
But my list never broke 60.
Some of you felt that must mean I am quite the poor outdoorsman and an appallingly ignorant birder.
I was wondering what I was doing wrong. I felt sort of in awe of the birders with 500+ species.
Then I went to San Diego and Lake Tahoe a couple of weeks ago and ticked nearly 50 lifers during 5 or 6 birding hikes that couldn't have totalled more than 10-12 hours outdoors (I also ticked a few from the comfort of the lakeside cabin but that is another story).
I suddenly got the sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of the birders with many hundreds of life ticks are merely better travelled than I.
It sort of made me sad - like when, as a youngster, I discovered Santa Claus didn't exist. I now know that if I could afford a weeks vacation to a new ecosystem a few times a year then I could have a big enough list to choke a horse.
So what is birding? Is it the breadth of ticks - meaning you are really just a world traveller with binoculars, or is it a depth of knowledge? A deep understanding of the avi-fauna in a particular ecosystem?
One thing I did notice about my trip was that only about 5% of the new birds I saw went unidentified. In the first few months of my birding "career" that number was well over 50%.
Even though I saw many new and (to me) spectacular species on my trip, I still have a better sense of satisfaction with the small forest species that I have managed to pick out from amongst the common species out on the east coast. The feel more "real" to me. Like I worked for them.