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My lifelist and my "dudelist"

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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 09:36   #1
Pete Mella
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My lifelist and my "dudelist"

The whole Amur Falcon incident/debacle has got me thinking about my listing habits. Although I'm a big believer in your list being your list and your rules go, on the other hand once you start talking with others you have to realise you need to abide my mostly the same rules to a certain degree. My list is peppered with birds which I'm fairly sure I saw, but wouldn't stand up to the scruitiny and birding discipline I've discovered a large proportion of you guys impose on yourselves.

The bottom line is birding (in the listing sense) is very much a game, a sport if you like. And more casual and liberal listing is fine, but chatting to more serious people about it is like turning up at a semi-pro tennis match with one of those plastic rackets that come with swingball sets.

So I think from now on I'll be keeping a "dudelist" and a "playing by the rules" list. My dudelist counts birds I'm only 90% sure I saw, birds I've only heard, and that bloody falcon. It's a list that's more a record for myself of my birding history, with the less scrutinous birds clearly labelled as such. The other is a list that plays by the rules... perhaps one day this will be my only list!

So what gets chopped off my "playing by the rules" list? Some of these really pain me...

Black-necked Grebe. I saw a tiny, grebe-shaped dot down someone's scope that I presumed was a black-necked because it was on a lake where a black-necked had been reported.

Manx Shearwater. A bit of a "was it, wasn't it?" type ID. Not wholly sure.

Goshawk. IDed by someone else at a raptor-watching field trip. Probably wouldn't have made the call between that and female spar on my own.

Amur Falcon. No explanation needed!

Curlew Sandpiper. I have a nagging doubt I let other people around me in the hide ID this one for me, and in my memory can't put my finger on why I called it rather than dunlin.

Cuckoo. Heard only.

Waxwing. Untickable views, I reckon. Heard them and saw them dart over my head, 100%. But tickable? Maybe not.

Ring Ouzel. Blackbird-like birds silhouetted above heather moorland making non-blackbird-like calls. Not sure enough for a "proper" tick, though!

Grasshopper Warbler - Heard only.

Crossbill - Someone else (albeit a very trustworthy birder) IDed a flyover and I ticked it based on their ID.

Do any of these sound unduly harsh?
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 10:27   #2
DEREK CHARLES
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I would tick the Amur Falcon, Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler but would leave the rest.

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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 10:32   #3
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Pete, as I don't really value birdwatching as a comptetive sport, I honestly think it's up the individual. I know plenty will disagree because many birdwatchers are very comptetitive.

A few years ago I changed my approach to listing, to stop relying on others to make ID's. I am now not really happy to tick a bird unless I am reasonably confident I could ID one myself next time. That is, I make sure I note the key diagnostic features. Then there is no problems with "doubt" either. So I have learned far more about birds, and also realised that some apparently experienced birders are not trustworthy in their ID skills. I do think that there are also many birders who do have amazingly good knowledge though, it's just hard to separate them in the field.......

Also I found that when I exclude poor sightings, it gave me more incentive to go and get a good one! If you tick off waxwing and never bother finding another, you'll have missed out for sure. Ticking a bird like Cuckoo or Gropper by call may be OK, but if you have the patience to wait and see one, that's worth the effort.

So overall I recommend a harsh approach as more rewarding.
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 11:26   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DEREK CHARLES View Post
I would tick the Amur Falcon, Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler but would leave the rest.

Derek
Interested why you'd tick the Amur and not the Gos (the Gos incidentally being IDed by someone who actually works in the area protecting them, and I would bet good money on being able to ID any raptor that comes within six miles).
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 12:11   #5
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Sounds like you could trust the ID of the Goshawk then.
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 12:28   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Mella View Post
Interested why you'd tick the Amur and not the Gos (the Gos incidentally being IDed by someone who actually works in the area protecting them, and I would bet good money on being able to ID any raptor that comes within six miles).
Depends where you draw the line, I suppose for most people adding something to your list requires a good enough view to see the main features. But that's not necessarily up to the standard of "would I have called that had I been on my own?" or "would my description get past a committee" (mentioning no falcon in particular ).

From what you've said I'd be unhappy about the grebe and the manxie in particular. As for 'heard only' birds that's a personal choice, and most people seem to be ok with that for year lists, but you'll feel a whole lot better after finally seeing em.
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 12:29   #7
dantheman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Mella View Post
My lifelist and my "dudelist"
Same thing dude . . .

I kid you

Thing is, you're going to catch up with them all again at some point later in your birding 'career'. If not happy with them (eg you weren't able to see the relevent id features for yourself or even didn't get to see them at all), don't worry about it. Be patient. Heard only - some people don't count them, some might, but you should at least know what you saw or heard that you could id it yourself again. (eg Grasshopper reeling).

On the Amur front, good chance you won't get that later, as it would depend on there being another, and then yourself successfully twitching it. You could of course leave it off the list until you've seen Red-footed Falcon well, and can go back to your recollections at the time and photos showing the face etc, and then adding it - you'll have just about 'earnt it' by then!
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 13:42   #8
DEREK CHARLES
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Originally Posted by Pete Mella View Post
Interested why you'd tick the Amur and not the Gos (the Gos incidentally being IDed by someone who actually works in the area protecting them, and I would bet good money on being able to ID any raptor that comes within six miles).
Hello Pete.
I would tick the Amur because the bird you seen was definately an Amur Falcon (assuming it gets accepted).The fact that you thought it was a Red Foot at the time is irrelevent i think. You can't tick it as a Red Foot can you?
You didn't say in your original post that the Goshawk was identified by a raptor expert. If he is and you are happy that he is then i would consider ticking it based on the views of the bird you had. Word of caution is that i know one or two "raptor" experts who are far from it!
As others have said virtually everything on your original list you will see again and hopefully many times. When you do see them well it will be a far more satisfying tick.

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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 14:00   #9
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One of the things I like about keeping a year list as well as a life list is that it gives me that added incentive every year to go out and find the birds again. I can also look over past year lists and see if there are things I marked in my early days of birding that I haven't seen since. As time moves on some of the earlier sightings become a bit more dubious. (Blue-grey Tanager in Minnesota? I think not!... I was nine at the time though so I put it up to over-exuberance in my new-found hobby/obsession)
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 14:41   #10
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I generally tick only birds seen for the life list. Maybe some owls could make an exception. For my year list, I list it the third time I hear it, if not seen all year.

On the whole, I have seen all through binoculars, though others have made the ID. Big birds I count even without bins, geese, swans, turkeys.
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 18:37   #11
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I probably would not have counted any of those on my list (well, I don't know the circumstances behind the Amur Falcon). For me I need a good identifiable look, even if brief. I generally don't count heard only for my life list, but will for my regional, largely because I have poor hearing and I trust my vision more (although with empid flycatchers I do rely on sound to clinch the id).

Even with that there are always exceptions. I am much more lenient on pelagic species as far as what I consider "a good view". And I will freely admit that both my Crissal and Le Conte's Thrasher views were on the crappy side, with the former being backlit but the only thrasher known to occur in the habitat/area, and the latter being mostly a brief glimpse of a pale-colored thrasher running away.
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 22:32   #12
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There is one species not on my life list that sometimes bugs me... I went on a trip to Mexico years ago as part of my undergraduate research project on swordtails, before I was a birder. We took a half-day break to visit some gardens up in the cloud forest, and at one point I stopped to look at a bird perched above me. Purple and yellow, with a yellow eye-ring and a short bill. I thought it was neat and took a picture. The next year, when I had officially started birding and had taken an ornithology class, I made another trip to Mexico and bought a field guide. While flipping through the guide, I saw what I am 95% sure was my bird- a Violaceous Trogon. I dug out my old pictures and scrutinized the photo of the bird carefully, but the photo was so lousy that you couldn't even tell there was a bird in it. I left it off my lifelist, and looked hard for the species (or any trogons) during my second trip to Mexico, but no luck. Aaaah!

In the past I have removed species from my life list for similar reasons, that I decided I hadn't been very sure about the ID, or hadn't yet been experienced enough to make the call. Most of them I have since seen for sure and re-added them- Cassin's Auklet is one of those.
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