Date: 11/8/19 11:07 am From: Bill Volkert <billvolkert11...> Subject: [wisb] Bird Picture Life List
My wife Connie and I have for many years planned our vacations around birding in different places. In addition to searching for birds we always enjoy taking pictures of any birds or other animals that will sit still long enough. Of course, we also take pictures of mammals, reptiles as well as some butterflies, flowers and landscapes but birds has been our main objective. Over the years I have accumulated several hundred thousand pictures and have recently found a need to catalog these since I just don't remember everything we have taken pictures of. Going through only my digital picture collection I have now totaled 1300 species of birds that I have photographed over the years. Of course, they are not all worthy of National Geographic but there are a few good ones among the collection. While I certainly like a well composed picture or capturing some interesting behavior, my primary goal has been to document what I have seen. Now I have decided to sort through my digital picture collection so I know what I have. There also are a number of other birds that I have photographed as slides in the past and I have some 80,000 slides but don't plan to go through all of those any time soon.
From this I have come to realize that on some of our birding trips we have seen so many species of birds that after a while it is hard to remember them all. In particular, a morning spent at a hummingbird feeding station often times results in sighting 8 to 12 species, not to mention the great variety of flycatchers to be found in tropical America. Over the years I have seen just over 160 species of hummingbirds and it is hard to remember the names and field marks of them all. I am usually fairly good with bird names but over time I am surprised how many I need to look up again.
When we took our around-the-world trip I began to realize after the first 10 weeks or so that we had already seen a lot of birds and many mammals in Southern Africa and Madagascar. With some six months to go I knew that I would never remember them all so I began to write a picture reference list as I was downloading our pictures periodically. This consisted of simply writing down the picture file number and bird or mammal I took pictures of. In other words, in one column I would write something like picture # 1501 - 1520 and next to that the species in the pictures. It took a lot of time every few days to do this but in the end we took 35,000 pictures of hundreds of birds and and mammals. Now I wish I had been doing that for all of our trips over the years.
At least this is now a good use of my time considering the early winter weather. So as one of my winter projects I have been going through my wildlife pictures from all of our travels and cataloging them in the same way for each trip. I find that for many birds I am having to check the date the picture was taken, check that against my trip checklist to see what similar birds we had sighted on that particular day, and sometimes confirming them in a field guide. It also turns out that there are a number of birds that I have such vivid memories of that I could swear that I have photos but as it turns out they were nothing more than very memorable experiences.
At this time I am nearly done with this project and have only 6 trips and something like 15,000 pictures to go through. I did scan them briefly to see what bird species I may yet add to my bird picture life list and it appears that I will end up with just over 1300 species, or nearly 1/3 of all of the birds I have seen. For me, collecting pictures of birds is simply a hobby and I don't use them in any other way than for our own enjoyment to remember our travel experiences and also use some of these in my presentations.
I also find it interesting that while I make an effort to capture pictures of the rare and colorful birds we encounter, I often times haven't taken time to get a picture of the most common species. I guess it is similar to home where I have pictures of warblers, flycatcher, vireos, waterfowl and birds of prey but don't have many of robins, crows and a few other common species. I tend to think that I can get them at any time so I put this off and then come winter find that I don't have many pictures of a robin or grackle.
In our travels I have come to see that birding and bird photography today is a worldwide endeavor. I used to think of this as something that only Americans and a few Europeans enjoyed but I have seen that there are people from all corners of the world that seek birds in nearly all of the wild places and like many of us pursue a life list or a great picture. My hope is that all of them will support wildlife conservation efforts in order to protect what we all enjoy and value.
Bill FdL Co -- Bill Volkert Naturalist www.billvolkert