On my quest for 5000 birds

There was a time when I didn’t know the difference between a wren and a fairy-wren. However, in a short time I became a serious birder and a bird photographer. Being a bit compulsive, I really got into twitching, which is trying to find as many birds as possible. Recently I managed to find over one hundred species in just under two weeks in Arizona.

Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus) in Arizona

At some point, I decided that I would see 5000 birds—that’s just about half the world’s birds. My current life list stands at 576 birds, so I’m just over ten percent of the way there. Ideally, I could photograph them too, and I am only missing two photographs from those 576 birds. Not a bad start, right?

Today, I have decided to cancel my goal of seeing 5000 birds. The main one is environmental. I would really have to travel a lot to see 5000 birds, and while I love to travel, all that carbon output is just going to hurt the lovely birds I want to see.

That doesn’t mean I’ll never travel again, and I’m sure I’ll see more birds. However, an arbitrary goal of 5000 now seems like too much. There are still plenty of challenges with the birds I can see locally and on fewer trips. There are still dozens of birds in my own city of which I do not have five-star shots. There are also other ways of enjoying birds I can’t see firsthand, like my What’s That Bird podcast. And if I really have the urge to identify something new, I can look to butterflies, moths, spiders, and other organisms that receive much less attention than birds.

I think I’ll be a birdwatcher and bird photographer for the rest of my life. But 5000 birds? I think 576 is already pretty good.

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