How e-Bird has Invigorated County Birding

Last year for the first time my best birding buddy, Ken Brown, and I made a modest attempt to compile a county year list in our home county.  Ken is my birding mentor, the longtime teacher of the Advanced Birding Class for Tahoma Audubon Society, and a great friend.  I’m also a fairly longtime birder, but neither of us has thought of ourselves as county listers.  I have never even really considered myself a state lister.  e-Bird has brought about changes that make listing more fun at all levels.

When e-Bird added the “Top-100” feature, allowing birders to look at how they stack up in comparison to our birding buddies in our county, it naturally in our cases led to an interest in seeing where and how species were being found nearby.  Michael Charest, a fellow Pierce County, WA birder, has for the last couple of years submitted sightings to e-Bird of county species that amazed me.  He had well over 200 species each year, 216 last year.  No one had ever submitted such numbers publicly before.  It made Ken and me wonder what we could do with some local effort and diligence.

It has been a blast.  I’ve learned much more about my county, been to places I’d never seen before, and have become much more knowledgeable about the nuances of birds locally.  Questions came to mind like just when in fall and spring do various migrants pass through?  Where can I find species common in other counties but tough to find in my county?

This year Ken and I have made a more concerted effort, and have fun helping and needling each other.  It has helped me stay in much closer touch with same-county birders.  It is common-place now to call or text local friends about “good” birds they should chase to add to their list.  It probably helps that I’m no competition to the leader in my  county. Bruce Labar this year is so far ahead that I’m an afterthought.  In Kitsap County Brad Wagoner is the perennial county listing champion and Ken and he have become much closer friends and competitors.

Yesterday I took my third hike this year at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier, where many birders have seen White-tailed ptarmigan.  (not me so far) This has led to lots of other great county birds including Brewer’s sparrow, Prairie Falcon, Vesper Sparrow, Mountain Bluebird, and Townsend’s Solitaire that I’ve seen.  Several others I’ve missed include Rock Wren, Nashville Warbler and the ptarmigan.

Yesterday as I approached Frozen Lake (a misnomer this abnormally warm summer after a very dry winter it’s been ice and snow free for weeks, very unusual) I came closer that desired to a black bear.