This is the story of adding 100 species of birds to a life list to achieve 700 in the American Birding Association (ABA) checklist area. It is also a story of attempting to reach 700 by age 70. To many, 700 is no big deal. The ABA’s Milestones reports of members who reach various totals on their lists. Any total is an achievement worth celebrating.
Making it to 700 is relative to lots of things. Someone once wrote a rather long paper that, when summarized suggests that the further north you go, the fewer southern birds you will see. It hit the newsstands before global warming became an important issue, but the point is to see northern species, one must go north. Just how much a northern birding chase will grow a list depends on past birding locations. A birder from Florida will see more new birds in Alaska than most birders living in Alaska. The Alaskans have already seen boreal birds and may be hoping to pick up a few tropical species in Florida. Of course, making it to 700 also depends on more time and money. Gaps in my life list certainly include numerous northern species. The 100 species needed to achieve 700 will be different for different birders.
Just how rapidly can a person find 700 depends on time, money and luck and how long they may have been birding. Contrary to belief by some, as a retired government employee, disposable income was not abundant. Anyway, I started birding in the late 50’s. What, that long ago, and your in your 60’s and haven’t hit 700? That’s correct. I spent many hours enjoying observing countless thousands of birds at Smithsonian mostly studying geographic variation. Unfortunately, those species are not countable. My employer was the Department of Interior’s National Biological Survey that began in the late Nineteenth Century and continues today. Visitors to the museum sometimes talked about species they had seen or were planning to find. I felt a twinge of envy, but, even when it was somewhat economically feasible, I stayed close to the Potomac. While happily toiling away, I let my life list languish until a few years after my retirement.
In 2004 I was re-infected with listing fever. At the end of 2005, my ABA life list was close to 600. The 100 species to reach 700 were found during the next 10 years, with consideration to what was economically feasible and luck.
While searching for the 100, I couldn’t help but recall some museum experiences. Those memories of people and birds sometimes were in my thoughts while chasing down various species and they are interwoven in the chronicle about obtaining 700 ABA species. The10-year journey from 600 to 700 may offer some insight from a birder and ornithologist. Just maybe it will inspire others to not give-up the hunt. The hope is that the journey will encourage everyone that birding is educational and fun. Regardless of age, finding just one more species is always possible and adventurous.