Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On the Relative Importance of Two and One Half Lifers

Yeah, so two of the birds pictured below are new to me, Red-faced Cormorant and Aleutian Tern. My entire lifetime's observations of Red-faced Cormorants now total not more than 5 minutes, possibly less than two minutes, because we were on a moving boat next to a rocky island. Yes, we got good, identifiable looks - emphasis on the identifiable, I guess, since that would be, or should be, the standard for "counting" a bird - and I'm glad to have seen them, but the impact is small. Cool birds, neat face pattern, nice photo, the last digit on the life list number rolls over like a car's odometer, unseen since I only know the odometer reading on my North American vehicle starts with a 6 - -, no idea what the second two digits are and I don't really care.

I should say I don't really care any more, because since I know I broke 600 North American I must have cared once, right?  That was a long time ago.

I do care that I may not see a Red-faced Cormorant again for a long time, and barely had the chance to make its aquaintance. Except wait, in a half hour we'll embark on another boat trip out of Seward through Resurrection Bay into the Gulf of Alaska, and hopefull will find more.

The Aleutian Terns were more fun, since we were on our feet in some great habitat, Lincoln's Sparrows singing in the background, Wilson's Snipe winnowing overhead, and I heard their chi-deeps, knew it was a tern-ish bird, knew the sound was new to me, and there they were, graceful, heavier than Arctic Terns, flying past close by. Adding to the fun was my later reading on the species in BNA Online, which says, and I quote, ". . .no confirmed winter records anywhere." We really don't know everything about birds.

And on the half-lifer. . . while leading a tour in coastal California, somebody called Horned Puffin on a pelagic out of Monterey, I glanced over from getting someone on their life Black-footed Albatross to see what would be a life puffin for me disappearing behind the boat. 10 years or so later, that matter has been laid to rest.

Now, you should see all the eagles around here! And the Moose!  And the zillion murres and the dippers feeding young along the stream where the sockeye salmon are running, and while you're at it listen to the Varied Thrushes, or maybe it's flutes of Alaskan forest gnomes playing outside our lodge. . .

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