I saw a Western Kingbird where Eastern Kingbirds live. A new bird for my life list.

This list is just a bunch of checks in my field guide. When I see a new bird, I find its picture and check it off.

There are many checks.

Even Alaskan, Caribbean and pelagic birds.

Along with vagrants like the Western Kingbird.

I like the term vagrant.

But, I’m starting to dislike the checklist.

Counting new things seems, at first, to be counting up. But up is the wrong direction. It’s really counting down.

When I bought a new car, I noticed the odometer counting up. But as I drove away, my car was going down in value, down in history.

A countdown.

When I put a check next to the Western Kingbird, I thought, okay, another new bird added.

Then, I thought: no, another bird subtracted from the future.

A bleak thought. But there’s a cure for bleak thoughts. Sit by a river in the woods, away from everything. And forget about counting.

8 Responses to “Countdown.”

  1. Jerry says:

    Your explanation definitely hit a chord with me. Although my life-list isn’t very lengthy, if I find myself saying, “oh, I’ve counted that bird already…” I try to change that to : “I enjoy seeing that bird again…” Plus there are times, when my camera isn’t ready, so instead of fussing about “missing the shot”, I take pleasure in just enjoying the bird “in the now”…

  2. Jeff says:

    some countdowns are good. for example, when trying to do 50 sit-ups as part of a daily exercise routine i found counting up to 50 to be psychologically intimidating. the higher numbers representing an insurmountable barrier. but starting the count with 50 and going backwards down to 1 was much easier. there’s something appealing about only having 5 left, 4 left, 3 left, etc. versus having done 45, 46, 47, etc.

    another thought. referring to some earlier posts about Westerns…though i haven’t re-read Lonesome Dove recently, and I don’t specifically recall if there are any good guy cowboys adding notches to their belt for each bad guy they killed, but I like to equate the idea of adding checks to a bird list to the old gunslinger notching another line in his leather holster for each bullet that found its home true.

  3. Bill says:

    Exactly the reason I quit list-keeping, along with chasing.

    It occurred to me some years ago that my pursuit of checkmarks was hindering my enjoyment of the birds around me. I’m not one of those folks who pooh-poohs the listers, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found it isn’t for me. In fact, I’m much less competitive about most things in my seventh decade.

    Thanks for your blog. I keep forgetting to say that.


  4. Rich Willott says:

    I’m not with you on this one. I like adding a ‘check’ once in awhile, and I see nothing wrong with keeping a list – as long as it doesn’t become an obsession. Bird on!

  5. Marc D. says:

    Not another bird subtracted from the future, but a new experience to add to and enrich your life.

  6. Ron Heard says:

    No, counting is okay! Think of the fun surrounding “The Big Day,” including the annual event, the book and the movie. Waaaaay too much fun for good, Lutheran Church basement brought up folks. Hoo-Hah! Because going along with the counting is the memory attached. I still remember adding the Bald Eagle to my list when I saw three of them play-fighting with a branch on the frozen Mississippi south of Winona, MN, one frozen January afternoon long ago. It was the same winter I added a Snowy Owl to my list when they invaded western MN dropping down out of Manitoba that incredibly cold year. Feet planted firmly in front of the fireplace, I still think about adding those checkmarks to my list!

  7. Rob L. says:

    beautiful, elegant post. my take is that the future is always uncertain. let the checks fly.

  8. Cyndee says:

    Also…you’ve knowledge you didn’t have before you saw that Western Kingbird. Something to share with us. That can’t be a negative thing. Next you may notice a Kingbird that is a bit different from both of the ones you’ve checked off…a new variant. Something you could not have noticed without seeing both…and a valuable item to share! Keep looking up!