There are various ways and different reasons to keep a bird list. From citizen science to personal records, it’s not a bad idea to keep track of what you see and when/where you see it.
Keeping a list is far different from “twitching” or ticking species off a list. If your goal is to check the list and move on as quickly as possible, then the enjoyment of observing the species could be lost. “Twitching” is not bad unless the want for seeing the bird outweighs the safety or security of the species.
The smaller electronics become, the easier it is to bring the computer birding. Prior to iPods and Blackberries, paper lists were the way to keep track while in the field. Notebooks are still a valuable resource to listing.
A tiny notebook and pencil fits in the pocket and is a quick way to jot down species, locations and other notes. Although vulnerable to weather elements, they are not expensive to replace and a spare can be easily kept in another location, such as a backpack.
Using spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, it is easy to make a list for each state, county or location you wish to have one for. Organizing lists on the computer is a good way to keep permanent track of the species you see, providing you update them.
Photo Life List
One of the best fun the Birdfreaks have had was starting the Photo Life List. It made the common birds exciting to “find” again and the fun hasn’t stopped yet. You can always get a better photo or a new bird. In addition to the quest of shooting new species, we also are developing a database of bird photos for future use (and they are free for others to use as well!).
Whether you keep track of your birds electronically or by paper, it is helpful to add your species to eBird. It is simple and fairly quick to add your list and not only does it track numbers for science but it keeps track of your own personal sightings. What day did you first see a Common Yellowthroat? What birds did you see at Horicon Marsh last March?
Listing is fun and worth the trouble. I have seen a 35-year-old list from a birder and not only was it cool to see the list from so many years ago, it gave an insight to the birds of the area at a different period in time. It is helpful to future conservation to keep track of species changes in population and habitat over the years.
If you are out for the day at a bird-rich location such as Horicon Marsh NWR, comparing lists and notes at the end of the day with your group can be fun and informative. For children, having a list might be the first step to keeping a more detailed field notebook.
Online Listing Resources