Friday, January 3, 2014

Outside Xmas Been Good or Bad Lists…Wildlife Checklists for New Year

Like you, I've been out and about looking for wildlife (mostly birds) to add to my lists (annual and life) for the new year. So far, it has been slow going compared to last year. Thirteen species of birds are on my checklist year-to-date. Caveat being short time invested (about 4 hours) and habitat visited. Two habitats have been concentrated on at this point, open country and Rocky Mountain Forest a) Subalpine Mesic Spruce-Fir and b) Dry-Mesic Montane Mixed. Targets for a: buteos, horned larks, snow buntings and longspurs and b: winter finches and corvids. Have done well with buteos (photo below).
Rough-legged Hawk
The forest has been really quiet...winter finches are mostly absent (CBC's bear this out). For good reason, the cone crop is pretty much non-existent. I took a field trip to Lolo Pass and found few trees (photo below, likely Subalpine Fir) with cones. The good news is the snowpack (44 inches) is 84% of normal.
Lolo Pass-Conifers and Snowpack
I record my sightings, observations in a variety of ways, hard copy and digital. I've downloaded the AOU checklist (American Ornithologists Union) and imported it into Google Sheets for annual and life list tracking. By being cloud-based, I can reach my list using any computer, tablet. Similarly, have downloaded and adapted checklists (mostly national) for dragonflies (Odonates really...provided by the Slater Museum-University of Puget Sound), butterflies (source: North American Butterfly Association), and wildflowers (Montana has an excellent natural heritage web site for plants...your State probably has extensive resources also).
The way I'm doing this is a bit dated; there is a plethora of digital resources (apps) coming online. Included are checklists (E-Bird) integrated with identification guides and natural history information (Audubon Bird Guide)...all in a mobile platform. App checklist competition comes from a published work by Whit Bronaugh titled Wildlife of North America-A Naturalists Lifelist.
Yes, tracking wildlife-watching efforts is important, think S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based) objectives for learning about wildlife. Just don't forget wildlife-watching (drilled down from generic just "being outside" category) is also a path for daily happiness (being in the moment); here's a visual checklist "how-to-be-happy" from Pinfographics.
Leave me a comment with a link to your recent observation checklist :-)