Braided Streams

Reflections | Travels | Interests

Ticking

Maybe it's because I arrived in Australia after a year of working with raptors, but I carried my Birds of Australia field guide with me wherever I went.  It started as a passive hobby, but before I knew it, I was counting the species that I observed.  Almost without knowing it, I had started my Life List.  I was a ticker.  I was addicted.

It wasn't so much wanting a long list that kept me at it, although I did have a goal of seeing 300 birds (which I didn't quite reach).  I just love watching birds.  They are so interesting and often so adorable.  I admire their wildness and their self-reliance and their ability to be wild even within several feet of a human--somehow unafraid.  For anyone who loves puzzles or solving riddles, I invite you to try to identify birds.  Luckily, I had an ornithologist friend to validate all my sightings, but puzzling out which bird I had just seen was both fun and satisfying (when I got it right). 

Once I started my list, each new identification achieved significance.  Once I identified a bird for the first time, I felt like I had come to know it, and when I saw it again, I felt comfortable with my identification, like I was seeing an old friend.  It was a long process to get to this point, but I believe it is a true sign of knowing and loving your environment and your place, to see an element of nature and know exactly what it is and what it is doing there.  It made me feel at home to know with whom I was sharing the place.

Some of my most memorable sightings were the last three birds on my list: the Wompoo, Pheasant Coucal, and King Parrot.  These birds were incredibly common where I lived, yet somehow they evaded me for almost the entire year.  I heard Wompoos calling nearly every day (one of the professors referred to them as the "indigestion bird" for their distinct, rumbling cooing) but never saw one until one of my last days in Australia.  I heard the sound of a pigeon's wings fly into a tree above me and simply assumed that it was a Brown Pigeon, which were often seen outside of the Dongas, where I was at the time.  But I thought I'd better check to make sure.  I located the bird in the tree and saw the distinct coloring of the Wompoo, ran inside for a pair of binoculars, praying it wouldn't move, went back outside and used the binoculars to confirm that it was a Wompoo, ran back inside again for a better pair of binoculars, and then came outside once more to get a good look at it.  I elated to finally see this bird that teased me every morning with its call but remained hidden behind rainforest leaves.

This teasing was similar with the Pheasant Coucal, who I believe I must have seen at least ten times, but never got a long-enough look to confirm my sighting.  With just a few days left in Australia, while making our last trip to Granite Gorge with students to see the rock wallabies, I saw two Pheasant Coucals on the side of the road.  They were unmistakable.  I felt the excitement in my heart to add this much sought-after bird to my list so close to my departure.

And finally, the King Parrot.  John and Iris consistently told me they saw King Parrots outside their window every morning, but every time I went into town, the King Parrots weren't there.  Similarly, I went several times to the Caravan Park, where the King Parrots ate at the feeders hung for them.  I never had any luck.  It was when I was loading my suitcases into the van to head to Cairns for my trip home to New Jersey that I heard their whistling call and looked above me to see a flock of four King Parrots flying overhead.  What a beautiful goodbye to that country that I love so much.

Of course, if I told a story for every bird on my list, this post would be almost endless.  Instead, I'll include my list here:

  1. Rainbow Lorikeet
  2. Brown Honeyeater
  3. Superb Fruit Dove
  4. Pale-yellow Robin
  5. Spectacled Monarch
  6. Australian White Ibis
  7. Tawny Frogmouth
  8. Southern Cassowary
  9. Laughing Kookaburra
  10. Australian Brush-turkey
  11. Australian Pelican
  12. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  13. Lewin’s Honeyeater
  14. Chowchilla
  15. Black-shouldered Kite
  16. Black Kite
  17. Whistling Kite
  18. Wedge-tailed Eagle
  19. Black Falcon
  20. Spotted Harrier
  21. Brown Falcon
  22. Australian Kestrel
  23. Red-backed Fairy-wren
  24. Tooth-billed Bowerbird
  25. Orange-footed Scrubfowl
  26. Galah
  27. Blue-faced Honeyeater
  28. Willie Wagtail
  29. Magpie-lark
  30. Figbird
  31. Emu
  32. Darter
  33. White-bellied Sea-Eagle
  34. Magpie Goose
  35. Black Swan
  36. Brolga
  37. Sarus Crane
  38. Comb-crested Jacana
  39. Crested Pigeon
  40. Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo
  41. Blue-winged Kookaburra
  42. Noisy Miner
  43. White-throated Treecreeper
  44. White-cheeked Honeyeater
  45. Victoria’s Riflebird
  46. Black Butcherbird
  47. Azure Kingfisher
  48. Large-billed Gerygone
  49. Yellow-bellied Sunbird
  50. Barking Owl
  51. Brown Cuckoo-Dove
  52. Squatter Pigeon
  53. Buff-banded Rail
  54. Cattle Egret
  55. Double-eyed Fig Parrot
  56. Crimson Rosella
  57. Barn Owl
  58. Atherton Scrubwren
  59. Golden Bowerbird
  60. Pied Currawong
  61. Bush Stone-Curlew
  62. Whimbrel
  63. Pied (Torresian) Imperial-Pigeon
  64. Common Myna
  65. Little Black Cormorant
  66. Great Crested Grebe
  67. Black-faced Monarch
  68. Red-browed Finch
  69. Pacific Black Duck
  70. Eurasian Coot
  71. Dusky Honeyeater
  72. Rock Dove
  73. Peaceful Dove
  74. House Sparrow
  75. Emerald Dove
  76. Spotted Catbird
  77. Eastern Reef Egret
  78. Pied Cormorant
  79. Little Friarbird
  80. Australian Magpie
  81. Black Currawong
  82. Superb Fairy-wren
  83. Common Blackbird
  84. Grey Goshawk
  85. Little Penguin
  86. Pied Oystercatcher
  87. Sooty Oystercatcher
  88. Silver Gull
  89. Grey Fantail
  90. Welcome Swallow
  91. New Holland Honeyeater
  92. Masked Lapwing
  93. Tasmanian Native Hen
  94. White-faced Heron
  95. Kelp Gull
  96. Pacific Gull
  97. Australian Wood Duck
  98. Gang-gang Cockatoo
  99. White-browed Scrubwren
  100. Southern Boobook
  101. Golden Whistler
  102. White-eared Honeyeater
  103. Eastern Yellow Robin
  104. Forest Raven
  105. White-necked Heron
  106. Yellow-billed Spoonbill
  107. Black-winged Stilt
  108. Swamp Harrier
  109. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  110. Satin Bowerbird
  111. Royal Spoonbill
  112. Hoary-headed Grebe
  113. Musk Duck
  114. Chestnut Teal
  115. Hardhead (White-eyed Duck)
  116. Purple Swamphen
  117. Whiskered Tern
  118. Long-billed Corella
  119. Little Wattlebird
  120. Australasian Gannet
  121. Shy Albatross
  122. Nankeen Night Heron
  123. Red-kneed Dotterel
  124. Common Bronzewing
  125. Buff-rumped Thornbill
  126. Grey Shrike-thrush
  127. Yellow-rumped Thornbill
  128. Australian Shelduck
  129. Australasian Shoveler
  130. Black-tailed Native Hen
  131. Straw-necked Ibis
  132. Brown Goshawk
  133. Australian Hobby
  134. Red-rumped Parrot
  135. White-fronted Chat
  136. European Goldfinch
  137. Australian Bittern
  138. Little Corella
  139. Australian Ringneck
  140. Splendid Fairy-wren
  141. Australian Raven
  142. Red-capped Parrot
  143. Scarlet Robin
  144. Common Koel
  145. Fairy Gerygone
  146. Australian Bustard
  147. Little Egret
  148. Common Greenshank
  149. Bar-tailed Godwit
  150. Osprey
  151. Great Knot
  152. Spotted Turtle-Dove
  153. White-rumped Swiftlet
  154. Lesser Sooty Owl
  155. Yellow Honeyeater
  156. Varied Honeyeater
  157. White-breasted Woodswallow
  158. Nutmeg Mannikin
  159. Metallic Starling
  160. Dollarbird
  161. White-headed Pigeon
  162. White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
  163. Eastern Spinebill
  164. Scarlet Honeyeater
  165. Grey-headed Robin
  166. Barred Cuckoo-shrike
  167. Papuan Frogmouth
  168. Great Cormorant
  169. Rainbow Bee-eater
  170. Great Egret
  171. Crested Tern
  172. Gray-tailed Tattler
  173. Lesser Sand Plover
  174. Gull-billed Tern
  175. Sacred Kingfisher
  176. Common Noddy
  177. Forest Kingfisher
  178. Plumed Whistling Duck
  179. Pink-eared Duck
  180. Intermediate Egret
  181. Little Pied  Cormorant
  182. Australian Grebe
  183. Leaden Flycatcher
  184. Bridled Honeyeater
  185. Crested Shrike-tit
  186. Eastern Whipbird
  187. Macleay’s Honeyeater
  188. Brown Gerygone
  189. Jacky Winter
  190. Rufous Whistler
  191. Fuscous Honeyeater
  192. Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  193. Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike
  194. Terek Sandpiper
  195. Red-necked Stint
  196. Mangrove Robin
  197. Red-capped Plover
  198. Bar-shouldered Dove
  199. Olive-backed Oriole
  200. Little Shrike-thrush
  201. Varied Triller
  202. Bower’s Shrike-thrush
  203. Silvereye
  204. Brahminy Kite
  205. Crimson Finch
  206. Yellow-breasted Boatbill
  207. Graceful Honeyeater
  208. Helmeted Friarbird
  209. Yellow Oriole
  210. Pipit
  211. Spangled Drongo
  212. Collared Kingfisher
  213. Mangrove Heron
  214. White-eared Monarch
  215. Rufous Fantail
  216. Large-billed Scrubwren
  217. Double-barred Finch
  218. Lemon-bellied Flycathcer
  219. Pacific Baza
  220. Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
  221. Black-fronted Dotterel
  222. Eastern Curlew
  223. Northern Fantail
  224. Jabiru
  225. Pied Heron
  226. Wandering Whistling Duck
  227. Radjah Shelduck
  228. Red-winged Parrot
  229. Sandstone Shrike Thrush
  230. Red-collared Lorikeet
  231. Torresian Crow
  232. Great Bowerbird
  233. White-throated Honeyeater
  234. White-rumped Miner
  235. Western Bowerbird
  236. White-plumed Honeyeater
  237. Grey-crowned Babbler
  238. Zebra Finch
  239. White-backed Swallow
  240. Little Crow
  241. Singing Honeyeater
  242. Chiming Wedgebill
  243. White-browed Babbler
  244. White-fronted Honeyeater
  245. Great-headed Honeyeater
  246. Little Woodswallow
  247. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
  248. Crested Bellbird
  249. Pied Butcherbird
  250. Black-breasted Buzzard
  251. Fan-tailed Cuckoo
  252. Brown Booby
  253. Wompoo
  254. Pheasant Coucal
  255. King Parrot

I haven't yet become addicted to birding in North America.  In Australia, I knew I had a limited time to see the birds.   Here, I feel like there will always be more opportunities.  And with three feet of snow on the ground, I bet the birds are staying warmer than I would if I went out birding.  Perhaps in the spring I'll start my North American list.