For the Birds Radio Program: New Year's Day 1988

Original Air Date: Jan. 1, 1988

Every bird we see on New Year’s Day is new if you keep a year list. This is the very first time Laura used her line, “No one should go through life listlessly.”

Duration: 3′25″


New Year’s Day

(Recording of a House Sparrow)

New Year’s Day for me is always the most hopeful day of the birding calendar. I try to start out the morning with a chickadee–the cheeriest way to open a new year. But today every bird is a welcome sight–even pigeons and Starlings. That’s because I keep a year list, and today is the day I start afresh. By sunset, I hope my new list will be somewhere around 30 species–one tenth of the number I’m seeking this year. 1988 is the year I hope to finally make it into the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s 300 club–that exclusive group of people who have seen 300 different species within the state. My Minnesota list is stuck at 280–just about all the birding I’ve done in the state has been since my children were born, which has limited my range to the Lake Superior counties. Now that my munchkins are getting big enough to do some serious traveling, I can finally start adding some of the state’s southern and western specialties.

Listing birds is a sport which can be tailored to an individual’s lifestyle. Rugged outdoorsy types can tramp through the woods to list birds; hunters can list the birds seen from their deer stands; skiers and runners can list birds as they go; feeder watchers can keep a yard list from the comfort of their own warm home; even couch potatoes can list the birds seen or heard on TV shows, from the Red-winged Blackbird on Folger’s Coffee commercials to the California birds, like Bewick’s Wrens and Mockingbirds, singing in the supposedly Minnesotan background of “Little House on the Prairie.” If you don’t limit yourself to native American species, you can even count Golden Plump chickens. Careful movie goers might recognize bird calls in the soundtrack, like the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that calls as Richard Dreyfuss stalks his quarry in “Stakeout.”

(Recording of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)

Any crow lover watching Stakeout knew instantly that it was filmed on location at Vancouver–the Northwestern Crows in the soundtrack prove it.

List keeping can be an elaborate hobby–many aficionados keep separate year, county, and state lists, and some even keep more specialized lists. I keep a backyard list, a Port Wing, Wisconsin, list, and a list of all the birds I’ve seen while pregnant. I keep a separate list for mating birds, and once, after spending a moment too long directly beneath a Pileated Woodpecker working a tree, I started a list of birds whose droppings landed on me.

You can keep your lists on separate pages of a spiral notebook, buy an expensive record keeping book, or just jot down the date next to the species in your field guide. One of the easiest ways is to check off your birds on a checklist. If you’d like a complete checklist of Minnesota birds to start your own listing hobby, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope to KUMD, 130 Humanities Building, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 55804. After all, no one should ever start a New Year listlessly.

(Recording of a House Sparrow)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”