(If you haven't, please check out our Namibia photos below. We've been amazed by the response... Even the pictures don't begin to capture the place...)
So, 571. I like that #. Why? First of all, it has a nice, solid quality to it. 571 happens to be the number of bird species that I've seen and identified in over 20 years of amateur birding. (I was really amateur there for a while - things changed when the BirdCouple met....). Some are commonplace (Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle), some are extremely rare or special (the Resplendant Quetzal of Central America), and some are just plain hard to find unless you're in the right time, season and habitat (Lisa and I still haven't found an American Pipit).
I've talked to a lot of non-birders who seem to think that birding is all about seeing more and more and more birds, as if there was some limitless supply of species and all one had to do is run around with binoculars and find them all.
Not so. To some, the competition and the numbers are the main thing. I count among my friends some of the very best birders in the United States, and the world, both in their numbers and their knowledge. They know far more about the birds of the world, and ornithology in general, than I ever will.
But for me - well, I'm ecstatic on any day I see a new bird. BirdCouple says that's a good day. Seeing three or four life birds in a day is beyond good. Ten or 15 - it's almost too much to absorb.
I'm proud of 571. I can also tell anyone who asks how many birds I've seen in North America (363), Maryland (212), our home Anne Arundel County (152) or even on and around our dreamy 1.8 acres (57 at last count). I don't keep these lists in pencil and paper, mind you, I have a database of nearly 7,000 bird sightings that does it for me.
To me, 571 is the very first time I saw a Scarlet Tanager, alone on a walk through a Maryland state park. It's the Roseate Terns that Lisa and I saw, parked on a bouy as we motored our way from Key West to the Dry Tortugas. It's the Quetzal we saw in Costa Rica, in the rain, thanks to a guide who knew that most of them had left for the fall, but was determined to find the last one in the forest. It's the Violet-Eared Waxbill that hopped on the hood of our trunk in Namibia last month as we watched animals at a watering hole - and flew away as I went to grab the camera.
Thank you, Lisa.
Now where's #572?