Click here to read Fuzzy Math
So as you now know (if you did your homework) Ted took an interesting view of the birds observed at the park. Following the whole thing up making the statement that he recently added Indian Peafowl to his Boulder county life list. His reasoning:
The birds are here. They’re meaningfully present in the county. They’re part of the biological and cultural landscape of Boulder County. As far as I'm concerned, they count.Ah Ted, I could not agree with you more!!! Let’s bring Utah birding into the picture, with several examples that in my opinion make the case for being countable Utah birds.
It has now been almost 10 years since the first condors were reported from the Kolob region of Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. This may be one of the hardest to make the case for, being that these birds still rely readily on human handouts to survive. This relic of the Pleistocene simply could not survive in modern times without the help of humans. We were responsible for the demise and now are responsible for the survival—and there is no end in sight for this. I don’t think many birders can imagine a summer trip to the Kolob region with seeing a Condor soar along the cliff tops. These birds are free flying, covering wide expanses in search of food for survival. It just so happens that most of the food they end up eating is being provided by us. Unless the government has a change of plans this project is long term and these birds will continue to be seen soaring “free as a bird”.
If you have been to Washington County in the past 5 years and visited any number of local ponds or gold courses, you have likely seen the giant Mute Swans that can be found all over the county. It is no secret that these birds were all implants to add a touch of elegance to a pond here and there. But, when a pair of Mute Swan came gliding past me at Southgate Golf course one winter morning, I had to scratch my head and wonder, “how domestic are these beasts?” Any bird that is free flying and surviving without the help of humans would seem to be a countable bird in my book.
This might perhaps be the strangest on my list, and by far the quintessential example of the “Should or shouldn’t it count game”. Mandarin Ducks have been free flying and breeding (limited) along the Wasatch front in northern Utah for countless years. What started out as bird in private collections grew into a small and local population found on random ponds, streams, and canals from Salt Lake to Ogden. Perhaps the most vivid and memorable of the three examples, when you see a Mandarin Duck you don’t forget the sighting. Now the birds obviously aren’t thriving, as we don’t see them at every park, and every pond, but every year several reports surface—letting us know they are still around.
A couple years ago I would have sang a very different story from what I am saying right now. I used to be a staunch supporter of ABA listing guidelines, and what was and wasn’t countable. Since my big year I have taken a huge step back from serious listing, and although I do keep lists, and rather thoroughly with eBird, I have included my sightings of Mute Swan and California Condor on my checklists. These birds do represent an important part of the natural system, despite how they got there or what is keeping them alive. They are there, they are meangingful, and they should count! Of course, I have always been a true believer in what is on your list is your choice—unless it comes to competitive listing. Looking at my big year list, neither Condor nor Mute Swan appears, although I saw both species numerous times.
I guess it really is situational—in that case maybe I need to add black Swan, Swan Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Muscovy, and a handful of others to the ol’ list :)
Damn birds are great—thanks Ted for bringing this to my attention!
All Photos in this post are copyright Tim Avery.