Sunday 29 January 2012

The quest for 6000

Birders love numbers.  It's a scientific fact. Well, OK maybe not but most birders sure do love numbers a lot. We've come up with lists for almost everything.  Sure everyone has a life list, probably an Ontario list (or whichever state/province you call home), and my personal favourite is always the year list.  Then there are the whackier lists that we've all heard of, like the shit list (bird's seen taking a deuce) or the "gettin' it on list", or one of my personal favourites, a twist on that first one, the "bird's that have shit on me" list (easy for banders). Well, since I started using ebird, I have become a little interested (no, not obsessed) with my "total county ticks" list.

For those ebird users reading this, you probably know what I mean.  For the rest of you, it is quite simple: It is the sum of all of your individual county life lists for a given province or state.  Since I spend 99% of my time in Ontario I really don't care about any of my other total county ticks list, but I am very interested in the Ontario one.  I think it is a great stat because it shows you how much you've birded across the province, not just how many birds you've twitched.  Without ebird doing the work, I never would have taken the effort to calculate my total. I think I have a pretty good total so far, since I have birded (and submitted checklists) around much of Ontario - growing up in Waterloo, spending lots of time around Hamilton and Long Point. Since then I've spent lots of time in Algonquin Park, around Kingston, Peterborough and Bancroft (hence the blog title). So I was happy when I passed the 5000 mark last year. I'm currently sitting at 5312 with my most recent additions being Tundra Swan and Red-breasted Merganser for Frontenac County on January 21, 2012.  That works out to an average of  106 species per county in Ontario (50 counties).
Tundra Swans at Long Point, March 15, 2008
I've set my 2012 sites on 6000, although that could be pretty unrealistic considering I don't plan on going out of my way.  Still, it's a fun challenge. I think a good total would be 8000 (200 in 10 counties and 150 in the rest), and 10000 (200 in each county) would be the ultimate goal, but a loooonnnnngggg way off for me...A neat twist on this would be a county tick year list, since it would really force you to just bird everywhere and not just focus on rarities.

Here are my top 10 counties:
Norfolk - 284
Essex - 249
Waterloo - 228
Lennox and Addington - 197
Hamilton - 181
Northumberland - 175
Leeds and Grenville - 174
Nipissing - 172
Durham - 169
Frontenac - 159

And of course my worst 10 counties:
Algoma - 0
Kenora - 0
Thunder Bay - 0
Grey - 10
Greater Sudbury - 22
York - 23
Brant - 28
Huron - 36
Parry Sound - 40
Dufferin - 45

I'm planning a trip to Rainy River at the end of May, so I should be able to seriously boost some of those 0s this year. Of course, I know there are some gaps  since I've been in all of the counties even doing some birding but I just don't have the data for ebird).

Anyways, I'd be curious to know how other people are doing on their total county tick list for Ontario! Post your total in the comments, unless you are ashamed at the low total.  If that's the case, consider this your excuse to get out and explore more of Ontario this year!


  1. Mike,

    Interesting post and all the best in your quest. I'm impressed by how high some of your eastern counties are and surprised that Chatham/Kent isn't in your top 10.

    I only just broke 3000 on my recent northern trip (still entering checklists but probably somewhere around 3050). I'm still missing checklists from 10 counties though. My top 5 are Essex (263), Chatham/Kent (208), Hamilton (205), Wellington (188), and Norfolk (187).

    1. Hey Josh, glad to hear you are well on your way! Yes, Chatham-Kent is only sitting at spot 11 with 157...I guess it shows I have barely birded at Rondeau! It also highlights how my birding in certain counties is really limited to certain times of the year.

      My eastern Ontario lists are pretty good - that's because I've spent a few summers around Erica's cottage (in Leeds and Grenville) and this summer I did a fair bit of work in Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, which added to the migration and winter season birding I have done in those counties in the past.

  2. I'm sitting at 4, five counties are:
    Norfolk - 282
    Essex - 270
    Waterloo - 232
    Hamilton - 203
    Bruce - 191

  3. Those are some pretty impressive lists! I haven't entered a lot of old county data but my top 5 are:
    Algoma - 251
    Norfolk - 203 (almost all from last summer)
    Hamilton - 170
    Essex - 163 (4 days of birding)
    Chatham-Kent - 156

    total: 2198

    Can you tell I've never really birded southern Ontario in May??