Being new to the world of birdwatching, I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds there are. There are just so many, both hanging out in the bush or on the beach waiting to be identified, and on the pages of the birding field guides. It’s hard to sort out just what I might be looking at, and what the odds are that I’m seeing a particular bird, given the area and time of year.
One really cool tip that I learned fairly early on is that most areas have a local organization or two that – bless their hearts! – creates a birding checklist for the region. These small guides typically consist of a list of all the bird species that have been seen in the area. They also often include information on what time of year each species is present, and how frequently they’ve historically been spotted.
This information can really cut down on the time you spend flipping through your Sibley’s (or field guide of your choice), squinting desperately at the little geographical distribution pictures. It can also help you decide between two similar-looking species if one is only seen in your area in winter, and the other one is present year-round, or if one is spotted regularly, and the other has been spotted once in the past 50 years. These lists are never a guarantee, of course, but they are a really great tool for those who are starting out or are new to an area.
So, where do you find these ornithological gems? Your best bet is the local natural history society wherever you live or are visiting. They likely have a birding checklist available, and if they don’t, they very probably know who might.
Vancouver Island Birding Checklists
If you’re interested in finding birding checklists for Vancouver Island (and discovering whether you’ll encounter any black-capped chickadee friends like the one to the right on the Island), here are several I’ve come across:
- Victoria Natural History Society Birding Checklist
- Rocky Point Bird Observatory Checklist
- Rithet’s Bog Bird Checklist
- Bird List for Nanoose Area
- Tofino Bird Species List
- Comox Valley Naturalist Society Bird Checklist (available by request)
Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve come across any other local birding checklists, and I’ll be happy to add them to the list.
More Heart of the West Coast:
Encountering the Sandhill Crane
Hidden Gem: Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary
Discover Reifel Bird Sanctuary
Great post! We love to watch the birds at our feeder at our house, but don’t really have the optimal setup or gear to photograph them. But, it’s been something that haunts us a bit so I find your post here really inspirational!
Thanks so much, I’m glad I’ve inspired you! I don’t have a lot of gear myself – a friend has an intimidatingly powerful spotting scope she brings with her on our birding outings. It’s really helpful, but I’m also kind of afraid to touch it! I find the checklists really useful, though, as they narrow down the likely possibilities substantially.
Thanks for mentioning our Comox Valley Naturalists Society Bird Checklist. We are just about to reprint it as we are almost sold out of the current edition, and it also needs a few updates. The new one will be out this season & will be announced on our website.
Thanks for mentioning the Comox Valley Naturalists Society Bird Checklist! We are just about to reprint it as the current edition is almost sold out, and it also needs a few updates. The new release will be announced on our website.
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