In March 1968, during spring vacation of fifth grade, my friend Jeff Dingle and I visited his grandfather, retired Haverford School Headmaster Dr. Leslie Severinghaus, in Coconut Grove, Florida. We started “listing” birds and I set a goal for myself. I wanted to see 600 bird species in North America by the time I hit the impossibly old age of 50. My father was also interested in birds and as I went through the teen years, he encouraged me to pursue this hobby by accompanying me on many bird trips to Hawk Mountain and Cape May. Today I am 55, and proud to write I recently achieved the goal of 600. Since my family lived in England for over five years, my children claim that my birding age is only 50.
Why 600 bird species? At the time, only 645 species were known to exist in North America. As a ten year old baseball fanatic, it seemed to me that seeing 600 birds was akin to a Major League baseball player hitting 500 home runs (Babe Ruth hit 714). 500 home runs, like 600 North American bird species, was attainable…but very special.
In 1994, after 27 years of birding, I saw #500; a Black-vented Shearwater off the coast of San Diego. Seventeen years later, on November 18, 2011, I photographed #600, a Pink-footed Goose near Halifax, Nova Scotia. With the increased interest in ornithology, improved technology, and social media, “700 is the new 600”.
Today I have seen 637 (*784!) species in North America, and I will be using this blog as a medium to share my quest for 700 (*800!)….. the stories and photographs I collect on the way.