Birders keep lists- life lists, year lists, state lists, birds on a wire list, birds seen from the sunroof- it’s one of the quirky things we birders do. The way I see it, these little games keep things interesting through the slow periods in the winter and mid-summer when birds are less vocal and little migration is happening.
One ‘meta-list’ that I have just recently started keeping track of is my total county ticks. This list is the sum of all my life lists in all the counties in Pennsylvania. With 67 counties to bird in, this number can quickly climb as just 100 species seen in each county will result in 6,700 county ticks. There are two birders that have passed the 10,000 ticks mark which is quite impressive- that’s 150 species average per county.
For several years I simply used a spreadsheet of my county lists and added them up but never put much time into them. I finally got around to entering a lot of my older bird sightings into eBird recently and was happy to see my county ticks take a big jump. My biggest jump to my total ticks was when I entered all my data from my three field seasons as a point counter for the 2nd PA Breeding Bird Atlas. As you can see from the chart to the right, switching all my list keeping over to eBird was a real boon to my total ticks. And as a happy side effect, my lists are now contributing to understand the distribution of birds, rather than just a checkmark in a spreadsheet.
I recently went the extra mile, some would say a bit overboard, and made a map of my total ticks in Pennsylvania. I actually find this really helpful as I can now visualize where I can best put forth a little effort and rack up the most ticks. It looks like I need to spend some time in the western and northeastern parts of state to fill in those gaps.
It is also interesting to look at where I have the highest lists. It is pretty obvious that I have lived in Berks, Lancaster and Centre counties and so have been able to get over 200 species in each of them. In the north, Tioga stands out among the other counties because my inlaws have a cabin up there that I have been going to for over 4 years now. I anticipate boosting the numbers in the counties surrounding Centre quite a bit but it will take more effort to bird in the counties further away. Luckily we have some wonderful state parks all over Pennsylvania that are great for both camping and birding.