TOS's Texas Century Club, The Theory

At about 5:15 p.m. on the evening of March 4, I located a Hermit Thrush in the underbrush along the Leon River in Hamilton County, Texas.
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2750685
By my calculation at the time, it represented the 100th species on my Hamilton County bird list, and that county was my 100th county in which I'd accomplished that task, thus qualifying me for the symbolic "Texas Century Club", sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS).

The Texas Century Club

The Texas Century Club is an effort, dreamed up I believe by TOS member David Sarkozi, to challenge birders to widen their birdwatching focus beyond just their own home turf and the well-known birding destinations such as state and national parks, wildlife refuges, etc. This arose at about the same time that the eBird database of Cornell University was really taking off as a repository for bird sightings and checklists.
http://ebird.org/content/ebird/
http://ebird.org/content/tx/
It wasn’t surprising that vast areas of Texas have been underbirded, being skipped over by birders traveling to far-flung, high visibility destinations. Consider this: From any one of the major population centers in Texas (where birder’s residences are also concentrated), how many different counties would a birder pass through on their way to get to Big Bend National Park, Palo Duro State Park, High Island, or the Lower Rio Grande Valley? More revealing, how many counties would they miss and never traverse? Any examination of the data being accumulated on eBird showed huge gaps in our detailed knowledge of bird distribution and seasonality over vast swaths of the Texas landscape.

To fill in those gaps, birders were challenged to spend enough time and effort in underbirded counties and habitats to see if they could accumulate a personal bird list of at least 100 species in a given county and to upload the results into eBird. This is theoretically an achievable goal in virtually any and every Texas county—easy in any coastal county and those with diverse habitats such as Big Bend (Brewster County) but tougher as one goes inland and into drier and more uniform regions (e.g. parts of the Texas High Plains).

And we were challenged to see if we could accomplish this task in at least 100 of Texas’s 254 counties.

Listing and Listers: A Sport or a Clinical Diagnosis?

At this point it seems useful to insert a sidebar about the diversity of birders. There are as many ways to enjoy birds and birdwatching as their are nature enthusiasts out there. Every one of those ways is perfectly fine because the enjoyment of birds arises from within us. We may notice colorful birds passively as we work in the back yard or during some other diversion such as hunting or fishing. Or, at the other end of the birding spectrum, we may chase all over the place with the particular goal of seeing more birds (in a county, a state, a country, or the whole world).

And now for some armchair psychology. There is the innate need in all of us to put a name to a thing. Naming and classifying objects in our world gives us a set of handles by which we can retrieve information and memories about all these “things” we have encountered.

Separate from naming things, humans to varying degrees are collectors. Of necessity we accumulate food, clothing, and shelter. Optionally, we accumulate goods, property, wealth, baseball cards, knickknacks, memorabilia.

And finally, we all have an innate drive to accomplish, to meet goals, to achieve.

Applying all this to birding, i.e., naming, collecting, and achieving, leads to bird lists. Very naturally, bird listing will express itself to the degree that one is motivated by each of those three separate, underlying human characters I’ve just mentioned. You may seek your own place and balance on this scale of effort and also find a balance of your own energy that you might expend on this tiny subset of life’s diversions vis-a-vis everything else you have to do in the modern world.

I, Lister

As for me, on the aforementioned scale of listing, I have to plead that I’m a 10-10-10…or maybe some of those closest to me would say I occasionally dial it “up to eleven”. I am obsessed with naming things. I am an accumulator—some would say pack rat. And I set myself goals, especially now in retirement, if for no other reason than to stave off boredom. The result when applied to my birding efforts is that I jumped on the Texas Century Club wagon with gusto.

Posted by gcwarbler gcwarbler, March 07, 2016 17:21

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

March 4, 2016

Description

I'm falling way behind in my iNat uploads but I wanted to get this one observation uploaded because it represents a milestone for me. This Hermit Thrush was photographed on the Leon River in Hamilton County, Texas, at about 5:15 p.m. on the evening of March 4. By my calculation at the time, it represented the 100th species on my Hamilton County bird list, and that county was my 100th county in which I'd accomplished that task, thus qualifying me for the symbolic "Texas Century Club", sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society. I'll try to put together a journal entry soon regarding that specialized subset of birding efforts.

Tags

Comments

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Congratulations on your accomplishment.

I appreciate the background info and the points you presented.

Posted by connlindajo about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Incredible job, Chuck! For those not involved in such Herculean Texas listing efforts, let me put Chuck's accomplishment into perspective from my own Texas birding experiences. I began birding in the early to mid 70s and, in fact, Chuck and I took many trips together way back then as we still do. From the 70s until about 2000, I was quite a rabid bird lister and traveled the state far and wide to see birds. I did a Texas "Big Year" in 1994 and set a new state year record (which lasted a whole year till Brush Freeman and Petra Hockey beat up on me in 1995!) as well as many county Big Years, etc. I was guilty, like most of us back then, of skipping over many areas to get to Big Bend, the coast, etc., and thus I was part of the crowd that just hit the well known places for the most part. In any event, I spent many years actively birding Texas. Several years ago I went back through daily journals I kept from the 70s until 2000 and entered my daily observations into eBird. I have not kept daily bird journals from 2000 forward, but from ca. 1974 until 2000 I have it all hand-written in journals and now entered into eBird. Through all that effort, I have a total of 31 Texas counties in which I have seen 100 or more species. These range from 331 species seen in Travis Co. (Austin) down to 103 species in Randall Co. (south of Amarillo), but still only 31 counties in Texas at 100 species or more. If I had the data available from 2000 forward, I guess, at the outside, that I might have 40-45 Texas counties at 100 or more species, but it would take me a lot of years of effort to catch Chuck and the other members of this TCC group. So, 40 years of actively observing birds, nature and wildlife in Texas, and the best I can claim would be 40 or so counties in this state with 100 species or more! That gives just a little idea of how incredible 100 species in 100 counties truly is! Congrats to Chuck and all the TCC members for the incredible effort!

Finally, I can certainly relate to Chuck's comments about such listing as a sport or a clinical diagnosis. Rather than working so hard on just identifying things these days, my own focus is on photographing these various things. I am thrilled when I can get a shot of a dragonfly species I have never photographed before (and I hope to get a new one or two this summer in Utah), or a shot of a bird that has always eluded my lens in the past. That, more than just naming something, is what drives me...personally. We are likely all slightly crazy to do these things, but it keeps us older folks active and interested, and perhaps along the way we can share a few tidbits we have learned over the years with some of the younger folks who are only recently joining our ranks.

Posted by greglasley about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Amazing! Congratulations! Will you continue to add counties?

Posted by mikaelb about 5 years ago (Flag)
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I'm now aiming at 254 counties...but first I have about 10,000 images to upload to iNat. Priorities!

Posted by gcwarbler about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Both priorities sound great!

Posted by mikaelb about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Wow! Congrats!! What a great accomplishment!

Posted by javigonz about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Congrats Chuck! That is quite an accomplishment. One that I have never considered on the horizon for me. I am still looking at each getting 400 for the state as out of reach. Lol.

Posted by brentano about 5 years ago (Flag)
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I am late to this, but this is awesome Chuck!

I aspire to do something related on iNat --> 100 days of 100 taxa or more. I only have a few days like this so far (e.g.), but that will be my goal for an iNat Century Club......

"We are likely all slightly crazy..." yep.

Posted by muir over 4 years ago (Flag)
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Or as Paul Simon put it, "Still crazy after all these years..."

Posted by gcwarbler over 4 years ago (Flag)

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