This Autumn I went to the Texas Butterfly Festival. It was a pretty unique event and I had a lot of fun.
I had a little bit of a culture shock when I went down there, though. A lot of the people enjoying the butterflies confessed to being part of another, larger group. They were “birders.” Some of the people watching butterflies called themselves birders, and some said they had gone over to the “dark side”–they called themselves butterfliers or “birders gone bad.”
I met some of the big names of the butterfly universe–Paul Opler, Robert Michael Pyle, and Jeffrey Glassberg. I got Robert Pyle’s book Mariposa Road, and with it learned about the term “The Big Year.” That is a birder’s term, and it means that you pick a geographical region–for example, North America north of Mexico, and during a calendar year you try to see and identify as many species of birds in a year’s time as possible. Mariposa Road is about doing a “Big Year” for butterflies.
Someone asked me if I had a “life list” of butterflies. That is a list of all of the butterflies I have seen and documented in the wild in some way. I don’t. Well, I didn’t. I watched the movie called “The Big Year” (Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson) and that got me thinking.
I have been an obsessive photographer for a couple of decades. I really don’t photograph birds so much–to do it well takes some equipment I don’t have, but the real reason I haven’t gone there is because there are so many extremely talented people doing it and I have concentrated on smaller creatures.
So I started a spreadsheet with my “life list.” I thought I might try to list all of the plants and animals I have photographs of. I call it a “life list of life.” Don’t ask me for a copy–it’s a work in progress. In fact, I haven’t gotten very far with it yet, and the obsession might wear off.
Birders post “life lists” and “big year” results to a web site:
http://www.surfbirds.com/rankings.html. They even mentioned it in the movie.
Well, let’s get started:
Phaeoceros laevis, a hornwort. That’s 1.
Zonitoides arboreus, a terrestrial snail. That’s 2…