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The Couch List

See also the Futon List

Watching birds from the comfort of my couch is a favorite morning activity on the weekends.
Watching birds from the comfort of my couch is a favorite morning activity on the weekends.

Male downy woodpecker seen from my couch on February 11, 2006
Male downy woodpecker seen from my couch on February 11, 2006

Male downy woodpecker and a male cardinal seen from my couch on February 12, 2006
Male downy woodpecker and a male cardinal seen from my couch on February 12, 2006
What a difference a day makes!

 

Most birders keep a life list. I keep a couch list. Here's why.

I am a birder, a watcher of birds. I hesitate to tell people this sometimes, because non-birders don’t always understand the attraction of birds, such as why someone would rise early on a cold winter morning, and hike in the snow for hours, just because she’d heard a report of a great-horned owl somewhere in Howard County.

Most non-birders have heard of a life list, a list that many birders keep of every bird they've ever seen. When I am asked how many birds are on my life list, I don't know what to tell them. I don’t keep one. It's not a requirement of being a birder.

One person, a non-birder told me, that I was not a “real” birder because I don’t keep a list. That’s just cuckoo. When I see a bird I've never seen before, I know it. It's very exciting. I don't need a list to tell me that! If I'm mistaken, and I have seen it before, what kind of killdeer would expect me to check my list to be sure?

There's something Zen about bird watching. It's one of those things that keeps a person in the moment. Sometimes I'll be tired and hungry from hiking, and I think that all I want to do is go home. Then I'll see a pileated woodpecker and I'll watch it happily for a half an hour, not remembering the feelings of discomfort from minutes before.

The fact is, I do keep a list, but not of every bird I’ve ever seen. I keep a couch list. This is a list of every bird that I’ve seen from the comfort of my couch. Because although I live only a couple of miles from the District of Columbia, I’m in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen significant development in the past couple of decades. There is also a system of storm water management ponds only a block from my house. Birds find both these features appealing, and so I can boast a wide range of birds that I’ve observed from the comfort of my couch: herons, hawks, woodpeckers, and a variety of songbirds such as cardinals, wrens, and sparrows.

But, even my couch list isn't a true list, since I have only been keeping it in my head. So, for one full year (2006), I’m going to keep a written list (like the so-called “real” birders do) of just the birds I’ve seen from my couch. As of this writing, I’ve got twenty species on the list, and I haven’t even gotten to the spring migration season yet.

Couch List 2006
(links are to pictures from Cornell University's bird site)

downy woodpecker
crow
Canada Goose
house sparrow
robin
tufted titmouse
chickadee
mourning dove
red-shouldered hawk
hairy woodpecker
red-bellied woodpecker
cardinal
goldfinch
white-breasted nuthatch
carolina wren
junco
turkey vulture
song sparrow
black vulture
starling
brown-headed cowbird
ring-billed gull
great blue heron
red-winged blackbird
pileated woodpecker
blue jay
house finch
mockingbird
common grackle
Eastern Towhee
Baltimore oriole
chimney swift
white-throated sparrow
golden-crowned kinglet
red-tailed hawk (added 11/19/2015)

 

Update 4/16/2006: I'm up to 30 species right now. I'm particularly happy to have an Eastern towhee. It's a beautiful bird about the size of a robin with bold patches of black, white, and rust. If you've ever been outside and heard a bird that sounds like it's saying "drink you tea," that's a towhee. Maybe that's why I'm so fond of that bird. We are all delighted to get advice that we are already willing to take, and tea is one of my favorite beverages (it's the other brown drink).

I'll keep working on my couch list, even though I'll never be able to equal my sister's accomplishment. There's an escaped peacock that has been loose in her neighborhood for the past year, and he's often been seen in her yard. No one has been able to trap it, because apparently peacocks have a nasty temper.

The Futon List

November 15, 2011

Now that I have a newly-renovated addition with big windows and a comfy futon, I am going to start keeping a futon list.

Most birders keep a life list of all the bird species that they have ever seen.  Not me…when I see a a bird that I’ve never seen before, I get excited.  It’s one of the joys of birding.  If I did keep a life list, and I were to see a bird that I thought was new to me, it would be a let-down to check my list and discover that it’s not.  Not keeping a life list means I’ll have more exciting birding experiences, simply because my memory isn’t that great. Hey, I just discovered a silver lining to the aging process!

The futon list may not have as many birds on it as the couch list did.  The window out the living room faces approximately five wooded acres and a system of storm water management ponds, which attracts many water birds.  The window out the addition on the back of my house faces the backyard, as well as several of my neighbors’ backyards.  The futon list will probably not include ducks, geese, or herons, but who knows?  Stranger things have happened.  The great thing about these lists is that they remind me of how much wildlife there is in my neighborhood.  It’s like counting my blessings!

The Futon List (last updated December 10, 2013):

blue jay
carolina wren
cardinal
chickadee
downy woodpecker
goldfinch
great blue heron
hairy woodpecker
house sparrow
hummingbird
indigo bunting
junco
mallard duck
mourning dove
pileated woodpecker
red-bellied woodpecker
red-shouldered hawk
red-winged blackbird
robin
song sparrow
starling
tufted titmouse
white-breasted nuthatch
white-throated sparrow
yellow-bellied sapsucker

 

Copyright © 2000-2010, Julie Mangin. All Rights Reserved. April 2, 2016