Listing is when you keep a checklist of each bird species you've seen in a specific geographic area, be it the continental US, your home state, your county, your backyard, etc... The "game" of listing is different from keeping lists to monitor bird distribution, because in listing, each species seen is merely a single check in a box. It's not quantitative, merely a "yea" or "nay"... "seen" or "not seen". This is why I refer to listing as a game.
A rare Asian Waterfowl species had been reported in the days preceding my arrival. A gorgeous duck known as a Smew. I wouldn't have much time, and most of the free time I had would be spent driving if I opted to go....
Many criticize listing, as a myopic endeavor and a waste of time. Some will suggest that those who TRULY enjoy birds wouldn't spend so much time driving to see one silly duck but would use that time to appreciate the common birds around them instead. I see both sides of this debate and certainly enjoy all aspects of birding, but for me the thrill of the chase was what I was interested in. In my 20+ years of birding all around the US, I've never had an opportunity to see this species, so you could say this represented a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I decided to take it.
The chase was on and I left before first light to get to the town of Sonora, CA in the foothills below Yosemite NP at an early hour. I made one wrong turn leaving Sonora, but it did provide me with a fantastic opportunity to see an unexpected "bonus" bird. When I stopped to turn around I spied a woodpecker in the tree.
The unexpected bird wound up being a female Red-naped Sapsucker. It's a bird more typical of the Rocky Mountains and one I hadn't personally seen in over 15 years. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with this old feathered friend. After some intent study, I made me way to the small pond that had played host to the celebrity duck. Other birders stood around the edge of the tiny pond with long faces. Never a good sign for hopes of a successful chase but in reality my day had already been made.
odd duck in "Smew-less" pond
There was this one crazy domestic hybrid duck that was kind of white and gray with a bit of a crest. If only it had been at the far side of the pond maybe I could have squinted real hard and pretended it was the bird.... But alas not with great optics! ;) There was no Smew here this day and my time was up. Not disappointed, I chalked this one up to "Next time!" and drove back toward Vallejo thoroughly enjoying my morning in the field.
adult male Tufted Duck, Vallejo, CA 4 Feb 2007
While the Smew disappeared the day before my arrival, I was still able to see one odd Eurasian waterfowl before leaving the Bay area. The adult male Tufted Duck was once again in the slough between the show site and my hotel. It was great to see this guy again, even if i did have to miss 10 minutes of the Superbowl to see him!