Setting a goal for 2020 that will help me bird more without feeling pressured.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to review my life and think about the things I want to do more often. Whether I call them goals or intentions doesn’t matter. I challenge myself in a way that will help me to do more, and this year, I want that challenge to be about birds.

In 2018, I challenged myself to read more. I chose 38 books from my very long To Be Read list and dove in. It took planning and effort, but it was worth it. While I didn’t read all 38 books, I did read more, so the challenge was a great success.

For 2020, I want to bird more. Due to poor health, I managed very few very few birding walks in 2019, and our only vacation was to a place that isn’t very birdy (although I did have an amazing experience with ravens while I was there). So it should be easy to do more this year.

Common raven sitting on an open car door. Photo by Kurt Fristrup
The most memorable bird of 2019. (Photo by Kurt Fristrup)

The whole point of setting a goal is to push myself, so any birding challenge I choose is going to take some effort. At the same time, I have to accept my limitations. Given my health issues, a goal to take a 5-mile birding walk every week is probably too much. I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

Woman with binoculars looking into the woods. Photo by Don Dunsmore
Me, birding during a family visit to Maryland. (Photo by Don Dunsmore)

The goals that work best are specific. “Bird more” won’t work, because while I can figure out what I might do, I don’t have any way to know if I’ve succeeded.

And what does “bird” mean? Standing on my porch with binoculars? Do I have to leave my neighborhood? Is ten minutes enough or do I have to be out for four hours? What counts?

Before deciding, I made a list of possible birding goals for 2020.
1) Larimer County Big Year (i.e., count all the species I see in the county)
2) Colorado Big Year (same idea, but for the state)
3) See some species I know are in the area but that I haven’t seen yet (like Cassin’s finch)
4) Bird once a week
5) Submit a list to eBird once a week
6) Set a life list goal (pick a specific number I want to reach)

While I am tempted by the counting goals (specifically options 1 and 2), they would apply a constant pressure I don’t want to live with. The finish line is a year away and I would feel like I had to be birding constantly, which isn’t feasible. I need something I can check off regularly that allows me to say “I’m done for now.” The species goals (3 and 6) have a definite finish line, but I have no control over whether or not I succeed. I know from past experience that even when a bird is around, there’s no guarantee you will see it.

Kit Dunsmore with binoculars and Lab of Ornithology hat, ready to bird. Photo by Kurt Fristrup
Ready to go! (Photo by Kurt Fristrup)

So I’ve decide to combine options 4 and 5. I will bird once a week, and then report my sightings to eBird. To count, I must go outside to look at birds for at least ten minutes. That way I will have to get out of the house, but I can stay in the neighborhood and keep it short if I’m having a rough week. With luck, this is a goal I can stick with all year, one that will increase the amount of birding I do and help me to make more time for something I know I enjoy.

Do you set goals or intentions for the year? What are you hoping to do more of in 2020?

4 thoughts on “Making A New Year’s Birding Goal”

  1. Ha! I started my birding year by doing the Audubon Christmas Bird Count on January 1! It’s all downhill from here!

    1. *laughing* You’re funny! But I know what you mean. A Christmas Bird Count can be intense. But I know you’ll see more birds in 2020. I hope you saw something fun today.

      We got out for a 1.5 mile walk. 6 species seen plus a huge flock of Canada/cackling geese.

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