Last year I had a goal to see 175 birds in my home county. My goal for 2013 was to see 150 and I got up to 174. The 175 goal was simply to surpass that 174. By December 31 I had encountered 194. At one point in October I thought I might be able to get to 200, a lofty goal for one county in Vermont. I had seen three new birds for the year in one day and thought I only needed to find a few more to reach the 200 mark. In the last two months of the year, however, I found only one new one–a snowy owl by Lake Champlain, just inside the county line. Still, 194 ain’t bad.
I could have simply increased my goal to 200 for the county. That would, perhaps, seem logical. I wanted, however, to try something new, something broader. Staying in the county is fairly easy, as I live year and it means I do not travel far. But I will travel a few times in any case. In 2014 I encountered 177 different birds. I traveled to Florida and to California, plus looked on the Connecticut and Maine coasts. I was happy with that. I have no California trip planned but I do have a trip to Wyoming planned. Wyoming does not have quite the diversity that California offers but will offer some great birding I am sure.
My birding goal for 2015 is simply to find 250 birds, anywhere. I know this is less than 2014 but I will not be in California. I saw 88 species there. Half of those I saw nowhere else. It can be tempting to just up the ante and go for more, but attempting to find 250 unique bird species is a reasonable goal for me. If I could take all the time I wanted and travel all over I could try to find twice that number but that is not in the cards, not this year.
Noah Strycker is one man trying to find as many birds as he can in one year by traveling all over the world. He is now in Antarctica, where he started two days ago. There are about 10,000 bird species in the world and he is hoping to see half that many. That is a lofty goal. You can check out his progress on his blog, Birding Without Borders, on the Audubon website. If you want to follow my progress you will have to check back here. It won’t be nearly as exciting, but I hope to get a few interesting species and maybe some photos. So far I am at 28 species for the year, including the Snow Goose that eluded me all last year. Not a bad way to start a new year, goal or no.
For about a week now I have had pain in my Achilles tendon when I run. The past couple of days I have begun to feel it even when I don’t run. This is my unfortunate pattern for years now. I rest a lot, then slowly get back into running; I build up the miles slowly, don’t run fast and don’t go far. Then I end up getting injured and have to rest a lot. Repeat. It has gotten a little old. After running all kinds of fun distances and events, it appears I don’t have what I used to have. I guess I shouldn’t have taken all those years off when we had kids.
Today, however, I did get in a run, which means 50 days of running in a row. I was going for 100 but I will have to see how I feel tomorrow to decide if I try to keep it up. On the one hand, this is a good streak, and taking it easy enough might mean things heal up and I continue the streak. On the other hand, this hurts. I only ran two miles today, and yesterday, and I had to walk a bunch, so is it worth it? Can I call that a run? So this accomplishment: 50 consecutive days of running. That ain’t too shabby.
I do love to run. Once I get out there and start feeling good, once I get some miles behind me, once I get into a rhythm and the endorphins start flowing, well, it just feels great. I have never been a competitor against anyone but myself, and I have always felt better trying to do more than trying to go faster. And that feels good as well. It isn’t a race. It is about going the distance. It is a metaphor, really, for how I want my life to be. It is OK to walk sometimes, even to stop altogether and to revel in where I am at that moment. I feel better about seeing the owl swoop from the maple than about having a run time one or two minutes faster. As Ben Cohen said, if it isn’t fun, why do it?
So I feel good about getting in 50 days. I may have to call it good with that. If so, I may try for 100 another time. I smelled the wild leeks in the damp woods today. The smell of onions floated through the mist. That made the journey worth it. I slowed to watch the river rush under the bridge. Two geese called, flying low through the fine rain. The world is a beautiful place. Sometimes getting half way is enough.
I didn’t start off thinking I would run all these days in a row. I just got started and once I did, I thought I could do more, and then I set a goal and I was on my way. Setting a goal is pretty key for me. In the past I have trained for and run marathons. Those years when I did not have that goal, I ran less. Once I set the goal, once I have something to work toward, I am more likely to make it happen. I plan to run a marathon and then I make the training happen. That is the way it has been with this goal. If I did not have the goal to go for a run every day, I simply would not do it. Last week I went to a conference and I had a long drive to start fairly early in the morning. I rose at 4:30 to run because I knew I would find it hard to run if I did not rise that early. Without the goal, I would not have done that.
This morning I was sound asleep when the alarm went off. In my dream I was hearing a tune over and over. I wanted it to stop. I didn’t know where it was coming from. But that persistent tune finally shoved me out of the dream world and into the concrete one. The tune I was hearing was my alarm. Often I wake before the alarm, but not today. I was sleepy. The bed was warm. I had to leave for work early. But I got up anyway and tied my shoes and strapped on my headlamp and hit the road. I saw no one else, only some birds. I was hoping to hear a meadowlark, as I did on a recent morning, but only robins and song sparrows sang from the roadside.
As long as I don’t get injured I will hit fifty days. Today was just a regular old run. I only ran three miles, since I had little time, in the dark, but it was enough. I will fit in longer runs on other days. Each day, however, is one more day toward a pile of days. I am confident now that I can get in 50 days of consecutive running. I’ll call that my short term goal. Then I’ll head downhill toward 100. I mentioned my goal to a colleague today and he said “Once you hit 100 days, why stop there?”
Why stop indeed?