While most birders work hard towards their life lists, whether it be a global life list or for their sub-region; some focus just as much on their provincial lists. Personally, I’ve always seen my Western Cape list as my most important, simply because that is the one I was able to focus on. Not having the finances to go on trips to other provinces, or to the surrounding Southern African countries, I put a heavy focus on spending the money I do have, on visiting as many parts of my home province as possible.
Some birders, even those who thoroughly enjoy the listing aspect, refrain from creating a provincial list. But here’s the reasons why I find provincial listing awesome, and would encourage it to those who don’t yet keep one.
It’s Easy On The Wallet
While money is not an issue for everyone, for those who have to worry more about the bank account, provincial listing can help give you the same rushes and the same adventures, but at a fraction of the cost. In many cases just a couple hundred rand of petrol can easily add you some new birds to your provincial list, and when you’re twitching, you aren’t going to be spending thousands of rands in travel and accommodation. Even in the most extreme situations, where a bird is located at the opposite end of the province, your petrol is likely to only ever set you back about R1000. While this isn’t cheap, it is a far cry from the several thousand that one has to spend twitching a rarity in northern Namibia.
While provincial twitching and birding doesn’t replace regional twitches, it gives another option for the birders on a budget to experience that same rush of adrenaline.
It Gets You Into The Field
While most birders don’t need a push to get out into the field and bird, keeping a provincial list ensures that you’re encouraged to get out into the field to experience birds you may have not have thought about much since first experiencing them somewhere else in the country. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that most of us can still appreciate birds once we’ve ticked them. This holds true to even the most hardcore of listers that I know. But knowing that you need to still see the bird within your province ensures you once again go out with the same exciting mind state you had when you first added it to your life list.
I haven’t birded much outside of the Western Cape, but rest assured that my eyes would still light up at the thought of being able to encounter a bird in the province that isn’t a full lifer for me, and would be done with the same feeling of success as when I first saw that species elsewhere in the country.
You’ve Got Time On Your Side
For those who work an office job, it’s not always easy getting time off work. Because of this, trips to bird elsewhere in the sub-region may require a lot of logistics. With provincial listing, almost everywhere in the province can be done in a single day. It’s easy to shoot off to the West Coast for the day to add some new species to your list. Perhaps a quick weekend trip to the Garden Route to try for some of the specials. One can build up quite a good provincial list, simply from doing some weekend birding and targeting new areas.
While the birding community exists across the country, working provincial rarities will see you running into the same people over and over again and in the process making lots of new friends. After a few years of Western Cape twitches, you’ll find that you suddenly have connections in all parts of the province, who’d be happy to offer you help and guidance targeting the local specials in their area. You’re even likely to make some solid friends, in relationships that transcend birding.
I dare bring in the taboo topic of competition in listing…
Reality is, someone being a lister or even a competitive one at that, doesn’t have to detract from their interest in the bird itself. Just because there is value placed on the competitive nature doesn’t mean that suddenly all moral codes are void. In fact, some of the most competitive listers I know are the ones who do the most for the birding community, as well as the conservation of birds.
The competitive aspect of listing has always intrigued me and made me want to try even harder for a bird, mostly it’s for myself, but there’s also that drive to work my way up the provincial listings. Despite having made it onto the Western Cape 300 list earlier in the year, I am still very far from any noteworthy numbers as far as sub-region listing goes. And I don’t see that changing for a while, until something in my career changes that allows me to travel frequently.
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
The coolest thing about provincial listing is that a bird that is considered a ‘trash bird’ (cover your ears, purists), can be a provincial mega to someone just a few hundred kilometers away. A bird that would go nearly ignored in the Kalahari, could be seen as a massive bird for the Western Cape for instance. A Bateleur, for many — while beautiful — becomes just a bird for those visiting the KTP. The same bird a few hours south in the Western Cape is a sighting that is met with complete euphoria.
While listing isn’t for everyone, and those who prefer to simply bird for the love are admirable for their choice. And while some may choose to avoid provincial listing, while listing on a sub-region level; I feel it is worth bringing to light some of the joys I have gotten out of provincial listing and sharing in the idea of being equally as excited for seeing a bird as you were when you first saw it as a full lifer in another part of the subregion.