What's a Life List? Why Keep One?

If you're familiar with bird watching, you know what a Life List is, and can skip the following explanation. A Life List is a record of the first observations of species and sub-species, and is kept throughout a person's lifetime. It can be as detailed as the Listkeeper wishes it to be.

Being taken with the idea back in 1996, I decided to start my own Herpetofauna Life List. I had always taken notes of varying  quality in the field as far back as grade school, so I thought I could cobble together a reasonable list, keeping track of the species, date, and location. On a few, the exact dates were a bit fuzzy, but I could at least pin it down to spring, summer, or fall. In addition, I would only list those species I observed in their natural habitat, which means I don't count captive snakes or DORs (Dead On Road).

Since I started the list,  I've added to it significantly;  I reached two hundred at the milennium, and 2010 finds me a few shy of three hundred.  I hope to fill in some holes in the list, especially some forms from the midwestern United States.  I've also been striving to photograph each species, preferably in the field as they are found.  I try to add some notes as I go - some species have none yet, but this is a work in progress.

Underlying the urge to fill the List is the real obsession - to see each and every herp, in its habitat, where it lives. The List is merely a way to mark progress along the way, and to bring back memories of the occasion. There are other benefits, too. now I put more thought into proposed tripd, pay closer attention to habitat, and try to spend more time identifying flora and fauna. As a result, field trips are a much more intense experience, and much more satisfying. What also makes for a great experience is to herp with some pals who are into it as much as you are.  I have been to some amazing places over the past thirty years, and I hope to see more in the future.  Oh, and I also keep a Bird Life List, thanks to my friend Steve Coogan, birder extraordinaire.

Try a Life List!

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