Life lists are an important tool
Steve Roark Tri-State Outside
Life lists are written documentations of things seen and identified. If you’re a birder you keep a list of birds you’ve personally seen. If you’re a railroad enthusiast, you keep up with what trains companies you’ve seen going down the tracks. In England they even have clubs for airplane watchers that keep up with what type of aircraft seen. These guys gather up around airports and watch planes with binoculars, making security folk very nervous. Listing is a hobby that makes your interests more interesting. Me, I keep lists of trees, wildflowers, birds, astronomical stuff and animals of all kind. My favorite list is wildflowers, and I’m up to around 300.
A life list can include as much detail as you want. For wildflowers I just list them in the back pages of my wildflower guidebook, putting down the common name and the page number where the flower is described. On that page in the margin I write down the date and location where I first found the flower. It’s simple and doesn’t’ require carrying around a notebook. Some identification guides include lists on the back pages with boxes you can simply check off as you find them. Most notebook lists I’ve seen that concern animals or plants at least have the common and scientific name listed, and the location seen.
Life listing is an inexpensive hobby to pick up, only requiring a good identification book and a pencil. Binoculars are handy for wildlife observations, and an hand lens is nice for wildflowers, but not necessary. Here is a list of identification guides I use and recommend:
A Field Guide to Wildflowers (Peterson Guide) by Roger Tory Peterson;
A Field Guide to the Mammals (Peterson Guide) by Henry Burt;
A Field Guide to Eastern Birds (Peterson Guide) by Roger Tory Peterson;
Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky (works for Tennessee also) by Roger Barbour;
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders;
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms;
Nightwatch (for stars, planets, constellations, etc.) by Terence Dickinson.
Of course in this day and time there’s an “app” on smart phones for about everything, including identifying animals and plants. So you might check those out as well.
Steve Roark is the Area Forester in Tazewell, Tenn. for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.
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