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As early as April 1994, after several years of keeping personal county lists, Steve Patterson and Bob Wood began sharing their list totals with each other. This developed into a newsletter, The South Carolina County Bird List Report , that first appeared in June of 1995 with the inclusion of three participants: Steve, Bob, and Lex Glover. Other participants joined, and, as of November 2000, there are 23 South Carolina County Birders. The newsletter, which started out with six issues per year, continues to be published roughly quarterly.

Purpose

Quoted from Volume 1, Number 1 of The South Carolina County Bird List Report:

“The South Carolina County Bird Listing Initiative is an independent, non-profit endeavor that, as of this publication, is not affiliated with any other established birding group. The purpose of the Initiative is to promote advanced birding coverage of all areas of the state while increasing the fun of local birding. For those who keep county bird lists in South Carolina, this will be a forum to compare one’s progress with his or her contemporaries. Individuals with interest in this field of personal record-keeping are invited to send their county bird list totals to the coordinator.”

Philosophy

County birding provides a way to more finely quantify an individual’s birding effort and skill in a state than mere state listing. To say that someone has a South Carolina list of 300 species provides a certain kind of information. To say that the same person has found 142 species in Aiken County, 130 in Edgefield County, and at least 50 in McCormick, Greenwood, Barnwell, and Lexington gives a different kind of information. While both are impressive in their own way, the county information has a more personal feel to it.

To put it in terms of other human experiences, state birding says “so-and-so had a baby,” but county birding says “the baby was a girl, weighed 7 pounds and 4 ounces, looked like the father did when he was born, and was named Claire after her maternal great-grandmother.” State birding says “we ate lunch,” while county birding says “we waited late to eat so the crowd wouldn’t be as bad and we could relax over the roasted corn chowder and peppered turkey sandwiches.” In literary terms, a life list is a book title, state listing is the table of contents, and county listing is the page-turning action that is the story itself.

Of course, that’s way too much detail for some people, and the very imagining of what county birding would be like makes them very uncomfortable, even nervous. But many people get a genuine sense of well-being by finding a Yellow-breasted Chat in their 30th county, or maxing-out Red-tailed Hawks in all 46, or reaching 150 species in the county where they live. So, if you’re looking at these maps thinking, “These people are crazy,” that’s not exactly true. They’re normal. It’s just a different kind of normal. And that’s not a bad thing!