I now have a better understanding of what baseball players mean when they talk about reaching an important milestone and how happy they will be when it’s over. The nerves and anticipation that go along with these symbolic but meaningful round numbers have always captivated people, myself included. I remember being in the stands when Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit his 500th home run; the relief and joy on his face were exciting to see. Now, my circumstance is nowhere near as significant, and the media is certainly not following me, but I myself am on the brink of a major milestone here at Cardamom County.
A while ago I posted about seeing my 600th North American life bird – a Black-footed Albatross – on a pelagic trip off Monterey, California. Now in Kerala, India, I am on the precipice of an even bigger milestone. On a hike through the forests of Kumily a day ago, I located a Dark-fronted Babbler (989), a Bar-winged Shrike Flycatcher (990), and a Large Cuckooshrike (991), leaving me just nine birds away from reaching 1,000 for my world list. I have seen over 100 life birds on this trip alone, and now there are less than ten to go. I personally do not know too many birders who have reached this mark, and I feel very grateful to all who have helped me get to this point, especially my dad who has been all over kingdom come birding with me. It has been a long and extremely enjoyable road to get here. However, as my excitement and anticipation grow, I do hope that #1000 will come along soon; I know it would be difficult for me to be stuck on 995 for a month or two. Tomorrow may even be the day. I am going a nature walk through the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and there are still several relatively easy species that I still need to find. One of the possible species is the Great Hornbill; now wouldn’t that be a fantastic 1,000th bird! I would settle for a little brown bird though. At this point I am not picky.
No matter what happens tomorrow or for the next few weeks, I love every part of this final stretch to the finish; it helps that I am in an amazing place surrounded by trogons, hornbills, leafbirds, minivets, and many species of raptor (my favorite). Like Alex Rodriguez, I will have a big smile on my face when 1,000 is behind me, and I will look forward to posting about being on the brink of 2,000, and maybe even 3,000, in the hopefully not too distant future. For now, my focus is set on the number nine (992 to 1000!). My hope is to post tomorrow night to let you know the bird that turned out to be my 1000th. For now, it is only a guess, but let’s make it a reality tomorrow!