Listing Birds - How to Do It and Why!

One of the games that birders like to play is keeping and organizing lists of the birds they see. These varied lists may include a “life list” tallying all of the species the birder has encountered in the wild, various regional lists with all of the birds seen in a specific geographic area (World, Country, State, County Yard Lists, etc.) and of course lists for specific time periods. Day lists where you record all the species seen in a single 24-hour period and year lists are popular, and extreme examples of these are seen in “Big Day” competitions (like the Champions of the Flyway – Bird Race for Conservation) and “Big Years” (as highlighted in the movie “The Big Year” with Owen Wilson, Jack Black, & Steve Martin). 

I think most prefer keeping a year list as a curiosity and if treated competitively, this is generally only to beat their own personal records. Since year lists reset annually, many birders prefer to forego the late-night festivities on December 31st, preferring instead, to wake up very early to kick off their year lists with a bang! I’m one of these who view January 1 as a “birding holiday” and I run an impromptu big day trying to tally over 100 bird species (AKA “Century Run”) on the first day each year! There is something rewarding and exciting for me in trying to relocate all the same species I’d tallied the year before and with luck, even more.
One of my favorite lists to keep of late though has been my “Kowascoped” list where I challenge myself to see how many bird species I can photograph through the Kowa PROMINAR series spotting scopes. The rules are simple: the image can be taken with any photographic device and merely needs to be an identifiable image to be added, so many of my “Kowascoping” lifers or subsequent year bird images are less-than-great and I typically don’t share these bad photos publicly.


This Florida Scrub Jay was the first bird species I “Kowascoped” on January 1st 2020, and while it’s not my best image, it’s certainly good enough to kick off the new year’s list. With Covid and reduced travel opportunities in 2020, I was very pleased to capture images of 342 bird species for the year. Most were in my home state of Florida, but I visited multiple birding events in January & February before the pandemic hit, adding western species at both the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas (Whooping Crane Festival) and the San Diego Bird Festival in California increasing the Kowascoped species list dramatically.

In 2021, travel began to slowly come back particularly toward the end of the year, and incredible birding trips to Panama & Costa Rica allowed me to tally my personal highest Kowascoped year list to date with 518 bird species captured through the Kowa PROMINAR models!


In 2022 I did not have the advantage of birding in the Central American Tropics with its higher species diversity, so the 2022 Kowascoping year list fell a bit short. However, it was still bolstered by increased domestic US travel and my first opportunities to add some European birds to the list between events in the UK & Sweden! By December, my 2022 Kowascoping total sits at 459 species. Over these three years my cumulative Kowascoping life list has risen to 724 species and I’d love to see this at 1,000 by the end of 2023 and I’m hoping to top my 2021 total if possible, but I will need some good days on a few key trips to pull this off around my work schedule!

Join me and start your own Kowascoping list in 2023 and tag your photos with #kowascoping to share with Kowa & the global community. Check Kowa’s social media pages for examples of what others are capturing through their Kowa PROMINAR spotting scope models!


Jeff Bouton, is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Kowa’s American Birding & Nature markets. He utilizes his smartphone behind the Kowa PROMINAR spotting scopes to include the compact TSN-550 series as well as the premium 88 & 99 mm kits. He prefers angled models to reduce tripod height (and subsequent weight) plus this also allows easier sharing with individuals of all heights. 

With the increased focal lengths of the 2x-3x lenses on new popular phone models this rig provides equivalent focal lengths ranging from 1,000 to over 3,500 mm lens equivalents, almost 1,000% more magnification than many long telephoto lenses bringing unique challenges and unmatched photo opportunities. Bouton says, “I don’t think of myself as a photographer as much as a birder shooting from the hip as I wander through nature. I’m just lucky to have incredible opportunities and incredible quality fluorite crystal lenses at my disposal in the PROMINAR series spotters to capture my memories in crystal clear detail along the way!” Learn more about digiscoping through our video library on YouTube here: Kowa Sporting Optics - YouTube