If you stay with birding long enough, you begin to appreciate the significance of things -- things that you yourself have done or which other birders have done.
For me, one of the first times I experienced this was when I had been birding for just eight years. I was living in Tennessee at the time and was crossing the bridge over the Cumberland River at Dover, TN -- when approaching me I saw a large, white bird.
At first, I thought I was looking at a strange gull, then I guessed maybe it might be an albino Red-tailed Hawk. But right as we crossed paths, the bird turned its head and looked right at me, and I at it. It was only then I discovered I had witnessed my very first Snowy Owl in the wild!
I rediscovered the bird moments later, placed it on the Tennessee hot line, and had an opportunity to meet many birders from all around the country who travelled to see the bird. I soon discovered something else: it had been 26 years since the most recent Snowy Owl had been seen in Tennessee.
Now, it is January 2012. It has been 25 years since I made that sighting. Each year, I always add a new wonder to my birding life list, a wonder that perhaps can only be experienced once every quarter century. In 2010, it was bird having the opportunity to go birding in Great Britain (and driving on the left side of the road!). In 2011, it was visiting Freeport and seeing some of the unique birds in the Bahamas.
I wonder what my quarter century bird will be in 2012. Even more interesting, what will be your quarter century bird this year?
Wishing you the best in birds and birding!
/s/ John C. Robinson
Author, Birding for Everyone