By Emma DuFort, Publications Specialist
If you keep a bird feeder in your yard, or know someone who does, you probably know that keeping track of which birds appear is a fun and popular pastime. But it doesn’t have to stop at the bird feeder—it can be very rewarding to familiarize yourself with all the kinds of flora and fauna you can observe in a particular area.
A great way to get started is with a checklist. Checklists make excellent companions to field guides and give you an at-a-glance idea of what you may see around you. In collaboration with the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains Association makes checklists available to download or print free on our website. There are currently four checklists available: birds, mammals, reptiles/amphibians, and butterflies. A vascular plants checklist is in development.
GSMNP park ranger and entomologist Becky Nichols played a large role in the development of the checklists, which park personnel often keep on hand as well.
“Species checklists provide a readily accessible way for visitors and park staff to quickly determine whether a species has been recorded from the park or not, and whether it is an unusual or common sighting,” says Nichols. “The portable format allows them to be used in the field while watching birds, butterflies, and mammals, or when looking at the rich botanical life in the park. Using checklists, visitors can learn to recognize the different species that live here and gain a better understanding of the diversity of life in the Smokies.”