Bird #1 — House Sparrow

passer (sparrow) domesticus (house, belonging to a household)

May 12, 1979 — 4:00 pm

Marriott’s Great America Amusement Park — Gurnee, Illinois

By the time my final semester at Moody Bible Institute came along, I’d been thinking about starting a life list for a while. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet — downtown Chicago didn’t seem to offer a lot of opportunities — but I knew I’d start one someday.

On one of the final weekends before I graduated, I went to Great America with my girlfriend Sally (who, seven months later would become my wife), my roommate Larry, and Cindy, a girl Larry was dating at the time.

A day at Great America involves a whole lot of standing in line. By 4:00 in the afternoon, I was pretty tired of it. We were standing in yet another line, this one for the Logger’s Run water flume ride. The queue wound around the edge of a small pond, and I was bored.

I saw a male House Sparrow land on a rock in the middle of the pond not far from where we stood. I was familiar with the species, so identification was no problem. The bird was not exciting, but I decided that an amusement park was an amusing place to begin a life list. I thought to myself, “Number one.” There was no fanfare; I didn’t even tell my companions what I had done.

The bird flew off after a minute or so, the line moved on after an hour or so, and so it began.

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