Lawrie's and Keith's mammal ticking idea isn't a new one; there are a
few of us around (yes, that is a confession!). Like any ticking, it's
good fun, and there is a big mammal fauna out there to make things
challenging. I know one or two seabirders who are closet cetacean
tickers, and most birding situations provide an opportunity to see
native or introduced mammals.
I suppose that there should be a 'gun' standard equivalent to the '600
club' of birders, but I don't know where you'd set the bar. The question
of whether to count only free-ranging animals or to also include trapped
animals raises a fundamental problem with mammal-ticking. The thing is
that you have to get hold of your critter if you want to get any decent
sort of rodent, small dasyurid or bat lists, because many are impossible
to identify if seen running about in the usual field conditions. I defy
anyone to confidently separate a Giles' planigale from a narrow-nosed as
it scurries across a dirt road, and most microbats just cannot be ID'ed
unless in the hand (even then, it's not always possible). A lot of
rodents are likewise tricky.
Now, what this means, given the restrictions on fondling native mammals
that are more-or-less universal in Australia, is that big lists of
mammals are only going to be available to the lucky few who get to work
professionally with wildlife (uni researchers, parks & wildlife people
and the like) or those people who are so committed to a big list that
they volunteer for every field trip going! To give everyone a
more-or-less level playing field, to coin a phrase, the list might have
to be pared down to those that your average keen naturalist can see and
identify without catching e.g.the macropods, monotremes, wombats,
possums etc. - the big stuff! This would take the thrill out of it for a
lot of people!
Of course, this discussion highlights the attractive features of birds
and birding. Nearly everything is available to anyone with a modicum of
enthusiasm, and nearly everything can be identified reasonably
confidently in the wild and free state. No wonder mammal ticking isn't
big in Australia!
By the way, let's not limit the discussion to endotherms. what about
reptile and frog ticking? Cogger says there are around 960 species in
Australia; I reckon anyone who could honestly claim 750-800 herp's would
be a pretty special (?weird) person! Most frogs are readily separable on
call or appearance, and a lot of the reptiles are distinctive. Mind you,
the truly keen would be doing a lot of keying-out work with some of the
difficult groups. This means catching them and that's technically not
on, as per the mammals.
Let's face it, as far as twitchability goes, birds rule!
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