Saturday, 2 January 2016

Listing badly

Like many (surely almost all) birders, I keep lists. Much has no doubt been written about this aspect of birding behaviour. Jeremy Mynott has an interesting and thought-provoking section on the listing habit in his book 'Birdscapes', exploring the link to collecting, to obsessions and eccentricity. The extent of my listing is fairly modest. A life list of course, and a year list too. Standard stuff. The closest I get to what Mynott terms "the slippery slope to eccentricity" is a 'Birds seen from Football Grounds' list, begun after seeing a Kestrel hovering whilst I stood on the terrace at Brentford's Griffin Park. A fly-over Cormorant also enlivened proceedings that day and helped to get the embryonic list up-and-running. This particular list gives a double hit, allowing a collecting crossover between birds and footy grounds. Scanning the skies fills in those rare moments when Cambridge United cease to dazzle and enthrall... Treats thus far include a Lapwing at Gateshead, Red Kite at Northampton and Rink-Necked Parakeets at Wimbledon. Disappointment still surrounds an unconfirmed Woodcock at Southend...

I'm relatively new to the year list and wish I'd started to keep one much earlier in life. It allows competition between myself and a number of friends, but chiefly with myself. As it happens 2015 was my best yet, beating my previous record by a clear 4 birds. The fact that the new record is a mere 158 species is a reflection of many things; the amount of time devoted to birding, limited travel to different areas and, most pertinently of course, birding ability (or lack of it). As with any year, there are some frustrating omissions. Somehow I managed to miss Yellow Wagtail and Garganey (again) in 2015 and that 'lost' Woodcock at Southend came back to haunt me...

Since joining the year listers January 1st has taken on added meaning and a trip out on New Year's Day is now an essential part of the festive calendar, just as it is for numerous other birders. The Common-or-Garden regain rightful significance and the House Sparrow is justly afforded the same status as rarer birds will be later in the year. So...down to Roswell Pits. Colder conditions than of late, lending the day some appropriate seasonality. The ticks mount up as many of the usual suspects are 'discovered' anew. Robin: Check. Mallard: Check. Carrion Crow: Check. Those Feral Pigeon on the Cathedral will do very nicely, thank you. No bird is ever guaranteed of course, so it's nice to nab things like Green Woodpecker and Little Grebe, who might well slip through the net... for a few days at least. Long-Tailed Tit and Dunnock evade me. Kingfisher and Marsh Harrier are particularly pleasing sightings, as they would be on any day. The highlight, however, is a fine male Stonechat, flitting about down by the river. A final day tally of 38, which I later discover is 4 ahead of last year - and which, of course, means precisely nothing!

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