Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The beginning

I have been dead impressed with some of the blogs I have come across about birds. Where do these people find the time? Actually, its dark and miserable outside, there are no birds to look at, the wife and kids are in bed, and I've already taken the bin out. Two days ago in fact, and still no sign of the Rubbish Operatives. Anyway, the plan is to regale you (I am pretending someone may at some point find and read this) with heady tales of birding Wanstead Flats, NE London, which is my local patch, and when I'm bored of that, other stuff. I like writing, I am generally bored of reading about Redpoll identification now, so this will be a nice filler.

So, where to start? About moi seems to be customary. Well, I'm still youngish, but a boring old git nonetheless. I have a job that very much restricts birding, and that makes my head hurt. I am not interested in it much, but it pays for optics, diesel and double-deckers. I have to keep doing it so I can keep living in Wanstead. If any reader would like to pay off my mortgage and set up a slush-fund so I can just go birding all the time, please get in contact via the link that is undoubtedly somewhere on this page, but I can't see it in edit mode. As I child I very much liked birds. As a teenager I very much didn't do any birding at all and just sat about a lot, which I now regret immensely. Fool. I got back into it about 10 years ago, but only as a holiday activity, not realising the potential on my doorstep. More recently it has become addictive, perhaps a previous hobby waned or something, and birding became, initially, another outlet for the mild obsessive compulsive disorder many men seem to have. I began to collect birds, in the tick sense. Feverishly I searched out all the various lists on postcards, scraps of paper etc that I might have kept, and it has got worse from there really. I still can't find the California list from 2002 which is real shame as my World list is 699 and I reckon I am in reality well over 700. Did I mention obsessive? Fairly bad actually. But working my patch is helping to overcome to needless urge to tick. Yearlisting is slightly addictive as well, Hopefully I'll do really badly this year and be able to give it up.

The header photo is of a Stonechat on a chilly morning on Wanstead Flats. I was seriously delighted when I found Stonechats on Wanstead Flats, I think the bird you now see before you is the one that kicked off my patch-working. I was just on the way to the bus, and bingo, el stoney. Within but a short time I had found Reed Bunting and Snipe as well. Holy cow, what a place! Then I discovered a whole network of London birders finding ridiculous quality birds in unlikely places, and realised 1) how pitiful my finds were in comparison, and 2) what "dedicated patch-worker" really means.

Some stats. In case any birders with obsessive geeky tendecies are reading this. In 2007 when I first started getting out on the patch properly, I found 70 species. In 2008 found 83. This is a combination of getting out more, getting better at ID, and becoming more savvy about what turns up where when. My patch list is 89. Reaching 100 will be a seriously large event likely marked by large font, capital letters, and stuff like that. In fact, reaching 90 will be pretty damn pleasing, and could see some bolding.

So, on to Wanstead 2009.

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