Tuesday 2 June 2009

Year-listing, sponsored by ESSO

A number of blogs that I read have talked idly about listing and why people bother. A good subject I always think, and one that engenders a lot of debate in the Lethbridge household. To date I have not really mentioned how idiotically obsessive I can be in the pursuit of a totally meaningless collection of birds I have seen at X Y or Z during the periods A B & C. Time to start. Dearest to my heart of course is Mrs L's life list my BOU Life list. The total is so low as to not talk about. You might think - and certainly other members of the Lethbridge family do think this - that this one list would surely be enough? Oh no. Far from it. There is the patch-list for the garden, and also for Wanstead, which are borderline acceptable, and also for Rainham, and Amwell, and Walthamstow....which are not. Then there is the London Area list, defined by an arbitrary circle centred on St Pauls, thereby encompassing huge swathes of countryside and marshland, presumably so that London listers can feel good about themselves. I once legged it to Amwell for a Great Reed Warbler that turned out to be sat on a reed-stem about 90 yards outide this circle, which means it is not on my London list, and therefore I and several other people became quite pissed off about something utterly utterly pointless.

Then I have an Essex list. This is a good one, as a lot of London is in Essex, indeed Wanstead is in Essex, and so I sometimes get to add ticks to several lists if I see a new bird at Rainham or somewhere. I was once standing in Kent, within the good old London circle, watching a White-winged Black Tern flying about the river. I willed it to fly to the opposite bank so I could tick it for Essex, and it did! Hurrah! I have in the past stood one-legged on a fence in order to add a distant Redshank to a patch list......

I also have a list of the birds I have seen in Norfolk, in Suffolk, and in Kent, all which are vaguely nearby. I can also tell you how many birds I have seen in Cornwall and in Devon, which are not nearby........and handily my parents live in Scotland and we go there a lot, so that means I can legitimately have a Scotland list as well. And a Fife list, which is where they live. And for good measure I have a list for their garden and their village too. "All entirely useful and sensible" most birders will at this point be saying. "What a ridiculous hobby" most birders' wives will now be saying. "What a total fucking loser" everyone else will be saying....

But this is of course just the start. Year-listing. And Patch Year-listing This is where it becomes truly stupid. I recognise the futility and irrationality of it, and yet I can't stop doing it. This year I am already on 250 for the UK, a total I didn't reach until September in 2008. Thanks to the magic of the web, you can track my progress via that little box over on the right. I am about to undertake a trip to Norfolk in order to add Nightjar and ascend to the lofty heights of 251...check the box for success or failure. Talking of failure,
this week I did a round trip of 130 miles and gave the National Trust £5.50 in order to not see a Squacco Heron from what turned out to a public footpath not owned by the National Trust at all, for a total cost of roughly £19. Not ideal for the unemployed - in the new currency that's a child's shoe.

#310 BOU, Wood Warbler. Told you I was a low-lister.

In Scotland last week, I drove 514 miles in a day in order to boost my year-list. The last 188 miles of those only netted me a Black Guillemot, at a cost of roughy 20 quid. In fact the whole escapade was totally daft. I left Fife at about 7pm, via a convenient American Wigeon (#241) on the Tay, and the obligatory Osprey (#242) at Loch of the Lowes. I arrived at a Black Grouse site near Aviemore at 10pm, arising at 3.30am due to a text from an insomniac Hawkins. Actually waking up to the bubbling of Black Grouse (#243) is very nice, but probably not to everybody's taste. I then proceeded to Grantown on Spey for Capercaillie (#244), and a bonus Scotsbill (#245). Then back to Loch Garten for Crested Tit (#246) and over to Aviemore for Wood Warbler (#247). All ticked off by 10am, so up the Findhorn for no Golden Eagles, over to Loch Ruthven for a quick peek at summer plumaged Slavs, very nice, and then up to Wester Ross for more eagle disappointment and Black Guillemot (#248). My new hobby is buying diesel.

I arrived back in Fife at about 11.30pm after a 20 hour day on 5 hours sleep. You kind of get into a groove, I felt I could have driven back to London, I was on automatic pilot. My Mum thinks I am quite mad. Great day though, also saw Dipper, Red Grouse, breeding Common Sand and Red-breasted Merg, summer plumaged Divers. And the scenery was stunning, although it could have been considerably enhanced by an eagle flying through it....

Eagle(less) Country

<-insert crass comment about nuts here->

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