Friday, 31 December 2010

2010: The Year in Review

So here we are once again. That was quick wasn't it? Neeeeeowwwww! What was that? 2010, that's what. Over. Jeez. The years don't pass any slower do they? Anyway, no need to talk about my 2010 goals particularly. I blitzed them all, apart from the only properly important one which was to try and find a non-banking related job. I didn't find any job, so that isn't technically a fail just yet. And I have no idea why it was a 2010 goal anyway, the deadline was always 2011. Pfffff. Moving on, the natural place to start would seem to be.....

2011 Goals

Professional Goals
- Become gainfully employed. Doesn't matter where, beggars can't be choosers
- That's it.

Personal Goals
- None.
- How refreshing.

Nope, no birding goals this year. Having birding goals, especially ones that relate to adding numbers to lists, puts you on a hiding to nothing. You're always chasing the game, always fretting about missing something that is in fact insignificant. Far better to have no ambitions whatsoever, and just enjoy whatever comes your way. Take that, listing demons!!

Best Birding Moment
There are two contenders for the prize this year. The first was on March 20th when I decided it was high time that a Wheatear graced the Flats, and went out looking for one. All the normal spots were Wheatear-free zones, until at long last I walked into one of the plantations, and caught a glimpse of white zipping out the other side. Fabulous it was, and you can relive it here.

The other contender came only two days later, when I received news of an Alpine Swift on Leyton Flats, about 300 metres away from where I was sat in my car with binoculars to hand. I got there remarkably quickly, and then contrived to very nearly blow it. As is usual, I got bored after a while and went to look for it somewhere else, whereupon it naturally showed immediately. I came straight back, but was too late. As I was dragging myself away, weeping, I picked it up flying in from the west. It was one of those redemptive moments of pure relief.

Worst Birding Moment
Again, a number of contenders. I am undecided as to whether the accolade should go to deciding to twitch the Lesser Kestrel in Suffolk in a moment of pure madness, knowing I only had little over an hour in which to score, and which resulted in one of the most stressful days of the entire year, or if the title should be awarded to the two Locustella Warblers on Shetland, one of which I ticked as Lancy on Sunday evening, the other as PG Tips on Monday morning, and both of which were Grasshopper Warblers by Monday afternoon. Crushing, and properly hitting home that my bird observation skills were and are pathetic. Sucked into the age-old trap of getting too excited and going with the flow without being critical enough. Or at all. Oh, and then the following day doing a 180 degree U turn, pretending to be uber-critical, and turning a perfectly good Buff-bellied Pipit into a Mipit. Never have the words "You don't know what you're doing" been so apt. Yup, on reflection, this performance wins it. I'll save the Kestrel for Worst Bird.

Best Bird
Once again I'm going to have to split the award. Although the Dunlin on the Flats in April was fabulous, even spawning a magazine article, for sheer drop-dead awesomeness I am going to aim slightly higher, So, in joint top place, the birds are the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll on Unst in October, and the White-tailed Plover at Rainham in July. Although there have been loads of Hornemann's and only a very few White-tailed Plovers, the Redpoll was a stunner, just one of those mythical birds that I had always wanted to see. Stunning and uber-rare need not go hand in hand in all cases.

Although of course, the Plover was stunnning. And made all the sweeter by turning up on my doorstep after I had declined to twitch it at Seaforth. I spent several calm and enjoyable hours watching the Plover as it essentially did nothing on Aveley Pools. My car made light-speed on the A13 getting there, but that [very] brief moment of stress melted away within seconds when I saw the bird on the pools. No fence, no heat-haze, no hours in the car. Just me, a handful of the Rainham regulars including Sam, the finder, and the bird performing beautifully. Unbelievable, magical even.

Worst Bird
Guess what? Lesser Kestrel, Westleton Heath, 29th March 2010. An incredibly fraught day, most of which was spent in the car, culminating in the briefest glimpse of what should have been an immense bird to savour and enjoy. Rubbish. The Skyes's Warbler on Shetland was pretty uninspiring now I come to think of it, but for the overall shitiness of the experience, the Kestrel wins hands down.

Best UK Trip
Not being much of a twitcher, I have barely left Wanstead this year and so candidates for this category are few and far between. Despite the unquestionable excellence of Shetland, I still think the best trip was in January to Yorkshire for the Black-throated Thrush, recounted here and here. Shaun almost wee'd on me in the night, and I did have one of the worst hangovers in living memory after a night on £1.50 lagers in Bridlington, but it was still a great trip.

Worst UK Trip
Hmmm, a tough one, as there has been nothing really to compare with the Eastern Crowned Warbler twitch last year. There have been no major dips to speak of, and I've used the Kestrel already, as mentioned that was pretty bad. There is still however a clear winner, though I can't not mention a three tick day back in July which bags the runners-up spot. On the face of it, it was an excellent day out in Devon, with two quality birds bagged by about 9am, but as you can read in the original post, the day was rather ruined by a River Warbler in Norfolk. We drove the entire length of the M5 coming up with crap plan after crap plan as to how we would keep everyone happy, and in fact ended up annoying almost everybody. And then ended up going for it anyway. I blame Bradders. He was involved - heavily involved - in the ECW twitch as well. That said, he was also heavily involved in the Black-throated Thrush twitch as well. I think the moral of the story is that planned twitches that span a weekend are good, and that impulse day-trip twitches where you spend the entire day in the car are bad.

However, for a vision of pure Hell on Earth, there can only be one worthy winner - Blakeney Point. If I live to be a hundred, I hope I never have to walk the Point again. It was that bad.

Best Foreign Trip
Even more pointless than last year, as this year I went precisely nowhere. That, ladies and gentlemen, is unemployment.

Best Domestic Moment

Once again, almost too many to pick from, but I still have fond memories of entering a zen-like state and cleaning and tidying as if my life depended on it, emerging a mere 45 minutes later in a seemingly new house. How we managed it I will never know, and needless to say it lasted only as long as our guests stayed. Nonetheless, a peerless performance in style over substance.

Worst Domestic Moment

Oh God. The ones that immediately come to mind are ending up with twenty pints of milk and no tea-bags after a particularly unsuccessful shopping trip, and then there was the time when my youngest coloured her entire stomach purple with a felt-tip pen whilst I was keeping a close eye on her. Not forgetting of course my attempts at Squirrel purging, but I think the best heroic failure was using the top of the (plastic) sandpit as a barbeque rain guard which unfortunately only worked temporarily....

I may come back to this category - Mrs L has gone to sleep and it is just possible that she has some thoughts.

Most Amusing Photograph
This is essentially a category for taking the piss out of my mates. There was, for instance, the day when Howard turned into a Poodle at Rainham. I kid you not, one moment there was Howard, the next, a Poodle. The photos were taken literally moments apart.

But the one that makes me smile most is this, from the Ouse Washes. Four of us had gone up one evening in the hope of seeing a Corncrake. We started hearing them from the moment we got out of the car, but would we ever see one?

Least Amusing Photograph
Spoilt for choice after various unfortunate incidents....


So there you have it, another year gone. I'm sure there were plenty of other moments worthy of mention, but like last year, it's time to start afresh. Giddy with excitement? Moi?


1 comment:

  1. Jono, glad to hear the Yorkshire trip was the best ,It's mine too especially the evening entertainment in the pub it was like a scene out of Shamless plus the Black Throated Thursh was superb.