Monday 20 December 2010

And in third place....

I think I am due a Bronze Medal. My London year-list total is now 209, which I am reliably informed is the third highest total ever. Top of the leaderboard is a guy called Steve, who managed 216 in 2003. In second place is Dom, who has also been having a go this year - he is on 213, and is still holding out for a few more. Then comes me, and then comes Steve again, with 205 in a previous year. Then it's a guy called Rupert, who was the first to ever get to 200 (exactly 200) in London back in 1985, and behind him.... Steve again! There are a few others in the 190s I believe, and last year before the thought of having a go had ocurred to me, I managed 185.

The fact that the leaderboard only has a handful of people on it, most of them Steve, is in my opinion neither here nor there. When I started I felt that 200 was just about possible, and essentially I whooped it. What is perhaps a shame is that I missed out on the top spot. The long and short of it is that had I been very slightly more dedicated, said "sod it" slightly fewer times, and not utterly slacked off immediately after getting to 200, I would currently be sat on about 218. In most cases these are birds I couldn't be bothered to go for, a couple are ones that I dipped but that had I stayed on site longer I would have got.

That said, I never expressed an interest in being the record-holder. I always maintained I wanted to get to 200 and that anything after that was a bonus. I just didn't realise the potential I suppose. No matter. The number of people who care about London listing probably peaks at about 30, and London year-listing at about five, or possibly just three! There is no cash prize, and neither should there be - the skill is limited to be being available at short notice, and being able to drive. If I were to look at a self-found London list, and being very strict about it, this year my total would have been 168. In other words I twitched one out of about every five birds. My semi-decent self-finds have been limited to Brent Goose, Garganey, Scaup, Sanderling, Merlin, Glaucous Gull, Caspian Gull, Turtle Dove, Lesserspot, Woodlark, Redstart, Ring Ouzel and Waxwing. All of the other good birds this year were twitched. Someone else found them, I drove there and ticked them off.

Of course this isn't too important, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't stand a chance of 200 unless you did twitch stuff, but it shows how silly most lists are. A self-found list would be much more meaningful. But enough of doing myself down - to get over 200 is good going, no matter how you get there, and I challenge anyone else to have a go, as if you do you'll realise quite how difficult it is - especially those of you that don't live in London. It has been mostly a lot of fun, and my London life list has moved forward rapidly with a pile of birds I thought I would never get - I've seen seven Eider for pity's sake! Seven! Just seeing one would have been incredible, you could almost say stellar, but that would just be a cheap gag. To drool at my full list, click here. Less fun moments included being in Scotland when a Black-winged Stilt appeared at Rainham, and then getting calls from EVERYONE about it, and then a couple of days later getting news of a Hoopoe in the same place whilst I was still in Scotland. But I was on holiday, and you can't let a year list get in the way of real life. The biggest challenge remains apathy. That and losing the will to live. At various points during the year, news of a needed bird brought not happiness and joy, but instead extreme irritation bordering on chronic depression. Which is why I won't be doing it again. Birding should be fun, and not a cause of anxiety. Next year, Wanstead, and only Wanstead, though no doubt there will be anxious moments there too.

PS Whilst Dom is Dom, and I am me, Steve is not Steve. I don't know Steve the record-holder, and needed a substitute Steve. I thought about Steve Waugh and Steve Bucknor, but thought they perhaps didn't have the crowd appeal that was necessary to identify a Steve. Instead I asked Mrs L, barometer to the masses, what Steve came immediately to mind if I said "name a famous Steve". She thought for a minute and said, "Wasn't there that snooker player?" "Yes", I said, "there was". "Have you heard of Steve Waugh or Steve Bucknor", I asked? "No", she replied. So Steve Davis it is.


  1. 2nd place is the first loser. Third doesn't even bear thinking about. Basically, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. The photo is genius! Well done, but next year maybe trying a self-found yearlist might be interesting and you'd get the moral high ground, for what it's worth...

    Also I think Dominic Mitchell mentioned in his blog about all the driving and the environmental impact, so it could be a greener alternative? Of course, you'd have to be disciplined about not counting some great stuff that was found by others but you could still actually see it if you felt like it (but without the same pressure).

    Great blog by the way!

  3. I can live with being 'first loser', having not started the year with the intention of even doing a year list. Most of the time it's been a blast, and thanks Jono for your good-natured competition and numerous helpful tip-offs in 2010. I'll see you at Rainham tomorrow if the Gannet's still there - except of course you already have that one! Roll on 2011 and it'll be back to 'proper' birding for the pair of us - can't wait!

  4. I like the idea of a "self-found" list but think there is less incentive because it's very hard to compete against anyone/anything--since it's not the way lists are typically recorded. Now, if another person besides Jonathan would commit... that would start being fun and I agree, a better measure of the birder; though it's a great list regardless. Congratulations!