As the song goes, Baby, that's my name. Why, I hear you ask? Well it has to do with lists, need I go on? Probably not, but as you know, I am going to anyway. So, I have today plumbed new depths. I realise that I have said this very phrase on more than one occasion in my birding career, and no doubt will do so again, but let me just run you through the latest pathetic incident that has led me to claim the dredging title yet again.
It involves this:
Yes, very nice. Anyone who hasn't seen a Waxwing this year isn't really trying hard enough. But just seeing them isn't quite enough for a lister, it's about where you see them. I've already had some in Wanstead, over my garden in fact, the best possible location for a Waxwing. By default I must therefore have Waxwing on my London list, which leaves Rainham as the only Waxwing-less patch. This particular Waxwing was almost at Rainham. Very nearly at Rainham. Not quite at Rainham. And therefore not quite on my list.
There are many ways of defining boundaries, and I find that patch boundaries are very often the most fluid. Now, I could hardly annex the A1306, but most if not all of the people that bird Rainham are quite happy to count birds on the other side of the river, if they themselves are on the reserve. This happened with the Hen Harrier just recently, it never came over the river, and thus is rather incongruously on my Rainham list but not on my Essex list - I have some standards. Could I therefore get to a spot where I could view the Waxwing from within the reserve? It took some doing, and is ever-so-slightly tenuous, but I feel satisfied that I have done enough for the record to stand. This next part is probably meaningless for those who have not visited the reserve, but it is accessed from New Tank Hill Road, which diverts off the A1306 and crosses the Eurostar tracks. The reserve boundary goes right up to the railway line. I was thus able to find a spot on the bridge which had the necessary height to allow me to view the Waxwing's tree of choice AND which abutted the reserve boundary. I scoped the tree and waited until the Waxwing popped into view, at which point I dangled my left arm off the bridge and into Rainham airspace.... I do believe that's a tick, how marvellous! And yes, I did take a photograph....
I recognise the absurdity, I am not proud. But I am also absolutely certain that any of you readers who are also patch-workers will have done something very similar, or considered what you might do if a bird appeared just outside the patch. I therefore feel that I acted entirely normally. Well, almost. Being a birder, in particular a birder who is fond of lists, generally redefines normal in one way or another. Generally in an "abnormal is the new normal" kind of way. Most everyplace I go.