Can I just say that I am amazing. A-ma-zing. The self-control being exercised in the environs of Wanstead is frankly sensational. For the benefit of all you non-believers out there I added up my yearlist yesterday and it's 121, the latest bird being a Blackcap. OK, so the Short-toed Treecreeper was fairly gratuitous, but seriously, 121? That's amazing - amazingly frugal.
By way of comparison, last year, when I wasn't year-listing, #121 was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on January 12th. January 12th!!! The year before that, when I was year-listing, #121 was a Snow Bunting. On January 4th!!!!!! January 4th?! I must have been out. of. my. mind. Were I to add this year's list to Bubo, I would barely be in the top 100. That, ladies and gentlemen, is restraint. Supreme restraint.
I'm doing less well on the twitching. I've cracked on almost every bird, though I have only gone grudgingly, and then only well after news has broken and I am assured of relative calm and tranquility. I left the Lesser White-fronted Goose several months, the Slaty-backed Gull and Oriental Turtle Dove several weeks, and the Short-toed Treecreeper several, er, hours. In my defence, it was at least the next day. I admit to feeling pretty smug as I stood in that bloke's kitchen in Chipping Norton looking at the Dove twenty minutes after I arrived, recalling that I declined a lift the day after news broke, and thus avoided standing for seven hours in a queue of seven hundred identically dressed dippers. But the fact remains that I have seen almost every tick going, the exception being far-flung Gyrs, and a Pacific Diver in Cornwall. Not sure what to say, except that they have all been on my terms, a small victory perhaps.
Following the Birdwatch article about relaxed birding, the standard greeting when I bowl up somwhere is "Oh, I thought you weren't twitching anymore?" I still feel weak, but I never said I wouldn't twitch, I just said I'd be more selective, and that whatever I did had to be enjoyable. Hence no Pacific Diver, which although it would have been a shoe-in, was simply too far away - too much time in the car to see a speck floating off Marazion that might have a chin-strap. The Treecreeper, whilst admittedly dull as ditchwater, only took an hour to get to, showed well enough to actually spot field marks, and then we got to spend some quality time on the beach in the sunshine. Anyway, didn't your parents or teachers at school tell you never to believe anything you read in the press?
Here, have a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, we've got loads.