Monday 29 August 2011

Getting Closer...

Regular readers may have gathered that I attach some minor importance to lists. Lists of birds, lists of moths, lists of anything really. My favourite one is my garden list, followed closely by either my life list or my patch list, not sure, it ebbs and flows. Obviously I would never do anything as ridiculous as year-listing on a national scale, but when it concerns the patch, year-listing costs nothing, requires no travelling time, and is quite good fun.

Four or five of these today

When I first moved to Wanstead I'd never heard of year-listing, and so I didn't count up anything. Later, as I became more plugged-in to the birding grapevine, somehow the idea lodged itself in my head. In 2007 I got about 70 species. Wow! Does birding get much better, I sincerely doubted it. 70 is, like, loads and loads. The following year I managed 83. Sweet Baby Moses, 83!! What a patch! Content that 83 could never be beaten, I awarded myself the coveted "Birder of the Year" trophy.

In 2009 I scraped to 100 on December 22nd with a Woodcock, still the only one I've seen here. 100 is, like, three figures, a seriously big number. I retained the birder of the year trophy. In 2010, not really, this time, believing the previous year could be beaten, I got to 100 by August 22nd, with Spotted Flycatcher. About five minutes later a Common Redstart became number 101. Gah! The long-staying Wryneck was 102, and by the time the year was up, the patch had netted me 108 species. Like Brazil, I've been given the trophy permanently.

OK, so this isn't Rainham, Crayford or Beddington, but seriously, this is amazing. Or is it? Well unfortunately, not really, as a quick check of the London Birding pages on the web reveals that an additional five patches - Brent Reservoir, Fairlop, Ally Pally, the Ingrebourne Valley and Tyttenhanger - all got more than that, and by some margin. There was also a guy counting the Lee Valley. As in the whole of the Valley, why restrict yourself eh? I've binned his total for the purpose of this analysis, grossly unfair. It matters not, my point is that local patches reward hard work and there are lots of birders working seemingly dreary and unproductive patches very hard, and seeing loads as a result. My efforts in Wanstead, in context, are nothing special, but they do make my lists in 2007 and 2008 look rather paltry. Very paltry.

Why, Hello There!

So, to this year, 2011. How am I doing? Well, I languished on 99 for ages and ages, over two months (June and June), but now they are coming thick and fast. I've just returned from a sporting/birding expedition, and in addition to scoring a quick-fire century on the playing fields north of Long Wood against some frankly rank bowling, I've also seen a Sedge Warbler on the Roding, found by Nick C at around lunchtime. This is number 106, and it's still August! There are a few differences with last year, the biggest of which is that I've already seen all the birds, bar one, that I got in September and subsequent months last year, but nonetheless I am hopeful of, if not beating last year, at least equalling it.

Possible birds that would do it, and that are not outrageous, are Brambling, Woodcock, Goosander and Firecrest. I'd prefer to get there with Red-backed Shrike, Osprey and Honey Buzzard though.

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