Saturday 17 December 2011

The 2011 Year List that I didn't do

Regular readers will know I bang on about year-listing quite a lot. This year however I didn't bang on about it quite as much. Shocking though it may sound, I didn't do one. No, really. The year I really did one was 2009. It was fun at the beginning, awful close to the end, and then quite fun again at the very end. The angst of dipping my eighth-seventh Wryneck, not to mention the absurdity of the price of fuel, convinced me that it would be foolish to do another one, so in 2010 I took it nice and easy, and it was only when I returned from a monumental week on Shetland that I changed my mind, and drove some pointless miles to see birds I'd seen plenty of before. Three hundred, that magical number in the UK year-listing stakes, certificate-worthy no less (no, I didn't), fell just over two frenetic weeks later, and I breathed a long sigh of hypocrital relief. Then I went to Cornwall. And then Devon. And then Manchester....

This year, I was determined that there would be none of this stupidity, none of this weakness. As such, I started out with no goals, no predetermined targets. I will see what I see, I said. My love-hate relationship with twitching also started off at a new low, though a Lesser White-fronted Goose on Jan 2nd tells another story. Largely I have stuck true to my word, though why I deemed a trip to Landguard for a Short-toed Treecreeper necessary I really have no idea - the one trip, which despite the tick, I still feel embarrassed about. Rubbish, and then some. As the year progressed, I became progressively more twitchy, which culminated in not one but two trips to Scilly, finally paying me back for an entire week in 2009 where all I saw was a crappy Radde's Warbler.

I have of course, despite any protestations to the contrary, been keeping a year list all along. Well, not keeping one as such, but at any point in the year I could have told you how many. Does that count as not keeping one? I think it does. Anyhow, I reckon the year's birding is basically done, and so I am proud (er, maybe) to be able to announce that my 2011 year list is on a whopping 271. This strikes me as quite a lot, particularly given my stated intentions, for it puts my just outside the top ten on Bubo, and if you look at what I have not seen, I suspect I could very easily sneak in. I won't of course, I can't be bothered, but it does show that if you twitch a few things, and it doesn't have to be very many, your incidental count of birds will be surprisingly high.

I twitched about twenty birds this year, and dipped just one - an extremely uncooperative (though previously highly cooperative) Great Snipe at Cley. By the time I got there, it was bored of all the tape recordings and had buggered off to the far side of the marsh, where it remained until after I left. Such is life, but on the whole my approach to twitching is so tempered in sensibleness that I very rarely dip. This is great, as dipping sucks. It means I'll never have the enormous list that those who drop everything at the slightest hint of a possible have, but it ensures an almost one hundred percent happy outcome.

So, 271 birds, and very nice they were too. More interesting is what I didn't see. Birds you would think would be absolute gimmes that any birder worth his salt would see at least once a year. Here is the roll of shame.

Black-throated Diver, Little Auk, Long-eared Owl, Bewick's Swan, Scaup, Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove, Little Owl, Dipper, Willow Tit, Water Pipit.

I mean how can you bird for an entire year and not see a Little Owl? Pfffff. There are oodles of them about. Wanstead is bracketed by them, with regular birds in Walthamstow and in the Ingrebourne Valley. Somehow I've managed to avoid seeing one all year, I'm not sure how. And I could go and see a Water Pipit tomorrow in all likelihood, less than 15 miles from home, but I just can't drum up the enthusiasm. Oh well. That little lot would have seen me clear 280. I've also not done my traditional dash around Scotland, so no Ptarmigan, Caper, Black Grouse, or Crested Tit. Also no Eagles. Approaching 290. Add in the Hoopoes, Rose-coloured Starlings and Wrynecks (!) of this world, things like Rough-legged Buzzard and Red-necked Grebe, Corncrake and Quail, and you're on the cusp of 300 yet again. There isn't really a great deal of difference between a normal year list, and a perceived big year list. I wonder what all the fuss is about?


  1. " any point in the year I could have told you how many. Does that count as not keeping one?" er, not as such! However. it'll all be different cos you'll be doing the Patch Challenge, so you won't have time for much off-patch twitching otherwise the coveted golden mallard (worth £50 on ebay, honest) won't be coming home to Wanstead!

  2. It's a fine list of birds you didn't do list of. And more than the list I didn't do in 2011.

  3. Can't beleive that my crappy yearlist (and I have been trying really hard) is just 145 - including 4 species on your 'list of shame'. I'm glad to see that you still blogging, as this is definately the most entertaining blog that I've read all year.

  4. On the subject of the year gone by, which photo, if you had to pick one, would you say was your best of 2011?

  5. Re photo, I have no idea. It's been a good year though. Photography is one of those things, like birding, that if you do a lot of it, you cannot fail to improve. Best session was probably on the beach in Norfolk where I didn't move for two hours and waders came really really close.