I am considering not doing a patch year list next year.
Bad, huh? I mean, could this in fact be blasphemy? Is Lee going to issue a fatwa, especially as I'm not even second division in that other facet of birding, twitching? It's not that I am bored of the patch, not at all. I love it, but I simply cannot do it justice, and it really annoys me that I can't get out there anywhere near as much as it needs. Time is at a premium, work is ridiculous, I travel a little bit, and the bottom line is that I don't have time. Can a patch be done just at weekends? I don't think it can. Although this year has been a record-breaking year for me, actually mostly other people have found the birds and I have simply popped out to see them. Counting them up, of the 17 what I would consider less-than-annual birds on my list for 2013, I've found just six of them and twitched the rest. Maybe this isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things, a relatively lively ratio in fact considering how little I went out there in comparison to some of the others. Nonetheless it still irritates me, and my response is to maybe give up. Now that I put it like that, sounds pretty crap. Oh dear.
Maybe it's all Nick's fault? He is fortunate enough to be able to do the patch all morning every day. This means that I have lost count of the number of times that I've had to leave to go to work, and he has turned up something good either as I've been on a train, or at my desk. As you can imagine, this is very painful. Once, fine. Twice, OK, I'll cope. All the bloody time? Gah! Especially when the bird in question was probably there the whole time, but as is the habit with small birds, inactive/still asleep when I went through early on my way to Canary Wharf.
But that's not the sum of it. Far from it. The patch is way too busy, even early in the morning. The seemingly exponential increase in usage from all quarters is driving me insane. Stunningly arrogant and loud dog-walkers, all out at the crack of dawn. The litter left everywhere, from innumerable all-night drinking clubs, from the mass scattering of water and sports drink bottles after football, the devotions of rice and so on left on the edges of ponds, to the absurd quantities of rotting bread left out for birds. The joggers who run in front of my lens, the man who listens to air traffic control from the Wheatear log of all places, the radio-controlled planes that ruin weekend afternoons. And of course the gay cruisers that hang around Long Wood, and what they leave behind. The fact anybody finds any birds at all is astonishing, and the overall effect is spoiling it for me. The dog walkers are the worst of course, but quite a few of the others aren't all that far behind. Mind you, I'm rather tense at the moment, and it takes ever smaller indiscretions to annoy the crap out of me.
So what to do? Not bother? Seems weak, but it may be the answer. If I can't go round it very often, and when I do I can't move for other people and half the birds are asleep, then it lessens the pleasure I get from it. And that is if course the whole point. But is being miserable about not doing the patch worse than a lesser amount of happiness, and fair amount of annoyance, from doing it a small amount with a lot of disturbance? One to ponder. I would definitely miss it, but equally maybe a rest from it would refresh it for me? Then again, what would I do instead if birding was restricted to the weekend only, as seems likely. Would I be desperate to get out there, or would I be keener to go further afield?