Thursday 2 January 2014

Missing in Action

I've just spent a few hours getting my bird recording spreadsheet ready for 2014. If there's a way to have more fun on your own, I've yet to discover it. During this extravaganza I found out three things.

Firstly, that a spreadsheet has to be one of the least efficient ways of storing bird sightings. To be fair I think I knew this already. It now has seven years of information, has 48 tabs, has millions of formulas, and is 22 Megabytes in size. In many ways it is a thing of a beauty, as it can quickly tell me that I've seen 27 Pied Flycatchers in that period, of which seven have been in London, and five of those in Wanstead. Genius, no? Getting the formulas to actually do that is just not funny at all though, and it gets even more complicated when I try and get it to add up patch year lists, and as I only do it once a year I've completely forgotten how it works by the time it comes round again. I'm think I'm done now, but it is so, so painful.

Secondly, and connected to the above, that I'd seen a Smew in 2013, but that I had neglected to add it my year list due to a broken formula. Pfffff. Once repaired, this bumps me up to a massive 260 species. This isn't significant at all, but the previous total of 259 had also been my 2012 total (Yes, I checked all those formulas too.....), which means I saw more birds last year than the year before. Which means, dear reader, that I am on an upward trajectory! Yes! My year lists have been getting smaller year after year, as my desire to relentlessly chase down birds like Lapland Buntings has waned and basically died. Using the power of mathematics, I had predicted seeing 236.5 birds last year (the Semipalmated Plover was the half....), and when I got that wrong and ended up on exactly the same as last year, the best I could say was that at least it hadn't gone up. And now I can't even say that! The bird that broke the downward spiral was a Cirl Bunting in Devon. I should have closed my eyes.

Thirdly, and finally, I discovered that I hadn't seen an Osprey in 2013, nor a Goshawk. Neither did I see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, once a Wanstead stalwart - a sad story that. In fact who needs the BTO Atlas, all you need is my spreadsheet. Wholly absent were Willow Tit, ShorelarkWood Warbler, Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove. Somehow I went an entire year without seeing any of them. Perhaps I'm not looking hard enough, but I think we all know that's not why, and that's a real shame. And no Ruddy Duck either, it's as if somebody has been round and shot them all or something.

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