Tuesday 22 September 2015

The spectre of county listing

My good London twitching buddy recently moved to far flung Essex, which is not very convenient for picking me up and driving me to rare birds. We’ll have to see how that plays out and whether my UK list now stalls as I simply can’t be bothered with long solo drives. Worse than this though is that his move has started me thinking about listing again.

Everyone enjoys a bit of friendly competition, and whilst I am precisely nowhere near filthy enough to bother the scores on the national front I was comfortably ahead in the London game, mainly due to working a local patch and pursuing a London year list in 2010, which saw me get all sorts of things I probably wouldn’t normally have moved for. With Bradders now having moved away, I think I can probably claim victory in London, however a new problem has arisen – Essex. I have always maintained an Essex list as I live in Essex. Fair enough, no? I don’t, for instance, maintain a Suffolk list as I don’t live there. That said I have a Norfolk list, but only because I need to know what it is versus my Essex list in the vain hope that I can keep Essex higher. I can’t as it happens, and though it’s close I suspect Norfolk will pull away as my son now goes to school there and the various pick-ups we’ll need to do will result in some incidental birding. But back to Bradders and Essex. As soon as he had the keys to his new house he unpacked his computer and notebooks, fired up Bubo (an online self-help website for people suffering from OCD), and totted up his Essex list. He was appalled to find that he was one species behind me, and resolved to immediately start Essex listing. Then he went back outside and let Mrs Bradders and Bradders jnr. out of the car so they could see the new house too.

So, one behind, he on 261, I on 262. Annoying for him perhaps, but even more annoying for me. I had actually managed to get over Essex listing, or indeed any kind of listing. This is just not helpful. I’d not had an Essex or a London tick, or even been bothered about getting one, since 2014. I thought vaguely about Lee D’s Staines Barred Warbler, thought about the M25, and went and did something else. My last Norfolk tick was also in 2014, and I'm not sure I've been birding there even once this year! Anyhow, in a quiet moment I did the old compare and contrast thing, working out each others gaps, and we each have some tasty blockers. Most of mine come from London and on balance I think he has the easier task, but good luck with that Baird’s Sandpiper!

To cut a long story short, we both got Grey Partridge with consummate ease at the weekend, and then on Monday afternoon news broke of a Wilson’s Phalarope at Vange Marsh. Good news soon filtered through that Bradders was stuck at work, but I however played a cheeky “3pm” card, a work concept whereby once a month I can get an early leave in recognition of the otherwise rather unfriendly hours I put in – I’d like to point out to all managers or indeed team members reading that this is only the third one this year and that September is the ninth month. Essex listing aside, my notes on the only previous Wilson’s Phalarope that I saw have those dreaded three letters – bvd. It was down at Stodmarsh in Kent five years ago, and the bird was feeding on a hidden pool. Every now and again a Marsh Harrier would cruise over, and the entire avian contents of the pool would collectively crap themselves, lift up into the air, swirl around for a bit, and then dive back into the pool and resume hiding from me. Although I clearly saw the bird it was a little bit underwhelming. Naturally I ticked it immediately, but having extremely high listing standards noted I’d like better views.

So in filthy weather I caught the train out to Pitsea from work and walked from the station. This cost me £9.70 as it was outside the Oyster zone, and a judicious umbrella was £18. Optical aids were already in my pocket, else this would have been an absurdly expensive tick. To cut a long story short I got rather wet and muddy but the views of this one were a lot better, and bvd is no longer an issue. Sadly it was still there this evening, so we shall see whether a certain Essex listing fiend toddles off there at some point….

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying reading these posts - great blog - I'm going to link from mine
    Cheers Phil