Sunday 20 December 2015

Kicking off my yearlist

It's nearly the winter solstice, so it's high time that I started thinking about my year list. Back in the summer I erroneouly reported that I was on 198. That turned out to be rooky spreadsheet error, and once sorted showed I was in fact closer to 140. I resolved that very day to start making an effort, and four months later I am on 183 with the Woodcock from yesterday. This is so unbelievably pathetic I can't begin to explain. Then again perhaps it proves I am growing up and no longer feel the need to charge around the place in search of what most normal people would call the completely pointless. That said, there should be a happy medium. Whilst there's no need to hit 300 every year, as I did two years on the trot back in 2009 and 2010, the fact I appear not to have seen Kittiwake, Guillemot or Puffin this year indicates I'm simply missing out on some basic birding experiences that are simply fabulous. How can I not have visited a UK seabird colony this summer? Raven, Merlin and Red Grouse are all missing, have I not visited the uplands this year? What about Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Goosander? Pintail....

None in 2015. How bad is that?
These birds are but a fraction of a long and inglorious list that screams out that I've not done enough normal birding, not spent enough time in the varied habitats that this country is famous for. And that's a shame and something to contemplate with the New Year just around the corner. That's still ten days away though, and it would be relatively straightforward to get 17 species for a more respectable 200. But it wouldn't redress the balance, it would just be a whirlwind listing exercise so I'm not going to do it. I will let the sub-par score stand to remind me that I didn't do enough proper birding in 2015.

But that's just nationally. On the patch a mixture of luck and periodic dedication has seen me reach my second highest total ever. I've got one hand on the famed Golden Mallard and have had a remarkably good year with loads of good birds seen locally. I might moan a bit, but we really punch above our weight in Wanstead, with birds that would make many people envious turning up with clockwork regularity. If you spend a moment to look a Firecrest you realise it's a jewel, the likes of which are rarely seen, and stand right up there with some of the American wood warblers. The same goes for the Redstarts and spring Whinchats, utterly splendid. And don't get me started on Wheatears

And of course I've been fortunate to continue to travel fairly widely, which along with a little bit of apathy no doubt explains the paucity of my UK yearlist, which by the way in life terms increased by only nine this year - my first descent into single figures and probably a sign of things to come. Birding abroad is what really does it for me at the moment. That moment when I walked round a tree and came face to face with a Varied Thrush was one of the best birding moments I can remember. Swakane Canyon, filled with Bullock's Orioles and Lazuli Buntings an absolute delight. The UAE was superb, and as for the Gulf Coast beaches in Florida, well they were a photographer's dream.

So, 2016, what's the plan? Well more of the same I think, variety is what I need to sustain myself, albeit with more of what the UK has to offer. 2015 was the first year I've not been to Shetland for instance - it's already booked for next autumn. But where will I spend the first of January? On the patch? Out on the Essex marshes? The fishing boats at Dungeness? (joke...) Scotland? I have not yet decided. But I am going to see a lot more.

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