I dallied with twitching earlier this year, driving around the M25 in the hope of a Broad-billed Sandpiper in Wales, I didn't materialise and so I drove back home again. That is literally my only flirtation with attempting to up my British list. There have been good bird everywhere - Cornwall, Shetland, the Hebs, you name it, Monster birds all of them for the most part, and I've not succumbed. Too far, too much time needed that I do not have. Whether I've seen 400 birds or 450 makes little to no difference to my life, nor to anyone else's.
I don't actually know the exact number, but I do know that today whatever it is went up by two. Two! I can't remember the last time I had a two tick day - perhaps the Bruinnich's Guillemot followed by White-billed Diver in the SW a few years back, or, as eventually transpired, the Harlequin Duck and Small Canada Goose on North Uist. I'm a little shaky as to whether I did get to add Cackling Canada or not, and I'm travelling at the moment so do not have access to the spreadsheet of happiness that would tell me, but suffice it to say that two tick days are very rare indeed.
Today I didn't even need to move for one to occur, which in many ways is perfect. I was at my desk (less perfect) in Glasgow - well actually, somebody else's desk in Glasgow and I am just squatting - when my phone buzzed to say that a committee of illustrious decision makers had decided to add two birds to my list. The first was the Rainham Slaty-backed Gull which was probably about five years ago now. I remember this one well as, like it, I had just arrived in the UK from America. The thought of spending a day at Rainham with a thousand desperate skivers did not appeal and so I gave it a miss. A few weeks later I found myself on the A13 going somewhere else, Pitsea or somewhere lovely like that I think, and so popped in when I heard it was loafing on Wennington. It was indeed, and one of my children who was in tow got it too, possibly several of them. OK, so I don't remember it that well. Anyway, big gull thing, miles away across the marsh, took flight showing a massive trailing edge to the wing, easy. We carried on to Pitsea thinking thoughts of immense satisfaction, or something like that. Five years later and the august body has decided that it passes muster and so it goes onto the UK list. For me I'd imagine that it sits somewhere in the 380's, and so will yet again displace that critical 400th bird. With all these late decisions I've had several 400th birds now, and have of course had to celebrate all over again.
Today's second tick came from rather unexpected quarters, and being much more recent leaves 400 well alone, or at least that's what I am guessing for it was only a couple of years ago. A Chinese Pond Heron turned up in Kent about a mile away from where I'd seen both Green Heron and Night Heron, so why I went down to have a look at it I am not really able to say. Some people say it was quite difficult, and indeed it did take the better part of a morning, but after a few hours it flew over my head and landed in a tree. Delighted, I left immediately to do something else. Anything else. I think I went to Dunge actually, so that shows you how bad it was. It couldn't possibly be anything else other than plastic could it? Well apparently it now sits on the British list immediately after Squacco Heron, which it closely resembles, and thus has been declared as non-recyclable by the same people who have seen fit to welcome SBG. Although quite biodegradable apparently as its head appeared on someone's lawn a few days after I saw it.
To say I am surprised is rather an understatement, but given that this year was looking very much like it might be my first blank year for ages, I can't say I am disappointed with either of them. And both were, even at the time, relatively pain free, which is part of what dissuades me from twitching these days - distance, failure, irritation and so on. I don't like any of them so I don't bother, which is a relationship that works for everyone concerned. Happy days.