Tuesday 6 November 2018

A tale of two lists

Now that I have given up UK listing and year-listing (a brief flirtation, two or three years to get it out of my system) only a few lists now remain. I still have a passing interest in London, and a little bit of me still wants to see birds in Essex, but actually all I currently fussed about is Wanstead. The patch. I've now lived here for about 14 years, and I reckon I've been birding the place seriously for about nine of those.

How do I define seriously? Well, I have some statistics.....

I moved here in 2004. At that time a bird list was a completely unknown concept for me, and it wasn't until about 2008 that I started to record what I saw with any regularity. My earlist year list for the patch shows that I saw just 83 species, but back then that was an extremely pleasing result as the up until 2007 I had seen just 70 species ever. By the end of 2009 I had lifted this to 105, of which 102 were in that year alone. I was hooked. 

Gradually the year totals grew, as did my overall patch list. 2010 saw me record 108 species and boost my patch list to 120. A further seven in 2011 and five in both 2012 and 2013 put me on 137 with some great patch birds like Wryneck, Stone Curlew and Osprey. 2014 was a slower year with just two new birds added, but normal service was resumed in 2015 with a further five including a quite stunning Red-legged Partridge. 2016 added three more, including Ortolan Bunting and Great Grey Shrike - quality needs to be eked out. The great Hawfinch invasion of 2017 provided that year's only tick leaving me on 148, and 2018 as I am sure I have already said has been mind-bendingly good. 150 was swept aside with what amounts almost with disdain (actually I went weak at the knees, as related here)

This year is now the tenth in which I've seen over 100 and I once reached the dizzy heights of 118. It has been a slow and mostly steady climb, and a truly dedicated blogger would have made a graph. 

But there is another.....

In 2009, almost exactly two months after I started this blog I lost my job. I'd like to think the two are not connected. Whilst I didn't lose interest in Wanstead, indeed I birded it more than ever previously, I had the time to go further afield. Rainham Marshes. With children in tow I appeared at this riverside site quite frequently and gradually established myself with the local birders. Andy, Phil, Dave, Howard and others would kindly keep me updated and it was not at all unusual if I went several times a week, often on a twitch of sorts. In two years I went from 141 to 183, including such London gems as Montagu's Harrier, Snow Bunting, Merlin, Gannet and Eider. Those two years boosted my London list massively, but then along came the need to go back to work and everything slowed to a crawl once again. In the eight years since then I've added just 13. It does of course get progressively harder, but from the start of 2014 to the end of 2015 I added none at all! 

I know all this because I have kept records for Rainham in a similar fashion to my home patch. I won't bore you with them except to say that I am back in the game and a significant milestone that I really ought to have crossed many years ago is now in my sights. Last year I moved quite quickly for Quail, Black-winged Stilt and a Common Crane, and this year Marsh Sandpiper and Rough-legged Buzzard were snaffled at short notice. This leaves me on 196. I know what you are thinking.


I agree, and that is why last Sunday morning shortly after first light I was on the sea wall at Rainham listening out for Siskin. Whilst I may have seen close to 200 species at the site, there are a few embarrassing blanks on my list. Others are Firecrest, Bullfinch and RavenThere are enough seasonal possibilities that could occur and indeed regularly do occur that I decided now would be a good time to really put a bit of effort in, spend a bit more time there.

But of course this comes with risks.....

I expect you can see where I am going with this.

Yes, whilst I was on the river wall at Rainham straining my ears for non-existent Siskin, Nick was happily inking in a pair of Cattle Egrets flying over Wanstead Flats, the first for donkeys years. My first genuine non-twitching attempt to add birds to this other patch list and not only do I draw a complete blank but I miss a mega back on home turf. There is probably a lesson here. 

Next weekend I'm going to Florida.


  1. I keep a year list just so I can remember what I have seen - it's an age thing! Patch list is just depressing! Mini-lists are good though!

  2. My turn for the turn up and jam