Monday 11 May 2020

Comparison and slippage

In the 50 days since lockdown took hold I've made 13 visits to Wanstead Flats/Park. That's roughly what I thought at about two per week, but some thorough analytics suggest that in common with the rest of the country I am actually slipping. The first half of the lockdown period saw me make just three of those 13 visits. All of the rest of them have been in the second half, six have been in the last fortnight, with three in the last four days. I'm clearly not as well behaved as I thought I was. It is difficult to compare this with what anybody else has done of course, but I know of some people for whom the shelter in place order has changed absolutely nothing about their birding routine, for some within the spirit of the guidelines and for others most definitely outside of them! And equally I know of some people whose normal birding lives have simply ceased to exist. My best comparison is probably my actions in previous years, so I thought I would go and have a look at that.

Well well well. In 2019 during the same period I made 12 patch visits. One fewer than over lockdown! How is that possible you may ask, and I wondered the same thing. And then I realised....during the same period in 2019 I was actually away for nearly a quarter of the time - a family holiday to Cyprus and then an amazing birding expedition to the Texas coast. It is a similar story in 2018 and 2017, so even trying to compare myself to myself is a futile exercise. So what do the numbers say?

I cannot be bothered to try and work out how many species I saw locally in a specific period in prior years. I like lists as much as the next person but that is simply a level of detail too many. It would be simpler to see how many species I have seen locally to date. This year it is 96, the latest being a Common Sandpiper at the weekend. I was actually quite surprised it was as many as that, but I suppose I have twitched a number of local migrants like Ring Ouzel and Redstart and so on. So how does that compare to prior years up to May 11th?

2019: 92
2018: 96
2017: 98

So I have seen four more birds locally this year than last year, the same number as in 2018, and two fewer than in 2017. Would you call that par? I think I would. Which makes sense when you think about it. The garden has contributed perhaps two unexpected species, Common Scoter as extensively discussed, and then Raven which I could not have seen from ground level out on the patch. I also recorded Whimbrel but subsequently saw some as well on the Flats, and you would have to say that the Short-eared Owl I got from the balcony I would also have got from the patch. So whilst I may have submitted 39 garden lists in 2020 (vs zero in 2019) their actual impact has been fairly limited. Exciting from a specific location point of view but largely exactly the same species as any visit to the patch would net me. 

So what happens next? Will my self control go completely to pieces and I'll hit the patch daily from now on, or will I sort it out and continue to be pretty sensible? Well luckily for all concerned June is nearly upon us, and whether in a state of lockdown (or whatever the latest Government proclamation actually means) or complete normality I know for a fact that my patch visits die a death in June. And indeed the entire summer. In 2019 I made one visit to the patch between June and mid-August! One! Now that's what I call social distancing!

Moonpig, c4.50am 


  1. Jono, my objections to how the Controller/Dictator of the London Birders Wiki site, about how he published in writing a version of the exercise/lockdown rules that suited his own purpose. Got me barred from making contributions for a week.
    Isn't that the way of social media. Just block the alternative view. A derivative of the Echo chamber.

    1. I didn't see that Ric, gave up on the wiki a long time ago, but it would not surprise me. Is birding a particularly selfish pursuit? Or is this simply the only thing I really pay attention to and it is like this everywhere - ie if I went to read an archery or jogging website I'd find similar stuff?

    2. Definitely everywhere. Witness the appallingly vitriolic social media discussions on community groups about pretty much anything to do with human behaviour during the pandemic. I'm sure North London mirrors the rest of the country. There's lots of material out therefore for talented satirists to exploit when life starts to return to a semblance of normality.

      That London Birders Wiki site is a funny one. I got in trouble a couple of years back for mentioning that over a month earlier a pair of hobbies had successfully bred in the borough of Haringey (something already reported in the local news in my part of London). Apparently that isn't acceptable but giving street by street details of singing and breeding Black Redstarts in the City is. Oh well.


    3. I'm disgusted at some of the behaviour that I've heard of from members of the birding community. Trouble is I end up sounding like a sanctimonious git if I mention it. I've decided I don't care though.

  2. Jono, it is.

    I'm a runner/cyclist/birder/angler and have been inclined on occasions to post comments on forums. Seems some filter is at work, especially on threads that last months or years.

    I post on a Runners World Thread called Moraghans Training. It isn't all about running. From me it's had everything including birds.

    Well, I was blocked from that one last week. All it takes is an alternative view, or worse, not agreeing with the other posters reasons for being there which seems to be a 'validation of self'.

    I just got fed up of the general ignorance. My crime was to reveal as much.

    1. The danger of echo chambers. That said, this blog and others ones that I read could be said to be that also.