Sunday, 23 January 2011

On why I'm not year listing this year

This year marks my second in the world of birding. This blog was born on the 12/01/2009 and once again I've completely missed its birthday.

And for both of those years I've kept a list of things I saw in that space of time. I've never experienced birding without the year list. In one sense it's a positive force - I'm making sure I get out and nail those Fieldfares in January - but it's only so I'm not left chasing them in December. Shouldn't I be getting out and seeing Fieldfares because Fieldfares are awesome?

Today I went out for a walk round Harrow Lodge Park, my local patch, with the fiancée. We fed the ducks and then we walked back along the stream along the edge of the park because we wanted to see some Grey Wagtails. Not because I hadn't seen them yet this year (which I hadn't, but shhh), but because Grey Wagtails cheer us up. So do Pied Wagtails, for all that they're common as dirt. And family flocks of Long Tailed Tits. It's a concept that's been swirling round my head for a couple of weeks now, but it needed the simple pleasure of today's walk combined with a bit of reflection on a recent post by a widely read blogger to form it into a coherent thought.

This year I'm not going to year list.

I'll keep the life list ticking over, but I'm not going to count the year up because I've got a feeling that, somewhere along the way, I missed the point of the hobby and started collecting Pokemon instead of watching birds. It's a strangely liberating feeling, and suddenly Blackbirds are fun again even in mid-January.

And for those who are still reading, now I've got that off my chest, there was a very suspicious looking Greylag durng that trip to Harrow Lodge today. It was on the main lake and had a big white patch above its bill. I didn't have the camera so have no photo evidence, but if you're in that neck of the woods during daylight hours and you know your White Fronted Goose from any other medium sized brown wildfowl, give it a sneaky glance. I'll be taking the ID guide next time I'm over there.

Sunday, 16 January 2011








Location of Waxwings: Sainsbury's car park, Hornchurch.
Number of Waxwings: c50
Number of birders on scene: c20
Number of people in Sainsbury's car park saying to me 'What are those birds?': c7 (and cheerfully educated 10 seconds later)
Number of people in Sainsbury's car park saying to me 'Are those Starlings?1!!1?': 1 (I mean, really?)

I think I have a new favourite bird.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

First dip of 2011 - and no it wasn't that stupid gull

Seems anybody who is anybody is either blogging about seeing a stupid white headed gull or linking to the Punkbirder article on why you shouldn't bother going to look at the stupid white headed gull. I will be doing the latter. Now let's say no more about it.

Instead I spent this morning catching up on some odd jobs I've been putting off for ages, like reworking the photo gallery on a website I maintain for my choir. This is because I would rather sit indoors all morning drinking tea and repeatedly hitting 'ctrl+c' 'ctrl+v' than spend the ungodly hours of dawn standing next to a rubbish tip in a freezing wind. But we're saying no more about that.

This afternoon my utter sloth was rewarded with an excited call from Parus, who'd found a flock of Waxwings in Sainsbury's car park 10 minutes walk from me. I grabbed the camera and rushed down there but all to no avail, that ten minutes was long enough for them to scarper without a trace.

So I'm still a member of the #notseenawaxwingclub club, but I'm getting closer. And as I've said before, if you're going to dip do it five minutes from home. That way you just get the crushing disappointment of not seeing the bird, rather than the crushing disappointment of not seeing the bird AND the frustration of having needlessly wasted a tenner's worth of petrol on a round tip trip to wherever AND the keening despair of having to drive all the way back home through the mass of weekend drivers in Rainham whichever location you've driven to. It's not like they're a first for Britain or anything.

On the other hand, if I hadn't gone to Hornchurch, and if I hadn't been forced to mooch about in the local area looking for the disappeared Waxwing flock, I'd have missed out on this amazing natural encounter round the back of the Queen's theatre. I wonder if it will breed successfully given the high volume of pedestrian traffic and the utter lack of brine shrimp?

Isn't this better than gulls?

I shall monitor its progress with interest in the name of ornithology. Maybe I could get a grant?