Saturday, 31 October 2015

Birdwatching and lists

I’ve got am embarrassing confession. Don’t worry, this time it’s nothing to do with my internet search history (though for the record ‘Great Tits’ I think I can explain, but ‘Bearded Tits’ might be more of a challenge). No my confession is this. I’m a birdwatcher, but I don’t keep any lists. Well apart from shopping lists that is, which don’t really count, as you can’t buy a Dartford Warbler in a supermarket (which is a shame – coz it would be a tick for me). Most birdwatchers of course, keep lots of lists. Indeed some seem more proud of how many lists they keep, than how many birds they’ve seen. They have their British list, annual list, local patch list, holiday list, list of birds seen whilst ordering beige curtain material, list of birds seen whilst wearing blue frilly underwear (and another for when the bird was wearing the underwear) and so on.  

Now I did used to keep lists. When I started birding (I would have been around 11 years old). I had two lists. Birds seen in the wild, and birds seen in captivity. You won’t be surprised to learn that the latter was considerably longer than the former. In my defence, it was good for a beginner birdwatcher. When I started, if I made a list of birds I could successfully identify, if would probably have been shorter than the list of birds I’ve eaten (I should emphasise that this was because I wasn’t very good at identifying birds – not because I ate lots of them). So it was good to be able to pop over to Birdworld in Surrey, read the names by the cages and get lots of ‘ticks’, which was satisfying (I like the idea of a captive bird ‘bird race’ with teams racing between British zoos and private aviaries). It also meant I got Hyacinth Macaw and Ostridge on my ‘British’ list – not something a lot of birders can claim (trickery has its perks). So why don’t I keep lists any more? Of course it’s partly due to laziness, and partly to embarrassment. Coz my British list wouldn’t be very long (and because I suspect someone might ask me to remove Ostridge from it).

However I did see my first Pintail the other day, or at least my first Pintail since I restarted birdwatching a few months ago. Now I don’t expect you to be impressed – if you want to switch across to something more exciting, the Dulux colour chart perhaps, I won’t blame you. But I was excited. Since I restarted birding Pintail has been a minor bogy bird, something which I should have seen, but kept missing. I expected that when I eventually did see one it would be a drab female bobbing about in the distance, just about identifiable with my binoculars. Instead there was a group, both male and female, feet away from the hide window – if I’d wanted to charge out to tear off a feather (and I won’t pretend I wasn’t tempted) I probably could have done. They wouldn’t have been any more conspicuous if they were performing the Macarena – and I would have been only marginally more impressed. I will get round to starting a list eventually, but I’d like to have rather more than Pintail to put on it (stick around to find out if I do).