Wee­don’s World

Though it is not a com­pe­ti­tion at all, Mike has been tak­ing some metic­u­lous notes to see how his #My200birdyear is shap­ing up com­pared to pre­vi­ous years

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - MIKE WEE­DON’S

Find out how Mike’s #My200birdyear chal­lenge is tak­ing shape

HOW IS YOUR bird­watch­ing year go­ing? Has the BW #My200birdyear ‘cam­paign’ mo­ti­vated you to get out and do some more bird­ing? It has me, though I don’t need much en­cour­age­ment to get out there, to start with. It has so far been very in­ter­est­ing to see how peo­ple’s year lists de­velop at dif­fer­ent paces. Which, of course, is a big part of the idea. I got a tweet the other day from some­one ques­tion­ing my car­bon foot­print, what with me gal­li­vant­ing around to tick all and sundry. They also ques­tioned why ev­ery­thing has to be a com­pe­ti­tion. This came af­ter I re­ported an Ice­land Gull I’d seen. I pointed out that the gull was only a four-mile cy­cle from home and I tried to ex­plain that #My200birdyear is not sup­posed to be com­pet­i­tive, at all, but rather just mo­ti­va­tional, in­spi­ra­tional and en­cour­ag­ing. It is (as I like to phrase it) to en­cour­age peo­ple to put the ‘watch­ing’ back into bird­watch­ing; to nudge peo­ple away from TV and even mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles about birds, and to­wards en­joy­ing the real thing in the field. Or (as I also like to phrase it), to en­cour­age peo­ple to put the ‘bird’ back into bird­watch­ing… The whole process of #My200birdyear has put a slightly dif­fer­ent fo­cus on how I look at my year list build­ing. As you may be aware, I am an ha­bit­ual (prob­a­bly ad­dicted) lo­cal year lis­ter, keep­ing de­tailed spread­sheets of my bird­ing around Peter­bor­ough since 2003. And, for rea­sons which have been lost in the va­garies of time, since 2008 I have been record­ing how many birds I have seen around here be­fore the start of

April. I think the orig­i­nal idea was to com­pare lists to see if there was a cor­re­la­tion be­tween how I got on in the first three months com­pared to the whole of the year. (Not much cor­re­la­tion yet, but never mind... ). So, this year is the tenth I have recorded my ‘end of March’ to­tal for my lo­cal area. It is, as I write, 27 March, and this morn­ing I added Black­cap and Sand Martin to my year list. That takes me to a pro­vi­sional end of March count of 132 species. Of course, this is ut­terly mean­ing­less on its own. But thanks to those nine pre­vi­ous counts, I can see in­stantly, that it rep­re­sents my sec­ond best to­tal for the time of year (I got 134 in 2012). Fur­ther­more, those of you that have been read­ing this col­umn for a while may re­mem­ber that I like to sep­a­rate a ‘core’ of species I ex­pect to see every year from the ‘elites’, the rarer birds which re­quire a lit­tle ex­tra skill and/or luck. And, you guessed it, I have also recorded my end of March ‘elite’ to­tals since 2008. This year’s lo­cal year list so far con­tains 24 elites, which beats the pre­vi­ous best of 22, recorded in 2009 and 2012, which both ended with de­cent year to­tals. All in all, then, 2017 has had pretty de­cent start. But, so far, I have hardly men­tioned any birds! It is time to put the bird back into this col­umn. One of the fas­ci­nat­ing as­pects of lo­cal year list­ing is how one year can be so rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the last. Last year, I saw such lo­cal gold as Dart­ford War­bler and Black Red­start in the first three months. Not so, this year, but I have al­ready seen six species which I didn’t see at all dur­ing the whole of 2016: Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Glau­cous Gull, Kit­ti­wake, Mealy Red­poll, and Great Grey Shrike. All beau­ties, I am sure you will agree. Ad­di­tion­ally, I have al­ready had great eye­fuls of Rough-legged Buz­zard, Bean Geese, four Lit­tle Gulls (all early, ac­cord­ing to my records), Cattle Egret and at least two Great White Egrets, two Bit­terns and a pair of nest­ing Ravens and 20-plus Cranes (the lat­ter cou­ple of species are surely go­ing to have to be struck off my ‘elite’ list for be­ing too easy!). Over the last week­end, I added Gar­ganey (we do pretty well for these scarce ducks in this part of East Anglia), a brief, pass­ing Grey Plover, and Lit­tle Ringed Plover, a bird I al­ways ex­pect by the end of March, but one which has cer­tainly de­clined as a breed­ing species around here, as the lo­cal gravel pits ma­ture and their veg­e­ta­tion sta­bilises and smoth­ers the habi­tat for the plovers. I still haven’t heard (or seen) a Tawny Owl, or a Grey Par­tridge or a Bram­bling and, who knows, I may have seen a Swal­low or Wheatear or heard a Wil­low War­bler by the turn of the month, in a few days’ time. So, that just about cov­ers me, so far. As I was say­ing, how is your bird­watch­ing year go­ing? Mike is an ob­ses­sive patch lis­ter and keen wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher in his home city of Peter­bor­ough, where he lives with his wife, Jo, and chil­dren, Jas­mine and Ed­die. You can see his pho­tos at weed­world.blogspot.com

One of the fas­ci­nat­ing as­pects of lo­cal year list­ing is how one year can be so rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the last

PATCH GOLD This lo­cal Long-tailed Duck was one of the species Mike did not see at all dur­ing 2016

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