Sunday, 22 May 2011

List OR Not To List?

This is the question? Well I suppose its a question for a few of us who actually keep lists of birds, insects, etc.

For the first 4 or so years of birding I didn't really keep a list as such, I knew what I had seen and what I hadn't seen and therefore never thought about keeping a list. When I first got into birding it would be very rare if I got any further than Rainton Meadows DWT. The reserve had served me well, on one occasion I remember my RSPB bird book showing me a map for Brambling distribution in the UK. The map showed that Brambling wintered where I lived in Durham and therefore off I went to Rainton Meadows DWT for a walk around Joe's Pond. I saw about 20 or 30 birds along a walkway; I know now that it must have been a good Brambling winter as I don't see many birds down Rainton Meadows most winters. Other than the Bramblings I can't really remember having anything else of great note apart from a self found Greenshank that practically made my day; though I did think I had found a Lesser Yellowlegs at the time!

However I joined Durham Bird Club in the year 2008 and a wealth of information was opened up to me and I also met many like minded individuals who lives fairly close to home. This wealth of information helped me to spread my wings and I started birding at different places and places further afield. It wasn't soon until I became hooked due to the fact I was seeing new birds I had never seen before. Therefore I started to keep a list.

I have kept lists for about 2 years now and I have a few;
- British Life List
- World Life List
- British Year List
- Durham List
- Durham Year List

The latter 2 being fairly new lists I have started within the past few months. But why keep lists? For me personally it helps with my interest. I like to count how many species of birds I see myself over my life or in the case of a year list over a short period of time. Its interesting to see how as I got more interested and saw more birds my list grew at quite an extortionate rate. Back in 2008 my British List was about 148 and now its 292 which means it has nearly doubled over a period of 3 years. I hope by the end of 2011 I shall have reached my target of seeing 300 species of bird in the UK. The next milestone should follow after about 10 years I reckon.

But does keeping a list retract from the enjoyment of the birds? In some ways I think certainly yes. I think you spend so much time whizzing around looking for birds to add to a list that you don't stop to enjoy the birds as much as you should. I am sometimes guilty of this but can I ask who isn't? New Years day......wife/family wants you home for something and you whiz around somewhere local hoping to pick up a couple of year ticks before the day is out. Sound familiar? But keeping a list is fun; lets face it we all enjoy having a cheeky word with your mates asking what their lists are on and having a bit of a joke if you have more than them.

But does keeping a list mean that you are only interested in lists and not birds? Absolutely not! For some people it might be the case where they are only in the hobby because they want a bird to "tick of a list" and don't care if they see the right bird but just want one up on their mates or to claim they have the biggest list in the land. For me I keep a list as its for me; its a personal record of what I have seen. I don't care who's list is bigger or how many more birds they have seen than me. I am interested in the birds not the ticks! I take delight in seeing a new bird as believe it or not; I want to go and see and enjoy the bird.

Can listing make a bird special? In some cases certainly yes. If your a local patcher and keep a local patch list sometimes the most common of birds are the ones that could get pulses really going. A Little Stint at an inland site would be an excellent bird to tick of the local patch list compared to seeing the bird on coastal mudflats. More importantly the bird is likely to be much more admired because of its location on your local patch rather than somewhere you would normally expect to see Little Stint.

So is listing bad; No.
Does listing take away from the enjoyment of birds sometimes; probably.
Will I continue to keep a list; yes.
Do I care more about my list or enjoying the birds; enjoying the birds.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

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