Thursday, 31 October 2013

Where is Staines Reservoir?

Is Staines Reservoir in the county of Surrey?

NO!!!

It is you know, if you live in Staines your postal address is Surrey

But it's north of the River Thames, Surrey is south of the river, any fule kno that*

Ah, but in 1965 there was a shake-up of the administrative make-up of the county. Surrey lost the London Boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Richmond, and in the same process gained Spelthorne. Staines Reservoir is in Spelthorne.

Hold on a minute, I lived in Sutton between 1971 - 1997 and my postal address was Surrey

Er...

And my beef isn't with an administrative carving up of a county, but with it keeping an unchanging biological recording unit.

You mean the vice-county?

Yes, or Watsonian county if you like. These were set up in 1852 to create uniform units of land for the purposes of scientific data gathering. Many were based on the ancient county boundaries. Surrey was small enough to be one vice-county (VC17), but larger counties, such as neighbouring Kent and Sussex were divided into two (West and East).

So, where do you think Staines is then?

Middlesex

Middlesex doesn't exist any more

Yes it does, what about the cricket team?

Er...

And also the London Natural History Society still has a recorder for the Middlesex part of their recording area.

Look here, Middlesex was taken apart and shared out between Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Greater London in 1965. I've already told you that.

Why did the Birds of Surrey, published in 1971, not mention records from the Spelthorne area at all? Or subsequent annual bird reports?

Ah, but the recent Birds of Surrey, published fairly recently, did.

But only as an additional, stand alone paragraph at the end of each species account. It was treated very much like an uninvited guest at a party!

Yes, but it still got in, didn't it. And the Surrey Bird Club website always reports news from Staines on their latest bird news page.

OK, but please tell me this. If we have used the vice-county as a recording unit since 1852, shouldn't we maintain it so that all of the data gathered over the years is from the same unit? It makes no sense to suddenly add on an area because some governmental body started playing God with units of land.

But a lot of birders have seen a lot of good birds at Staines

What's that got to do with it?

Well, their Surrey lists are a lot longer because of it

Well doesn't this just illustrate the absurdity of listing?

Don't you have lists?

I do, but they are still arbitrary

What about the birds that you have seen at Staines Reservoir but not in Surrey?

What about them?

Well, what species do they include?

Baird's Sandpiper. Long-billed Dowitcher. Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Go on...

Wilson's Phalarope. Red-necked Phalarope. Little Tern. Sanderling.

That's not bad is it. Haven't you seen Long-tailed Duck there as well?

Yes.

And Snow Bunting?

Oh, yes...

I make that at least nine birds that you could have added to your Surrey list. So, I'll ask you again. Is Staines Reservoir in Surrey?

YES!!!!!

* courtesy of Molesworth

18 comments:

  1. As long as Capt Bob birds the causeway. As long as the wind chills the bone & the feet turn blue. A long as the Stanwell Massive intimidate all with their pitbulls, drugs and stolen shopping trolleys. As long as it isn't concreted over in the name of airport expansion, Staines remains a joyous refuge. Wherever it is.

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    1. Captain, that's bloody well put if you don't mind me saying so...

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  2. Well Steve; an entertaining and imformative standpoint . I gather from your pert reply to my original tweet and subsequent blogging in the small hours of the morning that this is a matter close to your heart. I’m guessing you are a true Surrey man; being of Kent origin my-self I think it fair to say that my take on this is based more on pragmatism than passion as far as listing is concerned.
    I am in agreement with you that , as you put it, “keeping an unchanging biological recording unit” is paramount over administrative changes to county boundaries. As I understand it, (on slightly shaky ground here),this has largely been maintained with the London area recorder dealing with all Middx bird records, while still keeping them distinct from London. While Surrey continues to record in line with its pre-1965 boudaries.
    Now back to listing. I would regard listing as a bit of fun. You refer to listing as absurd; I certainly would not want to argue against that!
    From my own standpoint when it comes to listing, I would place Staines Res ( KGVI and Wraysbury also) firmly in Surrey. Partly because they ARE in Surrey. If I look at an Ordnance Survey map the county boundaries show me that; there is no ambiguity geographically. More importantly however, I include this area because it suits me to do so, for the simple reason that I like to keep a list of the county in which I am living and to aid that, all bird information services treat Staines as Surrey as do most websites. In any case my personal county list impacts nobody else.
    One last point is one that I have no doubt you would sympathise with. Living in Staines I am fortunate to live so close to such an exciting birding patch as Staines Res and Staines Moor. I do like to list, so given the choice of expanding this to the Heathlands and the North Downs of Surrey as opposed to Middlesex.... Well what would you do?

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    1. Hi Dom. I am a bit of a so-and-so really, because I play Devil's Advocate and lob grenades into contentious areas and watch the result. Of course, it is up to the individual to adopt what they want. Whether another birder agrees, or disagrees, is OK for a discussion but should not alter their opinion or action. I'll stick by the Watsonian unit at the detriment to at least nine 'Surrey Staines' ticks. If the London Boroughs were removed from the Surrey listing area (as they should be if Spelthorne is added, my Surrey list would be decimated. My tweet remarks were not posted in malice or with any confrontation, just playing around with our birding thoughts and ways. Cheers, Steve.

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  3. no self-respecting Yorkshire birder would acknowledge any boundaries other than the traditional ones of the three ridings. "Humberside"!!?? FFS

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    1. Ay, and what happened to Humberside? Killed off once more if I'm not mistaken. Spurn back in East Yorkshire I believe! I'm a Watsonian man through and through.

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  4. I refer the Right Honourable birder to the blog post I delivered some moments ago

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    1. I have taken in what my learned friend posted in response and have, likewise, commented on the said blog...

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  5. It's a good 'un this topic, I must say. Makes a welcome change for me to write something more than I saw this, I dipped that. More grenades please...!

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    1. Be careful what you wish for Neil...

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  6. Leicestershire = Leicestershire including Rutland = Leicestershire and Rutland = VC55. I have a VC55 bird list, never bothered starting either a Leicestershire or Rutland list.

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    1. Skev, wasn't Rutland about the size of a large car park?

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  7. Interesting. I generally agree with you about using vice counties but in Hampshire virtually everyone uses the modern county even though this means losing Stanpit / Hengistbury to Dorset. Strange that there is such a willingness to give up some really good sites (and therefore such ticks as Northern Parula, Fan-tailed warbler, etc.)

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    1. It is strange how some county birders quickly adopted the new boundaries while others didn't. I'm very much a Watsonian supporter.

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  8. Middlesex have a cricket team?

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    1. As a supporter of Surrey CCC, I understand your questioning of that fact...

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  9. Steve, great stuff, right up my alley. I was born in Middlesex (Hillingdon) and as you rightly state that grand old county is no more, although the memory lingers on in various forms, most notably the COUNTY cricket team, but when I`m asked, "so, where were you born?", to be honest I`m a bit flummoxed now... As for Staines Res (what a dump) I spent many happy formative birding hours there and at nearby Perry (aka, Smelly) Oaks sewage farm back in the `60s & 70s, but it was a great place for waders; I`m sure I saw a Sharp-tailed Sand at Staines somewhere along the line... As for Watsonian vice-counties, in Bedfordshire botonists still use it for recording purposes, thanks to the late, great plant-man, John Dony, (it also means they nick back a bit of Herts. and Northants). It`s a funny old thing these county boundaries and listing; for 30 years I used to be a dedicated Bedfordshire county lister, but not any more, although I do find it amusing when I hear Kent listers `ignoring` good birds on the Sussex side of Scotney - fickle creatures us birders! Personally, I`ve adopted my own recording area down here, the Romney Marsh, which includes everything south of the RMCanal, so more of a regional thing really, but it does allow me to squeeze in Pett Level, Rye Harbour, all of the Ranges and bits of Hythe. It also means I`ve got no competitors, as nobody else is daft enough to have such a ridiculous recording area, clever, a? No, sad, but it keeps me going through these long winter nights... Cheers, Paul. ps: hurry up and find those Hawfinches as I need `em for a year tick..., or maybe a south-east England year tick, or was it a Surrey lifer, no, pretty sure I saw `em at Virginia Water in 1960 something, but hang on, is that still in Surrey, does it still exist, `tell you what, I`ll just enjoy the bird wherever it may be...

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    1. Blimey Paul, you could have cut and pasted your comment onto your blog and called it a post! Some interesting points there...

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