Is Staines Reservoir in the county of Surrey?
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
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 doesn't exist any more
Yes it does, what about the cricket team?
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.
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?
And Snow Bunting?
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?
* courtesy of Molesworth