The big sporting clash of 2015 has been declared. Forget Hamilton v Rosberg, Barca v Real, or Froch v Groves. Welcome to local patch listing at its competitive best. In the blue corner, representing inland Surrey, Steve 'Should know better' Gale. And in the red corner, from coastal Northumberland, Stewart 'Atropos' Sexton.
As both of us have declared a 'back to basics' approach to our birding for next year, born out of some mid-life revaluation of our ways, we have agreed to spice things up (and spur each other on) by adding a competitive edge to the proceedings. Quite simply, whoever increases their base-line target by the highest percentage, wins. I have a humble base-line of 110 while Stewart's is 146.
On a straight forward count Stewart would win hands down. He lives on the Northumbrian coast and has an enviable local patch, although freshwater is at a premium (but he does have bucket loads of seawater as some form of compensation!) He's even seen two Barred Warblers in his garden (that's just being greedy in my book). As some form of comeback I can boast of hundreds of Ring-necked Parakeets although I'm sure that he wouldn't want to swap...
My figure of 110 is based on... not a lot really. Having not tried such a modest year before I have taken the average year list from Canons Farm over the past three years (all observers) that just about scrapes past the 100 mark, and added on another 10 that might be found on the local ponds and heaths. 110 might prove to be a task in itself. If I get to 120 then I would have had a very good year indeed. I have seen that total in a day in Kent before now.
So, what I need now is for all of those 'scarce' passage migrants to put in an appearance - birds like Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler; plus the odd nice surprise. Should be fun.