The annual county bird report used to be one of the highlights of my life - the satisfying thud of a thickly padded-out envelope onto the doormat was the signal for hours of enjoyment. From the orderly narrative of the 'events of the year', to the even more orderly systematic list; the descriptions of the precious rarities to the one-off papers that could be about anything; earliest and latest dates for migrants and a round-up of the efforts of the county ringers plus their hard won recovery data - there was something for everyone. And, no doubt, there still is...
Part of the fun was seeing which of my records had been included in the systematic list and which of those had my initials against them (SWG). For a teenage birder this was priceless affirmation, and this only slightly lessened as the years went by. Sometimes I got credited for birds that I didn't find (bonus!) but then again would be raging if the opposite happened. One year saw my SWG replaced with GWG - I almost demanded the entire report be pulped and reprinted.
I used to get the following: London Bird Report, Surrey Bird Report, Kent Bird Report, Sussex Bird Report, Dungeness Bird Report and, at various times, other reports from the brief membership I may have had with other organisations. But now, I only get two of them, those from London and Dungeness. I gave up Kent and Sussex because I ceased to regularly visit these particular counties. Even though I live in Surrey, I've (unfairly) never taken the bird report seriously, mainly down to the feeling that it was a Beddington Bird Report with a few reservoir records cobbled on (that's not just unfair but increasingly inaccurate!) I didn't miss any of them. The rise of instant information via phone or computer has rendered the bird report to become 'old news' when it is published, although its importance as a 'publication of record' should not be forgotten - after all, what appears on twitter and web updates is largely unchecked. Because of this, the tardiness of some annual reports to appear isn't really a problem, and cannot be helped as long as they are produced by small teams of unpaid volunteers.
I saw a tweet this morning from a birder who was happy that his Sussex Bird Report had just been delivered. And then I recalled that, when a member of the SOS I used to get my copy just before Christmas too. It was unfailingly a good read. And then I realised that, for the first time, I was genuinely missing one of these annual reports. So, if you are soon to be in possession of one, cherish it, thank the volunteers who created it and don't get too annoyed if your initials don't appear where you expected them to.