Friday, 30 March 2012


I like lists. No, I’ll rephrase that, I love lists. Lots of them reside in my notebooks, on my computer hard disks, inked onto printed pages. Most of them are bird-centric, such as life lists (for the World and every country that I’ve visited), county lists, lists for each month, record counts for each species, earliest and latest dates for migrants. I could go on – OK, I will – patch lists, birds seen in the hand, birds seen dead, birds seen copulating, birds seen defecating (the last two kept when I was a very strange teenager), birds seen on TV – I’ll stop now. I’ve yet to mention my lists for plants, moths, dragonflies, fungi... and, of course,  the ultimate list of lists, the pan-species list.

If you are shaking your head in pity at such juvenile behaviour, I understand. But there is one aspect of my listing that other listers just don’t understand. I don’t chase my lists. I am a compiler of them, a keeper and maintainer of them but I do not enjoy having to drop everything and chase after additions to them.

This week a Bittern turned up on one of my patches, Beddington Sewage Farm. It was the first one recorded there since 1966. I was at work when the first alert was put out. If I were a true lister I would have feigned a sudden illness and rushed over – I could have got there in half an hour. When I finished my working day I weighed up the situation. The bird was still there. I had a fifteen minute walk to my car and then would have to drive through rush hour traffic to arrive on site, sans optics and not dressed to bird. Even half a lister would have gone. I didn’t. I went home and sat in the garden with the family having an evening drink. Did I think about the Bittern during this time? Yes, I did a bit. Was I annoyed with myself for not going? Not at all.

Do you know what honestly meant more to me this week than seeing a local Bittern? It was recording three species of butterfly for the first time in March. (I have an earliest date list for butterfly species, plus a monthly one). They were, if you are interested, Orange-tip, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood. I wouldn’t swap one of them for the Bittern.

I know a lot of people who won’t understand that. But that is what makes me a keeper of lists and not a chaser of them. Sometimes I wonder if the turning of my back on such events as the Bittern is not some perverse demonstration against running with the crowd or behaving like an ornithological sheep.

1 comment:

Stewart said...

Get in there Steve. Thats the way to do it! My only keen lists are county and life. Even those are subject to, is it near enough to be worth the trouble. I have missed several Black Storks in Northumberland like that...