Clubs, societies and a mountain of paper

I have been a member of, or subscribed to:

RSPB, BTO, London Natural History Society, Surrey Bird Club, Kent Ornithological Society, Sussex Ornithological Society, Friend of Dungeness Bird Observatory, Beddington Farm Bird Group, British Birds, Birding World, Plantlife, Botanical Society of the British Isles, Wild Flower Society, Surrey Botanical Society, Atropos, British Wildlife

Over the years, this little lot has seen me become the owner of a mountain of literature in the form of bird reports, bulletins, newsletters and the like. In fact so much so that, had I kept it all, I would most probably have needed to build an extension to my house. That admission, that I haven't kept it all, begs the question - what have I kept and what have I ditched?

My membership of the BTO lapsed soon after I gave up my 'A' class ringing permit in 1983. Although I have purchased such magnificent publications such as the BTO Migration Atlas (and have ordered the new atlas), all my other bumph, including many copies of the BTO News, have been dumped. The Surrey Bird Club has seen me join and leave on too many times to keep a count of. I live in Surrey, love the countryside within it but cannot take seriously it being an ornithological unit worthy of such effort. My loss, I know.

I used to bird a lot in Kent and Sussex but when such activity lessened I did not feel compelled to carry on patronising the county bird societies. I have dumped my annual reports from both. Friends of Dungeness holds a special place in my heart. I was a founder member when it was launched (in 1979 if memory serves me correct) and I have an almost unbroken run of annual reports from 1957, although I am missing 1967 and 1968. (If you have spare copies let me know! Top dollar prices negotiable!) I have kept these and dumped the newsletters. I am still a member.

British Birds and Birding World were must have reads. Were. I gave up British Birds when I could no longer be arsed to pretend that I was interested in most of the articles that appeared in its pages. I used to turn straight to the 'Recent reports' column that was, by the time of reading, at least a couple of months out of date. Papers on the breeding behaviour of Dunnocks was always then a second-best. My divorce from Birding World happened when I was sick and tired with reading papers on the identification of small geese, redpolls and gulls. Once or twice a year I could put up with such stuff, but when it became a monthy staple diet I had had enough. ALL of my BBs were binned (apart from issues in which I had contributed notes) and I gave ALL of my Birding Worlds away for free. I know that the owner of these has since dumped them as well.

All of my botanical memberships have lapsed apart from The Wild Flower Society and I don't really know why I carry on with that. ALL of my collected literature has been parted with.

So, what's left?

I still belong to the RSPB and think it important to do so. I normally throw the magazine away without looking at it. The LNHS still has my membership, but again I do not hang onto the bulletins or copies of The London Naturalist. I do, however, keep the London Bird Reports and I have an unbroken run of them going back to 1974. My subscriptions to Atropos and British Wildlife are still active. I look forward to both publications with the sort of excitement that I used to greet BB and Birding World with. I have been with Atropos since issue one and have kept them all. I read British Wildlife from cover to cover but then release them. If you know a good home that they could go to, let me know.

Have I ever regretted dumping any of this lot? No, never. My only emotional attachment is to a single item - the 1957 DBO report, the first one published. I once dropped it in the bath, but it survived. I used to imagine, back when I was a young keen birder, that I would own a glass-fronted bookcase in my middle-to-late age, stuffed with all of my collected bird reports and BBs. I would be sitting in front of a fire on winter evenings and spend hours reading through them.

The past rarely predicts the future correctly.


Stewart said…
Ooh dear Steve... I have not been a serial 'joiner' of societies etc. Birding World yes, but stopped when gulls sickened me every month. I am a member of Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club and have every annual report ever made ( since 1969), indeed I have illustrated pages or covers since mid 90's. I get Atropos and British Wildlife an dlook forward to both.

Books have seen my biggest change. I dont by many 'guides' now but do buy books with a good reda like 'Dom Couzens Patch Made in Heaven or Moss Taylors Guardian Spirit of the East Bank. I like book with some nostalgia and tales that inspire...

Nice post by the way.
Steve Gale said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Gale said…
You're right there Stewart, books that 'cherish and inspire' are the ones to keep on buying.
Paul Trodd said…
Funnily enough Steve I`ve just gone through a similar process, must be an age thing. Have finally off loaded all my BBs (some going back to 1970) and Birding Worlds to a dealer (in books, not drugs) staying at the Obs, while Dave took all the smart buckskin bound `uns. All me old bird reports from up country have gone and many wildlife books too, donated to to the RSPB for re-sale. I`ve found it very cathartic and now have loads of extra space on the bookshelves, but like you some of me old favs I`ve retained. Cheers, Paul.
ps: by the way you were a very naughty boy for posting your top 50 tracks recently, as Mrs PT has been driving me crazy with hers, and I keep meaning to put mine down, but `just` 50, v difficult...
Steve Gale said…
Trouble is Paul, all of that empty bookshelf space now needs filling...

As for the Top 50 tracks, it really is a fool's errand to compile one as it changes from hour to hour, let alone day by day!
Having such a broad interest, I think I suffer from an overload of literature that falls on my doorstep and a few of these magazines feel like a chore to get through. A few I do not even browse such as the RSPB magazine you mentioned which goes straight on the coffee table for any takers. Come winter, I often have a 'pile' to wade through.

I have often wished they would deliver electronic formats by email that I can file away in a folder and forget about. Some years down the line, someone might mention something interesting or refer to one of these and I could pull it up and search for the article or so.

Might save a berry laden Rowan tree or two for the Blackbirds.
One more thing, here's a tip.

When you are about to embark on a bus journey (or any public transport), look in the 'boring' magazines and rip out the articles of interest to read on said journey. At the end of the journey, you can thrown these in the bin and carry on light.
Steve Gale said…
Andrew, the only thing that I have parted with that I have since regretted is an issue of British Wildlife in which there was an identification feature on longhorn beetles. Still, the net can usually come up with the info that I need.
I could scan a copy of that article for you if you wish.

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