Back in December of last year, fellow blogger Stewart Sexton, who resides on the Northumbrian coast, and myself, an inland downs stomper from Surrey, agreed to have a friendly 'local patch' competition throughout 2015 - that is, to see who could have the most successful birding year.
Our way of handicapping the superior coastal site (which would obviously yield more species), was for each of us to nominate a species target, based on previous years and expectations. After a bit of tooing and froing, I nominated a species total of 100. Stewart suggested that he could reach 140. I had initially believed that 90 was my target, but after much deliberation, and taking into account my projected time in the field, added a further 10. Bad move...
As we stand at the moment, I'm on 95 (95% of the target) and Stewart on 150 (107% of total). Regardless of me experiencing a massive change of fortune, the result is a forgone conclusion. It's like being 6-0 down in the FA Cup final with five minutes remaining. It isn't impossible for me to win, but you just know it will not happen.
So how did I fail? I spent plenty of time in the field. It was just that there was a mediocre Spring passage and a bloody awful Autumn one. Out of my list of 40 'realistic' additional species targets I recorded just 17 of them. There wasn't one moment of genuine surprise. It was a poor year, no getting away from it.
But this has not dampened my enthusiasm to take on Stewart once more. It was fun. It cannot be as poor down here again! So, if I take this year's total as my baseline (likely to be 95), a realistic adjustment will have been made. As to whether or not Stewart chooses 150 as his baseline, I don't know. This year may have excelled his expectations and he may feel it unlikely that he'll reach such a species total again next year. We will see.
2016 will see a rematch. Stewart has agreed to go for it again. He may well be confident of seeing me off once more. The chances are he will. My aim won't be so much to win, rather beat my baseline target. I'm already planning my campaign.