Thursday, 11 June 2020
So why carry on?
I first committed my birding observations to a notebook back in the summer of 1974. They were no more than a short list of the birds that I had seen in the garden, carefully scribed in biro, my handwriting as neat as I could manage. By the start of 1975 the notebook had grown in size and was joined by a 'page per day' diary, on which a narrative appeared. This model stayed in place until 1980, when the diaries were dropped and the notebook entries took on the form of lengthy essays, full of flowery writing, bird descriptions, expressions of emotion and what I considered to be noteworthy observations. The notebooks - all smart, hard-backed affairs - remained until 2000, when handwritten accounts gave way to the computer and the printed page. What new technology also allowed was photographs to be inserted into my prose, and these pages became colourful and vibrant reminders of my time in the field, and were held together in a giant ring-binder. It was not until 2013 that I reverted back to the handwritten ways of old, in an attempt to get a bit of an organic feeling back into the process. Since then I've bumped along writing up my nature notes with a tiredness and a lack of enthusiasm that I am now questioning. The writing abridged, messy at times, a bit of a chore.
So why carry on doing it?
Before anybody thinks that my 46 years worth of unbroken note taking is about to cease, that is not going to happen. I am just assessing how I go about it, and ways in which I can get some sort of feeling back into the process. Writing a blog does take away some of the freshness of the notebook, as posting on here often negates the need to express myself fully on paper. In fact, after the Hawfinch irruption of 2017-18, my notebook was just a list of counts whereas the blog posts were full of living, excitable memories. I have printed these posts out and they stand alone as a 'publication' - you can find it to download under the 'Hawfinch corner' tab above if you wish. My notebooks have acted as a warm and friendly place to go, to bathe in the past, to relive great days as much as to be able to look up counts and dates. These last seven years has seen a gradual chipping away at that resource - the blog serves that purpose far more than the notebook does. I barely look at the recent ones.
I do keep my records in other places. They appear as lists for locations, highest counts, earliest and latest dates, etc. If the notebooks ceased to be, the information would still survive in these places, plus the more notable of them uploaded onto BirdTrack and Trektellen. But the notebook is a personal connection to what I have seen, not cold data uploaded onto a website. A notebook calls for thought, choice of words, care.
I have no answers at the moment, although I do need to address this situation. I have even considered buying an expensive, large leather-bound book (not unlike an illuminated bible of old), to transfer and write up all of the best days that I have experienced so far, a way of committing these glorious experiences to a special place away from the eroding memory banks. In the meantime I will carry on lethargically jotting down a few brief counts underneath the date line and weather details until I come up with a solution.