Foot It update

I've lost count of the number of birders wanting to take up the challenge of the January on foot year list, but there seems rather a few. In the next day or so I'll create a new blog specifically for the challenge. If entrants drop me an email I will add them to the blog where hopefully they can add their own targets and areas.

The full and final rules will appear on the new blog, once I have agreed them with Tom and Martin, which seems only fair as they were involved in the original throwing down of the gauntlet. One rule at this stage is that it is ON FOOT only i.e no driving to locations and doing a route around (the point is to see how many species you can record near your own home) and no walking to and jumping on a bus back.

This is the area that I intend to do, a 3.5 mile radius (though likely I will only be doing the blue-shaded area) from my house.

27th November. FOOT IT

One of the great things about Twitter as a birding source, is not only do you often find out about 'rare' before the major news outlets, you also get to keep in touch with birders worldwide.  Hearing about another birders success in the field can often spur you on to try just that little bit more, occasionally proving worthwhile.  I regularly keep in touch with Pugneys stalwart Jonathan Holliday @jonnybirder who's patch updates have regularly inspired me to keep on trying and hopefully on the few good days that I've had he's felt equally enthused.

During one such Twitter conversation with Martin @birdingfrontier I appear to have foolishly offered to challenge him to a January bird race, a bird race with a twist. The challenge was quickly taken up by several other Tweeters (hate that word) including Tom McKinney @tom_mckinney.  The challenge is to see as many species as possible in the month of January. Fairly straightforward except there is a twist. They have to be within walking distance of your house.

Now I am fairly lucky in that I live in a fairly bird rich area and could realistically bag about 80 species on foot in one month. However some unfortunate souls (like Tom and Martin) live in areas where the diversity is on the low side and the chances of them seeing such high numbers in a year, let-alone a month, is problematic to say the least.  So with that in mind it seems only fair to bring in a handicap system, though this relies on the individuals integrity (I'm sure some birders must have some).

Every birder has an idea of what species they are likely to see on any birding trip and none more so than a trip to their local area.

The handicap system will work like so; You calculate (as honestly as possible) a list of birds that you could realistically see in one month in a reasonable walking distance from your house.  In my case this is 80 species.  At the end of the month you take your final tally and compare it with your predicted list.  Working out the percentage of species you actually saw will give you your score e.g my predicted total was 80 my actual score is 78 therefore I scored 97.5%. Tom on the other hand predicts say 40 species (it really is crap around Glossop) and sees a total of 39 giving him an equal place of 97.5% . Martin on the other hand predicts 60 species (not including races, hybrids, or regional variations) and scores a wapping 63 -BOOM- giving him a winning score of - long pause whilst I get the calculator out.......105%.

There will of course be some kudos for the birder scoring the highest total, though implausible totals from the Little Chalfont area will be confined to the bin...

So I propose that the rest of the rules are:

1. Total number of species recorded on a journey on foot from home.

2. No plastic species i.e. dodgy ducks, parrots etc etc.

3. The extents of your area must be stated prior to starting your challenge.

4. Species seen from the house can be included.

5. There are no limits on how far you can walk, providing that you have allowed for the varying diversity in your target score.

6. All lists must be posted on BUBO under the subtitle 'JANUARY FOOT LIST CHALLENGE'

Why do it?

1. Don't know really, it seemed a good idea at the time!

2. If nothing else it will open your eyes to the wealth (or in Tom's case dearth) of bird life in your immediate  area.

3. Prizes Galore

4. Number 3 is a complete lie, there aren't any! Unless of course Martin wants to have a word with his friends at British Birds for perhaps a free subscription to the winner or one of those nice new Swarovski Scopes -mines getting a bit worn out now :-).

5. It gives us something to do in what is generally considered a crap month!

And remember this was found by a birder walking to post a letter in January 1989.......

14th November. Mad as a Hatter

I should have known better than to follow the antics of Lee Evans (not to be mistaken for the comedian Lee Evans, this one's far funnier) on Twitter, but I knew that sooner or later Lee would provide me with yet more blogging gold.
Aside from his comments, regarding the latest pop music scene (I shit you not), his regular birding updates often bring a chuckle. However last nights was a pure gem and the true work of a madman. For someone whose livelihood depends on birders, or arseholes as he states, that's one mighty big bite out of the hand that feeds!

2nd November. Love On The Rocks

With the apparent end of autumn and travelling to and from work in the dark, with absolutely no chance of any mid-week birding I'm suffering a bit with can't be arsed syndrome - certainly as far as blogging goes.  Lots of posts in my head, just too knackered to write them up in the evenings.  

In general it's been pretty quiet on the patch, though a few highlights have brightened things up.

The gull roost produced 3 Caspian Gulls last Saturday(27th) with a cracking 2nd winter bird quite possibly one of the nicest looking gulls I've seen - and I genuinely mean that...

Best viewed at 720p (HD)

The previous weekends gull roost produced a side show 3 Short-eared Owls hunting the southern plains, the first to stick around since the site officially opened.  Unfortunately UK Coal are currently cutting all the grass, though having spoken with them about the owls I'm hopeful that they'll leave a decent sized patch uncut.

A calling flyover Snow Bunting on the 28th was frustrating and came during a good movement of thrushes, pipits, skylarks and an obvious influx of Reed Buntings.  

A full six hours trudging around this morning produced nothing of note, apart from 2 SEO's flushed by the grass cutter.  On my way back for the bus I took a diversion past the boulder pile. A dog walker was coming away from the rocks so I wasn't hopeful of seeing anything in there, a chat flicked up and perched on the outermost rocks - and instantly made my six hours of nothingness vanish - it was only a bloody Black Redstart, not only that it was perched on the rocks that I anticipate seeing a Black Redstart on every time I walk past them. It instantly flew off and I spent the next hour trying to re-find it. Typically as I was again heading for the next bus I found it on another rock pile where it vanished again, quite possibly the most elusive Black Red' that I've ever seen. It reappeared on the original rocks but never gave itself for the camera. Yet another patch tick for me (one previous record from 2009) taking the self-found year list to 137  , with still a few 'easy' species to get140 or higher is certainly looking plausible.

As good as it got!!