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.......