New beginnings

All those worthy new year’s resolutions fell at the very first hurdle this morning with me not being arsed to get out of bed until nearly midday. So a very half-hearted mooch around the isle to see what was there to be seen. As follows, in roughly chronological order:

Hooded Crow; Starling; Rock Dove; Gannet; Redshank; Curlew; Herring Gull; House Sparrow; Blackbird; Redwing; Mallard; Cormorant; Shag; Kittiwake; Common Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Twite; Goldeneye; Greylag Goose; Lapwing; Dunlin; Ringed Plover; Song Thrush; Turnstone; Golden Plover; Teal; Eider; Oystercatcher; Snipe.

A feeble total then of 29 species, almost certainly an all-time record low for the 1st of January, even by here’s low standards at this time of year. My apathy cost me the dead certs of Rock Pipit, Purple Sandpiper, Wren, Robin, Jackdaw and Raven, and the outside chance of Red Grouse. The big freeze (despite an overnight thaw) did for any hope of a Whooper Swan, and the complete lack of divers or Long-tailed Duck were down to the pretty choppy sea on the side of the isle I could do from the car. All in all, I am lazy and deserve what I got…

The house yearlist ended up on 105 species in 2009 – not a bad score on the whole I suppose, and a few new species added to the houselist as a whole – Dotterel, Long-eared Owl, Woodlark, and Pechora Pipit. (There may have been others, but am damned if I can remember them offhand without going to look in my notebook… and guess what? I can’t be arsed to do that for the blog either). The houselist as a whole stands on 149 species, so 2010 will surely be the year I get a landmark 150th species on the only list I keep with any sort of enthusiasm these days. I wonder what it’ll be?

There’s been a little discussion on other birding blogs of late about what direction various folks’ birding takes, and how one strikes a balance between patchworking and twitching. I’ve gone to an extreme I suppose – I’ve only twitched outside of Shetland twice in the past 6 years, for the Aberdeenshire Belted Kingfisher and the Orkney Sandhill Crane. I was asked by two keen local birders a year or two ago what my UK life list was, and they seemed a little surprised when I didn’t know a figure offhand – and I still couldn’t say now, though I know what I haven’t seen…

I did the house yearlist last year in a half-hearted comparison with what other Shetland birders were doing in the South Mainland, but it soon came to be precisely everything I now dislike about keeping a list – a certain pressure to try and achieve self-imposed targets, and a subtle shift away from what I enjoy most about birding – which is being outside, birding, for no reason other than wanting to be doing nothing else but. So… there won’t be a 2010 house yearlist – I’ve no desire whatsoever to see if 105 can be beaten or was exceptional. Am just not interested. All of which leads in a sort of logical way to the issue of blogging as well – after a surprising and rather disappointing exchange in recent months with one of Shetland’s local birders who’s been here a lot longer than I have on the subject of keeping a blog, I’ve been giving it a bit of thought. Why keep a birding blog? What does it actually achieve in the grand scheme of things? Answers on a postcard… This blog has hardly proved to be a showcase for excellent photos, drawings or prose, so… don’t be too surprised if Bitter Bonxie updates become a lot less frequent from here on.

It was fun at the time, and I hope you enjoyed it. I’m going to carry on birding and quietly doing my own thing – and hope you have a bird-filled and enjoyable year ahead too.

All the best.

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