Gorillas in the List

So I’m a lister. A list maker. I have been known to start a ‘to do’ list with the first item as: “Make ‘to do’ List” (check!). I don’t suffer from OCD – at least I don’t think I do; and I’m no more riddled with anxiety than any of my friends (unless I just collect lovably unstable people – which, thinking about it might be the case, and as such might not be the strongest case for my sanity!). List making just makes me feel slightly more in control. I’m fairly unapologetic about it, as it is a harmless coping mechanism for my very busy life. My lists include groceries, books for which I’m waiting to be on sale on amazon kindle (I have a £3 rule!), and wildlife.

One of our Girl Bird Nerds’ many trip lists!

You’ve probably heard of ‘bird lists’ – especially if there’s a twitcher – or even ‘just’ a birder – in your life. A birder tends to have at least two ‘lists’: the Life List and the Year List. (This type of list making can end up developing into an expensive habit as it can involve a lot of spontaneous travel to see birds (twitching) and buying expensive kit like scopes and binoculars.)

A ‘Life List‘ is a list of all the birds you’ve seen in your life. Some people regard this as your home country only – some include all birds seen anywhere. I am in the former camp – to me a Life List is all birds I’ve seen in the UK in my life, and I have a separate USA Life List).  So my (UK) Life List is only around 175 (there is a ‘400 club’!) – that’s out of a (current) 574 species.

I’ve also been keeping a Year List – a list of all the species of bird that I’ve seen in the UK in 2016. I don’t do this every year, and I only started a month ago, and have now seen all the common ‘garden birds’ plus a few more awesome ones like Goldcrest, Red Kite, Peregrine, Skylark and Stonechat. (I’ll, of course, keep you posted on instagram and twitter!) If you’d like to see a great portrayal of an extreme Year List, check out The Big Year (it’s on Amazon Prime – and is also a book). [p.s. I’m at 59 species so far!]

Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black in The Big Year

Honorable mention here should go to the ‘Trip List‘ – when you go on holiday and you make a list of all the birds you see. My friends and I have a birding club called the Girl Bird Nerds, and we have an annual Girl Bird Nerd’s Birding Trip. We’ve so far been to Norfolk (twice), Dungeness, Nefyn, and Dorset. This year we’re off to Cornwall. We have a very serious set of rules:

  1. Birds ‘count’ from the time you leave home until the time you arrive back home;
  2. Birds have to be Alive, Wild and Native or Naturalised
  3. At least two members must see the same bird and agree on it’s identification; hearing the song only counts if it is absolutely diagnostic of that species (cuckoo, etc);  and
  4. The most recent member is ‘The Minion‘ and has to do the washing up…
Some of the Girl Bird Nerds
Some of the Girl Bird Nerds

Anyway, I digress… What I actually want to tell you about is the phenomenon of extreme listing. I’ve had a go at the first and seriously considering the last…

Patch Listing

Patch Listing is the recording of all the species of all the taxonomic groups in a given area in a year – usually your local nature reserve. I’ve been keen to do this within a 1km square – and was thinking about using my NARRS square (the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme – where you adopt a 1km square to survey each year). Patch listing is almost always done competitively with other patch listers.

Pan-Species Listing

Okay this is epic. Check out http://www.brc.ac.uk/psl/ for the details, but the long and short is this – EVERY species of EVERY taxonomic group you’re seen IN THE UK (insert your own country here) EVER. Plants, birds, mammals, bees, slugs, springtails, you name it… I’m so tempted to do this, but part of me doesn’t like playing games unless I can win (shocker) and I know I could never get in the field time to do it – there are some people up to 12,000 species!!

Do you think you could do any of these? Do you do them already? I’d love to hear about your experiences, especially if you’ve done Patch or Pan listing!  Let me know!

4 Replies to “Gorillas in the List”

      1. Yes and so is the hubbie! I couldn’t have possibly called him. I was a bit apprehensive being so close but my strong vegetable plot fence was between me and the family! And no camera but any movement I think would have disturbed them.

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