Now, as with every adolescent hobby, there is a touch of the competitive side to birding among the Next Generation Birders. What we decided to do with our time as a group, was to take advantage of this competitive streak and put it to good use: Citizen Science...
Birdtrack is a fantastic facility that allows members of the public/birders to input their sightings from around the country and with handy statistics, allows a sense of competition to form through the many lists showing the top 5 Birdtrackers (in terms of most species and most complete lists) on the homepage.
We decided that we would have a competition to see who can input the most species, most records and most complete lists. As of 18th January, this has been very successful with over 7000 records entered in 2014 by 19 NGB members.
|A Birdtracker's Guide to the Galaxy|
I myself have taken it a little too far and don't leave the house without my notebook and pen! I can't even get in the car and go to the shops without having my Birdtrack App at the ready for those all important Roving Records of kestrel Falco tinnunculus and buzzard Buteo buteo etc.
As of 18th January I had inputted 2397 records of 153 species (+ 4 N/C) and 105 complete lists. That works out at 133 records and 5.8 complete lists a day....
If I were to keep this up throughout the year, I could have over 48000 records and 2117 complete lists! However, with my Masters coursework, fieldwork and research due, I don't think I will be keeping up this fiery pace to all that much longer!
|The year so far. It's amazing how quickly it levels off.|
I have seen 153 species so far in 2014, which is by far my personal best by this point and I'm really impressed with myself. I started 2014 not meaning to do a yearlist at all, as I almost certainly won't have the time to go and see many species and could well even miss out on common breeding species like reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus if my Masters fieldwork has anything to say about it!
I therefore knew that with the limited free time I had at the start of 2014, I would make a special effort to see some fantastic species that I might not get to see for the whole year and some of these species such as grey partridge Perdix perdix, willow tit Parus montanus, bearded tit Panurus biarmicus etc are species I simply can't face not seeing.
|The majority of my listing has been located in the North West|
With this in mind, I made a few well thought out trips where I knew a day's birding would see me mop up on many species I otherwise wouldn't get to see. This included a trip to see the NGB Chairman (Matthew Bruce) in Rugby, where I visited Draycote and Rutland for the first time, plus an early start around Leighton Moss.
In 17 days I clocked up 95 complete lists in England and Wales through general birding. Many of you might think of yearlisting as completely pointless and a waste of time and money, but when the vast majority of your listing comes from general all purpose birding around your home, you soon clock up the species and data for many species that might otherwise get overlooked. Dunnocks Prunella modularis are just as important as American buff-bellied pipits Anthus rubescans...if not a lot more!
|With a cheeky trip up to the Highlands to pay homage to Coot with the pearly white teeth and botox addiction.|
Sadly, in 2010, I was diagnosed with the Twitching Bug and despite great effort to cure it, it occasionally resurfaces. This certainly happened on the 12th January as I joined three other NGBs up to Scotland to go and see a certain Fulica americana. Whilst this was the main target of the trip, I couldn't resist 6 complete lists and several roving records. I really enjoyed the trip up to Scotland for the light-hearted banter, great birding and the opportunity to contribute birding statistics from some incredibly beautiful habitat.
It's been really fun so far and it's very rewarding to know that as a group, NGB have contributed 4% of the UK's Birdtrack records so far in 2014. If we can encourage a few more members to take part, we may be able to increase this percentage and who knows...we might be able to inspire the next generation to take up a career in conservation through species monitoring.
|G'warn Zac! A big woo-hoo to Amy Robjohns (another NGB) as well!|
(note: this scoreboard is from a different time to Zac's writing)
When Zac's not counting birds on patch, he's usually ringing birds on his regular Bangor site or is depressed that he does't have the money or time to twitch the latest big thing. Zac is 21 and currently studying a Research Masters at Bangor University and investigating Welsh Twite; adding a touch of science to his birding.