And I like having a local patch, Stanwick Lakes, where I can regularly walk, notice the seasons changing and get to know a little bit better every visit. I’ve had a couple of walks there over the Christmas break and Tuesday’s first visit of 2013 produced a new bird for the site (as far as I was concerned) on the first day of the New Year – a male merlin.
Now I’ve seen lots and lots of merlins in my life but not many in Northamptonshire and none before at my local patch so this made the day special. And that meant that I didn’t have to resort to Birdtrack to check when I had last seen a merlin here.
On the other hand, the chiffchaff I heard calling and then saw a little earlier was the first December chiffchaff I’ve seen at Stanwick since 2009 (I also saw them there in 2004, 2005 and 2008) and I did need to resort to my Birdtrack records to tell you that (and to find out myself).
I use Birdtrack to store most of my bird records now, for two reasons. First, it means that I can check little details like when I last saw a chiffchaff at Stanwick in December very easily (and when I do it shows that memory is very fallible). Second, I know that this type of information, particularly because I submit full species lists for my visits, might well be of great value to the BTO , RSPB etc in future years.
If only we had all been able to enter bird lists at the time I started birdwatching in the late 1960s – what huge changes those data would reveal now. Well, we can’t do that (unless you have notebooks full of data in your attic in which case we can!) but we can start now. Even casual records (say, a barn owl seen from the car on holiday) are of value.
Why not give it a try. Once you register online then you just need a little time to get used to entering data (it’s all pretty easy though) and you are away! I use Birdtrack because it’s easy, useful for me and I believe the data I enter now will be of use to bird conservation in the future.