Saturday, 20 October 2012


I've just driven a round trip of almost 900 miles to spend the weekend helping friends to celebrate their civil partnership. Long car journeys are rarely fun, particularly when there are kids on the back seat, and especially when the in car DVD system fails during the first mile as was the case this time!

So what to do to while away the 20 hours of journey time? Well I fell back on the old staple - list making. I love to make lists and luckily my kids can be cajoled into making lists too. This time we made 3:

1. birds
2. wild mammals
3. road kill (bird or mammal)

There was only one rule, species had to be seen and confidently identified from the car or at one of our rest stops. More on what we saw later.

But what about listing? I make lots of lists. Lists of birds seen at a particular site or on a particular day, lists of species recorded as part of a particular project, trip lists, holiday lists, the list is endless! Some of these are a simple aide memoir, some are essential data, for my own research, some feed into national schemes such as distribution atlases.

To be useful a list needs clarity, accuracy, detail and context. We need to record what exactly we saw, when and where as a minimum. It also helps if we record additional information about things like abundance or behaviour, you just never know when that stuff will be useful!

I remember once being particularly frustrated when I was working on a study of intertidal algal distributional changes over a 100 year period. I found one old list in a dusty archive but couldn't use it because it lacked an exact date and location. Even worse I found another that suggested absolutely nothing had changed on a particular beach for 45 years....then I realised that the author of the second list had simply plagiarised the first rather than visit the site and check the facts! I also found a list that claimed that the algae at a site had changed almost completely ..... But that author had ignored key nomenclature changes and assumed that synonyms were actually different species. The key point is that my research would have been far easier if the list makers had done their job properly.

So what about my lists from the car. Turned out we had a great trip:

Roe deer
Red deer
Bottle nosed dolphin
Grey seal
Bat sp

Road kill
Collared dove
Barn owl
Wood pigeon
Roe deer
Red squirrel

61 species! Including:
Golden eagle
Grey plover
Whooper swan
Pink footed goose
Red grouse
Grey partridge
Good answer
Golden eye
The list (and the listing) goes on....


  1. Ha, ha! Cool post. I would have added (at least) 4 bird sp. to my year bird list!

    1. I thought of posting all of the species in order and then asking people to guess the route!