Wednesday, 11 November 2015

How to Cheat at Blogging

When I discovered my surprise stash of old blog posts the other day, my initial thought was how useful they would be if I was struggling for inspiration, feeling lazy etc. But something not quite kosher just now occurred to me. Would it work if I copied and pasted the contents into a new post? And could I dip into my old blog photos that I recently found online and upload them into that new post as well. The answer to both these questions is yes.

Which has presented me with an ethical dilemma, because now I can make an old post look exactly like a new one. So, I just went through this little thought process:

Should I...
  • Announce the fact that it's old stuff in a little foreword?
  • Pass it off as completely fresh material?
One could say that the first approach is up-front and honest, and the second thoroughly deceitful. That's true, one could. On the other hand, one could say that the second approach is, a light-hearted challenge to veteran NQS readers, say? Maybe they'd enjoy trying to spot the 'old' new posts?

Anyway, my mind wandered down this lane for a bit, but then I thought 'Who cares what you do? It's your blog! Say in advance if you want...or don't...just stop agonising over it you idiot!'

In conclusion then, there may be future cheating. Or not. Or both...

There follows a post about my early days of London area birding, originally published 22 Dec 2009. Reading back my old posts now I realise that some of my writing was (is?) much too wordy, so there may be a teeny bit of editing. Here it is then...

Early Days - Birding Badlands

Although there were some earlier dabblings, for me proper birding began around 1981. I finally replaced my colossal ex-army 7x50's with bins that allowed me to stand upright, and bought a scope. One late December day in '81 found me traipsing round Queen Mother Res for Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes and a Velvet Scoter - most of that lot being lifers! Staines Res, Wraysbury GP, Queen Mary Res, Perry Oaks SF - all the W London birding hotspots saw my eager efforts. I also began to put faces to some of the names in my 1980 London Bird Report, and as 1982 and '83 came and went I slowly became part of the scene myself.

But the London Recording Area is much, much bigger than the Staines neighbourhood, and I was getting itchy feet. It was time to dip my toe in East London. I made my first visits to a few sites that I had so far only read about. I no longer have the relevant notebooks, so will have to rely on my memory, but the initial impressions are still extremely vivid.

Rainham Marsh
A bitterly cold day, snow on the ground. Vast and bleak. Skylarks and Corn Buntings illuminated from below as they flew over the snowscape. Bearded Tits popping up and pinging as I waded into the huge beds of Sea Aster - a London tick, along with a couple of Hen Harriers. Yes, the birds were great. But the overriding impression was that this was a seedy and desolate place, and any moment I was going to stumble across a pair of gangland killers hauling a corpse from the boot of a car. I felt strangely vulnerable.

Dagenham Chase
I first came here to look for a Long-eared Owl roost. I didn't find it. Again it was a freezing day, and the first thing I saw as I arrived in the early morning was a Lurcher trotting away across a piece of waste ground with a dead cat hanging from its jaws. Lovely.

West Thurrock
There was a power station here, with a warm water outfall that attracted terns. Also ash lagoons with a wader roost. The first time I went there I noticed I was not alone. Most of my East London birding had so far been notable for the total absence of other people, but not today - there was another guy creeping about on the Stone Ness saltmarsh. He was dressed in camouflage, wearing a black balaclava with two eye holes, and carrying a rifle. I gave him a very wide berth...

Dartford Marsh
Another vast and empty place. Once again my first visit was in winter. I remember seeing a Hen Harrier, and again failing to find a Long-eared Owl roost. Desolate and uninviting. It probably didn't help that my pioneering visits were midweek and therefore unaccompanied.

The Thames in E London was wide, industrialised, thick and smelly. The birding hotspots were bleak, with an air of dismal neglect and vague threat. But the birding was fantastic! Dartford Marsh has given me Sociable Plover and Purple Heron; Dagenham Chase a stunning male Pine Bunting, and Long-eared Owls many times; West Thurrock a Sabine's Gull, plus Roseate and White-winged Black Terns. And here's a notebook page from a visit to Rainham:

Almost exactly one year later I went to Rainham again, this time for a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon. Of course, Rainham Marsh is now a premier RSPB reserve, and I think it's fairly safe to say that it is (and probably always was) the best birding site in London.

In comparison to these dodgy venues, W London was positively genteel!


  1. Speaks well of your enthusiasm Gav. I've been to all of those locations but never alone.

    1. You probably listened to my wise words of caution Ric! Remember the trip to Rainham where we were warned about the escaped Rottweiler? I've never found searching for SEOs quite as nerve-racking since!

  2. I'd forgotten about that, Gav. Clearly we didn't get nipped.
    Was that the day of the Jan 1st London list, or the day we clocked 78 species on the recce?
    We had 90 species on the day. You should publish the list. All the Grebe's, I mean.

    1. Twas the recce I think. Sadly I've no idea where that Jan 1 list is now Ric; I've not been very good at hanging on to my old records.

    2. I'll email you the list.

  3. Hi Gavin, I've just stumbled across the new incarnation of NQS, having been a great fan of the old version - it's good to have you back! Are you going to get down to any gulling soon? I always enjoyed your gull posts & particularly liked your Caspian Gull ID series - you should re-post that on the new blog, it was very useful. Anyway, I've added your new blog to my blog's blog list so I'll be able to keep track of your future postings. Good luck with it all!

    1. Thanks very much for your comment Adam, much appreciated. Since NQS was last online I have moved to W Dorset, and I haven't found anywhere local that is even slightly good for gulling. I still work over in Seaton on a fairly regular basis though, so it's likely that the Axe and its gulls will feature occasionally! Re the Casp ID series: unfortunately that was on the MkII edition of NQS, which ran for about two years from late 2011. I didn't save any of it to my pc, so I suspect it has gone forever...