Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Rules

Every game must have its rules and yearlisting is no exception. The good thing, for me, is that this yearlist is my yearlist, so I am de facto in charge of the rules. I decree that they shall be thus:

  1. To count on the list every species seen must be a vertebrate. I don’t have to see its backbone but I do have to believe it has one.
  1. The species must actually be seen; species which are only heard do not count.
  1. It must be seen in the wild as part of a self-sustaining population. Individual escapes from captivity do not count (which is a shame as there is a gorgeous golden pheasant just down the road from my house).
  1. Well-established feral species with self-sustaining populations (such as brown hares in the UK, helmeted guinea-fowl in Madagascar, and feral pigeons just about everywhere) do count. Who are we to that decide that certain animals are not wild when it is down to our meddling that they live where they do? In any case, I like grey squirrels and I shall probably not be in North America in 2012.
  1. Taxonomy (i.e., for our purposes, what is recognised as a species and what is merely a geographical form of a species) and nomenclature (i.e. what each species is called) are entirely up to me and will largely depend on which books I am using for each chunk of the world I visit. (You wait until you see how much of a problem this is in India: three recent field guides to the birds and three sets of names.) Sometimes such things will depend solely on my whims. Not everyone will agree, but tough: it’s my list.
  1. Species seen temporarily restrained (e.g. small mammals removed from live traps or bats removed under licence from their boxes) count as long as they are swiftly and safely returned to their natural habitat.
  1. Yesterday I saw a little grebe with a fish in its bill. I couldn’t see what the fish was but, had I identified it, I don’t know whether it would have counted. Leave this one with me. I’ll get back to you.
  1. If at any point during the year it dawns on me that the rules need bending, or a new rule needs invoking, I shall do so at will.
We’ll manage. Tomorrow the list begins and for a year I will keep you posted of the wild critters I see. This is a good thing: if there’s one thing I like, it’s wild critters.

Happy New Year everyone: may it bring you many good things and much beautiful wildlife.

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