I'll be totally frank.
On the one hand ..
Just lately I am the fattest bastard I know. I have been too short for my weight for some years, and it's been the best part of three decades since I was anywhere near trim, slim or sleak. I did manage to shed a stone and a half a couple of years ago before regaining it with interest. This can't go on, my knees hurt.
On the other hand ..
When it comes to bird yearlisting challenges I am a bit crap. I usualy fizzle out after some early enthusiasm, especially when I miss something due to work or family constraints.
I was therefore very impressed with the idea that Alan Tilmouth mentioned a few posts ago. A challenge whereby the target is to see more species than he weighs in pounds at the end of the year, only achievable by putting in some effort in both regards. The less effort put into one element means more effort required on the other. This sounds like a great idea to me, as my usual yearlisting approach would mean I'd have to shift shedloads of weight. I did realise though if the listing boundary is not adequately defined it would be too easy to go for a big British yearlist and stay fat. I therefore gave this idea some thought with regard to the listing area, the realistic chances of success, and targets.
The first listing area I thought about is what I laughingly call my birding patch - the Soar Valley South. I reckon that in a very good year with lots of effort I could just about see c100 species, so to win the challenge I would have to get my weight down to 99lbs which is just over 7 stone. That's about as likely as me losing the weight by giving birth to a very fat baby.
I could target Leicester City again despite the general failure from June onwards in 2011. Going at it full-on would still only yield c120 species, even with some stringing. 119lbs is 8.5 stone. Hmmm, fat chance.
Maybe I could just go for a County list. Every year we get c220 species in Leics. & Rutland. The County yearlist record is 202 species, and I think that every year someone going for it with lots of time on their hands gets somewhere in the region of 198 - 200 species. This would require extensive effort, which as I've mentioned is not my approach to yearlisting challenges. But if I saw 198 species then I could still be 197lbs, which is 14 stone and not a slim enough target.
I reckon that in any given year, doing some regular birding in the County you could see around 168 - 175 species without doing a mental full-on effort. This sounds ideal for me. By the power of coincidence, 175lbs is 12.5 stone and 168lbs is 12 stone. My ideal though challenging weight target is in that region. That's mathematical amazingness that is.
So, the area, realistic species target and challenging weight target all seemed to match up, but as I mentioned it could still be tempting to get down to and stick at say 189lbs and really make the effort to see 190 species. 189lbs is 13.5 stone which is a weight that I would be happy to achieve, but I think I need to aim slimmer. I therefore needed to add some incremental handicap to the species target to encourage the weight loss element, rather than heightening the twitching mentality. Here then is a table of weights, the handicap and the associated species target:
The red line represents 12.5 stone, the green box represents what would in all honesty be a brilliant result, and the yellow box represents what would still be a stirling effort that I'd be happy with. I start at the bloated post-Christmas position of 100Kg and zero species - needing to lose 21Kg or more and see 174 or less species by 31/12/2012. Wish me luck, don't tell me about easy to see birds and don't buy me chocolate. I will post the status of this personal challenge every now and then, and if you bump into me in the field then encouraging comments like 'have you lost a bit of weight? nothing to see here by the way' would help.