This got me thinking about patch watching, and in particular 'local' patch watching. I think few birders actually watch a patch local to where they live. From monitoring the Patchwork Challenge it seems that the majority of people select a patch, not for its links locally, but for its bird list. Loads of patches are Nature Reserves, headlands and known migration watch points. You cant blame observers for doing this either, it is a hobby after all and we all like a good day out, but maybe it makes a change to think differently to the masses?
My own patch, Howick to Craster ( see map at the top of the sidebar to the right) is just a random bit of countryside around where I live. It is very scenic and attracts a good number of outdoor tourists who enjoy walking the coast path, but as for being a birding location, its not a destination that Northumberland birders choose to visit. The problem here is that there is no focal point. No large ponds, scrapes, estuaries, roosts or harbours. No places that attract and hold large quantities of birds.
But here lies the discussion. If we all just claimed the hotspot areas as our patch, places in between would never be looked at. When looking for a new place to go birding how do people select? Today, I suspect that is based almost solely on what has been on the pager over the previous 12 months. I have been amazed by the areas that have been selected in the patch challenge. Some are starfish ( or even sea urchin!) shaped or strips zigzagging around reserves, ponds, etc in an attempt stretch the size to gather as many species as possible. When picking a site it shouldn't be the intention of racking up most of the British list over the coming year? What is wrong with just selecting a place with easy access, that is manageable, with some birds and monitoring whatever turns up? You don't need to stretch another half mile because there is chance of a Tawny Owl and Nuthatch there.
To keep in the spirit of local bird study take a map, look for somewhere that has three or four habitat types within a clearly defined boundary not far from home, hopefully it will be very under watched, and there you have it.
Wait a minute....that could be here! Or here , here and a good few other patches too, and it is to these watchers I wish a gob smacking rarity to turn up to get twitchers asking 'Who found this? What were they doing here?!' Good luck for 2015...
|Common Rosefinch, Great White Egret and Barred Warbler all from nowhere.|