In light of the Birdguides / Birdwatch magazine promotion of a greener, more local type of birding lots of birders on social media are coming around to the idea. One of the best things I see in the 'new dawn' is the lack of emphasis on list keeping. There is more a focus on the positive experiences gained from this type of back to basics birding with prizes for things like best bird in a local context etc.
My next thoughts are difficult to express clearly but there are definitely a few things not right in the way many birders view this local patch challenge. Well, in my humble opinion anyway. There are no rules so there cant be mistakes but somethings aren't 'in keeping' I don't think?
Firstly it seems that the term local patch, to many, actually refers to the nearest birding hot spot to home. This may be 1 mile or 20 miles it doesn't seem to matter. People will happily pass quite good areas, ironically in their car, to get to the nearest Titchwell, Spurn or other well birded site. I can see this for urban residents who are in the middle of some conurbation but many aren't . Again it's down to personal choice I suppose.
One other thing (sounding like Columbo) is how a patch is defined. This is maybe my biggest OCD type niggle.
For me, when selecting a patch I'd pick an area of workable size that might have potential and is under watched or rarely watched at all. Then define the boundaries of the area. Once done you can work out routes, watch points, geographical and habitat features that might be productive. Lastly do some research into what, if anything, has been already recorded there, and away you go. In this, your new place, you visit regularly to document the ornithological comings and goings over the seasons and you will end up with a record of the species that use your area.
Seems straight forward, yes?
Well no apparently its not.
What appears to be the fashion is to take the whole British List or at least your County List and pull and stretch your patch to take in every possible species.
Can you see the difference? One begins with an area, the other begins with the list.
Birders love to say 'Ooh I will just move that boundary up to that wood so I should get Tawny owl, Jay and Nuthatch that I'll not get on the beach' or 'if I just make my patch a 10 miles radius instead of 3 miles it will reach Blacktoft' or where ever.
Of course you won't get every bird in your whole vicinity in one year but that's not the point. If you do get one of those birds like those above, it will be all the more worth while!
Some patches end up looking like multi-legged starfish stretched to this place for one species and that place for another. Is that really how patching works? What if we all just went to the same county hotspot?
I think this is how some fall by the wayside by May. They've run out of interest having seen most of whats possible, the impossible is a bit harder to come by, leaving half a year with little to hope for. They've already had the Nuthatch in February that might have been a mega out of context in August.
These massively stretched 'patches' are not local patches. Its more like county listing.
Or maybe its just me...
What ever method you use, be it starfish, 20 miles drive to it or your garden, good luck in 2022. Try not to abandon ship when a Blyth's Reed turns up in someone else's spot ... 😉