Thursday, December 30, 2021

Who came first, the patch or the list?

 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 ... 😉  


Gibster said...

Interesting post! Epsom Common, a well-defined area with distinct boundaries, remained my patch for some 25 years despite the fact that I moved around from place (though still staying in the same general area). It's a site, not an area. Otherwise you're into the realms of Steve Gale's 'uber-patch', an area within which lie several discrete patches. To 'stretch' an imaginary zone until it includes good spots though, that's just ridiculous. That's not what patching is about, that's simply 'cooking the books' to ensure you see lots of species! Find a patch and work it, or honeypot your local sites if you prefer, but don't muddle the two together.

Stewart said...

Cheers Seth, I'm pleased someone sees what I mean! Yes Steve's Uber Patch is great, mine stretches in a rough 14 miles square, but there is no way it could be monitored and enjoyed as a Local Patch. Have a Happy Hogmanay!

derek said...

Interesting piece, I have been tempted to extend my patch to my mate's garden to get his tree sparrows but never did it, so I can't count the rustic bunting he had in his garden for 10 days!! My green/local patch is what I can comfortably walk from the house and includes my garden. I also volunteer at Belfast RSPB on a Thursday morning so I do a patch there as well. Have to drive there but once there it's all walkable. Once the challenge is up and listing I'll send you details and you can look at my boundaries. Can't remember if I sent you my occasional blog before so here it is if you are interested in having a look. Rustic bunting does get a mention as having a megatick/lifer in your mate's garden has to be celebrated.

Stewart said...

Hi Derek, Good to see you stuck to your guns. Those tree sparrows and rustic bunt aren't in your patch but it doesn't stop you going to see them. Its doesnt matter whose patch they are in, in my opinion. Its about recording the birds in a given area, not stretching here and there to get odds and ends. We could all stretch up to Speyside for Crested Tit but dont. A bit extreme, granted but you know what I mean. :) Cheers for the link, I'll add it to my blog.