Monday, 21 October 2019

Not Really About Local Patch Birding, Exactly...

A few days ago I wrote about patch birding, mostly to examine the question 'how local must 'local' be?' and things like that. But I was a bit glib, and did miss some important points, as outlined by Mike Morse here in his comment:

...birding a defined area day after day and year after year you build up a history. We have records, stats and annual reports going back decades. It adds a bit of 'purpose' to the general enjoyment of birding. There is also the habitat improvement and management plans we get involved in and that sit well with permissions gained (from earned trust) to wander pretty much where we want within the recording [area]. Add to that history the anecdotes, shared experiences and excitement of a good find then I reckon it's hard to beat.

The validity of Mike's view of what it means to be a local patch birder is borne out at West Bexington and Cogden. And I take my hat off to birders who have achieved similar results at long-term local patches up and down the country. But I wonder how many such folk there are, and what percentage of the birding population they comprise? My guess is that they are fewer than we might think.

All I know for sure is that I am not one of them. I totally get the idea of such commitment adding 'purpose' to the general enjoyment of birding, but personally my ability (and, to be honest, desire) to put my nose to the grindstone to that degree is simply not there. I cannot do it. Even stuff like breeding bird surveys and WeBS counts, etc, leaves me cold; I know from experience that I would just find them a chore.

So, it seems I am something of a lightweight when it comes to local patch birding, and unwilling to 'contribute' very much. I can imagine the grafters among us having a pretty dim view of an attitude like that...

Well, what can I say in my defense? In my almost 40 years of sporadically keen birding I've thought of a few places as my 'patch', including Staines Res, Stockers Lake, the Axe estuary and marshes, Beer Head. At some or all of them I have, with varying degrees of intensity, kept and submitted records, written reports, and generally made an effort to be an information sharer. And that's about it really. Nowadays I am happiest where there are wide-open skies and few people. Sometimes I record what I see, sometimes not so much. I suspect there are countless part-timers like me out there!

And before anyone comments that I have every right to engage in my hobby in whatever way I want to and shouldn't apologise for it... well, thanks, but I know that. And the fact that someone might feel the need to say that (or think it) kind of illustrates my point, which is this:

There is, in birding as in all the hobbies I have ever tasted, a perceived hierarchy of worthiness. Which I find slightly irritating. And which I find quite daft too, because each of us can only be happy in our pastime when giving it the amount of time, and the type and level of effort, that our circumstances and personality make-up allow, and neither of those things make us more or less worthy than anyone else. Well, that's my view...

Or am I just making excuses for being a lazy birder?


  1. No you are not a lazy birder Gav and not lazy in any sense as far as I can tell... how could you be with birding, fishing, cycling, running, DIY and other life guiding interests that you have employing your time. As for any hierarchy of worthiness in birding, it's not something I've come across. We all know who the competent birders are and who we can trust but that's about it. I wouldn't judge any one person more worthy than another and certainly not a patch birder. We are probably just too lazy to go anywhere else...

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Mike. Ref your last sentence: I doubt that!

  2. I am very happy being unworthy. I also think it takes age and experience to understand at which point your commitment to any given hobby peaks, or to achieve a level of balance that 'works', and you will always find someone in whatever field it is for whom that level is demonstrative of supreme under-commitment, laughable enthusiasm, minimal focus yada yada.

    1. Me too. I do wish that it was easier to find the correct balance point though. Sometimes I feel like a pendulum.