Friday 11 October 2019

The 'Local Patch' Thing

Many years ago I drove to my local patch, Staines Res, and found these...

Two Temminck's Stints on the drained South Basin of Staines Res. May 28th, 1985

But what exactly is a local patch?

Because, arguably, Staines Res would not have qualified. The drive there from my home in Northolt took a good 20-25 minutes; more, when the traffic was bad.

So, must your 'local patch' be the nearest bit of birdy habitat to your home? Or must it be within a certain distance? Does it have to be a discrete area confined within a specific boundary? And so on...

I've been pondering all this recently, because I am finding myself drawn to several different local spots and really don't want to be constrained by some arbitrary definition. So, rather than let it bother me I think I shall simply erase the term 'local patch' from my birding vocabulary, and just be content to go birding...

And I have been doing that a bit lately. Going birding I mean. Yesterday morning, for example, I went out early to the cliffs at Burton Bradstock, hoping for some vis-mig. It never got going up to the time I left at about 08:30, though I did have a flock of 18 Ravens fly west, which surprised me. The habitat up there looks full of potential too...

Burton Cliffs, looking west

On Wednesday afternoon I found a few pipits in the fields here, both Meadow and Rock...

Did I really call Rock Pipits 'dead-boring-dull' in my last post? Hmm, rightly so.

And a couple of posts back I wrote about venturing out beyond West Bexington. It takes me nearly 15 minutes to drive to the parking spot in West Bex, so not exactly local local. So anyway, I walked almost to the Abbotsbury beach car park this time. It was blowing a hoolie, but again, virtually no-one about. Look at this...


There were quite a few small gulls knocking about in a couple of ploughed fields, including at least 6 Meds, and at one point a Merlin hammered through and put them all up. Best views of Merlin I've had for ages.

A relaxed, post-Merlin Med Gull
When I stop and think about it, I cannot believe how fortunate I am to live here in coastal West Dorset. It is simply lovely...

For some reason there is a certain cachet that goes with being known as a keen local-patch birder, especially if you find good birds from time to time. Adjectives that sit well in front of 'patch-worker' would include hard-working, conscientious, loyal, tireless, and so on. I'm not sure any of this is justified really. If you enjoy going birding as much as possible, happen to live in a very birdy location, and have the circumstances in life to exploit its potential, well, that's great, but hardly worthy of kudos. Envy, more like...


  1. Gav, we are both fortunate enough to be able to find interest in our surroundings wherever they are, and appreciate activities beyond mere consumption.

    That said, I'm sure there are plenty in coastal West Devon who would yearn for a life on the Whitton Avenue East.

    1. Thanks Ric, you're right, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy life in that fashion. Re your last sentence though... Not many roads where your house number can be 686! If you drive round the North Circular from Hanger Lane, and view the houses right next to the road, well, I reckon Whitton Ave was just a notch down from that. It certainly felt like it.

  2. Agree with a lot of the above Gav, but what you have missed is that 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. Add to that history the anecdotes, shared experiences and excitement of a good find then I reckon it's hard to beat.

    1. You make an excellent case, Mike, and I cannot (nor would I want to) refute it. I do not know the half of what you and Alan have achieved at West Bexington and Cogden, but I can appreciate the sense of pleasure and satisfaction that must come with it. I can't really do justice to your thought-provoking comment in this reply, so I'll save it for a post in the near future. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Good post Gavin. A local patch should be just that. I know of people who drive for 30 mins to the best nature reserves on our coast and call them local patches. Of course they arent. There is nothing wrong in doing this of course but as you say, its not worthy of kudos if your patch is Spurn and you find a Yellow browed Warbler!
    My patch is dreadful. Scenic, but nigh on birdless most days, but is is definitely my local patch. I could drive down or up the coast to much better spots, and I do, if there is something I would like to see or if I am sick of seeing nothing.
    I try to convince myself that my village has good habitat and location but it relies on flukes of bird and weather to get a buzz. But when it happens, there is nothing finer.

    Why not have your local patch ie near home where you can see birds all the time, and then still check out other places when the need arises? There are no rules...just get out and enjoy the wind in your face and that lovely scenery..

    Best, Stewart ( sorry for blathering on!)

    1. You're right Stewart, there are no rules. I live close to the sea, it's not too hard to find quiet spots, the scenery is brilliant, and there are always birds. Sometimes a lot of birds. I just need to get out and do it...

      It's hard to imagine a NE coastal patch being duff! But it's all relative I guess. I'd be so chuffed with even just one Tree Sparrow! ;)

  4. I'll put one in the post ;)