Wednesday, 5 January 2022

#LocalBigYear

When it finally rose above Portland, the sun blazed beautifully throughout this morning's walk from Burton Bradstock to the West Bex Mere and back. Two Shelduck were new for the year, and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull my first of that age, but otherwise it was uneventful. A quick look at the buntings failed to deliver a Cirl.

Typical local birding: a couple of hours out, the odd notable thing. Yesterday afternoon this was one of the notable things...

Roadside Red-leg, from the car

Yep, a rare Red-legged Partridge photo-opportunity was a modest highlight. Normally they are naked-eye dots running for the horizon. This bird followed some 90 minutes in a local woodland, where my tally was 1 Treecreeper, 2 Coal Tits, 3 Nuthatches, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Ravens, and one each of Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. It felt pretty birdless.

Four outings so far in 2022, for 62 species or thereabouts. In coastal West Dorset. Many inland birders will have notched up 62 by lunchtime on the 1st. Still, I love birding my local area even though the species count can often be a bit thin. Hopefully you will never catch me moaning about about that aspect, because it is more than compensated by lovely scenery and a lot of space.

A few posts back I referred to Birdwatch magazine's #LocalBigYear challenge in positive terms. My personal take is that anything which promotes local birding rather than 'firing up the Quattro' every weekend is a good thing, and that is exactly what I felt this challenge was doing. Since then I have read all sorts of comments about it, ranging right across the spectrum from 'excellent idea' to 'hypocritical greenwashing'. Re the latter...

I think I'm right in saying that Birdwatch is owned by Warners Group Publications plc, so yes, part of a commercial enterprise which aims to keep its shareholders happy. Like any magazine it is full of adverts. So do the sources of its advertising revenue undermine the #LocalBigYear challenge, announced with such fanfare just before the new year? Is the magazine just paying lip-service to low-carbon birding in order to pacify a mildly radical little cadre of irritating birders?

'We must all look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint...'
No doubt about it, Birdwatch is talking the talk.

Including the front and back covers, the January issue comprises 64 pages. Approximately 18.25 pages are ads. A breakdown reveals that 13.75 of those are optics ads, a page each for Birdwatch and Birdguides ads0.5 for books, 0.5 for accomodation, 0.5 for the World Land Trust charity, and just 1.0 for potentially high-carbon travel ads. Interesting.

One could argue that the 8 pages of rarity news and 3 pages on Colombia's birds are hardly low-carbon friendly, but personally I think that would be a bit nit-picky. Anyone is free to see the #LocalBigYear thing as greenwashing if they choose of course, but it strikes me as a positive thing to promote, so I will. Judging by birdy Twitter there has been plenty of enthusiastic uptake. Great. Potentially a few birders might become newly smitten by the potential of their local area, and consequently go on fewer twitches. Why knock it?

7 comments:

  1. I think the seeds for this were largely sown by COVID actually, a true silver lining if ever there was one. All of a sudden most people had NO CHOICE - it was the local area or nothing. I know of a few people for whom that was a real eye-opener. Our humble patch here in London not only had its best ever two years, but most of us broke our personal bests by some margin. And of course COVID pretty much killed foreign travel as well, birding or otherwise.

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    1. Good point. I suspect you're right, and the shift in focus forced upon birders by lockdowns etc has revealed a new vista of possibilities. Every cloud...

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  2. You won't be surprised if I say I'm a big fan of this. Local low-carbon birding has been my 'thing' for a few years now and anything which promotes this gets my support. I'm also really looking forward to covering a larger than usual area - including Exmouth and Dawlish Warren - just for the fun of it! I'm not particularly fit and I've just turned 60 so if I can do it. . .

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    1. I think both you and James D (on the other side of the Exe) are great examples. Not just of what is possible, but also the rewards available. All the best with your efforts this year Tim. 👍

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    2. Thanks Gav - just trying to spread the message.

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  3. Yes, it's a further and very welcome refocusing of birding activities and reducing their effect on the climate crisis. The uptake has been fantastic to see and the spread of this form of local, lower-carbon birding has been as inspiring as it has been rapid.

    Yes, there will be some who do very little to reduce their emissions but use the hashtag regardless, but that should not detract from the benefits accrued as a result of many people adopting this much less impactful form of birding.

    Good luck and well done to all involved.

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    1. Definitely feels like things are heading the right way Tim. We'll see. But if birders try it and enjoy it, they'll be enthusiastic about it and promote it. That positivity will surely be contagious...

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