Thursday, 6 October 2022

Reality

A very nice #LocalBigYear tick early this morning, on the river at West Bay...

Yep. A humble Kingfisher.

The fact that it has taken me until October to see this species probably says more about me than it does about the local status of Kingfisher. A nice surprise though, and the second time in recent days that this very spot has produced a decent local bird...

Yep. A humble Gadwall.

That was Monday morning. Apart from winter birds on the West Bexington Mere, and a couple of spring seawatch records, I cannot think of any other local Gadwall I've seen this year.

So, Kingfisher and Gadwall. Common enough birds, but here, not common. With future birding intentions being even more locally focused, the value of both species is going to appreciate.

Quite often, when certain birders (sometimes me) bang on about the joys of keeping local - and especially when they reference that inflammatory term 'low-carbon birding' - a common retort goes something like this:

'Yes, it's alright for you, living on the coast, with terrific birding on your doorstep. Try inland birding, pal, and see how you like that.'

Okay, how do you quantify 'terrific birding'?

Number of species? Last year I tried pretty hard and notched up 165, including a plastic eagle. This year I'm on 159 so far. And that's a pretty extensive stretch of coast I've included. Next year it will shrink. I suspect there are a fair few inland areas of similar size that can match or beat those numbers.

Numbers of rare and scarce birds? Last year I saw Laughing Gull and Tawny Pipit. Those are the BB rarities. Plus a handful of scarcities. In the last 21 months I can think of Lesser Scaup, Woodchat Shrike, Melodious Warbler, Quail, Stone-curlew, Yellow-browed Warbler (does that even count these days?), Caspian Gull (does that?) and...er...I'm struggling now. West Dorset is not Spurn. Admittedly it is not suburban London either, but again, I would imagine a few inland sites can trounce that collection.

Aesthetic appeal of surroundings? Fair enough, you've got me there.

Surely the real measure of what is 'terrific birding' is whatever keeps you happy and content? As I get older I am finding it easier and easier to be satisfied with my birding lot. That doesn't mean I don't frequently wish there were more and 'better' birds - like we all do - rather that I am not constantly subject to the pull of so-called greener grass. It is a very nice place to be, but I have no idea how I got here. Is it an age thing? Experience? Pitiful lack of ambition? Don't know. Don't care. But I do recommend it.

Yesterday's NQS post comfortably notched up several times the usual number of views. All credit for that must go to birding Twitter's version of car-crash TV. What a ruckus! As the dust settles, will the scene look any different? I doubt it. The show will go on, I'm sure. Perhaps the stage will lose some players though. I wonder how many of those involved in (or witness to) recent Shetland shenanigans will rue the day...

Also, I suppose we can expect a lot more reticence re ill-judged Twittery. Sadly.

8 comments:

  1. Hi again, youre on a roll with some great posts... Looking at this and your final comment on yesterdays post, I can see so many similarities between your patch and mine, albeit 400 miles apart. I am also on a non descript bit of coast, facing east rather than south. There are no reserves or hides or many birders either. Kingfisher and Gadwall are good birds here, I see both best around the Christmas hols. My patch is not so big but Ive had 155 species so far this year but no BB's. I grade birds by colour. Red birds are recorded in 3 or less years since 09. Here they are for this year - Egyptian Goose (site first), Mandarin ( 3rd), Black Tern (2nd) Great Shear (3rd) Cory's ( my 1st) Hen Harrier (2nd) Green Woodpecker (3rd) Bluethroat ( site first). Padders inc Gadwall, Scaup, Roseate and Little Terns, Pom and Long tailed Skuas. So Egyptian Goose and Green Woodpecker are better than Roseate Tern and Long tailed Skua! Thats patching...:)

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Stew. Aspects of your patch make me green with envy of course, but that's true of many I read about. Remarkably similar numbers though.

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  2. My inland patch (in north-east Worcestershire) has an average total year-list of around 148 over the last 40 years or so (this year languishing on 139 so far 😯). If you're prepared to spend every spare, and not so spare, moment there you might, but not this year, be able to challenge the individual year-list best of, I think, 143. So somewhat down on my perception of what I believe I could see on a local patch 'on the coast'. But your numbers and list of 'good birds' does paint a slightly different picture away from the hot-spots, even if quite a bit better (imho) than what I have down the road. However, it is the gradual decrease in the number of birds that is the downside for me (yes I could extend the patch to try and take in a wider spread of habitat, but it is a Wildlife Trust reserve with defined boundaries). Therefore I do try, along with a mate, to get to the coast once a month throughout the year in the belief that the coast is better. Sometimes this pays off in terms of rarities or scarcities, but more importantly it does usually give a larger number of species, and more birds overall, to look through as well as providing a much needed change of scenery. On the local patch the best bird I've seen during the last two calendar years was the reserve's (& county's) first Bonaparte's Gull. Other decent species I've seen during that time have been Firecrest, Bittern & Caspian Gull. Fairly slim pickings ☹️, so I still look enviously towards the coast and think if only... 🤔

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Mike. I expect your patch (Upton Warren?) is a lot smaller than what I call my 'local' area, but it is an interesting comparison. I wonder how it rates alongside Grafham or Rutland, say?

      Your point about enjoying an occasional change of scenery is one I can sympathise with. I do too.

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  3. Yes, Upton Warren. Somewhere around 100 acres in total, about 66 being the Wildlife Trust reserve. Larger sites in the West Midlands area that do significantly better than us in terms of numbers are Belvide Reservoir, RSPB Middleton, Draycote Reservoir & Ladywalk. Blithfield Reservoir probably does too, but has a less significant social media presence so more difficult to gauge total species. All are significantly larger than Upton, so support your initial point. Just back from four days at Spurn - change of scenery excellent, company excellent, numbers of waterbirds impressive. Less than favourable winds meant numbers of passerines was dire! 82 species in total - Barred Warbler & Firecrest the best of not much, not even a Yellow-browed.

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    1. Obviously the sea gives me several species I wouldn't see otherwise, but lack of wader habitat offsets that advantage. Though there is the sky at night! A few nocmig waders that I've not seen in daylight! 😄

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  4. Sorry just catching up and interested in patch numbers. My best is 73 and I'm on Belfast Lough, but north facing and tucked in off migration routes. Contains suburban gardens, golf course, harbour and rocky coast. I hope to get around 70. Clearly not trying hard enough.

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    1. Thanks Derek. Judged on numbers alone, Belfast Lough makes my local area sound incredibly species rich. Next year I plan to count only birds seen within the Bridport recording area, but I'll still be hoping for well over 150. We'll see...

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