Having a local patch is great way to get to grips with watching birds at your own pace in a familiar place. My very first patch was my backyard. I spent years studying the garden bird populations from my bedroom window before and after primary school. I was hooked, despite the risk of being labelled a Peeping Tom, complete with oversized binoculars.
My first proper local patch was Monks Park, a small urban park two blocks away from my home. A concrete-bedded river ran through it, providing me with my first moorhens, and on the adjacent derelict land were wintering flocks of tree sparrows. Visiting this park practically every day was a great apprenticeship for me. It proved that an overwhelming variety of birds could be seen on my doorstep. I’ve been a loyal fan of patch-watching ever since.
On your doorstep
- You can’t become a birder without a local patch and finding one is really easy. Simply identify an area close to your home or place of work and start watching it regularly.
- Your patch could be a park, stretch of river, local reservoir, cemetery or almost any open space. Visit it several times a week and follow the same route each time.
- Don’t expect to see everything on your first visit. In time, you’ll get to know where to find the local residents – perhaps there’s a quiet, bushy corner that’s a haven for song thrushes or a reedy section of river that’s home to a secretive water rail.
- After a year of regular visits, you will begin to notice changes in the populations as different seasonal visitors, such as swallows, wheatears and blackcaps, make springtime appearances. The exciting bit is when you begin to recognise the common birds on your patch with relative ease or, better still, without even realising it.
- Don’t worry if your chosen patch doesn’t look like a birding paradise. At first glance, my current patch, Wormwood Scrubs, appears to be the most unlikely place to find birds – it’s a bunch of football pitches surrounded by a wafer-thin strip of relatively young woodland. But I have been amazed by the variety of birds I’ve found there, from Mediterranean gulls to Richard’s pipits. I even recorded Britain’s first overwintering common redstart there.
- You will look forward to visiting your patch in the mornings and will vehemently resist attempts by anyone to threaten the peace in your haven. When you start having these feelings, you know that you have finally found your local patch.
DAVID’S TOP TIP
Go birding expecting to see everything and nothing, and take your time. That way you will never be disappointed. Patience is the ultimate virtue of a successful birder.
To read more about David’s way of bird watching, why not visit his website?