Friday 18 January 2013

Played for and got. And boring.

I've almost certainly used the first part of this blog post title before, and the content of whatever that post was is probably almost identical to what this post will be. But that's patch birding for you. And blogging... To cut a long story short, I went out on the patch to find a specific bird, and duly found it. Wow. Trudging back home through the snow, it occured to me that patch year-listing is basically about finding all the same birds as you did last year, but in a very slightly different order. What fun!

The bird I was after was Woodcock, and so I walked around the area that I felt was most promising for one - namely Motorcycle Wood - and sure enough one flew out. Amazing. Whilst there, I also saw my first Fieldfare for the year - fairly pitiful on the 18th of January, but they have been thin on the ground, and I've not been out much. I've seen Fieldfare on the 1st of January in every single year that I have records for, and so this has injected some spice into my yearlist, with Fieldfare at #63, whereas both last year and the year before it was at #15. This kind of variety is what patch birders live for! As I got even closer to home, I felt some stats brewing......

Because I tend to follow the same route on every New Year's Day, the birds are often seen in a very similar order - Common Gull #10 the last couple of years for example, and Gadwall is always in the mid-40s, which is generally what I'm on when I reach Alexandra Lake. Little Grebe is the low to mid-50s, indicating I've arrived in Wanstead Park..... Slightly depressingly you can actually continue well beyond the 1st of January - for the entire year in fact. The months tend to come in the same order, and so too do the migrants - everyone's (my) favourite, the Wheatear clocking in at #81 in both 2011 and 2012, Whinchat at #95, and Sedge Warbler #106. The big surprise this year was of course Great Crested Grebe on day one - unprecedented, and a real shock result. Two extremely selfish waterbirds have destroyed the careful equilibrium built up over many years, bastards.

In both 2011 and 2012, my patch list was 113 species. Convenient for statistical analysis, and amazing foresight on my part. But here's the rub. Of those 113 species, 104 - 92%, were the same. 2012 saw Osprey, Oystercatcher, Stone Curlew, LRP, Green Sand, Wood Sand, Caspian Gull, Treecreeper and Yellowhammer replaced by Mandarin, Goldeneye, Smew, Goosander, Golden Plover, Jack Snipe, Short-Eared Owl, Wryneck and Nuthatch. Don't get me wrong, these 8% really get the juices going, it's what patch-working is all about and I love it. The trouble is the other 92%.......


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