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How far do birders walk?

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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 08:32   #26
Euan Buchan
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It often depends if there is lots of birds around. If there is a lot of birds I walk maybe 2ish hours if not many or not a lot movement maybe a hour or half hour.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 08:44   #27
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
You're going some to average 1m strides unless you're very tall?
I searched a bit and the average will be around 0.7m / step if hiking it seems, so 30.000 steps will correspond to a distance around 21 km, instead of the 30 km I mentioned.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 08:58   #28
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Interesting replies, thank you. I suspect that it's pointless to have walks much over a couple of miles (c5 km) in a realistic, practical birding site guide particularly ones that require any strenuous walking as very few people would walk much further. It's slightly different perhaps when covering your 'patch' or when your focus is as much about enjoying the wider countryside and what it has to offer as it is to see desired birds.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 09:30   #29
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I usually bird for 2 hrs on patch - but rarely cover more than 3 miles, usually 2, in that time.

On a birding trip abroad I tend to be out dawn to dusk, and even then would usually not cover more than 8 miles - Gunung Gede was an exception though.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 09:36   #30
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Interesting replies, thank you. I suspect that it's pointless to have walks much over a couple of miles (c5 km) in a realistic, practical birding site guide particularly ones that require any strenuous walking as very few people would walk much further. It's slightly different perhaps when covering your 'patch' or when your focus is as much about enjoying the wider countryside and what it has to offer as it is to see desired birds.
I'm not sure that's entirely true, John (one size rarely fits all). The important thing about a regional site guide is that it must cover all the species that people will want to try to see in the region, including the difficult key ones. You can't leave out e.g. Ptarmigan because for the most part strenuous long hikes may be needed to see it, though in practice chairlift to Cairnwell (if its running, a stiff steep walk if not), railway thing to Cairn Gorm (but limited access to tops if using this) and car up the Pass of the Cattle should reduce the walking for this species. I imagine the easiest alternative to the above would be a walk up to the Cairn Gorm North corries - how long is that? For key species you must have at least one site, of whatever difficulty, to enable the full suite of species to be found by the enthusiast/obsessional.

Otherwise I agree with you. For Cresties, for instance, I would be unlikely to take a long walk through Abernethy, preferring a few short sharp hits on LGRSPB Centre and the short walk towards Loch Mallachie from the other car park, repeating as necessary. Its about effective use of time really. But that sort of situation is very different from patch birding or visiting a place you know well - how I bird Pennington Marshes might be very different from how an overseas visitor on a single visit might approach it.

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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 12:06   #31
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Not in the Himalayas you wouldn't!

We averaged 12km per day over 5 weeks and covered 350km in very tough, steep up, steep down, terrain including passing over the Thorong La pass at 5400m, toughest birding I've ever done.
I did the Thorung La in 1982 and my focus was definitely on putting one foot in front of the other rather than birding unfortunately, don't remember seeing any high altitude specialities - although I do recall white-browed tit-warbler in the valley near Manang as a highlight of my trek.

I think this thread illustrates that there are clearly different philosophies displayed here between the 'walkers' and the 'sit and waiters'. The ideal is probably a mix of both, although I don't think I've reached a happy medium yet between a decent walk and the patient sitting and waiting you need to see stuff. I do worry that since I've got more into birding I'm doing less walking, certainly much less than 20km / day, which isn't great for fitness levels or waistline!
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 12:11   #32
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Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
I'm not sure that's entirely true, John (one size rarely fits all). The important thing about a regional site guide is that it must cover all the species that people will want to try to see in the region, including the difficult key ones. You can't leave out e.g. Ptarmigan because for the most part strenuous long hikes may be needed to see it, though in practice chairlift to Cairnwell (if its running, a stiff steep walk if not), railway thing to Cairn Gorm (but limited access to tops if using this) and car up the Pass of the Cattle should reduce the walking for this species. I imagine the easiest alternative to the above would be a walk up to the Cairn Gorm North corries - how long is that? For key species you must have at least one site, of whatever difficulty, to enable the full suite of species to be found by the enthusiast/obsessional.

Otherwise I agree with you. For Cresties, for instance, I would be unlikely to take a long walk through Abernethy, preferring a few short sharp hits on LGRSPB Centre and the short walk towards Loch Mallachie from the other car park, repeating as necessary. Its about effective use of time really. But that sort of situation is very different from patch birding or visiting a place you know well - how I bird Pennington Marshes might be very different from how an overseas visitor on a single visit might approach it.

John
Also, think of the Gosney guides.. i don't remember any of them involving massive walks, for any species. Ptarmigan is probably one of the toughest, but vertically rather than in miles. Carn Ban Mor, I don't even remember having to resort to my inhaler, as I disappeared into cloud!! Although I do recall leaving some of my gear halfway up the mountain, to collect on the way back down!

In a European context, I suspect as you go East, other species could involve far greater walks, thinking Snowy Owl perhaps, if a site/area was known.

I like the idea of longer birding walks. Norfolk coast, Islands, Purbecks. There is potential to stumble across unseen birds. Time almost always ruins these plans though.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 12:18   #33
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I did the Thorung La in 1982 and my focus was definitely on putting one foot in front of the other rather than birding unfortunately, don't remember seeing any high altitude specialities - although I do recall white-browed tit-warbler in the valley near Manang as a highlight of my trek.

I think this thread illustrates that there are clearly different philosophies displayed here between the 'walkers' and the 'sit and waiters'. The ideal is probably a mix of both, although I don't think I've reached a happy medium yet between a decent walk and the patient sitting and waiting you need to see stuff. I do worry that since I've got more into birding I'm doing less walking, certainly much less than 20km / day, which isn't great for fitness levels or waistline!
We had Tibetan Snowcock just below the pass as we headed up.

ust across the vallet from Manang, is a very steep, amost vertical climb to a small area with a pool and we had Himalaya Snowcock there. This is a known spot where my mate has had them before.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 12:22   #34
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Originally Posted by peter.jones View Post
Also, think of the Gosney guides.. i don't remember any of them involving massive walks, for any species. Ptarmigan is probably one of the toughest, but vertically rather than in miles. Carn Ban Mor, I don't even remember having to resort to my inhaler, as I disappeared into cloud!! Although I do recall leaving some of my gear halfway up the mountain, to collect on the way back down!

In a European context, I suspect as you go East, other species could involve far greater walks, thinking Snowy Owl perhaps, if a site/area was known.

I like the idea of longer birding walks. Norfolk coast, Islands, Purbecks. There is potential to stumble across unseen birds. Time almost always ruins these plans though.
Why don't you just view them from the car park below Glenshee ski lift?
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 12:37   #35
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I mean it just depends on whether you like to hike or not, doesn't it? It wold probably not do a 20km hike for "birding purposes" on Mallorca from all places, simply because there is not much to see. But for example in Taman Negara, long full-day hikes bring you some of the greatest birding in the world ... and it's quite fun as well!

I find it actually quite unfortunate how much do guidebooks focus on places that are accessible by car these days, I would gladly do a "hike with a reward" for some species, but having knowledge of drive-by locations can be quite discouraging.
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 13:15   #36
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
Why don't you just view them from the car park below Glenshee ski lift?
Because.....

Ptarmigan X 5:

Cairn Gorm Northern Corries X 2
Cairnwell top X 3 (2 occasions involved)

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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 13:32   #37
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Why don't you just view them from the car park below Glenshee ski lift?
There you go. You barely need to get out of the car for Ptarmigan.

But as opposed to convenience, (and I think this is the other side of the argument, that I'm hearing from others on here). If I'd driven 1 hour further from my B&B, parked the car, and watched Ptarmigan, would it have been as satisfying or memorable as climbing a mountain, literally walking into cloud, and finally almost bumping into them, whilst not seeing another soul on a bank holiday Monday?

(Edit: Nice pics John, jeez, it took me 17 minutes to type this!)
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Old Tuesday 28th May 2019, 15:10   #38
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Because.....
Good answer and lovely pics to back it up.

I'll put in as much effort as it takes to see what I want to see in the place I want to see it.

Today I walked a modest 12 km to see all four species of auk that breed in the UK (I've seen them countless times before but that's the sort of thing I want to see). Yesterday I managed to see well over 300 Manx Shearwaters without even getting out of my car. Some years ago I paddled my sea kayak 75 km over three days to spend a night on an uninhabited island amongst European Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters (that wasn't the sole purpose of the trip but it was the main one). Other times I'm happy to trail just 2 or 3 km around a reserve.

If I can see the birds without getting out of the car that's great, but I'm happy to make a bit of effort if necessary. As long as I still have a body that doesn't complain too much about a bit of exercise I'll keep walking and kayaking as far as it takes. There's usually a lot more to see on the walk or paddle than just birds.

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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 11:35   #39
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We had Tibetan Snowcock just below the pass as we headed up.

ust across the vallet from Manang, is a very steep, amost vertical climb to a small area with a pool and we had Himalaya Snowcock there. This is a known spot where my mate has had them before.
Wish I'd been a bit more observant at the time - didn't see a snowcock at all on my travels. We did come across the dead body of a Japanese trekker just before the pass, which didn't encourage us to linger.

I think I know where you mean at Manang too, there was a glacier on the opposite side of the valley - my then-wife and I tried climbing up the very steep terminal moraine while we had a day off acclimatising before the pass, but she persuaded me to give up before we'd got to where I presume a lake would be (although I think it was still ice in 1982!).
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 13:26   #40
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20km is a good length for an all-day hike in hilly terrain, but it doesn't leave a whole lot of time for bird-watching. A comfortable walk on steep terrain, with lunch break, may average 2km/h; make stops for birds and you're closer to 1.5km/h. So almost 15 hours to complete the hike?


I've done 50km days in the mountains, but on those days I've not stopped for birds nor carried a big lens.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 16:03   #41
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I agree with everyone, it's mainly time spend that adds up. When you bird it's about the birds, as soon as you spot something interesting that takes up time. The goal is not to cover a track but see nature at work.

I suppose there are tracks that you can follow, but once it's over 10 km I ask myself: am I going to hike today where I see birds? Or do I go birding so the hike is not the goal. Once that decision has been made the gear I take with me varies, on a hike the telescope stays put, with birding it comes with me.

But during holidays, where the main part of my most interesting birding happens I rarely go very far from the car. Probably 5 km max, most of the time less than 2 km.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 17:09   #42
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I typically average 1 mile (1.6 km)/hour if listening for birds. I am just back from South Korea. My longest day was on an island and did 12 hours and did 12 miles, the following day was 8 hours and 6 miles. The second day had a higher density of birds. On the 12 mile day, I had a choice of a bus or a 3 mile walk (that said it should take 1 hour), it took 3 hours due to terrain, and I started to wish I had jumped on the bus, but I ended up getting about 6 "worth it" birds.

Another of the days, I was so disappointed with a marsh, I decided to walk down along the river. I walked 10 miles planning to visit a river island next to a bridge and had nothing to show for it.
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Old Wednesday 29th May 2019, 19:06   #43
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Others put it - a number of species, especially various "chicken" or gallinaceous birds, simply require walking kilometers around until you see one by chance.

On the opposite side are most waterbirds and seabirds, where you simply put a scope and stand there. And species of African plains which are seen from the car.

Bird companies are different. They are generally tuned to elderly and unfit members, and minimize walking. Difficult species are simply written off or seen in one out of several trips.
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Old Thursday 30th May 2019, 12:09   #44
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it's not uncommon to see me walk 12-16 miles in a days birding close to home, in the hills at the top of the south Wales valleys. It doesn't usually get a big species list - 40 spp is very good, but in summer can include Redstart, Pied Fly, Spot Fly, Wood Warbler, Gropper, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, Wheatear, and Whinchat. I walked at least 13 miles on Tuesday. Age? - closing in on 60
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Old Thursday 30th May 2019, 13:29   #45
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I covered a nice and easy 5 miles around the Somerset levels this morning with my 8 year old. Cost me 5 in RSPB pins though.
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Old Monday 19th August 2019, 10:13   #46
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I think of my birding in terms of hours spend rather than miles covered. I recently spent six hours and identified 76 species. Exhausting.

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Old Tuesday 20th August 2019, 08:44   #47
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We're in the walking and birding camp, so 6-12 miles would be normal, depending on interest, terrain and weather.
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Old Thursday 22nd August 2019, 09:48   #48
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I do not drive but sometimes get a lift for a day out or a twitch so whatever walking is required has to be done...

Local patching from the house is between 2 and 4 miles which is usually with the Dog. I have always had an ambling rate of 1-2 miles an hour depending on season with flowers a feature in addition to birds. Anything further than that and it is by bike. I have a couple of Bromptons which are ideal for folding at gates and stiles etc - i have an adapted a crate so again the Dog gets to go out.

When abroad my accommodation is always centred from where i can walk out from to thrash a local area and for jaunts further afield i use a local taxi or bus and walk back from 5+ miles away. When required i also take one of the Bromptons abroad if hiring a half-decent bike is going to be an issue e.g. Poland and Spain no problem but Morocco forget it! We are off to Georgia/Batumi in 3 weeks and 2 of the places we stop at offer, wait for it, free bike hire

I have both of these bikes converted to a 1kw electric motor for pedal assistance and it is neither a problem to remove the motor and cycle without it (20 mins to changeover with a Bafang) or keep the motor on and make sure you take the 4kg Lithium battery with you as hand-luggage whilst the bike travels in the hold.

Using a small folding bike like a Brompton allows me to cover lots of places as convenient as on foot and link roads with paths and tracks whether here or abroad.

Good birding -

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Old Thursday 22nd August 2019, 18:03   #49
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I installed a steps app recently and was surprised to find that a day at Arne involved 18km walking but a morning at Frampton was 22km. No doubt helped by the buff breasted sandpiper popping up all over the site at random times. Youre right that I probably wouldnt set off for a tick that involved 22km walking but it was actually perfectly reasonable walks
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 10:10   #50
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How far do birders walk?
In the case of Idle Jack, a local birdwatcher, not very far.
Bumped into him recently viewing a wet field full of birds, stood right next to his car. He said the adjacent field was wet too but the road next to it was too narrow to park. I suggested he walked down the road[ about 50 yards] and had a look through his scope, standing on the grass verge whereby he could get a good view..
This was far too much effort so he drove off to find somewhere else to stand next to his car to birdwatch.
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