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5 km challenge - foot slogging birding from home at a time of Covid (1 Viewer)

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Like many at this time, I've been birding on a strictly local basis and, stricter than some, I have done so entirely on foot. I originally set my limit as a 5-mile radius (as the crow flies) from my urban home but have switched to focus on 5 km to make it more of a challenge to reach 100 (and, admittedly, less of a challenge physically!). I'm fortunate to live in Canterbury which means I have a good mix of habitats within 5 km - the River Stour, farmland, good woodland (Blean) and wetland (Westbere) but the lack of coast is a telling disadvantage. A 10 km radius would get me to the coast at Seasalter and with it the 20+ birds I need for a century but also, in all likelihood, a hospital bed!

I've just reached a tally of 80 species which should set me up nicely to reach a century when the summer migrants arrive. My one foray beyond 5 km (but still within 5 miles) took me to Stodmarsh. This jaunt added Shoveler, Pochard, Goldeneye, Grey Partridge, Curlew, Bearded Tit, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting to the list (making it 88 and reaching 100 a little too easy) but whilst 13-mile round trip (footpaths are rarely straight) might seem eminently 'local' in a car, it feels much less so on foot! Amongst the most pleasing discoveries was a Firecrest within 2 km of my terraced house largely, but not exclusively, because my poor hearing means I can't hear them at all making finding them a real problem. It was also pleasing to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Grey Partridge (both very scarce locally). Winkling our a Mediterranean Gull amongst a flock of BHGs was very satisfying too as was following it up by picking up two White-fronted Geese hiding amongst the Greylags. Finally finding a single Redpoll amongst the Siskins was also good value as they've been extremely scarce in the area, but who would have thought only a few years ago that Great White Egret would be so easy? Another good discovery was a flock of 24 Grey Wagtails - by far my largest. The biggest omission is my lack of owls - Little is much scarcer in the area than it once was and as there are no Tawny Owls near my house and a mile or more walk in the gloom doesn't appeal. Other omissions are more surprising such as the absence of Great Black-backed Gull (my local tip has been run down in recent years) and, much less surprising, my inability to find the couple of Ravens that now hang about in the city.

Walking everywhere for your birds certainly makes you appreciate 'commoner' species more and make you also realise that what was once 'common' is no longer so. It really feels like returning to your birding roots and setting a challenge has made me look harder at places I thought I knew. I'm aware that others are also foot slogging for birds this year and that some blest with a coastline (and even some that aren't) have topped 100 locally. Hence I'd be fascinated to know how others have fared, what their immediate habitat's like and what they too have discovered by birding locally and on foot

5 km list -
  • Mute Swan
  • Greylag Goose
  • White-fronted Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Tufted Duck
  • Wigeon
  • Pheasant
  • Dabchick
  • Great-crested Grebe
  • Cormorant
  • Little Egret
  • Grey Heron
  • Great White Egret
  • Common Buzzard
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Peregrine
  • Kestrel
  • Coot
  • Moorhen
  • Water Rail
  • Lapwing
  • Snipe
  • Woodcock
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Mediterranean Gull
  • Common Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Stock Dove
  • Woodpigeon
  • Collared Dove
  • Kingfisher
  • Great-spotted Woodpecker
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Treecreeper
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Jackdaw
  • Rook
  • Carrion Crow
  • Nuthatch
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Chiffchaff
  • Blackcap
  • Goldcrest
  • Firecrest
  • Cetti’s Warbler
  • Starling
  • Wren
  • Blackbird
  • Song Thrush
  • Mistle Thrush
  • Redwing
  • Fieldfare
  • Robin
  • Stonechat
  • Dunnock
  • House Sparrow
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Skylark
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Chaffinch
  • Bullfinch
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Siskin
  • Linnet
  • Redpoll
  • Reed Bunting
 

Lerxst

Well-known member
Awesome. I love this approach. Last autumn I did a biridng marathon on my own - it really was a marathon, I forced myself to walk 26.2 miles while birding in one day. It was debilitating and I swore I'd never do something that dumb again but I am already thinking about doing it during spring migration this time....
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
I spent most of lockdown working from home and barely got out for a brief walk, so my bird list wasn't too impressive. This month workload is a bit lighter, and I signed up to the Prostate Cancer UK 'March for March' 11000 step challenge.
I've just started a new thread in 'Your Birding Day' documenting my walks - so far in 3 days I'm up to 31 species seen on walks from my home, all within 5km radius. I won't always walk from home - tomorrow for example I have to go to Durham City, and will make up my steps in that area - but I plan to keep my local list separate.
So far dipper, willow tit, lesser redpoll, and at least 5 curlew territories are the highlights. I'm lacking in wetland sites, but there's a heathland I have yet to incorporate into my walks, and with a bit more effort I can get out to some proper North Pennine moorland fringe habitat.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
My version of this involves a bicycle and a bit less focus on the century. But I've been to various nearby places I've never bothered with in the 20 years I've been living here. Even though it just isn't the same as (say) Peru, it's been surprisingly good for my well-being.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Like many at this time, I've been birding on a strictly local basis and, stricter than some, I have done so entirely on foot. I originally set my limit as a 5-mile radius (as the crow flies) from my urban home but have switched to focus on 5 km to make it more of a challenge to reach 100 (and, admittedly, less of a challenge physically!). I'm fortunate to live in Canterbury which means I have a good mix of habitats within 5 km - the River Stour, farmland, good woodland (Blean) and wetland (Westbere) but the lack of coast is a telling disadvantage. A 10 km radius would get me to the coast at Seasalter and with it the 20+ birds I need for a century but also, in all likelihood, a hospital bed!
Nice one! Will have to work out my 5km list from home here - I was going to make it to the coast too (more than 5km away) but haven't made it yet ...

Have you done Old Park? When I was in Canterbury back when kind of made it my local patch and had some good birds there (admittedly probably not in winter though). A flock of Barnacle Geese over Asda in winter fog was an unexpected winter highlight once though!
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Have you done Old Park? When I was in Canterbury back when kind of made it my local patch and had some good birds there (admittedly probably not in winter though). A flock of Barnacle Geese over Asda in winter fog was an unexpected winter highlight once though!
I never realised that you once lived in Canterbury. Did our paths ever cross?

The Old Park is my nearest open space being about a kilometre from where I've lived (near Sainsbury's) for decades. Shamefully, until lockdown I badly neglected the place and rarely went there. As you know it has tended to be a refuge for lads on motorbikes, youths with air rifles, etc. and as I taught many of the children from the local estates the prospect of seeing some of my students up to no good (to our mutual embarrassment) meant I avoided the area, a habit I continued even after retirement. However, it has been a great refuge during this and previous lockdowns. Several pairs of Turtle Doves still persist there, the Nightingale population is pretty good and there are Firecrests in the woods. You're right that it's fairly quiet in the winter but the cycle path is my route to the wetland delights of Fordwich-Westbere so I'm still looking at some of the Old Park. I'm envious of your Barnacle Geese (the best strays I've had over my house in previous years have been Greenshank, Common Tern, Honey Buzzard and, most recently, Red Kite). I'd be interested in what else you saw. Were there Buzzards in your day? How regularly did you find Hobby?
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
A shorter (4 miles) more urban walk today to get some shopping and try my luck with Great Black-backed Gull and Raven ..... still no joy!
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I never realised that you once lived in Canterbury. Did our paths ever cross?

The Old Park is my nearest open space being about a kilometre from where I've lived (near Sainsbury's) for decades. Shamefully, until lockdown I badly neglected the place and rarely went there. As you know it has tended to be a refuge for lads on motorbikes, youths with air rifles, etc. and as I taught many of the children from the local estates the prospect of seeing some of my students up to no good (to our mutual embarrassment) meant I avoided the area, a habit I continued even after retirement. However, it has been a great refuge during this and previous lockdowns. Several pairs of Turtle Doves still persist there, the Nightingale population is pretty good and there are Firecrests in the woods. You're right that it's fairly quiet in the winter but the cycle path is my route to the wetland delights of Fordwich-Westbere so I'm still looking at some of the Old Park. I'm envious of your Barnacle Geese (the best strays I've had over my house in previous years have been Greenshank, Common Tern, Honey Buzzard and, most recently, Red Kite). I'd be interested in what else you saw. Were there Buzzards in your day? How regularly did you find Hobby?
I wouldn't be sure, but probably not? Was in Canterbury back in 2000 -2002ish - initially doing a PGCE Science KS2/3 but that didn't quite go to plan ... ;-) Lived on Sturry Road and later Dickens Avenue. I also went back a year or two later and ended up living under someone's dining room table for a while.

To be honest I don't recall birding it properly in the summer, although do recall Woodcock flying up onto the open areas and calling in the evening. I thought I recalled hearing loads of Nightingales though on one spring day - double figures walking around the whole area - would that be possible? Don't recall either Buzzard or Hobby tbh. Yes - kids on scramblers (once with an air rifle and they told me they were going to shoot the birds and I suggested they shoot rabbits instead ... (cop out I know!)) and a bloke with a rifle looking well suspicious by the pond.

Highlights - Arctic Terns over the pond briefly one morning. Wryneck up on the top for a few days, Dartford Warbler in the gorse one winter. Best though was a White-tailed Eagle one (late?) Autumn - brief views as it was frantically mobbed by two crows and dipped below me in one of those valleys. It might have been the same day recall standing up on the top and having 3 Sparrowhawks straight over in amongst general passage too in quite strong easterlies. Redstarts, Whinchats and Wheaters etc in autumn passage - birds generally hanging around too sometimes.

Making me reminisce ... ;-)

I twitched a few things badly at Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh I think - Blue-winged Teal, Black-winged Pratincole only things I can recall.
 
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
I wouldn't be sure, but probably not? Was in Canterbury back in 2000 -2002ish - initially doing a PGCE Science KS2/3 but that didn't quite go to plan ... ;-) Lived on Sturry Road and later Dickens Avenue. I also went back a year or two later and ended up living under someone's dining room table for a while.

To be honest I don't recall birding it properly in the summer, although do recall Woodcock flying up onto the open areas and calling in the evening. I thought I recalled hearing loads of Nightingales though on one spring day - double figures walking around the whole area - would that be possible? Don't recall either Buzzard or Hobby tbh. Yes - kids on scramblers (once with an air rifle and they told me they were going to shoot the birds and I suggested they shoot rabbits instead ... (cop out I know!)) and a bloke with a rifle looking well suspicious by the pond.

Highlights - Arctic Terns over the pond briefly one morning. Wryneck up on the top for a few days, Dartford Warbler in the gorse one winter. Best though was a White-tailed Eagle one (late?) Autumn - brief views as it was frantically mobbed by two crows and dipped below me in one of those valleys. It might have been the same day recall standing up on the top and having 3 Sparrowhawks straight over in amongst general passage too in quite strong easterlies. Redstarts, Whinchats and Wheaters etc in autumn passage - birds generally hanging around too sometimes.

Making me reminisce ... ;-)

I twitched a few things badly at Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh I think - Blue-winged Teal, Black-winged Pratincole only things I can recall.

Blimey, White-tailed Eagle, that's seriously impressive (and annoying as it likely flew over my house!) - did you submit the record to the KOS? Wryneck's damn good too - I'm told the area was one of the last in Kent where they regularly bred (into the 60s or 70s I think). I'd heard that Dartford Warbler were sometimes present in the gorse there but I've never seen one there (hardly surprising as I only really started looking this year!). Nor have I seen Redstarts, Whinchats or Wheaters (which would have been commoner on passage twenty-odd years back) although it gives me hope for this spring. Sparrowhawks are still about (although two together is the most I've seen). As for Buzzards, they were still very scarce birds in Kent back then (breeding was only proven in 1999 and that was in west Kent) but now they're decidedly common - I've seen up to 6 together in the area. So common that even I can get a half-decent photo (on the water meadow between Old Park & Fordwich). I'm a little surprised, though, that you didn't happen across a Hobby. There were at least 11 pairs of Nightingale in the area last year so I wouldn't be surprised if there were more back then. There were also several pairs of Turtle Dove.
 

Original PaulE

Well-known member
I too am only birding, on foot from the front door during lockdown, I'm also doing between 4 to 6 miles at a go, I'm only up to 68 species, I have less variable habitat than you, mainly farmland with a couple of small woods, no wetland that I've been able to find so far and no rivers so I'm well down on Waders and Wildfowl!! Have seen a Merlin and a Red Kite, but you are right about appreciating the commoner species more, have had very nice encounters with Yellowhammer, Skylark and Bullfinch, looking forward to be allowed further afield, especially keen to get to the coast, but will definitely cut down the number of trips further afield and keep doing the local walks as well in the future.
 

Swindon Addick

Registered User
Supporter
Wales
A quick plug in case anyone wants to join in - over on the Lists bit of the forum a number of us are trying to put together a global year-list of birds seen by BF members without using powered transport (so basically walking or cycling only, as people are describing here). We're currently on 330 species worldwide, of which 130 in the US and 114 in the UK, plus a number of other countries and a fair amount of overlap. Here's the thread. There's a spreadsheet organised by dantheman which you can add species to, or you can just paste a list into a post on the thread and someone will get round to updating the spreadsheet eventually.
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
I'm now up to 83 on my 5km list. Having found a pair of tumbling Ravens (82) over Westbere I followed them with my binoculars as they dropped below the trees only to have a Bittern (83) fly into the lower edge of my field of view (thank goodness for my 10x binoculars' exceptional FoV!). However, I'm still struggling to find Linnet, Red-legged Partridge, GBb Gull, and owls of any description. After today's breaking, if belated, news I just hope that I didn't walk past a garden hosting an Eye-browed Thrush somewhere in "east Kent"! It's one of my most wanted birds but I'm 100% behind the decision not to release the news.
 

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