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Birdwatching more locally (1 Viewer)

Himalaya

Well-known member
A really interesting article. I only know a couple of birders who travel by public transport or by foot and have heard of a few more who do that. My patch is about a mile away and I drive to that 90% of the time.
I used to drive 45-60 minutes away every 2 weeks to go birding from 2013-2015 but circumstances put a stop to that - children, costs, job. Now I probably do that every 2-3 months but sometimes I am lucky enough to be working in a different area and get to visit some reserves and even twitches that way. I do go to twitches - only once more than an hour away. I don't go to every single twitch even within an hour away as it takes a lot of planning with full time work and children. I have to do a lot of driving for my job and I don't like doing more than I should. This year I have seen the Belted Kingfisher, White Tailed Lapwing, Long Toed Stint.

I love travelling and even for environmental reasons I would hate to stop. I like visiting different areas and given the choice between going to an area which I have been to before and holds a mega rarity and an area I have never been to before which holds the usual suspects - I would prefer the latter. I have been to Norfolk in late autumn - 3rd week of October for a few days.

My 2 favourite nature reserves in the North of England are St Aidan's aka Swillington Ings which is about an hour away and Spurn area which is 2 1/2 hours. I am not sure what public transport would be available on a Sunday when I am most likely free from the small town I live in so that would be out of the question. I first visited Spurn in 2012 and I have only been 6 times. St Aidan's I first visited in 2013 and probably been about 15 times maximum - last 3-4 years barely scraping 1-2 visits per year.

I live in a hilly area inland with sheep grazed pastures, reservoirs, plantations which struggle to attract any national scarcities let alone rarities. I do love visiting lowland wetlands in spring and summer for the sound and the biodiversity. I would love to have seen that River Warbler in Somerset but the distance could not be justified in my eyes plus I have been there in the summer. I have seen one in Germany but even as a first for Britain or a lifer I would not have seen it. I didn't go for the Albatross even though that really would have been an out of this world experience.

My list is about 280 in the UK and I would like to be over 300 in the next few years. Lots of scarcities missing including Green Winged Teal!

To me it feels like twitching, listing and birdwatching are almost becoming different past times. I am lucky to have a patch I can go around but the general biodiversity is low there. It is not on a migration route too so compared to some not very far areas even a few miles away we seem to lack spring and autumn passage. Good spring and autumn Ring Ouzel passage and twice I have achieved 10 raptors in a year - Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Merlin, Osprey, Goshawk the highlights - Red Kite still needed!

Who would bird more locally or use cleaner ways to get there? Who would give up twitching for environmental reasons ? Did anyone feel deprived in lockdown not being able to twitch? What about the fuel crisis a few moths ago - did anyone stop going out on birding trips or twitching then? I have reconsidered going on some twitches if I was going alone because I thought of the environmental cost but rarely has it even got to that stage. I enjoyed lockdown and not having to work and spent a few hours out and about more than I should have done locally. I didn't leave my area.
Does anyone twitch by public transport - I met a guy from Doncaster possibly at the Baikal Teal twitch at Marshside in 2013 and the Ring Billed Gull twitch at Preston Docks in 2015. I think I gave him a lift to the train station in 2015. He could travel for free because he worked for a train company so he would twitch that way too.

I am not sure what others thoughts are on this subject. Times are changing and so are peoples ideas.




Twitching is synonymous with birdwatching, which can often involve long journeys in search of rare species. But now a new breed of climate-conscious birder is trying to persuade fellow enthusiasts to keep it local instead.

A group of young birders has created a challenge for spotters to find birds in their own patch close to home rather than routinely travelling long distances to spot particular birds, a practice known as “twitching”.



The Green Patch Challenge, created by Joe Parham, a 22-year-old birder from the Midlands, invites under-25s to attempt to travel only on foot or by bike to see birds.

“We all need to make changes to our lives to address the climate crisis, and the goal of the challenge is to capture this while encouraging young birders to explore and enjoy nature close to them,” Parham said.

“It’s not about stopping everything. It’s about making positive changes, doing much less travelling and when you do it, try to do it low-carbon.”

Birdwatching has been growing in popularity in the UK and there was a lockdown boom last year when numbers taking part in the RSPB’s annual garden survey, where people report which birds they can see in their gardens, jumped by 85%. About three million people do some birdwatching every year.


The Green Patch Challenge has been followed up by Birdwatch magazine, which set its readers a #LocalBigYear challenge for 2022, inviting birders to find species in patches within 10km of their home. The challenges harness the passion that most birders – whether twitchers or patchers – have for drawing up lists of birds they’ve seen. Many have overlapping lists of birds seen in their back garden, in their county, in the UK or the rest of the world.

The lists can be quite competitive – on New Year’s Day, many birders began their year list by trying to see as many birds as possible on their patch.

At peak migration times, some twitchers travel almost every week to see rare birds, a practice that is increasingly under fire from some parts of the birding community.

In November, about 100 birders travelled to Papa Westray, one of the smallest of the Orkney islands, to see a varied thrush – a bird usually seen only in north America and last spotted in the UK in 1982. Some chartered planes and boats to reach the island for the sighting.

Javier Caletrío, a researcher based in north-west England, set up the Low Carbon Birding blog in 2018 to try to persuade birdwatchers to travel less.

He said it was important for birders to set an example. “If people see us acting as if there is a crisis requiring immediate action, it is more likely that others will also demand urgent, radical action from politicians.”

Birding was often dominated by stories about “the excitement of travelling to distant places and seeing rare and exotic birds” he said. “These young people are telling other young people that they can be good birders and have fun without travelling to distant places by means of burning fossil fuels. And obviously low-carbon birding is not about the end of travel. It is about doing it differently – planning your holidays differently and making the most of public transport.”

Matthew Broadbent, 20, who helps run the Green Patch Challenge, said: “I know the feeling when you see a stunning, rare bird, and it’s fantastic. It’s a buzz, and makes you want more. But we need to learn to travel shorter distances to see birds, we need to do what we can to protect our planet.”

Keir Chauhan, 19, began birding seriously in 2020 and said that joining the Green Patch Challenge in north London had changed his life during the lockdowns.

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“It provided an outlet,” he said. “If I’d had a bad day, I’d go looking for a new bird around Ally Pally.” A pair of peregrine falcons haunts the BBC signal tower on Alexandra Palace. “It’s amazing to watch them hunt in the mornings, chasing the crows,” he said.



“There’s a reservoir near there and most of the time there’s no birds whatsoever. But one time I saw a kestrel land and it turned out they were nesting there. Even in a place as birdless as that – it’s not a foreign country, it’s not a nature reserve – you can see interesting birds.”

Stephen Moss, a lifelong birder and author, whose book, Skylarks with Rosie, charts the lockdown birdwatching he did in the patch near his Somerset home, said that making local observations had an important ecological purpose as it enabled research into the prevalence of bird species.

“Low-carbon birding is clearly a good idea,” Moss said, “but some people are arguing that we should not be doing any long-distance trips – Chris Packham said he’s never going to do it again.

“But there are places like Costa Rica, the Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, or Kenya where vast amounts of its economy comes from wildlife tourism. We need to find the right balance between the local and global.”
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Yes, I agree — of course we should all try and reduce the environmental impact of our birding. Whether that be travel, buying expensive kit etc etc. The challenge (as you rightly put it) is that for many, going round the same local patch doesn’t give the same thrill as a new place or a rarity. Hopefully this kind of initiative will give us a nudge to stay local more, find ways to make it more interesting etc
 
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Original PaulE

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Yes I agree, due to the covid restrictions I have basically had to bird more locally, my milage has gone from 20000+ per year down to about 7000! I have already.given up flying but we have booked Shetland in May so that may add some miles this year! I will probably do most of my birding in Sussex this year although if a lifer comes up in neighbouring counties I may Twitch it, although an Ivory Gull could tempt me further afield!! However I wouldn't be too concerned I read somewhere that one premier league football weekend generates more Carbon than all the birding in the UK for a year, so we are small potatoes really,though every little helps!!

Cheers
 

JTweedie

Well-known member
I've never been too fussed about rarities. If I come across one great, but I've hardly any inclination to go and travel to see one. I know it seems to be the focus of many people on this forum and it's probably the only way to build up your bird lists (if that's what drives you). But I like to focus primarily on local birds, or birds that are easily seen in places accessible by public transport. I did have a car and it absolutely did let me see birds that have eluded me since, mainly because it gave me access to sites that aren't served by public transport. So it is in a sense frustrating that I'm not getting to see as much as I once did. But I've made my decision not to have a car and I knew this was a possible effect.

But what I've been trying to do is to, a few times a year, visit places that will get me a lot of species in a short spell. So that might be something like an island visit to see seabirds (and also a chance of something more unusual turning up, like at Isle of May). I've not seen a cirl bunting, but I know if I visit Devon for a few days then I could see them plus perhaps some species that aren't easily found near me.

So that's really been my philosophy - local birds supplemented by the odd visit each year to sites that host species not seen easily near me. I've started doing more research on guided tours (where someone can drive me around sites) that can get me the maximum number of species in a short visit - this includes reviewing trip reports and seeing how many species they see that I've not seen. You can never guarantee you'll see them all if you visit, but it seems a good way of going about things to me.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I'm retiring in 29 days and intend to spend more time birding by bike and on foot to get fit and lose weight - because I have more time. While working I have had to maximise birding time by driving even short distances. So locally I will cut down somewhat.

Obviously with less money I shall do less mileage but I have no intention of cutting out twitching or distance birding: I'll just be more careful to make sure I've got some or all of my team on board to share costs.

And only a non-listing, non-twitching birder isolated from the mainstream would think the three things are separate, so as a listing, twitching birder accustomed to social birding let me set the record straight: they aren't.

John
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
Yes, I agree — of course we should all try and reduce the environmental impact of our birding. Whether that be travel, buying expensive kit etc etc. The challenge (as you rightly put it) is that for many, going round the same local patch doesn’t give the same thrill as a new place or a rarity. Hopefully this kind of initiative will give us a nudge to stay local more, find ways to make it more interesting etc


I do feel guilty about the environmental damage for a trip to see something just for the sake of it. I would never do a year list and travel all around the country to tick species which I know a few people do. I have seen Dartford Warblers twice in the UK but I would never make it a mission to have them on my year list every year even though they are a great bird. If one turned up within 45 minutes away and it was showy and stayed a few days I just might go see it even though it would not be a lifer.

I thought we would miss rarities locally because of less coverage however, lockdown did not bring out any real surprises.
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
Yes I agree, due to the covid restrictions I have basically had to bird more locally, my milage has gone from 20000+ per year down to about 7000! I have already.given up flying but we have booked Shetland in May so that may add some miles this year! I will probably do most of my birding in Sussex this year although if a lifer comes up in neighbouring counties I may Twitch it, although an Ivory Gull could tempt me further afield!! However I wouldn't be too concerned I read somewhere that one premier league football weekend generates more Carbon than all the birding in the UK for a year, so we are small potatoes really,though every little helps!!

Cheers


I would be very tempted to ban football matches if I was in charge - that would not go down well anywhere but I loved driving without getting stuck in football related traffic.
I don't think I could give up flying -I would rather much give up the twitching I do. I don't fly a lot - not been abroad for 3 years. I would if I could have a maximum of 2 trips abroad but he last 5-6 years even that looks difficult
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
I'm retiring in 29 days and intend to spend more time birding by bike and on foot to get fit and lose weight - because I have more time. While working I have had to maximise birding time by driving even short distances. So locally I will cut down somewhat.

Obviously with less money I shall do less mileage but I have no intention of cutting out twitching or distance birding: I'll just be more careful to make sure I've got some or all of my team on board to share costs.

And only a non-listing, non-twitching birder isolated from the mainstream would think the three things are separate, so as a listing, twitching birder accustomed to social birding let me set the record straight: they aren't.

John
I do list and I do twitch not as most people would but I do think there seems to be different ways people do things now. Some people I see just tick and that is it. They don't even go out locally to birdwatch.
I come across lots of people watching birds from their homes who don't even consider themselves as birdwatchers. Their reason is that they don't go anywhere to watch birds.
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
I've never been too fussed about rarities. If I come across one great, but I've hardly any inclination to go and travel to see one. I know it seems to be the focus of many people on this forum and it's probably the only way to build up your bird lists (if that's what drives you). But I like to focus primarily on local birds, or birds that are easily seen in places accessible by public transport. I did have a car and it absolutely did let me see birds that have eluded me since, mainly because it gave me access to sites that aren't served by public transport. So it is in a sense frustrating that I'm not getting to see as much as I once did. But I've made my decision not to have a car and I knew this was a possible effect.

But what I've been trying to do is to, a few times a year, visit places that will get me a lot of species in a short spell. So that might be something like an island visit to see seabirds (and also a chance of something more unusual turning up, like at Isle of May). I've not seen a cirl bunting, but I know if I visit Devon for a few days then I could see them plus perhaps some species that aren't easily found near me.

So that's really been my philosophy - local birds supplemented by the odd visit each year to sites that host species not seen easily near me. I've started doing more research on guided tours (where someone can drive me around sites) that can get me the maximum number of species in a short visit - this includes reviewing trip reports and seeing how many species they see that I've not seen. You can never guarantee you'll see them all if you visit, but it seems a good way of going about things to me.


I like doing things that way - taking trips nationally and seeing what I can see.

The only place I have been birding without a car is London where I visited the Wetland Centre, Woodberry Wetlands, Rainham Marshes. It is much easier in an urban area or from a place with lots of transport links.
 

Original PaulE

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I would be very tempted to ban football matches if I was in charge - that would not go down well anywhere but I loved driving without getting stuck in football related traffic.
I don't think I could give up flying -I would rather much give up the twitching I do. I don't fly a lot - not been abroad for 3 years. I would if I could have a maximum of 2 trips abroad but he last 5-6 years even that looks difficult
Rather undermines your position then, because 1 flight would create more Carbon than a years worth of local Twitching? This of course is the problem that people are not prepared to give up the stuff they want to do that would make a difference but happy to give up stuff they are not bothered about which makes little difference, hence heading full tilt past 1.5C and on to extinction!
 

jurek

Well-known member
Few short years ago, BirdLife urged people to do more birding travel, since ecotourism is often the only realistic chance to prevent people from destroying habitats for profit. This did not change, what changed is the ideology: from protecting the planet to reduce solely carbon emissions.

Inevitably, in few years we will see fallbacks. Reserves in more remote places will fall into disrepair or destruction, because local tourism will not compensate it. The resulting damage to nature will be far bigger than benefit of lower carbon emission. Even more destructive will be loss of public interest in protecting nature in remote places, and in nature in general, because people will see little interesting in their local suburban patches.

The general public will still be interested in something: they will watch computer animations of animals, play computer games and sometimes visit zoos. Things like 'fantasy birding' or 'remote birding' will be popular. But people will be generally unaware and uninterested that the real nature will be gone.

Of course, sometime the circle will turn, and people will rediscover what little nature will survive, and see giant windmills next to nature reserves from the early 21. century with the same horror as we see smoking factory chimneys from the early 20. century.

There is still time to stop this from happening - see beyond the limitations of narrow carbon emissions only.
 

Original PaulE

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Few short years ago, BirdLife urged people to do more birding travel, since ecotourism is often the only realistic chance to prevent people from destroying habitats for profit. This did not change, what changed is the ideology: from protecting the planet to reduce solely carbon emissions.

Inevitably, in few years we will see fallbacks. Reserves in more remote places will fall into disrepair or destruction, because local tourism will not compensate it. The resulting damage to nature will be far bigger than benefit of lower carbon emission. Even more destructive will be loss of public interest in protecting nature in remote places, and in nature in general, because people will see little interesting in their local suburban patches.

The general public will still be interested in nature: they will watch computer animations of animals, play computer games and sometimes visit zoos. Things like 'fantasy birding' or 'remote birding' will be popular. But people will be generally unaware and uninterested that the real nature will be gone.

Of course, sometime the circle will turn, and people will rediscover what little nature will survive, and see giant windmills in nature reserves from the early 21. century with the same horror as we see smoking factory chimneys from the early 20. century.

There is still time to stop this from happening - see beyond the limitations of narrow carbon emissions only.
Yes there are many other problems than Carbon, Plastic and Pesticides are as big if not greater threats to bio-diversity, your eco-tourism issue could relatively easily be addressed with richer countries giving aid to poorer countries to protect nature though that would depend on having governments who give a toss, which in my opinion is the biggest problem of them all!!
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Yes there are many other problems than Carbon, Plastic and Pesticides are as big if not greater threats to bio-diversity, your eco-tourism issue could relatively easily be addressed with richer countries giving aid to poorer countries to protect nature though that would depend on having governments who give a toss, which in my opinion is the biggest problem of them all!!
Well, you are wrong. Uncontrolled human breeding is the biggest problem of all and the one that needs addressing most urgently, because every other problem stems from it: overcrowding, over-development, over-fishing, deforestation for agriculture, hardwoods for furniture.... fundamentally not only over-use of natural resources but also grindingly increasing lack of space for nature. If any other species on the planet mushroomed like humans, we'd cull it.

Since humans seem fundamentally incapable of stopping their non-stop senseless rutting and even the meanest peasant seems to think they need an heir, what is needed is a damn great pandemic that hits the breeding population, instead of the current wishy-washy apology for one that mainly eliminates the post-breeding cohort.

John
 

Original PaulE

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Well, you are wrong. Uncontrolled human breeding is the biggest problem of all and the one that needs addressing most urgently, because every other problem stems from it: overcrowding, over-development, over-fishing, deforestation for agriculture, hardwoods for furniture.... fundamentally not only over-use of natural resources but also grindingly increasing lack of space for nature. If any other species on the planet mushroomed like humans, we'd cull it.

Since humans seem fundamentally incapable of stopping their non-stop senseless rutting and even the meanest peasant seems to think they need an heir, what is needed is a damn great pandemic that hits the breeding population, instead of the current wishy-washy apology for one that mainly eliminates the post-breeding cohort.

John
Unfortunately culling humans is generally frowned upon, and even trying to control Human breeding is fraught with problems, even in China where Government control is pretty total they had to give it up. The trouble is Humans have always lived destructively, destroying, radically changing habitats even when the population was lower, The trouble is the western lifestyle, with a relatively small part of the population driving most of the problems you have listed, and with developing countries wanting the same lifestyle, amplifying the problem, reducing our consumption to a level below which the planet can sustain is what is needed and as we in the west are those living way beyond that level it is up to us to reduce our consumption the most at the same time encouraging developing countries to adopt sustainability in their growth.
I did one of those Carbon Footprint things the other day, listing what I use etc and impressed myself for having just 64% of the Carbon Footprint of the average Brit until I realised that i was still 14times above the world average, I know they are b/s but shows the sort of levels of consumption we have in the west compared to those in the rest of the world!!
You won't stop people rutting but we could cut down the amount of greed there is in our society!
Cheers
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Unfortunately culling humans is generally frowned upon, and even trying to control Human breeding is fraught with problems, even in China where Government control is pretty total they had to give it up. The trouble is Humans have always lived destructively, destroying, radically changing habitats even when the population was lower, The trouble is the western lifestyle, with a relatively small part of the population driving most of the problems you have listed, and with developing countries wanting the same lifestyle, amplifying the problem, reducing our consumption to a level below which the planet can sustain is what is needed and as we in the west are those living way beyond that level it is up to us to reduce our consumption the most at the same time encouraging developing countries to adopt sustainability in their growth.
I did one of those Carbon Footprint things the other day, listing what I use etc and impressed myself for having just 64% of the Carbon Footprint of the average Brit until I realised that i was still 14times above the world average, I know they are b/s but shows the sort of levels of consumption we have in the west compared to those in the rest of the world!!
You won't stop people rutting but we could cut down the amount of greed there is in our society!
Cheers
Why do you think those desires are any more susceptible to change than the insane insistence on reproducing? If you think any behaviour can be changed then all we need is good messaging: shaming those with multiple children and especially grandparents who boast of the reach of their extending families; presenting and exalting the alternatives (at least one poster on here has lamented the effect family and children have had on their birding: imagine if someone sensible had got at them early and suggested that a non-parental existence would vastly enhance their list) - not to mention emphasising experience: Pepys' diary noted: "Strange, to see what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition"!

I have no children. That was from choice. I did not want to do childcare instead of twitching. My carbon footprint will be the last of my line. That's real commitment to Nature.

Cheers

John
 

jurek

Well-known member
your eco-tourism issue could relatively easily be addressed with richer countries giving aid to poorer countries to protect nature though that would depend on having governments who give a toss, which in my opinion is the biggest problem of them all!!
It is not my ecotourism issue, it is humanity issue.

Richer countries giving sufficient aid to protect nature in poorer countries did not work, and will not work in future. Among others, if voters in richer countries rarely experience tropical nature, why should they pressure their governments to give aid?

Look beyond myoptic 'my commitment to conservation = carbon footprint'.
 

Original PaulE

Well-known member
United Kingdom
It is not my ecotourism issue, it is humanity issue.

Richer countries giving sufficient aid to protect nature in poorer countries did not work, and will not work in future. Among others, if voters in richer countries rarely experience tropical nature, why should they pressure their governments to give aid?

Look beyond myoptic 'my commitment to conservation = carbon footprint'.
When did richer countries give aid to poorer countries and why didn't it work? People in rich countries experience tropical nature all the time through television, I've never been to the tropics but appreciate it's wildlife and would vote for parties who would have aid for wildlife as one of their policies, Let's face it habitat destruction has been widespread through the age of ecotourism maybe we need to look at a different model, instead of regime change for political reasons, maybe we could start destabilising governments for environmental ones!! Can think of a few countries where that would benefit wildlife, the UK being one!!
 

David_

Well-known member
Germany
Reserves in more remote places will fall into disrepair or destruction, because local tourism will not compensate it. The resulting damage to nature will be far bigger than benefit of lower carbon emission.
A lot of reserves in remote places will loose the animals currently drawing international tourists because of changing habitats. I don‘t think ecotourism is a notable driver of climate change but ecotourism will suffer from climate change. If climate change is not noticeably slowed I don‘t see a long term future for ecotourism.

Richer countries giving sufficient aid to protect nature in poorer countries did not work, and will not work in future.
Yes, giving money couldn’t work because at the same time western companies and politicIans did their best to build up cleptocratic elites in poorer countries (e.g. German companies could officially use bribery’s paid in foreign countries to lower their taxes paid in Germany until the early 2000s) who sell out their countries nature to (mostly) foreign companies. As long as richer countries don‘t fundamentally change their economic policies paying money to protect nature elsewhere won‘t work as there will always be the next ressource to exploit. And I don‘t see those changes in richer countries happening.
 

LittleBitOfBreadNoCheese

Well-known member
Scotland
I ditched my car 15 years ago and do a lot of cyling anyway. Fortunately I'm fairly well situated and the train up to Dumbarton/Helensburgh or Milngavie (West Highland Way) is quite handy for birding, plus we have the Clyde estuary islands via train/ferry. I don't do rarity chasing so I have quite a suitable mix of local/semi-local sites I can get to.
 

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