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Birdwatching more locally (1 Viewer)

LittleBitOfBreadNoCheese

Well-known member
Scotland
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.
I lived in London in my college days and managed loads of birdwatching on resevoirs and the Thames/Medway estuaries and Isle of Sheppey (my fave).
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
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.
Going over to the dark side, eh John? ;-)
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
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.
There are a couple threads/initiatives here on BF at least - garden birding, green listing and 5km bird list (not all started up for 2022 yet).

With lockdowns and more environmental awareness certainly more interest in such things it seems. Some things like Patchwork Challenge and Foot-it challenge from longer ago mind.
 

bonxie2003

Going for the One
United Kingdom
I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but…
I would suggest that if every long haul birder from the developed world pre 2020 decided to stop birding in the developing world post 2021, then the affect on climate change would be marginal and the affect on local reserves, and by association, local birds, would be catastrophic.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but…
I would suggest that if every long haul birder from the developed world pre 2020 decided to stop birding in the developing world post 2021, then the affect on climate change would be marginal and the affect on local reserves, and by association, local birds, would be catastrophic.
Absolutely. However the flip side is that someone has to start somehow, somewhere, and if birders and conservationists can't consider it...

If people purporting to be conservationists loudly tout how much they are going to travel extensively, then how can anyone expect your average chav/lout/hipster to even consider doing anything about reducing their carbon footprint?
 

William Lewis

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I'm conscious of this.

Generally I'll go birding within an hour or so of home and quite often set off on foot if I'm in an area anyway or from home. Its very satisfying wandering out the front door and back on a few hours later with a list of 30/40 species. I think as long as there's a reasonable variety of terrain and habitats its nice, I'm in Stotfold England.

I use a small 300cc honda scooter to get about birding if it's more than 5/10 miles from home. It's very fuel efficient at 80+mpg and doesn't burn up the atmosphere too much, quicker than the car if there's any traffic too.

Even that though does seem to be too damaging for my tastes, my gardening business means I have to run a couple of diesel vans and various petrol tools so I'm probably emmiting more than my fair share - we do plant plenty of trees though!

I'm thinking of jacking in the scooter and just using public transport and push bikes but it does mean more time away from the family so it's always a compromise, we do get all our electricity into the house from renewable and don't have gas plumbed in or burn wood/coal.

It's a very tricky balance at present but one I think we've all got to strike and that people who have a passion for nature are more conscious of than most, it's been a very warm new years day here.....
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Absolutely. However the flip side is that someone has to start somehow, somewhere, and if birders and conservationists can't consider it...

If people purporting to be conservationists loudly tout how much they are going to travel extensively, then how can anyone expect your average chav/lout/hipster to even consider doing anything about reducing their carbon footprint?
But just going isn't touting loudly - nor is answering posts on here, the social reach of BF is nil - and tbh you can shout till blue in the face at chavs louts and hipsters and nothing will happen in their heads.

John
 

James Owen

New member
I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but…
I would suggest that if every long haul birder from the developed world pre 2020 decided to stop birding in the developing world post 2021, then the affect on climate change would be marginal and the affect on local reserves, and by association, local birds, would be catastrophic.

So far as the climate change element of that goes, the same argument would go that if everyone named Steve gave up air travel than the net effect would be negligible, so leave all the Steve's alone. For the second part climate change is itself potentially catastrophic for many local areas and species. Recent studies have suggested the UK could lose 90% of its puffins due to climate change, a trip to Bempton isn't going to change that. Many different kinds of foreign conservation areas could suffer just as badly.

Anyway, keeping a green list is very rewarding, renews the excitement and satisfaction of semi-rarities upwards when you realise you've never seen one sans-car. Like having a garden list, only bigger and better.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
But just going isn't touting loudly - nor is answering posts on here, the social reach of BF is nil - and tbh you can shout till blue in the face at chavs louts and hipsters and nothing will happen in their heads.

John
Indeed ;-)

It was just a general comment, and not really a critiscm on here, although I do recall people in the past on here gloating about how many flights they were going to be taking, which sounded a bit much.

Did I hear/read recently that Chris Packham wasn't going to do any more foreign travel?
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Indeed ;-)

It was just a general comment, and not really a critiscm on here, although I do recall people in the past on here gloating about how many flights they were going to be taking, which sounded a bit much.

Did I hear/read recently that Chris Packham wasn't going to do any more foreign travel?
I'd rather hear that the annoying Michaela Strachan had been dropped from the watches!

John
 

Larry Sweetland

Formerly 'Larry Wheatland'
I've got obsessively into local birding over the last few years (within 2km of my Bristol home). The fact that my local patch (the area surrounding where I live and work) is rubbish just adds to the fun trying to find anything vaguely interesting. For me it's helped that there are a few other bird/camera types that I l've tried (with a fair bit of success) to get into "the patch", so it's now also become a social/info sharing thing. Belting off on my bike to narrowly miss 2 patch ticks last year (Great Black-backed Gull and Shelduck) has been every bit as crushing as when I was more bothered about national rarities. And likewise scoring surprise patch ticks like pheasant, Jack Snipe etc and discovering that more pops in on passage than I knew about, is just as rewarding. Most of the rare birds that turn up in the UK are common elsewhere anyway, so it just depends where you put you're boundaries as to what makes a mega extralimiral.

I do miss foreign travel though, and haven't had a lifer for about 2 years, but having seen about half the world's birds, I think I've been greedy enough as it is, and it's time I grew up and stopped.

Really excited about what might turn up on patch this year. Maybe I'll finally catch up with Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo, or even something more exciting.

Happy 2022 all 😊🤩
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
I have always done much of my birding locally by bicycle, but I will also drive or fly to see things that are unlikely to come to me.
Pretty much the same for my work: I choose to live close to work so I can cycle there, but I also need to drive or fly for it (except the last 2 years).

I am well aware that I don't particularly suffer or have changed my ways for the better. I am trying to get back to cycling the distances I used to when I did not have a car without getting too tired. Some way to go...
 

jurek

Well-known member
Absolutely. However the flip side is that someone has to start somehow, somewhere, and if birders and conservationists can't consider it...
Your argument of righteously showing the way has a major flaw: nobody but birders cares what birders do or don't.

Many different kinds of foreign conservation areas could suffer just as badly.
If ecotoursists don't come, many tropical reserves will be lost within years, long before climate change becomes visible.

I written in another thread, that it would be possible to count how many species depend from ecotourism for their existence: all African megafauna for example. This loss will be catastrophic.
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
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!

I know flights would have a huge carbon footprint and I have not flown for 3 years and before that 2 1/2 years? I am bothered in a sense that I actually would like to see a lot of the rarities that do turn up but many many circumstances get in the way even locally. If I was free would I still go - to some yes, to others no. You can plan a holiday but not what rarities turn up.
The right answer is of course being grateful with what we have locally, travelling only when it is necessary - of course there are so many other changes we could make but I just wanted to focus on this travel aspect as I know very few birders or have come across them who do not travel anywhere to see birds.

I think an individuals actions is not as detrimental as how governments, big business behave - they are the ones responsible for the mess we are in but that is a linked but separate debate.
 

Himalaya

Well-known member
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


The world can support more people than we probably could ever imagine. The biggest issue is the greed that a small % of the population has who consume everything mostly for their benefit. Obesity is a problem in the Western world. I would admit I am overweight so potentially eating for up to 2 people. Overcrowding - the rich acquire large plots of land to live in and the majority live in more cramped conditions. Land use should be regulated. Should people be allowed to have 2 homes - especially if it is a home they use a few weeks per year? Over development - roads are there because we create demand for them. Natural resources are just exploited, wasted, taken over by a few people. Especially in the western world we overconsume. Look at those grouse moors - classic example.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
Should we all accept less enrichment in our lives so that the planet can support more people?

Where does that future end?

20 billion people living in cubicles, going nowhere, doing nothing except exercising their right to breed?
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
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.”
I twitched a few things on PT including Snowy Ownl on Uist, Sora at Newton Abbot where I slept in a sleeping bag in a shop doorway until first light then walked to site and my last twitch on PT was the Long-billed Murrelet.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
The world can support more people than we probably could ever imagine. The biggest issue is the greed that a small % of the population has who consume everything mostly for their benefit. Obesity is a problem in the Western world. I would admit I am overweight so potentially eating for up to 2 people. Overcrowding - the rich acquire large plots of land to live in and the majority live in more cramped conditions. Land use should be regulated. Should people be allowed to have 2 homes - especially if it is a home they use a few weeks per year? Over development - roads are there because we create demand for them. Natural resources are just exploited, wasted, taken over by a few people. Especially in the western world we overconsume. Look at those grouse moors - classic example.
On the contrary there are already many areas in which the world is conspicuously over-exploited. The general scientific consensus is that we are currently using planetary resources (and if you don't see something uniquely anthropocentric and repulsive in that phrase I do) at a rate of about one and a half sustainable planets.

Think about that. We are already consuming half as much again in general as is supportable. That leads to an inevitable conclusion that there are already half as many again people as can be supported, and we are currently seeing the wants of less developed (e.g. most of Africa) and institutionally backward (e.g. China) countries accelerating per capita let alone as a result of population growth.

Much as I dislike the use and abuse of grouse moors, they aren't covered in wheat, aren't having peat extracted and don't have housing estates on them.

What we need is a lot fewer people, and we need it fast. Luckily the currently over-platformed epidemiologists are already whimpering about the next pandemic and with any luck it will do a proper job. The way people are crowded together in cities gives hope that, just as rodent populations boom and bust due to disease when overcrowded, human populations will follow the same way.

In the meantime we've got to get away from the idea that reproduction - which is managed by unicellular amoebae without fuss - is either clever, desirable or something to celebrate.

John
 

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