Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Is the local patch birder endangered?

I was involved in a three-way Twitter conversation this afternoon that was really quite interesting. It was between 'local' birders, with one member of the triumvirate voicing concern that the local birding scene is slowly withering on the vine.

Let's look at the facts. It was suggested that there are 50 -60 keen birders who live within the immediate catchment area of Beddington Sewage Farm, Canons Farm and Holmethorpe Sand Pits. Of these, only a handful are what could be termed 'regulars' at one of these patches. In fact, the numbers of avid patch watchers at all three sites is dwindling. This doesn't concern me as much as it did one of this afternoon's tweeters.

Let's take each patch on its own, with Beddington first up. This is a site that has been covered by birdwatchers for close on a century. It has an unbroken and thorough ornithological record since the 1930s. But within this time there have been peaks and troughs of effort. The 1950s and 1960s were considered a golden period, followed by a fallow 1970s that really didn't pick up again until the late 1980s. In recent times the regular group of birders has become smaller through various reasons, but there is still a nucleus present. What it most probably now lacks is the omni-present birder (such as Gary Messenbird and Johnny Allan). It is true that Peter Alfrey lives practically onsite, but he does persue a life elsewhere.

Canons Farm has a very brief ornithological pedigree. From 2005 (when I was one of very few birders present - so few that I never saw one) to last year (by which time a bird group had been formed and a regular band of half-a-dozen birders combed the site most weeks) the area has been given an intense coverage. But that is only true of one birder - David Campbell - who had the time, enthusiasm and patience to carry on blitzing the farm and its neighbouring woodland. You may have noticed that I wrote 'had the time'. That is because David is now at university in Brighton. It gives me no pleasure in saying 'I told you so', but when the Canons Farm scene snowballed three years ago, I did predict that it would only last as long as he was constantly birding there. You need more than one obsessive to be part of the scene to hand the baton to.

Holmethorpe has always been a one-man band and that is Gordon Hay. Others have come and gone (and come back again), but nobody has shared his unwavering enthusiasm to bird the place on an almost daily basis for close on 30 years. I can remember a time (maybe 10 years ago) when Gordon, Graham James and myself set up a website, newsletter and text alert service and it looked as if things might take off. But there weren't enough birders that interested, if truth be told.

Surrey does have other hot spots that lure the obsessives - Tice's Meadow and Unstead Sewage Farm for example, and there are other corners of the county that are given a good grilling on a less formal basis.

Birders come and go. They phase, they move away, they die. But generally, if birds turn up, birders won't be far behind. For Beddington, Canons and Holmethorpe, these are just blips in an evolving story. But what is blindingly obvious is that as much as you 'can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink', the same is true with birders. You can enthuse all you like about a place, take them there, give them a guided tour - but you cannot necessarily make them adopt it as a regualr patch.

27 comments:

  1. You rattled that off quickly and well crafted in such short space of time. I'm one of those who dip in and out when it comes to local patch 'duties'. That's the thing, I'm just not that much of a patch birder and if it starts to feel like a chore I'm not going to bother doing it. After all, it is a hobby, not a career (or a moral obligation), and as hobbies go it can take up a lot of time, which I don't have much of. As a result, when I do have a spare morning I tend to travel somewhere where I think I might see something interesting or new (I'm still inexperienced and want to see birds I haven't seen before – and there are so many of them, even some relatively common ones), rather than hoping something turns up a five-minute walk away. Just the way it is. If I lived on the Shetland Isles I might feel differently!

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    1. Neil, you have a couple of things called a partner and a job to take care of. Birding is a marvellous hobby but can only take place when both of those are cared for first. A no-brainer!

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  2. I decided against using this as a blog post just after I wrote it. So that it doesn't go to waste, here is what I wrote. This is pretty much a first draft so contains raw thoughts that I haven't necessarily bothered to craft or tone down so bear that in mind.

    ___________________________________________________________________

    I've been thinking about writing a blog post like this for a while and a Twitter conversation earlier today, mainly with Steve Gale and Ian Jones made me decide that today would be the day that I would do it but Steve, ever the man for this sort of topic, has beaten me to it and already posted his views here. I still think there's room for me to present my quite different take on it all though...

    In recent years I have been the sort of birder that goes to extremes in my 'hobby'. I have been prepared to make sacrifices in other parts of my life in order to do what I (mostly) enjoy and sometimes feel compelled to do. These sacrifices have been known to involve things that are usually considered more important or of a higher priority than birdwatching and this might be considered a symptom of obsessive behaviour. I see it as kind of a way of life but anyway, the point is that I think about things in a slightly different way to some other birders, although there are of course individuals that are even more driven than myself.



    The concept of the local patch is something that I've become particularly passionate about. I started off my birding locally, visiting sites such as Carshalton Ponds and Nonsuch Park before I moved on to Beddington Farmlands. This was my first introduction to 'proper' patch birding and hardcore patch birders and I liked this type of birding. For reasons that I've already mentioned on this blog I decided that Beddington was no longer the place for me and I instead visited Canons Farm on a regular basis and doing so as regularly as possible soon became one of my priorities as I realised that, by putting in the time, I was finding good local birds. More time meant more birds and missing any time meant that such birds might be also be missed; I began to feel committed to the site and recording the birds there, as if it were a duty of mine. I still enjoyed going there an awful lot, so this mixture of pleasure and a perceived obligation led to me wanting to turn down as few opportunities to walk the fields as possible.



    My time at Canons Farm was very rewarding and I regularly found scarce London/Surrey birds, it's one of my favourite places in the world. A place where I know I play some sort of a role, know every man and his dog (literally) and have shared some great times with other birders as well as being somewhere I know I can find calm, peace and a degree of solitude in the outdoor world should I require some. As you may know, this autumn I had to move down to Brighton to start a course in Ecology. I've accepted this opportunity with open arms and I have no regrets but it has broken my heart that I cannot spend nearly as much time at my beloved Canons as I once was able to and the knowledge that birds are going unrecorded, birds that would otherwise be picked up, grates on me.

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    1. The thing is, the view that I hold and that I made clear in my Twitter discussions is that there are plenty of decent local birders around. I reckon there's probably at least fifty reasonable birders that can get to Canons Farm within, say, twenty minutes and I see all these faces when a good enough bird is discovered or when the farm goes through one of its busy spells. These birders could equally get to Beddington Farmlands or Holmethorpe Sand Pits. Beddington's birding culture, I fear, has been experiencing a collapse since last autumn, when Johnny Allan disappeared along with three or four other important locals. Some have moved away, some have phased and there is now no-one apparently willing to cover it intensely, while many of the birders still going don't seem to be doing so as much as they used to. Since Beddington is a very important site and was once the hub of Surrey's birding community, with Johnny being the main conduit for many years, I feel very sad for the place. Not least because its future looks a little questionable, with the site being owned by a company with debatable commitment to the local restoration plan which is no doubt very happy with the approved plans for a massive incinerator to be plonked in the middle of it. Applause is due to the persistence and hard graft of Peter Alfrey who will no doubt achieve more than any other individual could for the future of Beddington's wildlife.

      One of the main participants in the Twitter thread suggested that these dips in patch-watching effort are nothing to be concerned about and there will come a day when the sites are well-covered and return to their 'golden days'. I'm not so sure. Canons Farm only appeared on the county birding map because myself and two other birders started watching it intensely after another local birder showed that it may have potential with a handful of good finds thanks to a casual run of visits. I've been mostly departed from the Canons Farm scene for nearly two months now and the ornithological record has dropped significantly. There are two, perhaps three, birders that continue to show some sort of dedication to recording the birds there and they are both limited to one visit per week, or two at the most. As Steve pointed out in his blog, without another 'obsessive' type there is little hope of the overall level of effort being maintained. For all I know, someone willing to devote large portions of their spare time to Canons Farm might materialise but I just don't see this happening now. The main reason I doubt this is because birders seem adverse to covering areas that don't shout with promise, i.e. water bodies and the coast.

      Now, Beddington can definitely be described as a wetland, a very large one at that and it's attractive to birds. It has a very firm place in London and Surrey birding history with an impressive systematic list including some mouth-watering occurrences, recent and historic. Why does only a negligible percentage of the rather healthy birding population spend any time there then? I think one reason is that there is arguably no longer a "trademark" face there through whom all information passes to become representative of the site and to enthuse others to put in some time at a site, and feel part of the micro-community that might well flourish. Without someone like this, all of the people who might pop in once a week or two, and whose observations culminate to build a thorough and valuable ornithological record, are likely to drift away.

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    2. The other reason I'm pessimistic with regard to Beddington's scene is the current state of affairs on site and its outlook for the future as a site for wildlife. The land is managed by a corporation that has shown over the years that they only really care about money and growth, as is the tendency amongst such bodies. They agreed to a promising restoration plan but have not exactly proven that they're going to see it through. The incinerator that looks likely to be constructed will occupy the precise area that was supposedly earmarked for the reconstruction of a wet grassland habitat. The last thing that Beddington needs at the moment, apart from being owned by such a company, is for its birders to fade away. It's a commonly shared feeling that the site is much less attractive to birds and birders than it used to be and I'm cynical as to whether this can or will be reversed, or this deterioration halted. A walk around Beddington is no longer a pleasant stroll around calm flooded fields filled with thousands of Common Snipe, it is a trudge around mounds of landfill deafened by the cries of even greater numbers of gulls and corvids and I know for a fact that this is a sole reason why some individuals choose to only twitch the site now. The recent crash in Tree Sparrow numbers there has run more-or-less in parallel with the decreased observer coverage. Without an army of enthusiasts keeping careful watch at this crucial point in time, who's to stop the companies getting what they want? And who would want to spend any time there once they've had their way with it? Peter can only do so much by himself.



      I'm concerned by the hiccup in the local ornithological records. Apparently not everyone is, but I hold the view that these records are ecologically valuable and something worth maintaining constant effort on. Realistically, an unwavering record isn't something you can expect and you could point out that we're only talking about a select few local sites which bear no special reason why they deserve any more coverage than any other chunk of local suburbia and countryside, land that has barely had the surface of its avifauna scratched by any birder. Beddington and Holmethorpe are unique sites locally, but, at the end of the day, Canons Farm and Banstead Woods probably don't matter any more than the fields on the other side of the Chipstead Valley...

      I see the loss of the local birding culture as almost as sad. It's such a shame that the hide banter at Beddington is now effectively folklore and that the emergent community at Canons seems to be withering away just as the bud began to open. Now it just seems like no-one is up for it. It's a common suggestion that no-one has the time, other demands get in the way and it's simply not possible to get out to be a part of it, but everyone seems to turn up when whoever has gone out for a look deservedly finds something, so they must have some free time or some degree of flexibility. It's one thing to devote all of your free time to patching but surely people can afford to pop out now and again? There's no way that 100% of everybody's free daylight is unquestionably otherwise occupied. If every local birder found just a few hours every fortnight, I reckon the three main local sites (Beddington, Canons and Holmethorpe) would be pretty much covered and the local community and sub-communities revived. It won't happen though. If people would rather spend their time on other stuff, you can't argue with that.

      My opinion is a fairly strong one, it reflects my personal priorities. My mind is orientated in very specific directions and this is reflected not only in my birding but in my tastes in music and food. The same things that matter to me obviously don't matter to other people and that is of course fine.

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  4. Good points Steve, some of which I can't really argue with. However I'm not convinced that these pressures apply so overwhelmingly to all local birders. That said if they'd ratherspend their free time doing other things then I won't begin to quibble with that. I'm just pointing out the cost to the local scene and to the records. Whether this matters or not is down to each individual's own view. By the way, I'd be interested if you could tell me why the birders who haven't moved away or packed in the hobby and whose lifestyle hasn't changed no longer put the time in that they used to? This has undeniably happened in some cases. I'm not concerned with justification for the change in the way they spend their time, as I say that's up to them, but I'd like to know the cause.

    I've also been lumbered with school/college time and work but I made sure I could still get to the patch and I still made it through to uni. That's how I chose to manage my time. Also, I've had a part time job since July. I realise these things do not require the same amount of time and effort though.

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    1. I deleted my comment David because, on reflection, I thought it was too personal. Apologies for that and thanks for your contribution to the debate.

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  5. Hard to say Steve

    In terms of people who regularly work an area through the seasons and write stuff down in the field to be written up as long-term records of their chosen patch, then maybe yes perhaps there are rather fewer of those birders these days.

    In East Norfolk, aside from a scant number of regulars, you can hardly find a birder from one week to the next until something turns up. Such great spots and virtually no-one works them on even an infrequent basis. However, despite a few birds doubtless going undiscovered, that does leave it nice and peaceful for the rest of us and greatly increases the chances of hardworking patchers finding their own birds, so no complaints from me at all - in fact, long may it continue. I could understand it if we're talking about an inland reservoir or gravel pit but we're talking sites with top class birds seen on a regular basis. Maybe the effort required and periods with little happening puts people off - who wants to write a blog post saying "nothing much moving apart from a couple of chiffchaffs" day after day when thanks to instant info you can go to pretty much guaranteed good bird at a twitch and later post your photos of a desirable rarity? I can see why people want to do that.

    Still, I love my patch. It's been everything I expected and much more besides. I actually took a punt and moved to live right on the coast with my family and thankfully things have worked out; it's a lovely peaceful place and getting to know the local people, being able to seawatch and look for migrants and vagrants on foot from home is what I've always wanted to do. I fully realise that not everyone wants to do that or is able to do it, but regarding the "time" point, plenty of people have the time and are actually out - they're just not working areas to find birds and as I said that's great as far as I'm concerned. As I said, let's face it, working the same coastal scrub for days on end and seeing nothing and undertaking frequent seawatching when not much is moving in the hope of that infrequent sighting of a good bird - or a great passage of wildfowl, terns, gulls, whatever, isn't what many want. The hobby has changed, maybe not for better or worse, it's just changed and most people seem happy with their niche in it at the end of the day.

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    1. That's interesting Tim, that good 'birdy' places in Norfolk can still struggle to attract patch workers. I know several birders who live at Dungeness and have the luxury of being able to go out birding whenever they wish - but even living at such a wonderful place they still find enthusiasm can wane during 'dull' periods. 'Dull' needs to be taken into context as there are always Marsh Harriers, Bitterns, Great White Egrets abd Cetti's Warblers on show!

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  6. I think it proves that if East Norfolk struggles to get regular birders to cover an area on a day-to-day basis, only a limited number of birders are able to go down that route. As I commented previously, patch-watching takes time and so only those who have retired, have a large bank account, flexible working hours or don't work can commit to it.

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    1. Very true Neil. We are in danger of suggesting that to be a 'patch worker' you need to be out on the site on an almost daily basis. This is patently not the case - you can work a patch however (or whenever) you want. It's up to the individual. Birding is not a perscriptive pasttime.

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  7. I've been thinking about what you said about Tices Meadow being a place attended by obsessives and I really don't this is true. As far as I can tell, the people that go there seem to do so casually but their culmative observations add up to a high degree of coverage, something that used to happen at Beddington (plus the presence of Johnny and The Monk) but no longer seems to. Most of the birders that used to spend time there no longer do. Also I'm not having a dig Steve, your a top bloke, but you don't seem to have responded to some of the points I've been making and keep reminding me that 'nobody has the time due to other pressures', which I simply don't believe is true to the degree you make out. I think I've said something along those lines before so I'm probably repeating myself. Anyway, the bottom line is that people cannot be bothered with patching. They DO have time otherwise I don't know what they're doing hoping to be a birder and I can understand they'd rather spend their free time on more guaranteed targets (I.e. twitching stuff all the time), fair enough but if everyone did that then there'd be no birds to twitch. And Surrey listers hoping to pop out at weekends next year to collect Surrey year ticks are going to find they might have less to go to see than the last 2-3 years because no-one's doing Beddington or Canons anymore.

    Yours, a grumpy headachey pissed off Wednesday morning David (whose day has been improved by finding a Short-eared Owl in the first proper patch visit I've managed in a while. Funny that.)

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  8. What I think you are 'guilty' of David is trying to impose your own birding straightjacket onto others. When I say that 'nobody has the time to bird due to other pressures' I say this in context of your own performance. The only people that can work a patch on a virtually daily basis have to be unemployed and unattached - that is just a fact. Somebody who tries to patch bird on a daily basis who is in a job and married will very soon be sacked and divorced - fact again. There are VERY VERY FEW people who get away with it, but what sort of a career/relationship do they have away from birding? 99% of birders would not want to live such a selfish life - at least not once they are out of their teens. I am again slightly bemused by your anger directed to local birders who are not getting out into the field as regularly as you would like them to. It is their choice. The fact that birds are being missed matters not one jot. It might to you, but please don't try and impose your obsession onto others and consider them failing if they don't accept it. I was birding Canons Farm before you came along, in my own gentle way, seeing a few good birds and getting a few people over for the odd highlight. The fact that good birds are currently being missed due to lack of coverage doesn't bother me at all. I will still wander over when I WANT to, not because I feel compelled to do so. Today's Short-eared Owl doesn't make me think 'Oh God, what else has been missed' but justifies my original thoughts (back in 2004/5) that Canons Farm has potential. Maybe you are suffering from identifying yourself too strongly with the place. David Campbell is NOT Canons Farm. Canons Farm is NOT David Campbell. It is a place that existed before you and will still be there after you have gone. Let it go David - you cannot manage a patch and the local birders remotely - and shouldn't be trying to do so either. I have always admired the time, skill and patience that you poured into the patch. I have, if I'm truthful, been a bit pissed off by the assumption by many that it is 'your' patch. It isn't. It's mine. It's Paul Goodman's. It's Ian Jones's. It's Roy Weller's. It's the bloke's who goes over twice a year. They control you as much as you control them - in other words, not at all.

    Blimey, this thread is running away with itself, isn't it? All good fun though.

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  9. I've not been saying I'm angry at people for not patching, in fact I've profusely said it's up to them what they do and my priorities are not in line with theirs, why should they be? The anger, more of a frustration, is bourne of having put so much effort into the place and to watch it fade the minute I can't devote myself to it anymore. The fact that birds are getting missed simply irritates the obsessive part of me that wants as much as possible to be detected. Every fly-over clocked, every finch count logged and the breeding birds monitored. The fact that there were probably one or two Black Redstarts hopping around the barns about a month ago but no eyes lay on them just niggles at me. And as you say there's nothing I can do about it. These are the feelings that have been driving my thoughts and outbursts. It's pretty raw and irrational but I can't help it. Until you started visiting, virtually no records existed and CFBW is probably ultimately just the same as all the other unrecorded surrounding countryside so it probably doesn't matter at the end of day.

    I have much more of a personal involvement with Canons so the lack of attention people are giving it evokes the strongest reactions for me but on a rational level I'm more concerned about Beddington. As I pointed out earlier, this is a very bad time for birders not to be bothering with it. Tree Sparrow numbers are down and the state of the long term outlook for the site's habitat look worrying. This concern is founded on worries for Beddington's wildlife more than the record-keeping or social aspects.

    Let me reiterate I am directing no anger at any person at all. I've just been clumsily trying to express concerns of mine and I'm not in the right state of the mind this week to construct carefully reasoned arguments

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    1. Beddington - yes, you're right to be concerned. I cut my ornithological teeth there, but it isn't the place that I remember. That's gone, never to return. I have my memories though... The Tree Sparrows are, I'm afraid, doomed. With no reservoir of other birds to recruit from, when they go that's it. They survived at Beddington for so long due to the copious amount of naturally occuring seed - most of this 'weedy' landscape is now destroyed and no management in later years will get them to return.

      Look upon Canons Farm as a place that will be there for you when you come home from uni. The feelings that you have for it won't go away. Whether or not somebody has or hasn't found a Black Redstart there in your absence is so inconsequential it is not worth even thinking about.

      But think about this - if nobody else is looking, you cannot get gripped off!

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  10. Carry on, chaps. Enjoying reading this in between a lull at work in London today

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    1. C'mon Neil - what's your take on Holmethorpe? Is Tice's a hotbed of obsessional birding? What about the future of Beddington?

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    2. I know the Tices guys pretty well and I wouldn't say any of them is obsessive. Rich Horton lives just down the road and loves his local patch. He is enjoying retirement and his birding. The rest of the guys there have full-time jobs so only drop in when they can. Rich Sergeant, for example, used to spend months out of the country and now has to commute into London, so his time is limited. As for Holmethorpe, only Gordon Hay regularly covers the patch week in, week out and even he finds it tough going sometimes. Ian Kehl regularly covers the patch on Sundays and Graham James still gets out and about when he can – his bedroom window list is mightily impressive! There are others who try to get out on the patch but they can only pop out during in lunch hours at work or at weekends. I get very few sightings sent to me during the week. Holmethorpe has some great habitat but I'm at a loss to fathom why it struggles to get more interesting migrants on a regular basis compared to say Tices Meadow, which is a more compact site, but is still very similar to Holmethorpe, in as much it is surrounded by hills and is next to a major trunk road and urban areas. Waders were thin on the ground this year, and migrants like Wheatears were sporadic. There have been numerous occasions when the weather patterns looked ideal for some interesting birds to drop in but nothing happened.

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  11. I'm not too sure that I'm particularly well qualified to make comment but I'll add my thoughts anyway. Is it not the totally obsessive "patch birder" that is endangered? Ever since moving to East Kent (Aug 93) I have adopted various areas with my locality and spent many enthralling hours watching the natural history that I encountered. I no longer send records to any official bodies - such is my dislike of rules - my sightings are purely for my own pleasure, although I have no problem with releasing news should I stumble across something unusual. Sharing my sightings, with other like-minded people, is as much of a part of my enjoyment as the initial discovery.
    As Niel has made mention, the task of patch watching is neither mandatory or obligatory, everyone who chooses this approach is free to spend as much/little time and effort as they see fit. Obsession is unhealthy and the reality slap is that there are a whole bunch of far more important things in life than watching birds (anywhere!) As an individual I am very fortunate that I now live in the middle of my Newland's Farm patch; I use the footpaths daily as I walk to and from work. I can scan the fields from my garden and also from the factory perimeter. Granted it is not the most diverse of habitat, nor is it well placed, geographically, but it still has the ability to turn up the odd surprise - the whole point of patch watching, in my opinion - common birds are able to take on a whole new dimention when viewed from a very local perspective.
    So, no I don't think that patch watchers are endangered; it is the "melt-down" of the obsessive types that has deminished the prominence of some of those "high profile" sites that have been mentioned.

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    1. Dylan, you have correctly identified that the 'obsessive patch worker' is the species of birder that is disappearing, not the patch-worker per se. There are hundreds of people quietly going about their birding, like you, under the radar, until something moves them to come out into the open (a rare bird or a splendid arrival, like your thrushes). Most of us are in agreement here.

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  12. Steve

    When I read your original entry, in my cynical manner I was very tempted to post a flippant comment along the lines of: “so what!!!” However in light of the background and the following comments may I make a slightly longer observation!

    Over time I have followed the various blog posts, etc. regarding Canon’s Farm with interest, mainly because I have walked (often with binoculars but I hesitate to call it birding) the area for over twenty years. I used to find it extremely rewarding throughout the year especially in the winter but I have never recorded my sightings. Records are a double-edged sword, only of real use in a context, from my informal observations on Canon’s Farm keeping records would have merely reinforced my depressing opinion that the habitat has deteriorated markedly in that time, almost wholly the result of farming practice! Unless I (or anyone else) could do anything about it, what is the point?

    The real interest of intensive watching and monitoring of the birds on the patch would have been to find the context such as monitoring farm practice. The increased and more effective spraying of herbicides (for which the evidence is obvious) has had a dramatic effect on even the commonest weeds over the past few year and I have little doubts that similar changes in the use of insecticides (more difficult to identify) and other fertilisers and poisons. I did suggest to David a few years back that with daily observation he could probably find out what was being applied and when, this might provide some context that would teach us something over time (although I doubt it).

    You make the comment about Beddington’s Tree Sparrows and lack of food source, in general terms the same thing is happening on Canon’s Farm as it is on a much wider scale (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/sunday-review/the-year-the-monarch-didnt-appear.html?_r=0).
    So actually I feel my flippant response still stands. The birds will be or more likely will not be there whether or not anyone watches them.
    John

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    1. John, I think your 'so what' comment is not flippant but fairly accurate. My relationship with Canons Farm is very different to David's and although closer to yours it will still be different. I would love to have walked around the area before herbicides and insecticides were unleashed. It must have been a joy...

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    2. Steve
      "before herbicides and insecticides were unleashed"! Please Steve, I might be old but not that old!!

      Unfortunately to me it has been very noticeable that it is in the past ten years that has seen the most dramatic reduction in both bird and plant species in the area.

      John

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    3. Good Lord John, I wasn't suggesting that you were around then...!!!

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  13. Steve, wow! you`ve opened a can or worms with this one! Anyhow, I must confess to being a bit of a patcher myself and one of the pre-requisites for moving down here 8 years ago was to have a decent, dog-friendly local patch that I could walk to, and Lade has fitted the bill admirably. Having spent 30 years birding/wardening Dunstable Sewage Works, Bedfordshire (about as far from the coast as you can get), Lade has been a revelation, and still is, but what amazes me is that I hardly ever see another birder there. I realise that just down the road is Dunge and the bird reserve, still, it suits me fine as I prefer wandering around with just Barney for company. Not sure where I`m going with this, but yes I like my local patch, not obsessively so, and yes I know I`m lucky as it is also part of my job, and I would recommend anyone coming into birding to try and find one. Paul

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    1. I do envy you Lade Pit Paul. I always thought that it was under watched back in the 70s and 80s. Not any more...

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