Sunday, 11 November 2018
So, how was the autumn for you?
As we come towards the end of yet another autumn, there are plenty of birders 'out there' who are summing up their birding experience - 'dull', 'poor' and 'disappointing' seem to be three of the most regularly recurring words used. I'm normally quite quick to sum up my feelings about what has gone on over any given period, but have strangely refrained from doing so this time round. So I gave this past autumn a thought and can only say that I've found it liberating. Let me explain.
Most autumn birding campaigns will be largely planned around the promise of falls, arrivals, visible migrations and scarce - even rare - birds. I'm just as guilty as the next person in doing so, but not this autumn. I wanted to bring in the changes, go to places that I knew little about and which were low on the ornithological radar. Admittedly, I did a couple of quick Dungeness visits, but short birding holidays at Charmouth (Dorset) and Porth (Cornwall) were undertaken, with both trips eye-openers to the possibilities on offer to a diligent and enthusiastic observer. I may not have found much of note, but that wasn't the purpose/aim - I got to know the places and surrounding areas to a level that I otherwise wouldn't have, and on any subsequent returns will do so with a sense of familiarity and anticipation.
Although we have lived at our current address since 1987, and have carried out regular sky-watches over the years, this is the first autumn when I have systematically conducted dawn vismig watches. The results were encouraging. A spectacular 4,000+ Redwing movement, Woodlark, Golden Plover, Crossbill, plenty of Brambling, Fieldfares and Chaffinches were ample reward.
And now to the map above - the Uberpatch - all of my regular birding sites since 1974. The shaded area is the mini-Uberpatch, constructed to concentrate bird study into a more manageable and meaningful area. This autumn has seen me embrace the whole more whole-heartedly than of late, no doubt bolstered by the Hawfinch event of earlier in the year. A couple of successful Beddington twitches (Spoonbill and Richard's Pipit) were the highlights, together with the adoption of one or two underwatched sites (more about those another time). My resolve is to bird the hell out of it all in 2019. As a part of that, I have entered into a competition with my 'virtual friend' Stewart Sexton. More details to follow...