2018 still has a few weeks to run, but it isn't too early to cast one's eyes forward to next year and to plan for it. It's good to have projects in the pipeline and in some ways such things can add enjoyment and act as incentive to the time spent out in the field. And so, the first natural history project of 2019 can be revealed as...
Surrey v Northumberland (a tale of two patches.)
Stewart Sexton, (he of the most beautifully illustrated notebooks and a worthy blog) has agreed to a re-run of our two previous challenges - the results of which, I believe, is a score draw. Instead of straight forward annual totals, this time round we are going to compare the percentage that we record of our personal local patch lists. I'm going to enter two patches (if Stewart agrees). In reality one is just a smaller part of the other.
In the uber-patch (see explanation in box above) I have recorded 213 species since 1974. At times I have chased birds within it and, for long periods of time, have not. By my reckoning this can be broken down as such: 122 species that are almost guaranteed, 61 bonus species and 30 that I have only recorded 1-3 times. Within this patch are the two best local birding sites - Beddington SF and Holmethorpe SP.
The second is the mini-uber patch, created as a walk-from-home area. This is largely populated by ornithologically challenging habitat, although I have recorded 130 species within it. There is plenty of potential here.
Why enter the two patches? Well, part of me likes the idea of not clogging up the roads with the car and a desire to champion local birding as an antidote to the blind action of many birders who just follow the latest rarity. That type of birding is not for me, although I do understand why some pursue such activities as I have done so myself in the past. Although there is plenty to find and discover on our doorsteps for many birders this is just not enough - but for me the mini-uber patch delivers this. However, I will also collate my larger Uber-patch totals for 2019 as there are so many wonderful places within it that deserve coverage, such as the Hawfinch haunts of earlier in the year - but to get a competitive percentage figure from this I will need to visit Beddington and Holmethorpe (and be nice to my BFBG key-holder friends!)
Up in Northumberland, Stewart's Howick area list stands at 200 (since 2010) at an average of 143.2 species per year. He may have coast, but my compensation comes in birding across a larger area and possibly a more varied habitat mosaic.
I'm already looking forward to it...