What is your local patch? Is it the reserve that's nearest to you? Maybe it's a local reservoir? I live very close to Earlswood Lakes and Bittell Reservoirs, but as good as they are and as much as I enjoy birding them, I can't describe them as my patch. Upton Warren is only about 20 minutes drive down the motorway and is a truly magnificent place to watch birds, but it too doesn't fit the description.
I started birding properly about five years ago now. I used to go out on a Sunday morning and walk down to the Texaco garage on the A435 to pick up the Sunday Times, making a few detours here and there to see what I could see in the lanes and fields around Wythall.
Looking back, I now realise that this was an excellent way to prepare for more intensive birding later on, as I became really familiar with the calls and songs of our more common species. That's why I think of Wythall as my patch, specifically anywhere that I can get to without having to jump in the car.
If I include garden birds, I reckon I must have seen in excess of 60 species in the last few years. No, I'm probably not going to see any mega rarities whilst I'm out and about, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. What I like is the familiarity of the place and knowing what's worth looking out for based on past experiences.
This weekend I spent a couple of hours walking my patch. It made a pleasant change from the recent glut of twitching that has been going on, and it was a chance to begin focusing on my goals for 2009. More of that in a later post, but until then here are a few pictures and notes from my walk.
I don't normally go this way, but the flooded field along Station Road has held a few gulls lately, so I considered it worth a look. Turns out there was nothing there, but I had already added Woodpigeon and Blackbird to my list, and Jay and Magpie soon followed in the fields behind me. The woods that lead onto Tanners Green Lane yielded nothing.
In view of my diversion, I joined Tanners Green Lane further down than normal. A lone gull was spotted in the adjoining field. A short walk back towards the A435 revealed it as a Black-Headed Gull.
Always worth a look in this pond. I had one of my first ever Great Spotted Woodpeckers here and the odd Mallard and Moorhen have been seen in the past. Nothing today, however.
These woods link Tanners Green Lane to Barkers Lane. They were particularly fruitful today, yielding Blue Tit, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Treecreeper and Long-Tailed Tit. A Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Dunnock turned up further down the path. A Common Buzzard was heard, but not seen.
This lane borders more good woodland. Something caught my eye from with a holly bush laden with berries. After a short wait, a Redwing eventually gave good views. I'd been hoping for that one. A Sparrowhawk drifted over the adjacent fields shortly afterwards and a Mistle Thrush and a pair of Carrion Crow were spotted in the fields further along. A Lesser Black-Backed Gull also flew overhead.
The hedgerows along the A435 often hold Bullfinch in winter, but there were none today. A few years ago I think I had a Waxwing along here too, but I was an inexperienced birder at the time and never certain enough to tick it. I'll be looking a bit more closely this winter!
There's a field in Wales that I call the magic field. Well, guess what? I have one in Wythall too. It holds Lapwing in the breeding season and sometimes Skylark and Yellowhammer. Today it failed to live up to its reputation and produced a single Chaffinch.
Chapel Lane is normally abundant with House Sparrows, but I didn't see a single one today. I wonder where they all went to? A dozen Black-Headed Gulls were seen in the fields near Beckett's Farm.
This is where I work. In the grounds I could probably have added Nuthatch to the list. It does throw up some good stuff from time to time, most notably a Red Kite earlier this year.
A Pied Wagtail was seen in Wilmore Lane, then more Redwing and some Bullfinches in Brick Kiln Lane. The woods further down were unusually quiet. At the right time of year, these can hold Chiffchaff and Siskin. I think this is where the local Muntjacs reside too.
Out of Brick Kiln Lane and back onto the Alcester Road. Home is just a few hundred yards further on. A really enjoyable morning's birding and I've walked just over three miles, which is about the only exercise I get.
I really must do this more often ...