Last years inaugural Patchwork Challenge turned out to be an unprecedented success with birders around the country willing to fly the flag for their own regular haunts. For me the real delight was in the range of different habitats covered from world renowned nature reserves to small unknown localities, such as my own, where it is doubtful that any meaningful and sustained observation has previously taken place. As you’d expect the variety of species seen across this broad spectrum was vast and normally a simple listing competition would be out of the question. For instance how on earth could my inland hillsides compete with the wetlands of Titchwell or those who are fortunate to call superb sea watching sites home? Here lay the beauty of the Patchwork Challenge however which at its core was never simply about who saw the most species. Its real aim was to pit people against themselves in an effort to find and see more than they’d managed to do during the previous twelve months. If along the way that led to a better understanding of local bird distribution and an increased awareness of what can be found right on our front doorsteps, then all the better. After each outing a persons tally was calculated as a percentage of their 2012 score giving a level playing field against which all patches could be compared, irrespective of their relative productivity. Now we really did have a competition on our hands.
Needless to say I brought into this concept wholeheartedly and spent much of the first six or seven months making regular visits to my patch centred on Cefn Drum. Unfortunately circumstances meant that I rather missed autumn and the first half of winter but that didn’t stop me from accumulating 64 species or around 96% of my 2012 score. Considering that target was something of an estimate I think things went rather well. Numbers only ever tell half the story however and this is a perfect case in point. Along the way I’ve been able to confirm a regular passage of at least one Spotted Flycatcher, noted a drop in the number of Yellowhammers present and even found completely new species for the patch including Stock Dove and Kestrel. Inevitably these regular visits also brought to light a whole host of other flora and fauna including my first ever Keeled Skimmers, not to mention the feeling of escape after a day spent at work. It’s perhaps no surprise therefore that I, along with at least two hundred others, have signed up for Patchwork Challenge 2014.
Once again I shall be covering Cefn Drum and Bryn-bach-Common (see map above) and have set myself the added task of contributing a little to research in the process. I’ve always been a keen maker of lists during each patch visit but typically these have gone no further than the shelf in my study. Clearly this is of no benefit to anyone so for 2014 I shall be submitting all my records to the BTO’s BirdTrack. This is a massive database collating bird sightings from across the country which already in January has received a further 85,000 records. That volume of data simply couldn’t be gathered by nature organisations alone and it will serve as an invaluable resource for years to come.
Enough talk then and onto the real business of patch birding. My first full outing is planned for this coming Saturday when I aim to give the entire area a thorough once over, but in the meantime I have already recorded one notable occurrence. Followers of last years events will know that I never did manage to record a Nuthatch on patch so imagine my surprise when Emma spotted one feeding in our garden last weekend! Quick as a flash I was out with the camera to record this momentous occasion.
Next day and the Nuthatch was back, this time preferring a flat seed feeder instead of the peanuts. All I need now is that elusive Treecreeper and 2014 will have got off to a stellar start. Other species seen in the garden have included Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, House Sparrow and the three normal Tit species (Blue, Great and Coal). Of course the Jackdaws are also around in good numbers with this individual seen perching on our house aerial.
These casual records take my 2014 patch total up to eleven species and eleven points. Hopefully that’s a total which will climb steadily over the coming months.
11 Species / 11 Points