Local Patch Birdwatching Is Just The Thing To Help You Get Through Lockdown

Local Patch birdwatching is all about enjoying your local birds regardless of species.

It is well known that nature and being out in the fresh air is really good for not only our physical health but also so good for our mental health too. Watching a bird not only lifts our spirits and puts a smile on our faces but pushes all the other “stuff” that might be playing on your mind to one side and allows the brain some rest bite. I think we all need some of that in these terrible times we are living through it is hard to take in that some one thousand people a day are dying here in the UK from COVID-19 related illness, just think about that. What sort of a country have we become when this can happen and so little is being done to stop it?

We need to give our stressed brains some relief from the constant stress of these awful times and getting out into nature is just the tonic that will do just that. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by it all and sink back from life so having a reason to get up and get out is really helpful. Watching the birds where you live can be that reason to motivate us to get out and drink in natures cure for stress and depression it is all around us we just need to notice it and take time to pause and really enjoy it.

Pied Wagtail Caerhun

A Pied Wagtail can give you real pleasure as you add it to your 2021 Local Patch List.

By keeping a list of the birds you see in your area you will take time out from the stress of everyday life and enjoy some calm and joy. It will also give you an incentive to go out and explore your local patch and discover the birds on your doorstep and these local discoveries can really lift the spirts. It does not have to be some amazing rare vagrant from Siberia that you discover but a bird that you not noticed on your patch before. So if you live in an urban area with no lakes imagine the joy of looking up and seeing a skein of Pink-footed Geese flying over calling – something that could happen anywhere in the UK at this time of year. Just being out and looking helps us enormously and focuses the mind on positive things and stops the bad stuff overwhelming us. You can see birds anywhere, just about, you don’t even have to leave home if you are shielding or unable to get out, watch the birds from your window and keep a list each day you will surprised at what you see and how relaxing it is. If you can put some bird feeders and or a bird table and put out water and see what come in, it is a delightful way to spend time and so good for us.

You will be surprised to see birds everywhere once you start noticing them - Carrion Crow.

If you can define your own local patch, an area you can visit very easily and regularly ideally somewhere you can walk to from home. By being able to walk there you are much more likely to visit very often and can just pop out when the mood takes you, this local patch can be anything you want it to be, no rules. It could be a walk around your block or even just your garden or if you can make it a longer walk taking in more varied areas and you will see more birds but the main thing is just to be out enjoying birds and making you feel so much better in this awful time. Birds can be the answer to many of our problems, not all, but many.

Once you have chosen your local patch all you need do is visit regularly and notice the birds you see. How far you take this is again entirely up to you, it could once a week, once a day, all day every day if that works for you again no rules only the ones you decided and of course you can change them. You will soon see which birds are regular on your local patch and if you make a note of what you see on each visit you will see every visit is different! And that in a nutshell is what makes local patch birdwatching so much fun and so absorbing and good for our mental health.

Common Buzzard Ogwen Valley Nov

Common Buzzard our most recent addition to our Local Patch List.

We are very lucky here in Llandudno, North Wales, as we have a huge headland right where we live – the Great Orme – and what a wonderful local patch it is. This limestone headland juts north from Llandudno into the Irish Sea so has the sea on three sides making it an easily defined area. Habitat wise it is not very varied with mostly sheep pasture and some maritime heath neither of which are particularly rich in bird life, there are also towering cliffs on the east side and areas of limestone pavement on the top of the headland. Add to this some patched of woodland on the south facing slope and some suburban gardens and of course the sea itself and it is a wonderful area and all accessible on foot from the front door. We have used the road, Gloddaeth Avenue that runs across Llandudno from the North Shore to the West Shore as the southern boundary of the patch; this includes home so birds seen from the window can be included on the patch list adding extra interest and keeps us looking!

A long walk on the local patch of the Great Orme on New Year’s Day 2021 produced a pleasing 43 species of birds recorded on a cold windy day. Highlights included Great Northern and Red-throated Divers and two of our real favourite locals Red-billed Chough and Peregrine. On the second of January a much shorter walk, on the southern side of the headland where it was sheltered from a cold wind, added just four new birds for the patch year list. We found a pair of Greenfinch is a hedgerow above the West Shore and then the woodland above Heulfre Gardens added a lovely Redwing feeding on the last of some holly berries and super looks at a Treecreeper and an enchanting flock of Long-tailed Tits. On the third of January a very long walk right around the headland produced four more additions to the 2021 local patch list. Turning right out of our house we headed down towards the pier and saw a Pied Wagtail that we not previously seen this year, around the corner and on to the Marine Drive and a Little Egret was fishing at the edge of the incoming tide always a good bird to see on the Great Orme as there is no freshwater habitats. A long spell then followed without any news birds but we did watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons displaying over the cliffs, breath-taking stuff! The male Peregrine performing flying stunts that made the Red Arrows, RAF display team, look tame – tearing across the sky and stooping over and over again only to throw himself back up in the sky. We were a little surprised to see lots of Common Guillemots back on their breeding ledges, they are keen! These hardy seabirds come and go at the cliffs until they settle down to the serious breeding season in late April. On that note still no Fulmars seen on the cliffs this year, gone out to sea but will hopefully return if we get a spell of calm weather, as I type this a bitter cold northerly wind blowing, so not today Fulmars. A Chough showed nicely by the Rest and Be Thankful Café, which was open doing take away drinks, if only we had some money! Then the long downhill section of the Marine Drive back towards Llandudno and very few birds at first but about halfway down we spotted a drake Red-breasted Merganser on the sea off the old World War Two gun sites – a new bird for the 2021 patch list and this was quickly followed by our first patch Common Buzzard – like buses birds! We completed the circular walk back to base and felt really good for getting out into the fresh air and enjoying birds, no doubt about it local patch birdwatching is so very good for you, give a go.

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