Whether you’re new to birding or a seasoned expert, if you’re looking to up your skills or enhance your experiences, patch birding might be just what you’re looking for. For those who have not heard of patch birding, this simple practice of birding has become popular around the world. Patch birding is birding in a specific spot, whether that spot is close to home, work, or a local natural spot. It should be a space you feel so at home in which you could be a tour guide for visitors. Patch birding allows birdwatchers to become experts not only about the birds in that spot, but in their natural surroundings as well.
Why Try Patch Birding?
While most backyard birdwatchers have big birdwatching adventures on their bucket lists, patch birding is a great way to make any birding spot an adventure. Your patch birding adventure can be as simple as a towering pine tree in your own backyard or the small garden of your local café. Think of your patch as your own little neighborhood.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to Birding
While birding in state parks, reserves, and sanctuaries offers the possibility of spotting species you’ve long been waiting to see, the specific small patch you choose for patch birding enables you to really get to know your area.
It gives you the chance to build your skills such as birding by ear, learning more about species’ mating rituals, nesting and foraging activities. And, it’s an excellent way to sharpen your birding by ear skills. With specific species inhabiting your patch, your ears will soon learn to pick up the songs and calls of each bird. With a smaller area to cover, you will be able to spend more time studying specific birds, in turn knowing which birds will visit the area at what times.
Patch birding also allows you to learn about your specific area during each season more intimately. You will find yourself expert at recognizing the changes in season by the changes in bird behavior and even the plants that grow in your patch.
Contribute toward bird conservation
Most birdwatchers live for their lists, whether life lists or general daily lists. There’s no better feeling than being able to add up a day’s tally of birds spotted during birding. Because patch birding offers birdwatchers a way to become expert within a specific area, keeping a list can be an excellent way to contribute valuable information toward bird conservation efforts.
The detailed notes and information you glean from your little corner of the world can be a great asset to local conservation groups who may not have the resources to study your patch in depth as you are doing. Thanks to the internet, there are many platforms where you can upload and share your findings such as the app from the Audubon Society, eBird. You can upload your sightings daily, weekly, or during special bird count events. Research several apps to find out which one will suit your needs best.
Getting Started: Choose Your Patch
While a small space offers the most opportunity to become an expert, your patch can be as large or as small as you choose. There are no set rules regarding the size your patch must be. In order to choose a patch that will work best for you, it’s a good idea to consider how much time you have to spend patch birding. Whether it’s an hour or fifteen minutes in the morning before work, choose a location that will be enjoyable to go to without adding stress to your already busy day.
Also consider where your daily travels take you. Perhaps there is a small grassy area near your workplace that you can bird in during lunch or your afternoon coffee break? If you have enough free time to go outside your daily route, you might want to consider a patch where extra time will offer you more opportunities to spot birds you might not see closer to home.
See also: City Birding Tips
Get Familiar with the Birds
After choosing your patch, the next step in getting started with patch birding is getting to know the birds in your patch. In the beginning, expect to spend several trips to your patch observing the birds and their behaviors. Using birding guides will help you find out what species of birds are common to your patch. It’s important to keep in mind that with a very specific area, say a tract of pines, there may not be any data recorded about the birds in it. You will need to get out in the field, so to speak, and use your own observation skills to find out what birds you can expect in your patch.
As you spot different birds, having an app or two on your phone will increase our chances of being able to ID them. Think of these hours in your patch as training to improve and hone your birding skills. Don’t forget to study the plants and fauna in your patch. Often, vegetation in your patch will help you determine what species of birds visit the area. Note the trees, shrubs, flowers, and other vegetation growing as certain birds look for certain plants for food sources. The more time you spend studying the surroundings of your patch, the more attuned you will be to the birds that inhabit it.
Be a Steward of your Patch
If the patch you have chosen is within your own property, you can certainly influence the area to attract certain birds. Attracting the bird species you are interesting in spotting can be aided simply by adding feeders with foods specific to those birds. You can also offer water sources and natural features such as brush piles, both necessary to attract and support birds. And just as you want to attract different birds to your yard for your viewing pleasure, you will want to ensure their safety by placing feeders away from windows and using decals to prevent flying accidents.
However, if your patch is in a public space, it’s tough to influence the species of birds that inhabit the area. However, as you spend more and more hours in your patch becoming an expert on the birds there, you can also advocate for them. If you see an injured bird, you can alert the local bird rescue group to its location. If your patch is in a public space that is actively populated, such as a café garden or memorial park, you may be able to alert the person in charge of the area in order to help maintain a nest’s safety. Lastly, if your patch happens to be part of a public parks system, get involved by letting the park ranger know about any important changes in bird behavior you see.
See also: Top 3 Worst Bird Feeding Mistakes
Your Own Little Corner of the World
Patch birding offers birdwatchers everywhere an opportunity to make a little corner of their world a personalized birding experience. Whether you choose a section in your local park, a small garden outside your local café, or a lone tall pine in your own backyard, spending time observing the birds that inhabit your patch will help you spot new to you birds and hone your birding skills. Patch birding is a great way to become an expert in your own little corner of the world.