Friday, 21 December 2012

Birdtrack – making your patching worthwhile

Over the last couple of evenings, despite my terribly slow broadband and forgetting my login details, I’ve managed to get all of my Girdle ness records for 2012 uploaded onto Birdtrack. It’s something I started using back in the summer - and instantly found intuitive and user friendly – but stopped using for no reason other than going away on a boat for a while and sort of forgetting about it. I know….not good enough….

When I say all of my Girdle ness records though, unfortunately, that’s not really what I mean. I uploaded 135 records of 77 species – mostly migrants, interesting records like a December chiffchaff, or large counts, like 119 red throated divers south in an hour in September. I’m relatively old skool in my birding in as much as I carry a notebook and pencil with me and actively use it to write things down in, but while going through my notebooks for 2012 it became clear that I didn’t really write down enough. There are plenty of birds that would merit closer attention than I give them on patch – spring build ups of displaying long tailed ducks and late summer build ups of goosander for example would be worth reporting, and would allow for the generation of some funky looking graphs through Birdtracks online analysis tools. Pink footed geese are two a penny up here and as such, unless there are thousands on the go, I don’t pay them much attention apart from scanning through them for rares. It could well be worth charting the movements of these things in a little more detail.

With these thoughts in mind, I have decided that as well as birding as I always do, and reporting migrants, unusual records and large numbers, I will have a core of 10 species, whose numbers I will try to count, or at least estimate, on every trip to the patch I make. My ten (with a few justifications) are below. What I’d like to propose is that you all do the same. Choose species that interest you, species that you think your patch is good for, or whatever you want really!
My ten are as follows:

Long-tailed duck – spring build up including displaying males, and sometimes a good late autumn passage.

Goosander – Late summer build up of birds in the harbour, with up to 50 present sometimes.

Common gull – spring passage can be up to 300 birds pr hour on occasion, and winter flocks can be large.

Pink-footed goose – migrating flocks in autumn and spring, hard weather movements.

Ringed plover – a small resident population that swells in spring and autumn, with the odd tundrae type bird.

Black-headed gull – winter visitor mainly with a small number of birds passing in spring with common gulls.

Purple sandpiper – up to 300 birds through the winter.

Kittiwake – I probably won’t count all birds I see offshore, but there can be thousands in the harbour in late summer/autumn that I don’t think anyone ever counts.

Grey wagtail – occasional birds on good breeding habitat but more of a passage and winter thing. Mainly because I like them….

Red-throated diver – can be some great passage in both spring and autumn.

In doing this, and generally keeping better notes as well, I reckon I would be contributing well over 1000 records per year to Birdtrack. Imagine if all 129 Patchworkers did that…!

What would your ten be? Would local birders choose the same species as me? Probably not all ten, but if we all chose a couple of the same ones we could collect some fascinating data.


  1. Think I'll have to work my ten out in 2013. I don't really know what will be most interesting and what will inspire me... Although my patch is relatively close to Girdleness, I expect my ten to be quite different.

  2. I've got in the habit of entering a complete species list on just about every visit to my patch, but if I hadn't my 10 species would be, Tree pipit Peregrine, Common Scoter, Knot, Water Rail, Chaffinch, Wheatear, Leach's Petrel, Stonechat and Great-crested Grebe.

    The BTO server isn't talking to me this morning, but I have my own local database and up to November I have over a quarter of a million bird/days entered