Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Urban Patching

Hi there I'm Keith, or Snowy to my friends
I'm a Leeds man born and bred and I've been a nature lover all my life, mammals were the big thing during my school years, birding didn't come along until later on. 

When I was in my mid 20's, I was unlucky enough to lose my job, I won a college place within a month to start a new career, only to then get knocked back by the grant office as I was too late with my application to get in that year. I spent a year on the dole thanks to that set of jobsworths but it was a year well spent as I took up walking, one of my favourite walks was through woodland not far from home. I noticed the birds were different to those in the garden, so I borrowed my Dad's old 10 x 50 porros and started to have a good look at them. Pretty soon I'd bought a copy of Collins Birds of Britain and Europe (still got it even though it's falling apart) and my listing began. 

Now 32 years later I've a County List of 273 (the only real list I keep now) with a few nice birds on it, Pacific diver, Brown flycatcher and as of last week Black scoter. Over the years I've done a lot of survey work for the BTO, including 10 years of BBS surveys, several squares for the BTO Atlas and now I have settled on surveying Hetchell Wood to the North of Leeds, for the YWT.

What I have never done until now is patch working, there are areas that I visited regularly but not all year long. It has been an eye opener the last 6 months, I've not seen any national mega rarities but am coming to appreciate that you can have extremely local megas just the same. 

My patch consists of Breary Marsh & Adel Dam nature reserves, Golden Acre Park and most of Eccup Reservoir (couldn't quite get all the dam wall into the area limit) on the Northern outskirts of Leeds. I've got a bit of almost every habitat except coast, mud and moor. I started the year with every intention of being on patch every weekend, sadly real life has intruded to a greater extent than I would have liked, but I am hoping to make up for the deficit following my holiday next month.

Some of the best sightings so far have been; around 500 black-headed gulls on the lake at Adel Dams (it's not a very big piece of water); 2 shelduck on Golden Acre Park lake early one morning, a site first for me and best of all; finding a pair of treecreepers investigating a potential nest site. None of these would have been possible if I hadn't taken up the challenge. I'm also thoroughly enjoying watching the seasonal changes at the sites, as well as slowly learning the areas that birds seem to like and dislike all of which I am sure will further enhance my birding.
I am going to be blogging on the trials and tribulations of an urban patchworker, hopefully on a regular basis.

Adel Dams
Eccup Reservoir

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