Sunday, 6 September 2015

Patch Turmoil - Jonny Rankin

Turtle Dove - May 2015
After nine years of patching Needham Market a new job means I am moving on, as you can imagine I am in frenzied patch turmoil! Where do I belong? Where will I get my daily bird-fix? Why get out of bed? Other than for the new job, of course!

Ferruginous Duck - January 2011

Despite appearing relatively benign on the map, the river valley and gravel pits around my former office did deliver the goods over time. I recorded a total of 143 species, with sufficient variety to keep me inspired year-on-year. Memorable highlights have included a spring White Stork (a lifer for me at the time) and passage birds such as Redstart, Ring Ouzel and Whinchat. One of my better finds over the years was a wintering Ferruginous Duck, which I came across one January morning, surely at the top of most patchers wish list! Another surprise was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, seen and heard for just a few weeks in early 2014. Cold winters have produced Smew, Goosander and Bittern and even mid summer is kept interesting with returning Green Sandpipers heralding the start of wader passage.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - March 2014
Needham Market has been kind to me and Ive loved the hundreds of hours spent in the valley bottom and surrounds, however, as Heraclitus put it Everything changes and nothing stands still…’ With this in mind, instead of lamenting the move from Needham Market, I am going to carry the momentum into establishing a new patch. A better patch, a patch that will finally see me beat Nick Moran in the Inland East Anglia mini-league.

Smew - February 2012
The obvious location to settle would be my local haunt, the infamous Livermere! This is another location where I have spent many happy hours birding, a location steeped in birding lore and capable of pulling anything, at seemingly any time of year! I have seen Long-billed Dowitcher there in spring and Grey Phalarope in the middle of shooting season! The draw-back of Livermere is the distance from my house: at 5 miles away it is tantalisingly close but not within easy striking distance for a morning dog-walk or evening jog. Livermere is also rendered nigh on useless through the shooting season, which coincides with prime birding months!

Whinchat - September 2011
Another driver in relocating my patch efforts is that I am keen for my new patch to have green credentials. One of the joys of Needham Market was walking out the office door to Spotted Flycatchers or winter thrushes. Once at work, typically via lift share, I was slap bang in the middle of patch and able to walk up or down valley in either direction. Patching from my front door would have the same effect; even a stroll to the shop or more likely pub could garner a flyover wader or raptor. Ive certainly added a couple of owl species on the return stumble from the public house!

Spotted Flycatcher - June 2013

I am fortunate to live next to the River Lark, which is accompanied by the Lark Valley Path running in a northwesterly direction away from the urban sprawl of Bury St Edmunds. The Lark Valley Path creates the western edge and northern extent of my newly adopted patch. Public access greatly determines the shape and birdable area of land around my house. Housing, industrial units, a golf course, inaccessible sewage works and former gravel working are all off limits. The Lark Valley path and then public rights of way to the east of the Thetford Road are my best bet. You can see from the following pictures the ribbon of the accessible Lark Valley as separate to Hall Farm and Timworth Green to the east. The broader kilometre squares from my BirdTrack sites show the three key recording areas. 

Birdtrack Tetrads
Aside from the corridor along the Lark, the patch extends to Timworth Church and adjacent meadows, includes some pig fields and some more traditional farmland including a farm reservoir. The latter have the mixed blessing of attracting gulls, which are valuable points wise, but obviously at the bottom of any discerning birders wish list. I know the area well as it is where I walk the dog and train for running events. Running around the farmland last year produced Quail and Stone Curlew so I know there are birds for the finding. This is verified by taking a 2km buffer from the centre of the patch and searching BirdTrack records: BirdTrack lists 136 species as having been recorded over the years, many by me. Also included are historical records seen by others notably; wild swans, Rough-legged Buzzard and Dotterel. Demonstrating some serious potential!

PWC 2016 Principle Sites
Whilst I am leaving Needham Market, the Gipping Valley will still be well watched by stalwarts John Walshe and Phil Whittaker, as well as young-gun Ben Moyes, I am sure they will make me jealous with future records. Meanwhile I hope to upset the Inland East Anglia mini-league with my new patch and most notably my Patchwork Challenge nemesis, the dastardly Mr Nick Moran.

Sexy beast

Keep on patching, patchers!   


  1. Surely that's two different sites i:e two polygons??

    1. I think you have read the post and map wrong Pod. They are the prime areas in a 3km2 squares patch as mapped above.